Q. So interesting day for the special teams on Sunday. You had the blocked field goal by DE Derek Barnett and you also had WR Greg Ward let that punt bounce deep down to the two. You had another return against that kind of hurt. How did you feel it went overall and given the weather conditions and everything you were facing?(Les Bowen)
COACH FIPP: I’ll say it’s probably much like any game. I mean there’s some good, some bad and obviously a lot of plays we’d like to have back. In this building we’re really critical of ourselves. I thought we could have helped our team by making some plays we didn’t out there and whatnot. Obviously, we did help the team with the blocked field goal, that was a positive. But I think from my shoes, you’re always being critical of yourself. The bottom line is winning the football game. We didn’t win, and I think you always feel like your phase that you’re responsible for has a part in that. I certainly do with our performance on Sunday.
Q. With the punt, before the safety, what did Greg Ward — it’s in the driving rain and he’s has to run up on it I guess, but should he have tried to catch that you think? (Les Bowen)
COACH FIPP: I think there are a lot of factors to that. I think if you look closely at it, it’s going to be a high-risk catch. I don’t think the guy had a lot of hang time on the ball, so it was a little bit low trajectory. I think it was like 3.8 seconds, which some of those punts are like 4.5 I think, it didn’t go very far, it went 35 yards. I think it bounced at like the 13-yard line. It was obviously really wide out there. We had a corner out there wide on top of the gunner, the gunners out there, so his first job I mean is to try to make sure those guys get away from the football. I thought he did a really good job of that. I thought it would have been a high-risk catch trying to go in there and catch it. Obviously, the footing’s slick. You want to make sure in the rain that you have a little bit extra time to make sure you secure the ball.
Goal number one for us on that play is to give the ball back to the offense. You obviously don’t want the ball to roll like that, especially in hindsight, of course. I thought maybe we could have done a better job of maybe getting on top of the ball and squaring it up. It did take a high bounce right there and maybe we could have caught the ball after the bounce, and I don’t think we would have gotten any return yardage. We would’ve had to protect the ball from the gunner, who would have been right on top of us but maybe we could have eliminated the roll there and gotten the ball back to the offense on the eight-yard line, something like that. I would say, it’s easy to say that today. There’s some risk in doing that. Obviously that position back there you’re managing a lot of risk, that’s a tough position to be in. There’s a lot of responsibility on a guy’s shoulders. I think, overall, Greg’s done a good job. I mean he’s minimized the real negative plays against our team, obviously. I think with experience being back there more I’m sure there’s things that he would do differently today than he’s done in the past, just like all of us. And then I would say just being critical of myself at the end of the day I got to do a better job of coaching them up and preparing them for all those situations and I can do a better job of that, also.
Q. When you talk about punt returns and you have a game like that, a weather game, I guess the wind wasn’t that terrible but the driving rain, is ball security when you make that decision is it going to be Greg Ward, WR Jalen Reagor is that more of a consideration in that type of environment?(John McMullen)
COACH FIPP: Yeah, I mean I think in that type of environment, the first thing you do want to do is make sure you take care of the football. Obviously, the ball is a little slicker, the footing is slicker, you got to make sure you secure the catch first. You got to be a little bit more deliberate about the catch in those games. I think if you watch those guys in pregame warm up, both sides put the ball on the ground a little bit at the returner position. But yeah, I would say that’s a factor in it in terms of putting Greg and Jalen back there. I mean there’s a lot of things that go into those decisions. Obviously at the end of the game, we did put Jalen back in there when they were punting in that backed up situation, their last punt of the game. So, we did have him out there, obviously fair caught that ball.
But yeah, I mean everything’s a factor, weather certainly is a part of it, but I wouldn’t say that was the only reason that Jalen wasn’t back there on some of those earlier punts. We’ll continue to probably work both those guys throughout the year.
