HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
How was today's practice?
"Good. Guys competed. We got a lot of situational work done before San Fran comes in tomorrow. So, I thought it was good."
What do you think about the sports science ILB Brian Peters practices?
"Obviously, he's a better one to talk to about that than me. I mean, I don't really know too much about what he does. I know that he really does a great job of taking care of his body – I think Luke (Richesson) has – and his crew – have done a great job of educating guys on those things – Ladd (Harris) our nutritionist. So, I think the players are probably better to ask about that. I mean, if you look at me, like what the hell do I know about cryo labs and food tanks – well, I know a lot about food tanks. So, I don't know."
How is T Seantrel Henderson?
"He's fine. He's fine. He'll be fine."
WR DeAndre Hopkins?
"He's fine. We're trying to manage reps and we're trying to – we have three weeks until the first game so we're just trying to do a good job of managing reps. Everybody's in a different category relative to how many reps they get during the week, during a practice. So, we're just trying to do that. We have two big practices coming up with San Francisco that'll be a lot more than what you saw out here. So, trying to get guys ready for that. too."
How important are the next couple of days of joint practice against the San Francisco 49ers?
"It's good. I think it's important. I think that you have a good team coming in here, good coach, good coaching staff, so, we're going to get a lot of things done. You're going to get a lot of situational work, red area, third down, two minute, special teams, all the different special teams units will work. I love them. I think you guys know that now. We've done it probably nine or 10 times now or something like that. So, I think they are good."
Are joint practices more valuable than preseason games?
"I think that's an interesting way to look at it. I don't know if they're more valuable, only because I think playing in the stadium in front of your fans or on the road, I still think there's something to that – getting ready for a game in front of a stadium crowd. But, I do think that when you go against good competition for a couple of days in a row, in full pads, the different situations that come up, the different skillsets that you have to deal with across the ball from you, I think that's really good."
How is OLB Whitney Mercilus doing?
"Good. Yeah, he's doing good. We're just kind of managing him but he's doing fine."
How do you plan on dealing with fights at practice against the San Francisco 49ers?
"If they do anything that would get them ejected in a game – Kyle (Shanahan) and I have already agreed on that – anything that would get them ejected in a game will get them ejected from practice."
What do you want to see over these next couple of days?
"I really want to see our guys compete. I want to see these guys operate the offense, the defense, the special teams, good assignments, good mental work, going against different schemes, letting your fundamentals, letting your rules take over when there's a questions about how to block something or how to cover something. I just want to see good fundamental work and good competition."
What did you see from QB Jimmy Garoppolo during your last game against the 49ers?
"Good player, very good player, quick release, good poise, accurate, smart. A lot of good qualities that he has."
What stands out to you about G Senio Kelemete and what had you seen from him on tape during his time in New Orleans?
"Very tough guy, good quickness, good athletic ability, ability to pull, things like that. Heard great things about him there from the guys at the Saints. You can see it here. He's a good guy. He's a real good guy to have in the locker room on the team and he's a battler."
How have the special teams units looked so far?
"I think it's getting better. We've got a long way to go but I think there's better effort. I think that guys are picking up on things better, but we'll see. We'll see. We have to keep getting better every single day in that unit, in that area."
Did you see improvements on special teams during the first preseason game?
"Yes. I thought it wasn't perfect but I saw some signs of our ability to improve."
Is there ever a time when there are too many "jack of all trades" players and not enough masters of one position?
"That's a great question. I think that sometimes when you have a guy that's a jack of all trades, he doesn't have a home. I think that most guys have to have a primary home, meaning a primary position group, and then once they feel good about that, the coaches feel good about where they are there, 'OK, how does that skillset go into another room, another personnel grouping?' But, initially, they have to have a home. I think when you have guys and you're trying to dip them in this area and dip them in that area, they don't have a home, they're tweeners. That's hard. That's hard for a player and that's hard for a coach. So, I think that's a good question and that's my answer to it."
How do you manage concussion protocol and does it go into your consideration for the final 53-man roster?
"I definitely think you take anybody's – regardless of what their injury history is – you have to take their injury history into account, whether you're drafting them or you're signing them in free agency or you're thinking about your 53-man roster. That's part of a huge decision-making process that involves a lot of different factors, and that's just one of the factors. Obviously, if you're not out on the field and you're not able to practice and show us what you can do, it's hard to be a dependable guy. It doesn't mean you're not a good guy off the field. It just means, within the football environment, if you're always in the training room, at some point in time you become undependable. If you're not dependable, then it's hard to have a bunch of those type of guys on the team, if any."
What kind of role do you envision for RB Troymaine Pope?
"I don't know yet. I don't know yet. I think he's done some good things. I think he's a competitive guy. I think he could help us in different areas, but I'm not sure. I've got to see how it all plays out."
DE J.J. WATT
Do you feel like you'll definitely play against the New England Patriots in Week 1?
"Oh, yeah. I mean, there's no doubt."
What do you think of these joint practices you're going to have against the San Francisco 49ers?
"It'll be good work. It'll be good work. Obviously, you play against your own guys so many days in camp. It's always nice to see a different color jersey out there, a different scheme, different players. It's going to fun. It's going to be good. Looking forward to it."
How much can you work on stuff against a different team that will help you going forward?
