The Texans practiced Wednesday and after, some coaches and players answered questions from the media. Also, Carolina head coach Ron Rivera and quarterback Cam Newton talked with the Houston media via a conference call on Wednesday morning. The following is a transcript of all those respective interviews.
Head Coach Gary KubiakDefensive Coordinator Wade PhillipsOffensive Coordinator Rick DennisonLinebackers Coach Reggie HerringOLB Connor BarwinLT Duane BrownILB Brian CushingRB Arian FosterWR Andre JohnsonCB Johnathan JosephILB DeMeco RyansRB Ben TateDE J.J. WattQB T.J. Yates
Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera Conference CallPanthers WR Steve Smith Conference Call
Head Coach Gary Kubiak
(on defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' health situation) "Well, the most important thing is Wade's health right now. He needs to go get this done and the doctors feel very good about it. Wade feels very good about it, so we'll get it done in the morning. He needs to take care of his health and we need to take care of the football for him."
(on linebackers coach Reggie Herring taking over) "I listen every week on the headset. Reggie's been with (defensive coordinator) Wade (Phillips) four or five years now in a row, so Reggie is Wade's right hand man in a lot of ways in this defense. He's ready to do it. Reggie's called defenses before. We got a lot of confidence. We just need to keep going."
(on if defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will be limited when he returns) "Oh no, I think we just wait and see. Let's just get through tomorrow first and the recovery period and we'll go from there. But like I said, the most important thing is him making sure he takes care of himself right now."
(on what changes on defense while defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is gone) "It doesn't change anything. You just keep coming. (Linebackers coach) Reggie (Herring) makes the calls. (Defensive assistant) Bobby (King) works with the linebackers all the time anyway, so the dynamics of how we practice and what we do, nothing changes. Who's on the field, who's off, nothing changes there too. It's just a matter of Reggie making the calls and he's with Wade every day preparing to do that."
(on overcoming obstacles week after week) "Yeah, it has been an interesting deal. It seems like something every week that we're having to adjust to or whatever, but I think that's why we're probably where we're at today because we've been finding a way to answer the call, so to speak. This is a situation to me where we know we're getting him back, but we need to do what's best for him right now and make sure his health is taken care of. (Defensive coordinator) Wade (Phillips) will be back. We just need to keep going, keep working and (linebackers coach) Reggie (Herring) will do a hell of a job."
(on any updates on player injuries) "For us, so much else going on, I forgot. Andre (Johnson) did jog today. He came out and worked on the field, actually did more than jogged, actually looked pretty good over there running around. Tim Bulman returned to practice today. Sherrick McManis is out. Other than that, we're back to full strength today."
(on if he expects WR Andre Johnson to play this week) "Well, I think any time he's out here moving on the field, there's a chance, but there's still a ways to go, to me, before he's out there. It'll continue to be day-to-day, but today was a step in the right direction."
(on what jumps out to him the most about the Panthers) "Quarterback jumps out at you. I just told the team, I said, 'Hey guys, I'd love to tell you we can give you a good look in practice of what you're going to face this week, but we can't.' We're going to do our best. You got to respect what he is as an athlete and what he can do to you. It's a different challenge because of what they do and all his ability. I think they've been in the top five offensively moving the ball all year, so it's a big challenge for our defense. They're a good young football team that's been in every dang ball game. We'll have our hands full. We'll have to play better than we did last week, I know that."
(on how concerned he is about an emotional letdown this week) "You know, emotion's something you deal with every week, not just this week, but we've got a lot of problems to deal with this week. We've got a lot of football that we didn't handle very good last week in all three phases of the game. We went back to work today and tried to focus on those things and clean those things up and like I said, try to focus on how good can we be as we move here. Three weeks from now, how good a football team can we be?"
(on what QB T.J. Yates needs to improve on) "I don't want to see him get sacked five times. I think a few of those were his, a few of those were the backs and the line accounted for one or two. I think getting rid of the ball, I don't want him sitting in there getting beat up and those types of things. He's got some decision-making issues that he's got to get fixed, but he has shown the ability when he does make a mistake to correct it and not do it again. He's working very hard and continues to practice well, so that's important."
(on who will return kickoffs) "It'll either be (Shiloh) Keo or (Quintin) Demps, we'll see."
(on if he's concerned about the bad calls against the Texans) "Well, we were going back to the one two weeks ago on the arm going forward. They came back and told us that they still think his arm was going forward, so there's nothing we can do there. The one the other day, I have to admit, I don't understand that one. He never made a football move, but we turned it in. I'll find out this evening, so I'll let you guys know."
(on what contributions he sees WR Jeff Maehl making) "Well, I think he gives you a variety of things. First off, he knows all the wide receiver spots. He can play all three, so that's important. He can help (special teams coordinator) Joe (Marciano) on special teams. He covered kicks good for Joe in the preseason. He's a guy that's been working extremely hard for an opportunity. Our players respect him because of how hard he's worked on the scout team, so we'll give him an opportunity to help out."
Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips
(on taking a medical leave of absence) "I feel good. I don't have any physical problems right now, so if I get this done, this procedure that I'm doing, then I'll be fine. I'll be out maybe a week, maybe a little longer than that, so it's the next man up. That's what we've done all year. The team, it's 'we,' it's not me. I've been getting too much credit, but it's the football team, and they're going to play. I haven't done a good job if they're not ready to play, if they're not ready to practice, they're not ready to prepare to play, so hopefully I've done those things right."
(on what type of procedure he's having) "I don't want to go into it, but it's not life-threatening, there's no chemotherapy involved or radiation and all that stuff."
(on whether the procedure is cancer-related) "No. I don't want to get into it; it's personal, but it's not a vasectomy (laughing), in case you wondered."
(on whether he's having a GI procedure) "I don't know. I was never in the Army, so I don't know."
(on whether he knew about the procedure for some time before today) "Not really. It came up more all of a sudden. You remember I was sick a week or so ago, and so they said, 'Hey, we need to do this,' and I'm doing it."
(on whether he's concerned) "Well, any time you have something done, I mean, it's an operation. It's not a…it's an operation, but I feel good. I mean, the doctors, they say they can handle everything, there's no problems; they don't foresee any problems and they see me getting back within 10 days, so that's where I'm looking."
(on whether he expects to be back for the Texans' game against Tennessee on January 1) "Yeah, I think so. I can't say Indianapolis (December 22) for sure because I don't know if I'll be traveling, but somewhere in that time frame."
(on which part of his body he's having surgery) "They announced it was a procedure on my kidney, right?"
(on what the worst-case scenario would be for the surgery) "Well, the worst-case is I'd die, you know? That'd be the worst case for me; I don't know about y'all."
(on what would be the most time he could miss following the procedure) "They haven't said that. They said like 10 days. That's what I'm going by."
(on if he said the surgery would be on his kidney) "Yeah, that's it."
(on his confidence in linebackers coach Reggie Herring, who will call plays on defense in his absence) "Oh, yeah. We've got everything set up. The game plan's set up. We tweak a few things, and we've done that this week, as far as what we're doing. The team we're playing, certainly you've got to do that with the quarterback they have, but I expect everything to run smoothly."
(on whether he would be on the sidelines or in the press box when he returns) "I don't know what's going to happen. It depends on what the doctors say. If I can move around a lot, well, then I'll get on the sideline. If I can't, I'll be in the press box."
Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison
(on Antoine Caldwell stepping in to play right guard while Mike Brisiel is out) "Well, Antoine's played before. He played a lot last year. He's played with the guys next to him, which is the important part. We feel pretty good about it. Just like everything else, anybody else that's come in; he's practiced, he's played. We feel good about it."
(on how Jeff Maehl fits in at the No. 5 wide receiver spot) "Jeff's practiced very, very hard. He's come through and done some great things for us. In preseason he did a good job on special teams and it's one of those areas that we thought he deserved a shot and he would give us a good effort on game days so we thought we'd bring him up and see how he does."
(on Carolina's defense) "Their defense is a good group. They've got a lot of talent. We'll have our hands full because they do a lot of different things. They can cause you some problems by what they do blitz-wise or just sitting in their zones, just like every group. Everything is going to be a little bit different for us and the only thing that's common is there's four guys up front and three linebackers. It'll be a good test for us again and we'll have our work cut out for us."
(on if he was surprised at how calm QB T.J. Yates was on the final drive against Cincinnati) "Not really because he's had the same demeanor since we've gotten him. That was one of the reasons, one of the strong points that we had looking at him in the draft. He did a great job in critical situations in his senior year and even throughout. I mean, they had injuries all over the place throughout his college career and he always kept his poise. It's one of those things you kind of projected and hoped would come true and it did."
(on how calm he was on the Texans' final drive against Cincinnati) "Not very. (I had) confidence that the guys, we put them through as many situations as we possibly can and it's up to them to take that in practice and carry that over into the game."
(on if he will handle the running backs differently, given the time of the year) "Just like we've been doing, we try to break it as evenly as we can. There's some ebb and flow that happens and give and take and play it by ear as it goes. If one guy has a good couple series then maybe he'll get more or less. We'll just see how it goes."
Linebackers Coach Reggie Herring
(on his mindset as he takes over for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips) "Well, more so than anything, we've got a lot of things to finish here this season. As far as me calling the plays and being the coordinator for this game and the next two games, this is a system. I've been raised under Wade Phillips for the last four years. I've studied him. We think a lot alike. At the end of the day, I'm not Wade Phillips, but it's Wade Phillips' system. It's our calls. It's what the players know. We have confidence. At the end of the day, it's going to come down to execution and consistency, what it does every week. I feel very confident about this. The players, we're all in a good frame of mind right now. We have a lot of things to finish, home field advantage, as you know, and we're number one in the NFL right now. We have a lot to play for. Players have shown a lot of character and pride. I don't see any letdown in these guys. Once again, at the end of the day, Wade will be with us every snap. This is his system, his defense and we'll move on."
