HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
How is it to have T Seantrel Henderson back at practice?
"It's been good. He's been good since he arrived here. Very focused guy, really a player that's improved since the day he walked in here: knowledge of the system, techniques that we coach, those things, and I'm glad we have him."
Can you talk about Offensive Line Coach Mike Devlin's job incorporating so many new faces along the offensive line?
"Mike does a great job. Mike's a very smart guy. Played the position, has coached the position in this league, coached in different schemes so he kind of has a really vast knowledge of different ways to do things, and just a guy that's really meant a lot to our offensive staff since the day he walked in the door here."
Does the offensive line have to play better for this team to accomplish their goals?
"I think everybody needs to play better. I think everybody needs to play better. It's a progress league. We all need to get better."
What have you learned about this team entering the season?
"I don't know yet. We really haven't played any real games, so I'm not sure."
What do you expect from the offensive line in this game and the rest of the season?
"Just consistent performance. Trying to get better every play, every day. Really just try to be as consistent as they can be."
Was RB D'Onta Foreman placed on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list because he could need the full six weeks to recover?
"Oh, no question. Absolutely."
Can you tell us about RB Buddy Howell?
"Good size, first- and second-down back. Liked what we saw on film on offense and on special teams, so we took a shot and we'll see how it goes."
What went into bringing QB Joe Webb III back after releasing him over the weekend?
"That was kind of a formality – I'll be honest with you – relative to a couple things that were going on, but he earned the right to be on our team and he made our football team."
Do you feel like the New England Patriots are in the AFC South since you play them so much?
"We do. We play them a lot. I think that's just the way it goes with the schedule relative to them. This year, we play the AFC East, so that's the way it is this year, but yeah, we play them a lot."
Do you think playing the New England Patriots will be a good test for your team?
"I think every single time out there would be the ultimate test in the National Football League. Every time you play a game in this league, every week is a test – a huge test."
What do you think of New England Patriots Linebackers Coach Brian Flores taking over for Matt Patricia?
"Brian's an excellent coach. Worked with us when I was there on offense, worked as a scout, has coached safeties, has coached on special teams. He's really coached and done everything in that organization and is an excellent coach. He's earned the right to be where he's at right now. No doubt about it."
Is it challenging to make sure the defense gels quickly when you have a lot of players who haven't played together recently?
"You're probably talking about games and things like that, which is very, very important, but our guys have been together now since April 18, basically, in the meeting rooms, on the practice field, in the weight room. I think that games are a different deal, no doubt about it, and we've got to do a good job of communicating well on the field and making sure that we're doing our jobs on the field, but there's good chemistry in that room."
Do you anticipate CB Kevin Johnson practicing this week?
"I do. I think that after he practices on Wednesday, he would be cleared to be able to play. The rest of the injuries, I really don't know at this point."
How frustrating is it to hit New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, knock him down eight times, sack him five times and shut him down in the 4th quarter except for one drive?
"I don't think about that. I think every year's different. I really do. I think that last year was a lot different than this year. They're different, we're different. Of course, we go back and we look at certain things. I think the two teams know each other very well, but I don't get into that type of feeling about it. I think it's just all about what we're doing right now, where we are right now and how do we do as good of a job to prepare for a team that was in the Super Bowl last year."
Do you think it matters to Patriots QB Tom Brady that he has all these new receivers and tackles?
"He's a great player, even better person. He's shown year in and year out that whatever circumstance, whatever that has been presented to him, he's used it as an opportunity and he's always taken advantage of it and that's what makes him who he is."
What would it mean for you to go up to New England and win this game?
"Again, I think about that a lot relative to just winning a game. Winning a game in this league is very, very difficult to do. So, any time we win, no matter who it's against, is a good feeling for the players No. 1 (and) the coaching staff. So, any time you win in this league, it's so hard to do that that's a good feeling."
Why is it so difficult for any defense to slow down Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski?
"Where do you want me to start? He's 6'7, 265 pounds, he's got excellent athletic ability, he can run like a wide receiver, he's got great flexibility, he's tough, everybody talks about his range, his ability to catch any ball that's throw to him. He's a really hard guy to match up against. He's a consistent performer. He's probably one of the best tight ends, obviously in the game right now, maybe in the history of the game."
For a team that has a lot of turnover and you face them early in the season, what goes into prepping for those guys?
"That's a good question. Well, I think you have to look at what they've done in the past and you have to try to think about their basic philosophy of how they do things in all three phases. Then, you have to study the players that they're bringing in. You have to study them from while they were at other teams, and how do you project them to be used in the New England system, and I would say that for any team that you're playing. Whether it's Tennessee, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, if they're making roster changes, you have to try to view that player where he was and then try to think about how that player would be used in the team that he's going to. So, it's a challenge. That's what makes it a challenge is putting all that together."
When a quarterback doesn't play a full season like QB Deshaun Watson, is there an element of surprise that you guys can still have, or is that enough body of work for an opponent to scout?
"I don't know. You'd have to ask somebody else that one. I do understand the question but I think that's probably more of a question for the opponent than for me."
You guys have added a lot of new wrinkles to the offense, right?
"We've been hard at work at a lot of different things since January. We've worked at a lot of different things. Every year's different. We'll see how it all goes."
What was it about the two defensive backs, S Natrell Jamerson and S A.J. Moore, that you guys liked?
"Both guys are versatile from what we've seen on tape – corner, safety. Both guys, from what we've seen on tape, can contribute on special teams and we'll see how it goes relative to being here and how it goes for us. But, somebody said it earlier, we were fourth in the claim order and we felt like we were able to get three players that we feel like will be able to help us, but we'll see how it goes."
