Q. G Brandon Brooks’ injury, what is your reaction? He’s been through a lot the last few years and what’s the plan moving forward at right guard? (Reuben Frank)
COACH PEDERSON: Good morning to everybody. Gosh, my heart sunk when I got the news about Brandon’s injury. This guy has worked extremely hard to get himself back and back in shape, back in playing shape to have a solid 2020 season. So obviously we feel for him, to have to go through this again, but we know that he’ll push through and he’s done a great job with all his rehab and getting himself back, so we’re very confident there.
As far as the plan moving forward, at this point we’re still looking at a lot of options obviously, starting with our own roster and the guys that we have competing for those backup spots and possibly those starting spots. We obviously haven’t made any decisions. We are going to take a look at a lot of different scenarios, different possibilities and we have some time before training camp to try to sort these things out. At this time, we are just feeling for Brandon and want to make sure everything goes smoothly with him and getting him back on track for the future.
Q. It sounds like the majority of your players are going to be demonstrating pregame this year. Are you planning on joining them on the sidelines? (Tim McManus)
COACH PEDERSON: You’re hearing a lot about it more and more, but one of the things as a head football coach that we are going to continue to do is have discussions in every area, not only with social injustice but the anthem, with anything that comes up. And that’s one of the things that I think going into my fifth year with this football team, we have been able to have dialogue and conversation.
So nothing has been determined. I understand that players — and I support players who demonstrate peacefully and stand for something because it’s part of — we have to fix the whys. It’s part of the whys and trying to understand our players, and we support our players. I support our players. But we are going to have these conversations I know once we get into camp.
Q. Is the plan for WR Jalen Reagor in his first season to focus on one position and if so, which spot would that be, or are you going to try to cross-train him like you did with WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside a year ago? (Jimmy Kempski)
COACH PEDERSON: It’s the hardest thing we are dealing with with our younger players is not having the grass time in the off-season with phase two and phase three.
But right now, he’s going to come in and he’s going to learn one position and he is going to learn from [WR] DeSean Jackson, and learn everything he can. Obviously the playbook is extensive and we just have to see what he’s taken from the off-season to training camp, and then once we see his potential and his growth, then we can use him in multiple spots.
But one of the things that all of our receivers really have the capability of doing is moving inside, whether they are an outside guy going inside or an inside guy going outside.
We’ll keep him at one position to start and we’ll grow from there.
Q. With your rookies, obviously you haven’t had a chance to get them on the field yet and some of your first-year players and stuff. How much can you tell from the meeting rooms so far from the questions that they answer, or maybe even the questions that they asked, how ready they might be to hit the ground running when you finally do get out there? (Nick Fierro)
COACH PEDERSON: That’s a great question. You can tell by their answers, their questions, the in-depth questions that they ask in the meetings. Again, once we get them on the grass, things move a little bit faster than virtual meetings.
So it’s how fast they can process the information that we’ve been giving them this spring. But having a good feel for the knowledge of where they are is good, and again, like I said once we get them on the grass, we’ll know more and just how fast they can process the information from the meeting rooms on to the football field.
Q. On the demonstration stuff and just the conversations that you guys have had over the past few weeks, just what are some of the things that you have learned from those conversations? (Bo Wulf)
COACH PEDERSON: Me personally is just the first thing I wanted to do is listen, listen to my players, listen to the guys that have feelings, have strong beliefs, and I want to understand everything that I can. A lot of it’s personal, for me, just hearing from the players — and I don’t want to get into a bunch of dialogue that way, but me just understanding more and more about what these players go through on a daily basis and what the black community, the African American community go through on a daily basis. And we are seeing it more and more, not only with sports but obviously in our communities.
And so for me personally, it’s just understanding that, and this is what I told my team several weeks ago, a couple weeks ago when we had a team meeting is I want to learn, I want to understand. I came from a world that didn’t understand that. And so for me as an adult, I want to also be able to take the information and teach my own boys, for those of you that know my three sons.
I love all our players, coaches, and that for me is what I’ve taken away is just the understanding and knowledge what have these guys go through on a daily basis.
Q. I don’t know if you saw Baltimore Raven’s head coach John Harbaugh’s comments the other day about the protocols for reopening when you guys do get to training camp. Things are going to be really, really different. You’re probably not going to be able to get everybody into the same locker room at the same time. There will be a lot of precautions, a lot of hurdles that have to be surmounted, I guess. How do you look at that? Are you as worried as he seemed to be about the effect on what you’re going to be able to do, how you’re going to be able to work, how much of a concern is that for you? (Les Bowen)
COACH PEDERSON: That’s a good question because these are all protocols that the NFL, the NFL PA obviously must sign off on. Listen, we understand, I understand that this is a unique time in our society, in our country and our world. This is just what we’re faced with.