(on what changes there will be in responsibilities for him) "Well really, the only that changes is the actual defense call is going to come out of my mouth to the player. In my mind, we always, as coaches, play the game in our mind. We all have a game plan going in. We've talked. It's a process. Every situation, every personnel group, every formation, every call has a rhyme and a reason for it. It's studied. It's done. We've practiced it. We rehearse it. So, at the end of the day, it's a formality on game day. It's a matter of what are they going to do? What are they going to give us? What situation? Then we put the call with the group in the situation. It's all studied. It's pretty much a science. It's a system. As far as, really not much of anything, other than the fact that I'm going to call Wade Phillips' defense."
(on if he has to have a different demeanor now) "None whatsoever. I'm 52 years old, been coaching 31 years and this old horse only knows one way to go down the hill. I am who I am and I'm not an actor. The bottom line is we'll be focused, task at hand. It's a tremendous responsibility that we as the players and us as coaches have. With the absence of Wade, we have a tremendous responsibility to carry on what we've done so far to date. We're not finished. We've got to get this thing done and the players know this. At the end of the day, the last thing we want to do is disappoint Coach Wade or Coach Kubiak or the Texans fans. We'll be ready and we'll be ready to play."
(on facing Panthers QB Cam Newton) "That's probably the Achilles of this whole conversation. At this time and point of the season, this is probably the most explosive offense that we've faced all year. They have great capability at every position. They've got (Steve) Smith at wide out. They've got the two tight ends that are a tremendous threat vertical down the field. Both their running backs can scat and bounce and cut back with great vision and the quarterback is really quite a physical specimen. He can throw the ball 60 yards on a rope. He can avoid. He can evade. He can create on the run. He is young and we just got to hope that some of the mistakes that he makes that we can help create those. When he gets a lot of at bats, he's going to hit a couple home runs. The guy's very talented. They have an explosive offense, tremendous talents for its defense at this time of the year, but we're probably playing about as high as 11 with confidence. The one thing, and let me just say this, and people need to be rest assured, look, you'll see the same cats you've seen the last 13 games on this field. These kids got tremendous character. They've got tremendous want-to. They're driven. This system is already in and it's a matter of processing, going out and executing on the field. But make no mistake, this is the most dangerous offense we'll face all year."
(on how you prepare for QB Cam Newton) "What you prepare is certain situations and things. When he's in the gun and he has the ability to run the ball and when he's a threat running and moving in the pocket, you have to play smarter technique and you have to be aware of certain situations. When he's under center, you can cut it back a little bit more and cut it loose. But when he's in gun and he can see the field and see the rush and be able to run as well, that's when you got to adjust and alter your, say your tempo a little bit. We've got some things in place to stop, to combat what they do offensively. You cannot go into a game and gauge and estimate how many plays he's going to make or we let him make. It has to be played. The game has to be played. He is a tremendous movement guy in the pocket. He's big, strong. How you prepare for that is we got to be on our game. We got to have leverage. We got to have lanes and everybody's got to be focused and disciplined on their jobs. When the system breaks down, guys are open, we're worried about him scrambling, we lost contain or things of that nature. That's when bad things happen. We got to be on our game, disciplined technique-wise, probably more so than ever because of a guy that's like that. We can't afford any letdowns, mentally in our discipline part of our technique and how we're going to scheme this guy."
(on if the dime packages change because of Panthers QB Cam Newton) "Well, I don't want to talk about our game plan as much, but at the end of the day, what you got to do with him is it's situational football. It's certain personnel groups dictate certain calls and whatnot. There's one thing to answer that question is we don't need any smaller guys trying to tackle Newton. At the end of the day, when we pressure, we want to pressure our big guys, safety types, backers and that's great inside point and a question, but I don't want to get into detail. At the end of the day, you got to be on your game and you got to gang tackle this guy. We're going to need help from everybody this week. The guy's a tremendous talent, very dangerous, very explosive, so we're going to have to play probably our best game of the year."
(on if he will be on the sideline or in the booth) "I'm sideline. Booth's like watching TV with no volume."
OLB Connor Barwin
(on defensive coordinator Wade Phillips) "I wish him the best of luck in his operation, but I feel comfortable with (linebackers coach) Reggie (Herring). Obviously, Reggie's my coach and I feel comfortable with him calling the plays. Obviously, he'll do a great job."