DE CHRISTIAN COVINGTON
Do you feel a little extra energy now that it's Week One?
"Yeah, absolutely. The NFL season's upon us. We're all excited, obviously. This team is looking forward to great things this season, so I can't wait."
Does the excitement for this year have anything to do with how last season ended?
"Absolutely. I mean, we have to take last season for what it is and move on from it. But, at the same time, I know everybody in this building is excited about what this team is capable of and I know we're just ready to show it out there on the field."
How good do you think this defense can be?
"This defense will be good. With the work that we've put in, with the guys on this roster, with the veteran leadership that we have, there's no telling what this defense could do. I put my faith into this team, into this defense because of the guys that we have in this locker room. So, that's one reason why I'm so excited to just be able to be back out on the field."
What comes to mind when you think of Patriots QB Tom Brady?
"He's one of the greatest of all-time, honestly. It's just another quarterback that we've had to face in the past and it's another quarterback that we have an opportunity to go against. He's proven himself over his entire career. Obviously (he's) going to go down as one of the greatest of all-time. At the same time, we look at it as another opponent. Go into it with the same mindset, we know what our game plan is, we know what we're capable of and we just have to go out there on the field and just do what we know what we can do."
From a defensive standpoint, what does he do that separates himself from other quarterbacks?
"I would say his intelligence. His QB IQ is just insane and off the charts with regards to how he knows how to pick apart a defense. He's been doing it his entire career and he's going to obviously continue do it for the rest of his career. That's something we have to do a good job of being able to handle."
RB D'ONTA FOREMAN
Have your teammates given you encouragement during your recovery?
"Just seeing these guys in the locker room and just having them around always is a motivation for me just seeing how hard they work each and every day. Me not being able to be out there, that doesn't mean I'm not working as hard. I'm still in the training room each and every day, grinding, trying to get back to where I need to be to just get out there and be able to help my teammates."
How difficult was it for you when you heard they were placing you on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list?
"Honestly, it was a little tough, but it wasn't that tough, honestly, because at the end of the day, I feel like we're all looking out for my best interest and the team's best interest. I don't want to go out there and be put out there and I'm not 100 percent and I'm not at my best. That would be hindering the team. That would be hindering myself. I think, overall, it was the best decision to make. Like I said, we just have to go from there."
How important are mental reps for you?
"Very important. Not being able to be out and get the (physical) reps that I may need, definitely mental reps, just trying to learn as much as I can even though I'm not out there. That means watching more film, just taking the coaching and listening to what Coach OB (O'Brien) and Coach (Danny) Barrett are telling those guys. I can still get the information that I need so when I come back I'm not behind as much."
S TYRANN MATHIEU
Can you talk about how much you're looking forward to going against Patriots QB Tom Brady?
"Well, it's a lot of excitement. Any time you get to the season, it's fun to be a part of. Obviously it's a team that's in the same conference as you. A lot of these games early on determine a lot of things later on in the season. So, we just have to be ready to go come Sunday."
Does it make it any more special because it's Patriots QB Tom Brady?
"I mean, he's a special player. Probably the greatest quarterback that we've ever seen play the game, so, our hands are full. We know he'll be ready. So, for us, we have to be sure we're extra ready."
How do you keep yourself from being a little too amped up for Sunday? Or do you not because you're a veteran?
"Well, I wouldn't say that. I still get excited for football games. I still get some anxiety – slightly nervous. But, it's all for fun. I think we've done enough throughout this offseason that we will be prepared. So, we still have about five or six days to kind of sharpen that axe. So, I'll be ready to go, I'll be prepared and like I said, I just want to go out there and show my teammates I'm in it with those guys. So, I'm in the foxhole with them and I'm ready to roll."
What do you think when you watch film on Patriots QB Tom Brady?
"Probably one of the smartest quarterbacks that ever played the game. He understands his personnel probably better than his coaches sometimes. So, he has a lot of different things going for him. Like I said, he's the ultimate competitor. He understands how to win, and we have to understand the importance of getting him off the football field. Because any time we keep him on the football field, he can do some good things. So, we just have to go there, be ready, communicate well, tackle well."
OLB WHITNEY MERCILUS
How eager are you to see what this new-look defense will be like?
"We've had time together since The Greenbrier, since training camp. Now, it's time to really go. We know what the guys can do. We just have to be on the same page. The biggest thing is just communication."
Will getting back out on the field feel like no big deal?
"I would say once I get back out there, honestly, I've just been keeping my mind sharp in the meeting rooms, seeing what the guys are doing, just emulating that and then doing whatever I can on the field as I've been doing my rehab and all of that. I don't think I've dropped off."
NT D.J. READER
S Tyrann Mathieu said the players who were here last year are hungry. Would you agree?
"Yeah, I think everybody is pretty hungry. We felt like we had a good chance last year and we just fell short due to a lot of different things. I think coming back this year we're just focused and ready to get back to where we were and be better than what we were. I think we've got a good chance of accomplishing that."
How good can this defense be?
"I think we can be really good, but we have to go out there and prove it every day. I think that's the biggest thing. You can't really project what we're going to be until we go out there every day and do what we're supposed to do. I think if we keep doing that, the sky's the limit, but we've got to go do it. That's the biggest thing we have to do."
Are you the type of player who sets personal goals for himself for the season?
"Everybody sets personal goals. I hope so. It's the only way you keep pushing yourself to be better. I do that and I kind of keep them to myself. No need to flash them, but I do have goals in mind. I keep them written down. Since I was a kid, my mom made me write my goals. So, I've been doing that for a long time."