"You can work on a lot. It's just new guys. When you're in camp, maybe guys get used to a certain move or they start to figure you out. Maybe you like a certain pass rush move or you play the run a certain way, so new guys come in and you get to see a different look, you get to see their different tendencies, work on your own. So, there's a lot of different qualities that make it good to have some work against somebody else."
How much has working against T Seantrel Henderson helped you?
"Seantrel's a good player. Big guy, can move well, works hard. It's good. It's been good working against him."
Do you think you can get back to playing at the level you have in the past?
"I'm just focused on today. Now that today's practice is over I'm focused on tomorrow. I know what expectations I have for myself but the only thing I can – any way I answer that question, I'm screwed. You want me to say, 'Yeah, it's going to be incredible,' then you're setting insane expectations. I say, 'No, I think I'm going to suck,' that doesn't bode too well for myself either. There's really no good way to answer that question so I'm literally focused – I control what I can control. Through all my injuries, that's probably the biggest thing I've learned, is control what you can control. All I can control is today; workouts, practice, meetings, and then tomorrow I'll be able to control that."
Do you feel like your health is where it used to be?
"I feel great. I feel great. I love being on the field. I've had great work out here. I'm just controlling what I can control."
Do you give much thought to wondering if you can be what you were before?
"No, because it doesn't help. It doesn't do anything for me. I need to be the best I can possibly be today, and then tomorrow I need to be the best I can possibly be tomorrow. It doesn't help me at all to think about, 'I wonder if in December I can have this many sacks.' I mean, it doesn't matter because if I don't take care of August then I'm never going to get to December. So, it's just one day at a time, one workout at a time, one practice at a time. That's how I got to be what I was in the first place. I mean, you don't get there by thinking ahead. Of course you have big dreams and you have big goals but you accomplish those dreams and goals by working one day at a time."
Is there now a level of appreciation you have for football now that you've recovered from your injury?
"Oh yeah. Obviously, the last two years were not fun, but you appreciate the game so much more and you're so much (more) thankful for your opportunity to be on the field, to go to work. You have a bit of a different mentality. You don't complain about as much, you see the brighter side of things a lot more once you've been through what I've been through. I love every day. I've loved it from the start but I love it even more now."
Do you have a sense of how this defense is coming together?
"We're coming together well. We obviously still have some things to work out, but we're coming together well. We have a great group of guys. We love working together, we love flying around, we have great intensity and we have a lot of fun. That's what you have to do. Now, we just have to continue to work to execute our assignments and put it all together."
Has it been a process to gain confidence in your leg every day at practice?
"Much more in the offseason than now. Once I got it to where I wanted it to be in the offseason, since then, I would say maybe the first couple practices you try to see where it's at, but I've been very confident in it since then and you don't really think twice about it."
What are your thoughts on NT D.J. Reader?
"I've said it many times, I think D.J.'s the best nose guard in the league. I think he's an extremely hard worker. He's a great teammate, great guy and he's a very underrated player. I think he's a guy who deserves a lot more credit than he gets simply because of the fact that he plays in the position that doesn't have a lot of glitz and glamor, but he helps me a lot, he helps our defense a lot and he deserves a lot of credit."
Do you ever learn training tips from ILB Brian Peters?
"BP works very hard. I respect how hard he works, how hard he trains and I know he tries a lot of different techniques and things. I know he works hard."
What has Rams Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips meant to your career?
"Wade's the best. I love Wade. I've been very fortunate to have a guy like Wade and a guy like Romeo (Crennel), but Wade, early on, he instilled confidence in me somewhat before I had confidence in myself. Entering my second year in the league, before I had done really anything, there was a quote where Wade said, 'He's going to be a bust. Not a first-round bust, but a Hall of Fame bust.' I read that quote and I was like, 'Jesus, guy.' I mean, come on. But just to have a guy that believes in you that much, to have a guy that sees something in you that you might not even see in yourself at that time, that to me gave me all the confidence I needed to continue to grow as a player and to really go out there and be the best I can be. For him, he stood on the table to draft me here, too. Just from Day 1, Wade was in my corner. When you have a guy that cares about you and that wants you to succeed and that pushes you, it means a lot. I was very fortunate to have a guy like Wade to learn from with all of his knowledge and all of his experience. Then he let me play my game. He let me have a little bit of freedom out there. He let me flourish. I love Wade. He's such a good dude and I love that guy and I wish him nothing but the best. Like I said, now I'm lucky that I have Romeo here. I've got two pretty incredible d-coordinators to play for."
How was Rams Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips able to bridge the gap in generations given his strong social media presence?
"He's kind of like the cool grandpa. He knows Twitter now. He tweets. He knows football and when you have a group of guys and you can communicate through football – he knows how to build relationships and knows how to joke around with the guys, but also be serious with the guys. When you have that ability to coach but also be a mentor and be like a father figure to some of these guys, that's why he can go from whenever he started in the '20s to the 2000s. He cares. That's the biggest thing. When somebody cares – we have the same thing with RAC (Romeo Crennel) – when they show that they care and when they show that they're passionate and they truly want you to better yourself, it's easy to play for a guy like that. It's easy to want to go out there and play for them. I think that's why he's been so good and also he's smart. He has a good scheme. He knows what he's doing, and then he brings in good players and lets them do what they do. I think that's why he's been so good."