(on there not being any concern with different terminology) "No, it's not going to be a big deal. It's all (defensive coordinator) Wade's (Phillips) system still, all his same calls. He's already got the game plan in. It's just going to be a different person giving the hand signals or talking to DeMeco (Ryans) in the headset."
(on having a lot of incentive to try to keep winning) "Yeah, I think you see, in the past, the teams that win in the playoffs are the teams that are playing the best at the end of the year, so I think our goal is to be playing our best football at the end of the year and that means playing better next week, then playing better the week after that and continuing right on through the playoffs."
(on how impressive the Panthers offense is) "Yeah, this is the biggest challenge maybe next to New Orleans, maybe more than New Orleans, I don't know, but the biggest challenge we've faced offensively this year. That's just exciting, I think, for us as a defense to face an offense like this."
LT Duane Brown
(on the play of the Texans' defense this season) "It's awesome. It's been real fun to watch, just watching those guys operate throughout the season. They've won a lot of games for us and have given us opportunities to close out games on offense. There's a lot of guys on there; I think, mainly, one person I've been the most impressed with has been (OLB) Connor Barwin because going against him in practice every day, I've seen the improvement in him every week and how well he fits into this scheme. He's still got a few games to turn some more heads."
(on the team's success thus far this year) "It's great. One of the goals that we wanted to get coming into the season was to win the division, and to do that so early in the season is great. It's a great opportunity for us. We still have three games left and a chance to not just…we're already in the playoffs, but a chance to get a first-round bye, a chance to play every game here in Houston. That's an awesome feeling."
(on the Texans remaining somewhat under the radar nationally) "We like being underdogs, not bringing too much attention. We just go about our business. We don't care if people look at us to be one of the top teams or not; we know what kind of ability we have here. We're just taking it one week at a time."
(on rookie QB T.J. Yates' performance the last two weeks) "It's been awesome. The Atlanta game – well, the Jacksonville game, he came in and got his feet wet and the Atlanta game, he got his first start. But just watching him last game, that second half was awesome. Those last two drives, both 80-plus-yard drives, and then going down with two minutes left and no time outs and winning the game for us, it's awesome to watch."
(on what QB T.J. Yates brings to the huddle) "Very calm demeanor, very even-keeled guy. Doesn't get too high or low, and that's something you'd like to have: somebody who is very poised; confident but very calm, comes in very mild-mannered. He gets pretty excited but doesn't show it too much, and he just makes plays. Like the last game, we didn't do as good a job as we could protecting him, and he still sat in the pocket and made some big throws, he got out of the pocket and made plays with his feet, and you can't ask for any more from a rookie quarterback."
(on QB T.J. Yates' demeanor in the huddle) "Yeah, he's ready. Like, when we went out there for that last drive (at Cincinnati), I knew that if we had any time on the clock, without a shadow of a doubt we'd win. That's the kind of confidence we had in him, and when he came into the huddle, you could just tell he was ready to take control and he was ready to go."
(on Carolina's defense) "They're pretty good. I think their first goal is to try and stop the run, stack a lot of guys in the box. They've got some pretty good players over there; their linebacker corps is one of the best I think we've played again, and this is going to be a big challenge for us."
ILB Brian Cushing
(on the news that Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips will be missing time due to surgical procedure) "That was tough. Obviously, we'll support him as much as we can. He's going to be without us for a little bit. We'll just continue to play hard and play for him and continue his game plan."
(on Linebackers Coach Reggie Herring) "He's a very, very smart coach. He knows all the ins and outs of this defense and he'll be able to lead us. If anyone can do it, it'll be him."
(on how important the final stretch of the season is with home-field advantage at stake) "It's also really important for momentum, too. You want to know that you can win these last couple games and just get on a roll and see how far you can take it. That's just kind of the mindset around here."
(on Carolina having the most explosive offense they'll see this season) "I agree. It all starts with their quarterback. He's a special, special talent. Great players around him and they run a different scheme that you really don't see at the pro level, but they've been able to do it."
(on if the defense will have to slow itself down a little bit because of what QB Cam Newton is capable of) "Yeah, he can run a little bit more and he can hit some big plays, but we're still going to play aggressive. We're still going to get after him and just try to take advantage of him being a rookie."
(on if you can prepare for a quarterback like Cam Newton) "Well, you're not going to see anything like it in practice, that's for sure. Probably not all year. He's a player that's very, very talented. You're not going to be able to match his physical capabilities. But at the same time, going into the game we know what to expect."
RB Arian Foster
(on the reactions he's seen from fans around Houston this week) "Everybody's really excited in the city. I haven't been out too much; I like to stay inside, but when I am out, a lot of positive reactions."
(on what G Antoine Caldwell brings to the offensive line) "Well, he played with us last year. He was rotating with (G) Mike (Brisiel) and we fared very well last year as an offense, and hopefully we don't miss a beat. Any time you haven't played a lot of significant snaps, it's going to take you a little while to get back in the flow, but he's a good athlete and he'll do fine."
