Q. Do you have any updates on WR Alshon Jeffery and WR DeSean Jackson and whether they can play Sunday? (Jeff McLane)
COACH PEDERSON: Alshon, we were hoping that he would get some practice reps this week. But he has an illness. It’s not related to COVID. It’s just an illness, and so he’s been out of the building the last couple days, so he’ll be out.
DeSean is another one that we’re still trying to get through today to see where he’s at, and try to see if he can make it to game time.
Q. With DeSean, if I may follow-up, how have you managed the soft tissue injuries with him? You mentioned last time about him being a track guy, but also just in light of his age, how do you guys manage his workload and how has that been? Has that been a struggle? (Jeff McLane)
COACH PEDERSON: It really hasn’t been a struggle. He’s embraced what [director of sports performance] Ted Rath and his team, the medical staff have put a plan in place for him with his specific injuries and lower body injuries and of course his hamstring. It’s all about strengthening and getting him healthy there and making sure that he can — there’s no soreness. You want him to be 100 percent, and so just trusting that plan, that those guys have put together for DeSean, is really what I lean on. Then just talking to DeSean and just seeing how he feels these last couple of days.
Q. What was it like the first time you met offensive line/run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland and what have been your impressions working with him the last several years? (Dave Zangaro)
COACH PEDERSON: My first week on the job back in January 2016, I had some tough decisions to make, hiring a staff and whatnot. Coach Stoutland was one of the first coaches that I spent some time with, and I feel like an offensive line coach is kind of the key to the kingdom on offense for us.
I had a lot of outside sources really give him a high recommendation and [say this is] someone that I should consider keeping. He’s a really great offensive line coach and these [recommendations] are from other professional coaches around the league.
We literally spent, gosh, it must have been an hour or so just in his office, not only getting to know him but just talking philosophy a little bit. He has a lot of energy, very, very excited. For him, I can understand it was a little bit of an unknown time, right? New head coach coming in, you don’t know if you’re going to be here or somewhere else, but I just assured him that quite frankly, he was going to be my offensive line coach. But it was a great meeting. A lot of energy, and looking back, a great decision on my part.
Q. Following up on the QB Josh McCown stuff since we don’t see him, how are things going and are you getting what you wanted out of that arrangement? (Bo Wulf)
COACH PEDERSON: Things are going really well. He’s been attentive in all the meetings. He’s been a part of everything with the quarterbacks and with [passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach] Press [Taylor]. He’s up on the game plan, and so he’s constantly in communication with [QB] Carson [Wentz] and the quarterbacks, obviously not only in the meetings but privately outside of the building, which is really good. His impact is being felt even though he’s out of the building at this time.
Q. In T Jordan Mailata’s case, is there a chance that he could hold onto this job for rest of the season if he does play well? And as a follow-up to that, with T Jason Peters, we didn’t really ask you, is there a sense of what the timeline is for him? (Zach Berman)
COACH PEDERSON: In JP’s case, obviously we want to make sure he’s 100 percent with the injury that he has. Look, he’s a guy that as you guys know, he’s one that we have a maintenance plan with him, as well, during the week, and making sure he’s ready to go on game days. He’s doing really well in his rehab. Again, no timetable on his return at this time.
In the case of Jordan Mailata, as long as he plays well, right now, in the near future, it’s his job. But, at the same time, we understand that when JP is healthy, that’s a decision that we are going to have to make at that particular time. We are focused on this week, getting Jordan ready to go. He’s got a handful this week with [Steelers LB] Bud Dupree over there and [Steelers LB] T.J. Watt and those guys, so we’re focused on that right now.
Q. This probably isn’t front and center on your radar right now, but you guys have been really vigilant and lucky, I guess, with the COVID testing. You haven’t had any problems in quite a while. Around the league, this is not so much the case. There are games being moved all over the place. This could affect you guys at some point through dominos. How do you feel about the fact that perhaps other teams and coaches haven’t taken this as seriously or haven’t been as vigilant as you guys have? What are your thoughts on that right now? (Les Bowen)
COACH PEDERSON: It’s a great question and quite honestly, my concern is our players and my staff and making sure that we are adhering to the protocols.
These are some things that are — these teams, they are out of our control. We know and I know that somewhere this season, it’s going to directly affect us, whether it’s in our building or it affects a game that we are going to play.
We just have to be diligent with how we approach each day, the testing protocols, the wearing of the masks. You see us at practice, coaches and players are wearing their mask or sort of those neck gaiters. It’s just a matter of us taking care of us. And we want to see the entire season being played. We know these next couple of weeks around the league, there’s some Tuesday games and games being shifted to Monday, and it’s probably going to eventually affect us somewhere down the line.
But honestly, if I worry about that, honestly, my stress level will go through the roof already, and so I just want to focus and make sure that our guys are doing the right thing.
Q. And one more thing real quick. WR Quez Watkins, we kind of lost track of him. Where is he here? Is he playing this week? (Les Bowen)
COACH PEDERSON: Quez was one of the players we activated from the IR list, so he’s been working in practice. He’s been getting himself back into game shape. We haven’t made a decision yet on his status, but he’s doing well. He’s doing well.
Q. LB T.J. Edwards being out, obviously we know all about the next-man-up mentality, but who is the next man up behind T.J. and is LB Shaun Bradley, do you feel he’s ready for a role in this defense? (Ed Kracz)
COACH PEDERSON: [LB] Nate [Gerry] has played that spot in the middle before. Shaun Bradley is the next sort of that back-up linebacker in that spot, as well, and I do feel like Shaun is ready to go. It’s always been a next-man-up mentality around here and we know at the linebacker position over the last couple of seasons, we’ve shifted some guys around.