So we’re going to make the most of it and use the resources possibly with the NovaCare facility, possibly with our stadium to take advantage of everything that we can. And the No. 1 thing here is making sure that our players and our coaches and all our staff are safe. That’s our most important aspect of everything right now.
But we are in the process of taking a look at a lot of different scenarios. Again, like I mentioned, using the stadium, possibly, or using the stadium and using the NovaCare facility to be able to handle the numbers that we have in training camp from a player perspective. It’s going to look different. It will feel different, but at the same time, we are going to embrace it and we are going to make the most of it, and our job as coaches is to prepare our football team for the regular season.
Q. Is it going to be hard with culture and things like that if you have people spread out in two different practice scenarios and things like that? Is it going to be tougher to build camaraderie in a group? (Les Bowen)
COACH PEDERSON: Well, I guess, don’t misunderstand; we are going to keep everybody together, but we just might have to use the stadium and transition over there from time to time. And these are all things that we are looking at. But we are going to keep everybody together. We’re going to socially distance when we are inside the buildings. We’re going to wear masks. We’re going to do all the protocols that we’ve been asked to do and we’re going to make that work.
Q. What update do you have on where WR Alshon Jeffery is in his recovery, and as you put plans together for the offense, are you counting on Alshon to be a part of it this season? (Zach Berman)
COACH PEDERSON: Alshon has done extremely well this off-season with his rehab. I’ve been — not just Alshon but with all our veteran players, to be part of this virtual off-season like they have, I’ve been really impressed with everybody that’s taken part and Alshon is one of the guys. The dialogue that he’s had in the receiver room, being able to converse with some of the young players that we have on our roster and just getting themselves back healthy and obviously there’s no timetable for him right now. I just want him to focus on his rehab and get strong, but the second part of your question is, he’s a big part of our offense, and we do plan to have him in the offense at some point.
But if there’s a couple games there where he’s not ready, then, we’re not going to put him out there and just wait for him to get healthy.
But yeah, he is a big part of the process moving forward, and he’s a great leader, and he’s going to be able to help the young players come along.
Q. Not having on-the-field OTAs, does that set you back with evaluating guys like T Jack Driscoll, G Sua Opeta and G Nate Herbig? You saw G/T Matt Pryor in the playoff game last year, but does it set you back not knowing what these guys can possibly do at this point? (John Clark)
COACH PEDERSON: I think 32 teams are probably sitting here today going, wow, I wish we had OTAs, I wish we had a chance to evaluate some of our draft picks and some of our free agents, new to the team.
I don’t want to call it a setback, but at the same time we do have some young players that played for us last year that are going to have to take a big step forward, and some of the guys that you mentioned. Pryor, he played last year at the end of the season. Herbig got in a game there at the end of the year.
And these guys have to understand that there’s a little bit of a sense of urgency once we get into training camp. Things are going to move fast. Things are going to move fast and we as coaches need to evaluate these players. I have to put them in position to be successful to show what they can do and that’s everything that we are in the process of doing right now leading up to camp.
Q. As you continue this virtual, remote off-season, what’s been your thought on seeing the initiative from the players, whether it’s QB Carson Wentz and some of the receivers getting together on their own, or the defensive line getting together on their own, to continue to foster chemistry in small-group settings as you continue these virtual workouts and off-season? (Kristen Rodgers)
COACH PEDERSON: I think it’s important. I love the fact that our veteran players, guys like Fletch [DT Fletcher Cox] and [QB] Carson [Wentz], Carson has done it in the past obviously but now in this time where we are trying to protect not only our players but our staff, as well. But at the same time, I think it’s important that they get together and they build team chemistry as a position group, whether it’s D-Line or receivers and get together like they are doing. I commend the guys for doing that and taking time.
One of the things, it’s been small groups, so they have been protected and that’s our goal, first and foremost, but it doesn’t go without saying that that’s a great way to start building chemistry, especially with the amount of young receivers that we have working with Carson.
Q. Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians mentioned the possibility of keeping one quarterback quarantined away from the other group as a cautionary measure in case that room comes down with COVID. Have you thought about those scenarios and would you entertain something like that? (Dave Zangaro)
COACH PEDERSON: Obviously there are a lot of ways to go about things, and that’s one way to do it. If you do it with the quarterback position, do you do it with a receiver, do you do it with a defensive back, something like that. But these are all things that right now, between now and the time we play are really — or I should say the time we get back to training camp, are the scenarios that we need to as a staff think through and the possibilities. But that is definitely something to consider as you move forward to protect the quarterback position, but at the same time you have to think about the entire roster, as well. A lot of different scenarios and a lot of possibilities we’ll think about here in the next few weeks.