(on the crowd at Reliant Stadium on Sunday) "Ever since I've been here, the fans have been great in the stadium, and we're just looking forward to it. We're coming in 10-3 and they've never had a 10-3 team here, and we're excited."
(on the importance of maintaining their positive momentum through the end of the season) "It's very important. The division was one of our goals, but not our main goal, and there's a lot more at stake out there for us to go grab. It's an opportunity that doesn't come along a lot in the NFL, so you have to take advantage of it, and that's what we're working towards doing."
(on Carolina's defense) "I think just as a whole, their team, they're young and they're very talented and they make plays. They just had trouble holding on to some leads throughout the year, but they've been in every game they've been in. It's just one of those teams that you look for doing big things in the future, and you can't go to sleep on them."
(on whether opposing defenses have paid more attention to stopping the running game since QB T.J. Yates became the starter) "Not much has changed because I think ever since I've been here, our offense kind of goes as the run game goes and that kind of gets everything else moving. I think as a defense, whenever they game plan against us, they always try to stop the run first."
WR Andre Johnson
(on if there is any chance he'll play on Sunday) "I hope to play, but you know, you just have to see what happens. I can't give you a definite answer."
(on what it means to be in the playoffs for the first time) "It feels a little weird because I'm not out there playing, but it means a lot. It just means a lot to this city. It means a lot to everybody here in this organization. It's been 10 long years, so everybody is excited. Everybody is happy about it. At the same time, you can't be satisfied with it. The team knows the biggest thing right now is just trying to let the fans know that there is a bigger goal than just getting to the playoffs. That goal here is trying to win a Super Bowl. That's every team's goal at the beginning of the season and they always say the biggest thing is getting in. We've done that. We've got us a place in the playoffs and now the thing is just trying to be the best team we can so that we can finish it off the right way."
(on if he ever doubted he'd ever make the playoffs) "No, I wouldn't say that. I always felt positive about it. There have been some frustrating times. I've had people ask me why didn't I leave and why did I stay? Things like that. I just wanted to be a part of something special. I wanted to be here when the Texans were in their first playoff game. I was here to do that, so hopefully I can be here when we win our first Super Bowl."
(on his timetable to return) "I went out and ran today. It felt better than I thought it would feel. Like I said, I have to see how it responds. I've learned that hamstrings are very tricky, so hopefully tomorrow when I wake up, I won't be sore or anything and everything will keep heading in the right direction. I can't say if I'll be able to play or not on Sunday, I just have to wait day-by-day and see what happens."
(on what was going through his mind during the last drive at Cincinnati) "I was just thinking we needed to find a way to get it done. I think the play when T.J. (Yates) took off scrambling, I teased him that he was stumbling and bumbling. When that play happened, I was like, 'We're not going to be denied.' I knew it was all going to work out for us. Once that play happened, we were going to get it done. The way he's been playing has been awesome. I think a lot of people didn't think he would go out and play the way he's played. I still think a lot of people don't give us any respect because of the situation of having our third-string quarterback playing, but it really doesn't matter as long as we keep winning. That's all that matters."
(on the emergence of QB T.J. Yates and the storyline of this team) "T.J. is big now, man. He's blown up over the last couple weeks. I'm just happy for him. He comes in and works his butt off. A lot of guys in his situation, being a rookie and having two guys in front of you, they wouldn't be as prepared as he is. It just says a lot about him and what he is as a player and what he thinks of his team and his teammates. That's just big of him to make sure that he was ready to play when his time came."
(on how excited he is to hear how loud the stadium is) "Man, I can only imagine. I know it's going to be rocking. I can tell you that. It will all just be excitement from clinching a playoff spot and everything, but I'm pretty sure it'll be rocking on Sunday."
(on how that home field advantage could be beneficial in the playoffs) "Yeah, everybody knows that. Even after the win, everybody was happy and celebrating or whatever, but once everybody calmed down before we left out of the locker room, that was the first thing that came up. Everybody was like, 'We're in, so there is no reason to be satisfied with being in. We need to go in and try to win it.' Nobody here is getting complacent or satisfied with what we've accomplished. We know there are bigger things out there to accomplish so we're not satisfied."
CB Johnathan Joseph
(on if he thought he'd be dealing with a "next man up" situation with coaches as well as players) "We really didn't. It kind of caught us by surprise today. We've got (Linebackers Coach) Reggie Herring on staff, (Defensive Line/Assistant Head Coach) Bill Kollar, (Defensive Backs Coach) Vance Joseph; all those guys have been with (Defensive Coordinator) Wade (Phillips) throughout this year and Reggie who has been with him in the past. We've got a lot of guys on staff capable of filling shoes while he's isn't with us."