But we are comfortable with Nate playing in there and [LB] Alex Singleton coming into the mix along with [LB] Duke Riley, along with Shaun Bradley and [LB] Davion Taylor. We are comfortable with the group that we have, and we know that they are going to play well in T.J.’s absence until he comes back.
Q. We’ve seen the D-Line over the last couple weeks play at a really high level. What’s been run game coordinator/defensive line coach Matt Burke’s contribution? He was here in a little bit different role, but you’ve gone through some different D-Line coaches, what have you seen as far as his personal impact on the group playing at this level? (Reuben Frank)
COACH PEDERSON: I think the way he prepares the guys in practice each week and we know that we play typically four tackles, four ends on a rotating basis and these guys are well prepared and that’s a compliment to Coach Burke. He prides himself in his preparation, obviously No. 1 and then getting his players ready to go. I think by just keeping them fresh and healthy and rested, these guys are playing at a high level. It’s really good to see now with [DT] Javon Hargrave in the mix and seeing what he can do, how disruptive he is and giving us depth there. [DT] Hassan Ridgeway has played well as a situational role player, and it’s just all kind of coming together for those guys, but they work hard in practice and that’s really what it’s come down to.
Q. You mentioned earlier that Alshon is probably not going to play and you may or may not have DeSean. So obviously that would mean another game with guys like WR Travis Fulgham and WR John Hightower, having to rely on them at wide receiver. What have you seen from those two guys in particular this week in practice and is that comfort level getting more and more as the season goes on with those guys? (Martin Frank)
COACH PEDERSON: Yeah, every time they take valuable reps with the starters, it just gets a little more routine with the quarterback, with Carson.
These guys have really — as coaches we have to be careful on the amount of information and the volume, right? We want to make sure it’s small enough but yet enough plays in the game plan where they can go play and execute and they don’t have to think a lot about a lot of moving parts, and keeping Travis in one spot and keeping Hightower in one spot. Obviously [WR Greg] Ward can move around and [WR] J.J. [Arcega-Whiteside] in the mix. These guys, they work really, really hard. Is it perfect in practice? No, and I don’t want it to be perfect, right? As coaches we kind of want them to fail so we can instruct them and we can teach and improve that way, or they can go over to the other field and work with Carson on the side. These are all the things that we are seeing with these young receivers and it is paying off in practice and ultimately, we hope it pays off on game day.
Q. If we can go back to the question about COVID for one second, was there ever a conversation with the league about what happens if a team has to miss a certain number of games? Was there ever a conversation about penalties or forfeitures or what that situation would be like? (Kristen Rodgers)
COACH PEDERSON: No, not specifically like that. We know that the schedule can be disrupted, games being moved. But nothing — I haven’t been informed of anything other than that, right? Just games being moved around and shifted. And this is probably what we’re going to expect probably the rest of the season with COVID-19. Again, it’s out of our system control. I know the league is working diligently to try to provide answers to us. But we just have to do our part and maintain the protocols that we have.
Q. Pittsburgh, nobody has blitzed more in their first three games. As a game planner, what kind of difficulties does that present to you especially with all the moving parts that we’ve talked about on the offensive line? (John McMullen)
COACH PEDERSON: We look at blitzes differently probably than, say, the outside public or a statistic. This is a base three four defense, and they like to bring five guys, so they are going to rush Bud Dupree and Watt off of both edges and plus the three interior guys, so they consider that a pressure.
Those are all things that we know, when we play defenses like this, this is kind of their style. This is the style of — I guess it’s the expected pressure amount from defenses of this kind, right, the 3-4.
However, with that being said, on first and second down, they pressure quite a bit and it’s something that we’ve studied all week. We put our guys in those situations, not only in the run game, but also in the pass game with protections to try to handle all the pressure that they do.
And it’s all about recognition with the quarterback, with the center, running back, with the tight end, whoever is in protection, recognizing it, recognizing the front, the coverage, whatever, and just doing their job.
It is something that we’ve studied. We prepare our players that way and now it’s a matter of just execution.
Q. You saw baseball sort of go through a couple of outbreaks and there wasn’t a whole lot of penalty, even though some guys maybe did some wrong things. The first question is, do you think that the Titans should be penalized? Should they lose draft picks or forfeit games? And in baseball, it served as a wake-up call. A lot of teams started being more vigilant. Has it resonated in the league? Has it resonated in your building? Do you have a place where guys could go and sort of isolate themselves? Have you created a bubble the way the New Orleans Saints have? (Marcus Hayes)
COACH PEDERSON: I’m not the NFL league office, so I can’t comment on penalties and fines and all that stuff. I mean, that’s not for me to decide. I can’t control that.
But what I can comment on is what we’re doing and how we are handling our situation here. I do think it’s a little bit of a wake-up call for the entire league, coaches and players, right, to maintain the protocols that are in place, everything that we started way back when camp began to now, we’ve got to maintain that and we can’t let our guards down at any one particular moment. We have to maintain that. Even when we leave the building, I guess the fear is, where do our coaches and players go. We hope they go home, right? That’s probably the one fear that we all have.
My message to the team has been consistent. We are going to wear our masks. We have to test daily. We do have areas in the building where players can go and kind of get away and socially be apart from one another. All our meeting spaces are set up that way. They are also set up to go virtual if we have to go virtual.
So we have things in place that if there were something to happen, that we can jump on it right away.