Q. LS Rick Lovato is, I think he’s leading the league in tackles for a long snapper. He seems to be always heavily involved in the scrums. Do you have to kind of manage his aggressiveness just because losing a long snapper, we’ve seen in the past, in the middle of the game can be kind of disastrous? (Mike Kaye)
COACH FIPP: No, we don’t play for the ‘what if that happens’. Obviously, we know that injury is part of the game. Obviously, we don’t wish that on anybody, but he’s got a job in protection, which he’s done a nice job of. Then he’s also got a responsibility in coverage, which is kind of down the middle of the field, which is where you’re seeing him show up and he has done a nice job of his coverage responsibility. So, no it’s just a part of the game.
Q. How often throughout the week, throughout the year is K Jake Elliott just sort of fiddling with ideas for onside-kicks and how to get that ball to pop? (Bo Wulf)
COACH FIPP: I would say we play around with a lot of different ideas. Obviously, it’s a difficult play right now. I think everybody in the league has been trying to figure out a way to get the deck stacked a little bit more in their favor, but that was a kick that we had been working for a little while. He’s always tinkering around. I think all those kickers, everywhere I’ve been or every kicker I’ve been around, is always kind of playing around with onside-kicks and trying to see if they can come up with something different. I think everybody’s been doing that around the league. I felt good about some things about the play but obviously the goal on that play is to come up with the football at the end of the thing and we didn’t get that done there.
Q. Last week when we spoke to you, you said that Jalen Reagor should have fielded that long punt and then when we spoke to him later he seemed to indicate that if he caught it that far, it would have been about the same as it ended up being. I’m just wondering what your interpretation of that is and is the message getting across to him? He said basically the opposite of what you had told us. (Jeff McLane)
COACH FIPP: Oh no, I feel great about being on the same page with [WR] Jalen [Reagor]. I’m not worried about that at all.
Q. Just wanted to ask you about LB Alex Singleton. He’s played every snap on defense the last two weeks, he’s playing a pretty big load on special teams as well. Have you talked about maybe kind of backing that off and how valuable of a player is he on special teams? (Ed Kracz)
COACH FIPP: He’s done a great job for us. He’s been a four-core player for us this year. He did the same last year for us when he’s been up. I know his role on defense has changed a little bit. Those guys roles have fluctuated throughout the year and in the beginning of the year he wasn’t playing as much, [LB] Nate Gerry was playing more. Obviously, there’s been some injury at that position. I think there’s been some adjustment in some of those guys’ roles at that position, also. But no, we’re happy with his performance for us, certainly, and we’re going to try to use him as much as we can. That being said, we are always cognizant of how much those guys are playing and we’re trying to make sure we keep them out of harm’s way that way. But I mean for us, there’s so many guys on game day and you got to fill all the roles on special teams as well. When you take your punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff return there’s 44 jobs out there that you got to fill. Obviously, on game day there’s 48 players available to you so, somebody’s got to take them.
Q. We’ve seen elsewhere in the past few weeks some kickers go on the COVID-19 reserve list. What contingencies do you have, if that were to come up during the week for your specialists?(Zach Berman)
COACH FIPP: I’m not going to get into all those specifically, but we certainly have a bunch of contingencies in place. I feel good about the guys we have and feel good about the backup plans. I mean, no backup plan’s perfect. None of those guys are as good as a starter. Obviously, we hope it doesn’t happen. I mean we feel really good about the COVID protocols in the building and the way these guys have been disciplined off the field. I think that’s as important as anything. I know the specialists have done a great job of kind of limiting their contact outside of the building. We talk about that and kind of what they’re doing, how much contact with other people they are having. I know they’re cognizant of that, also. All three of those guys depend on each other, you know the snapper affects the kick and snapper affects the punt, protection effects the punt, etc. Obviously, the punter affects the hold. So those guys all rely on each other. I think they feel like they owe each other the right to stay safe outside of the building. So, they’ve done a good job with that, but we all know that it’s not preventable 100%. We’re cognizant of that and we do have some contingency plans in place.
Q. Are those contingencies internal or obviously there’s not a kicker or punter on the practice squad. So, would it be possible even to have an external contingency plan? (Zach Berman)
COACH FIPP: I would say we probably have both internal plans and external plans.