(on the confidence the defense has in Linebackers Coach Reggie Herring calling the defensive plays while Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips is out) "We're very confident. He's been with Wade in the past. With us, it's just about going out and doing what we do each and every other week. Our game plan isn't going to change. It's not like we're going to change our calls. It's just a different guy pretty much making the calls from the sideline. Overall, everybody's in on the same game plan, so the only thing we'll be missing is Wade on the sideline with us."
(on if the team is still taking it one game at a time even though it has earned a playoff berth) "Absolutely. We can't just settle and stop here. We have to continue if we want to get to the next level. Eventually it will be 12 teams that clinch a playoff (berth) and we'll be one of those 12. But there's only one team that wins the Super Bowl, ultimately, and that will be the team that plays the best all through the rest of these playoffs. So for us, we have to go out and treat each game 1-0 and try to go out and clinch as much home-field advantage as we can."
(on how important it is to play at Reliant Stadium in the playoffs) "It's really important the way our fans have been supporting us the last few home games and throughout the season, to be honest. But the last few home games have been kind of crazy with the crowd noise and everything and of course, to get home-field advantage, you get two games (at home). Now you win two games at home, you're sitting in the Super Bowl."
(on playing Carolina with QB Cam Newton) "It's a different animal, what Cam Newton presents at quarterback because he can throw it 80, 90 yards in the air and he can run it 80 or 90 yards with his legs and he has weapons on the outside and at the running back position. So for us, it's just about each guy doing his job and kind of helping out and stepping up because you have an extra runner with the quarterback with the ball in his hands. So for us, we just have to go out and play sound football and don't make any foolish plays where you just leave a guy running wide open or we don't account for the quarterback running with the ball."
ILB DeMeco Ryans
(on defensive coordinator Wade Phillips) "You're right, the 'next man up' theme is hitting us everywhere with Coach Phillips having to have surgery. (Linebackers coach) Reggie (Herring) will step in. I feel like Reggie will do a good job for us. Reggie's been with Coach Phillips for a while. Reggie knows the system in and out and he'll do a great job of calling the game for us."
(on if there's a difference between losing a player and a coach) "It's going to be a little different as far as with (linebackers coach) Reggie (Herring) making the calls now instead of (defensive coordinator Wade Phillips) Coach Phillips making the calls, but like I said, they've worked together for so long where I feel like both of them think alike in the same situations. I feel like there will be similar calls in similar situations."
(on how important home field advantage would be in the playoffs) "I feel like things now are getting tougher. We still are fighting to win games and win the rest of our games, but we'll focus on Carolina and trying to find a way to win this week. Home field of course would be great for us, but we have to continue to keep our focus one week at a time and handle business like we've been doing up until this point. We can't get to this point now and then just kind of try to look at the whole picture or think about the playoffs. We still have games left and those games are important to us."
(on if the crowd at the Atlanta game was the loudest he's ever experienced) "Oh yeah, of course. The Atlanta crowd was phenomenal. It was unbelievable. My first time hearing the stadium like that since I've been here in my six years. I just expect that it will continue to get better and better as we go along."
RB Ben Tate
(on AFC South division champs having a nice ring to it) "It does, but we can't dwell on that. That was Sunday. I'm over that now. It's time to go back to work."
(on the Panthers defense) "Defense is pretty good. They've got an athletic defense, good defensive line, so you know, it's going to be another tough challenge for us on offense."
(on if it's harder to focus after winning the division) "No, not at all, still one game at a time we still take it. Our saying all year is 1-0, so we're still focused on that right now."
(on if the mistakes from last game make it easier to focus) "Definitely, you got to go out there and fix your corrections and just try to build on it and try to improve and just keep getting better as a team because if you stay complacent, you won't get far in this League."
(on his running style) "I can't describe it. When I have to run you over, I will. When I need to make you miss and go try to score a touchdown, I'll do that too."
DE J.J. Watt
(on his reaction when he heard that defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is taking a medical leave of absence) "It was more of a feeling of, 'Oh, I feel bad for Wade that he's going to have a couple days in the hospital there.' But we're going to rally around, it's a little bit more adversity that we have to face. We're used to facing adversity this year, so we're going to be fine. We just wish him a very speedy recovery so he can get back as quick as he can."
(on how he'll eventually reflect on this season's injury bug) "That's just kind of the way our year's been going. Every week there's some type of new adversity that we're facing, and every week we find a way to overcome it. This week is no different. We're going to find a way to come back and rally and win."
(on the crowd at Reliant Stadium this Sunday) "I have a feeling that they might be a little bit rowdy, and we're very, very excited about that."
QB T.J. Yates
(on if a lot of people have been texting and calling him lately) "It hasn't been too bad. There's definitely been some. A lot of friends and family have been texting me congratulating me, but not too bad."
(on people's reaction to him when he goes out in Houston) "Haven't been out much, just tried to stay in here as much as possible."