Q. Your virtual off-season is over and you chose to stay home. Some of the coaches went back to work. You got creative during this time. You had a bunch of speakers. You had Charles Barkley and Phil Jackson and Mike Trout. How did that all go for you? Was that a challenge for you to come up with these guys and what was the feedback from the players and how did they receive it? (Jamie Apody)
COACH PEDERSON: My shout-out goes to [Vice President of Football Administration] Jake Rosenberg who obviously is on staff with us and works with [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie [Roseman], and he was able to contact these guys, and then I reached out with a formal invitation. And really, because everybody is in the same boat, they were all working from home and so they had time. They were willing and gracious to spend 25, 30 minutes with the team.
It’s just a way of sort of breaking up some of the team meetings for me. Did it once a week. Usually did it at the end of the week. We showed highlight videos at the beginning of the week of the guys working out, our players working out, virtually. Just to get a sense and get a feel from these guys, Steve Kerr, Phil Jackson, CC Sabathia, Charles Barkley, Mike Trout, guys that have had a lot of not only success on and off the court or the diamond or the field, but also their struggles what they went through early in their careers. I think the message was resounding to our young players on how to be a professional, how to handle the spotlight and then what they have overcome in their careers to have success. I think that was so important to show it from these guys and have them come in and speak to the team.
And we just had a great time with them, and the guys, the messages I got from my team after they spoke was very positive and they loved it. The players loved it.
So something that we can continue to look at in the future.
Q. Appreciate you doing this. My question is regarding the running back situation. I mean, you have pretty much the same guys. You brought RB Corey Clement back. But how comfortable are you with that group if that was the group you were taking into training camp and into the season and does that mean RB Miles Sanders is kind of the lead back in that situation? (Martin Frank)
COACH PEDERSON: Right now, we’re going to continue to look and see if we can add value, add depth, add competition to that room. But we are very comfortable, and excited about Miles, what he did in his rookie season, what he can do now moving forward. He’s excited about the upcoming season. He’s excited about getting back to training camp. [RB] Boston Scott came on at the end of the season for us and performed well. Corey had a heck of a year in 2017 for us as a rookie. It’s unfortunate again, but he’s put himself in a position to come back and help us through injury.
Then we have some young guys that we are excited about looking at. You know that the running back position for us has been sort of by committee. It’s been two, three guys each and every week that not only help us in the run game but can also help us on special teams and that’s also a big part of this. I’m looking forward again to getting these young guys in the building, getting them on the grass and showing us what they can do.
Q. I’ve seen other coaches have begun to return to their facilities. Your facilities have opened. Have you been back to the NovaCare or what is your plan as far as returning to the actual building, you and your staff? (Ed Kracz)
COACH PEDERSON: I have not been back, and I even instructed our staff to stay at home during this time even though our building was open.
The biggest thing for me was the fact that the players weren’t there, and if you don’t have the players to go one-on-one with, it didn’t make sense for us as a staff to get back into the building because we had a tremendous off-season, virtually things went extremely smooth with the meetings, workouts. Players were in a really good frame of mind yesterday when I spoke to the team.
I just felt like it was just, keep it going. Not bringing everybody back for a few days or a couple weeks and then break for the summer and do it all again.
So I’m just looking forward now to training camp and we’ll have everybody back at the same time.
Q. Obviously you haven’t been able to get him on the field, but what have you learned from a mental standpoint or communication standpoint about QB Jalen Hurts so far this off-season? (Mike Kaye)
COACH PEDERSON: With Jalen, it’s something — with young quarterbacks, you always have an idea or an understanding of where they are, not only at the beginning of your off-season, but at the end. You take things slower with young players. You take things a little bit slower so that they can understand the terminology. They can call a play in a huddle and teach them everything else that goes along with it. The one thing we — as we’ve talked, even in this meeting here, is just not having them on the grass. But his growth from a mental standpoint from the beginning of the off-season to now has been very good. His ability to recall plays and recite plays and put them — one thing [Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach] Press Taylor has done is put him into a huddle situation where he’s calling plays and being able to just spit that back to him. He’s done that at a really good, high level and now it’s just a matter of once we get him on the grass, he has to do it for real and go from there. But I’ve been really impressed with his progress this spring.