(on if he feels the support from the city) "Absolutely, when we got back from the game, all the fans were out in front of Reliant up front over there. It was something special. You can tell this town has been waiting for something like this for a long time."
(on what his family thinks of the seats they had at the game on Sunday) "They weren't concerned about it. They were just happy to be there and happy for our team to get a win."
(on if he feels settled in now) "Yeah, I'm trying to finally get in a routine of getting back to playing again. It's definitely different. You got to take care of your body a little more. You get a little more sore after the games and when you're not playing. I'm definitely getting into kind of a rhythm as far as getting everything done that I need to during the week and prepare for the game."
(on his progression on the field) "I'm making mistakes every single week, but I'm learning from them every single week. Every game, I think I'm getting better learning new things. Sometimes the best teacher is getting the actual experience out there on the game field. Sometimes there's some things you can't coach until you actually do them wrong. I'm definitely making a lot of mistakes out there, but I'm learning from them every week."
(on the importance of continuing to push even after winning the division) "Absolutely, there's still a lot of things that we have to accomplish, a lot of goals that we still want to get to and one of those things is keep on winning, get home field advantage so we can put ourselves in the best situation in the playoffs."
(on the rest of the team having confidence in him) "It feels good. It's partly all them. They're giving me a lot of confidence out there. Knowing that all those guys have my back out there just definitely calms me down in the huddle. Knowing that they know what they're doing and they're going to be there for me if I need them definitely gives me a lot of confidence and it goes both ways."
(on the biggest challenge for him against the Panthers defense) "They're a lot like Cincinnati. They do a lot of different things, so we're going to have to be ready for all the stuff that they're going to throw at us. The first thing we've got to do is we got to protect the football as an offense and that's a big stress this week in practice and just going through the week that we can't give them any more chances. They're very good on offense and we might get a few less possessions this week on our offense, so we can't give them any more."
(on if he feels like he's not a rookie anymore after all he's been through) "Yeah, as far as getting game experience, I'm definitely still a rookie, but it's been a long season so far and I've learned so much since training camp. It's kind of night and day from when I first got here."
(on if he still has to bring apple fritters every Friday) "Absolutely, apple fritters are a must from Dunkin' Donuts."
(on G Antoine Caldwell) "You know, everybody has a lot of confidence in him. He's been a starter in this League for this team. It's kind of how this team's been all season long, next man up is going to be ready and is going to do a great job. We're all feeling for Mike (Brisiel). That dude's a warrior. He played three quarters of football with a broken leg for his teammates, so that kind of stuff is good. We all know Antoine's going to step in and do a great job for us."
(on WR Jeff Maehl) "It's kind of funny. I've had the most experience throwing to Jeff because we've been on scout team together all season long. I'm very comfortable with him as far as throwing the ball and kind of reading his routes and everything. He's been in this offense all season long and he's a smart guy. His load's going to pick up a lot as far as special teams and knowing all the different positions he's got to fill in at wide receiver, but he'll be able to handle it."
(on if defenses will play him differently knowing that he can run) "Maybe, it's been a couple times I got kind of lucky out there and caught the right coverage. We're very versatile on offense and able to change a lot of things as far as protections or schemes or anything throughout the game. Our coaches are great of making on-field adjustments if we're coming off during series or at halftime. We'll be ready for anything they throw at us."
(on G Antoine Caldwell stepping into the lineup) "He did a great job. He's very comfortable out there. He's been in this system for a long time. He knows what he's doing. He played a lot last year for us. We didn't skip a beat on offense."
(on if it's been surreal being in the spotlight) "It's been a little weird, something that I didn't really see coming this early in my career, as far as playing as much as I have. My parents, they're getting a lot of publicity as far as getting bad seats. So it's definitely surreal for them and they're enjoying it. My family and friends are as well."
(on if there is any suspicion behind getting the number 13 at North Carolina and with the Texans) "I wasn't really highly-recruited coming out of high school, so that was the number they gave me. They just gave it to me when I got there. It kind of stuck."
(on if he or his mother have any superstitions) "I don't think she does. I try not to think about too much stuff like that. There's little things as far as your daily routine, just staying in the same routine, but no real superstitions."
(on what his routine is) "Just the daily game stuff. The kind of routine you go through as far as what you're doing out on the field and how you're warming up. You just want to have stuff be the same so you don't keep your body guessing."
(on if his parents talked about all the air time they got during the Cincinnati game) "It was kind of funny seeing how much they were on TV. It was kind of ridiculous. I think they should have been showing the game a little more than my parents. But it was funny for them and they got a lot of recognition back home."
(on if his mother will relax more at games) "Probably not. I don't think she ever will. She always gets nervous and can't ever really watch. Hopefully she'll get better."
Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera
(on QB Cam Newton) "It's been great. It really has because the young man's everything we hoped he would be. He's been tremendous as far as that's concerned. The thing that's also great, the guys that have stepped up around him. I really like what we've gotten out of our wide receiving core. I think Steve Smith and those guys have really done a great job for us. Our tight ends have been really solid and I think our running backs just keep getting better and better each week as they get more and more comfortable with what we're doing. The big key, to me, has really been the development of our offensive line. We start four veteran guys that have all worked together with a rookie involved at right tackle and I think that's really helped the development of our quarterback because our offensive line has been intact and has done a pretty good job for the most part."
(on if it's been the offensive line that's helped RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart play so well this season) "Well, it's been a combination of both. Those guys are terrific running backs that have done a great job for a number of years here as being a one-two punch as well, but our offensive line has been solid and stout and they've really helped us. As you look at what we do too, you got to look at the contribution the quarterback makes. He keeps people off balance as much as anybody as well. Just the whole threat of him being able to run the ball, throw the ball or hand the ball off, really it adds to the doubt that could be in a defense's mind. You've got to prepare not just for that ability of triple threat from a quarterback being able to run, throw or hand the ball off, as much as it is what our two running backs have done as well."
(on the turnaround in the offense from last year to this year) "I think it does start with the quarterback. Quite frankly, that position has really been solidified with Cam (Newton) as he's developing and learning the system. I really like what he does and brings to the table for us. But I also think because our offensive line is such a veteran group with the exception of our right tackle. I think it's a group that's really helped because they've done such a nice job of protecting him and keeping the pressure off him. I think as we get better and better, we'll see this development get even more and more further down the line with our offense."
(on the Texans defense) "Well, I tell you what, and I hope (defensive coordinator Wade Phillips) Coach Phillips is doing well. He's done a great job. He's come in and he's brought a little something different to them. I think the one thing he's done is he's always put together a very physical group up front and because that group is so physical, I think it really helps the secondary and the secondary's playing as well as anybody else in the League, so you know why they're number one. It's very similar to the defense I was involved with in San Diego when he left and I came in as the linebackers coach. I had an opportunity to see what he had been doing, see the type of plays he has and it's reflected in this team. This is as good a defense as he's had in a long time and he's doing a great job with them."
(on QB T.J. Yates being calm and poised) "Yeah and not to just say this, but T.J. was someone we looked at. We thought highly of him. We went out and watched his pro day. But to see him and watch him perform under the pressure of the fourth quarter, the drives coming down to win the game, you see the poise and you saw that when you watched him when he was at North Carolina. I think the young man has handled that situation very well and the thing that people got to remember too now is these guys coming out of college are no longer guys that are only throwing the ball 15, 20 times a game. These guys are throwing the ball 35, 40 times a game, so they're developing earlier. They're used to being under pressure and those are the things that I think are impressive is that the guy can step in and do those types of things. Now, I also take hats off to the offensive coaches of the Texans. You look at how they're doing things and the things that they've done. A good example is the way they opened up the Cincinnati game. They came out and it could've been real easy to just say, 'Hand the ball off here. Hand the ball of there,' but what they did was they went play action, threw the ball deep down field to let the defense know, 'Hey, this kid's got the ability to throw, so you're going to have to play us honest.' They do some nice stuff to keep you off balance, but they run the ball extremely well too, so that helps. Any time you've got a combination of Arian Foster and Ben Tate that run the ball as well as they do, you've got to play this offense honest."
Panthers WR Steve Smith
(on QB Cam Newton) "It's such an unbelievable blessing and experience to be just on the field and watching Cam Newton, how he brings so much dimension and versatility to the quarterback position. I think it's never ever been done ever before and he's doing a great job."
(on the turnaround in the offense from last year to this year) "I think it's been a combination of things. One is the quarterback position. Two, the tight end position. Then, also the offensive coordinator and the head coach and the quarterbacks coach, the wide receivers coach. So, it's been a combination of things. It's not one person."
(on the Texans defense) "I see a very confident, rightly so, defense. They run fast, young guys flying around. They went out and got (Johnathan) Joseph and he's making his money plus more. He's going with whichever team designates as their number one receiver. He does a pretty good job with them. He kind of keeps them quiet for most of the game and so studying that very hard."
(on the challenges of CB Johnathan Joseph) "He is no different than any other number one corner on every team. He brings the challenge of being physical, can run with you, great ball hawk, plays the ball well. It's a hefty challenge, so hopefully I can raise to the occasion and match his intensity."
(on what the Panthers need to improve upon) "Win. Just flat out win."
(on seeing QB Jake Delhomme get another opportunity with the Texans) "It's cool. A guy who's played as long as he's played, he's still getting opportunities. I think that's a testament of how well of a player he's been in this League for a long time. I'm not surprised, maybe some other people, that he's still playing, but he is. Knowing Jake, if he gets opportunity, he's going to go down there and work his magic. I'm not really surprised to see him still playing."