Q. Let’s start off with some injury updates, how about WR Jalen Reagor, DE Josh Sweat, P Cameron Johnston and CB Darius Slay? (Dave Zangaro)
COACH PEDERSON: Jalen Reagor is fine, he’ll practice and should be good, he’s okay. Cam is in the [concussion] protocol, so that’s really all I can say on that one.
Along the same line is Darius Slay has been cleared out of the protocol, so he’ll practice today. Josh Sweat actually [has a] wrist injury, he’s going to miss some time, maybe a couple of weeks but we’ll see where he’s at. He’s definitely going to miss this week.
Q. What is it you think is it about your teams over the last couple of years. You seem to play your best football in December and especially in elimination games when you can possibly be eliminated from postseason contention? (John Clark)
COACH PEDERSON: If I had it any other way, I’d rather be playing our best at the beginning and you sustain that throughout the year, but I don’t know what it is really. I think our guys respond well to adversity. We’ve been faced with that the last couple of seasons. They don’t dwell so much on kind of where we are, sort of that ‘Woah, is me’ mentality. They push forward and come closer together and find a way to figure it out down the stretch. I’ve been very pleased obviously with the last couple of seasons, the way we finished, and it looks like we’re going to have to do that again.
Q. Is that something you establish in a team that doesn’t allow them to quit when you get to that point or do you have to say or do anything late in the season to prevent that? (Paul Domowitch)
COACH PEDERSON: You keep talking about it all the time, about this time of year. You definitely want to be playing your best football. If you get an opportunity to be in the postseason, you definitely want to be playing your best. I think it’s a mindset. It’s a mentality that you set all the way back in training camp that kind of puts you in a position mentally this time of year. You put in all that hard work back in those dog days of July and August and that’s where you really sort of set the precedent for how your season is going to go and you lean back on those experiences. Obviously, this year was different, but you still have the same messaging and you still have the same sense of urgency. Even back in August and early September when you’re trying to play for this opportunity to be in the postseason.
Q. The last several weeks we’ve seen some glimpses of Jalen Reagor, the explosiveness that you guys talked about in April, punt return, the end around, the screen, couple of times he got behind the secondary on passes that just missed. What have you seen out of him the last several weeks? Do you think this is an indication that maybe the lightbulb has gone on for him? (Jeff McLane)
COACH PEDERSON: I see the same things you’re seeing. Explosiveness with the screens, with the arounds. It would be great to connect on some of those deep balls. He’s getting in behind the secondary and he’s doing a great job. His biggest thing is he continues to learn. He missed so much of the first half of the season so now he’s put himself in a position to really be explosive for us and we just keep pushing along and plugging along and bring him along as well with the offense but we’re starting to see those same plays show up.
Q. As much as you’re willing to share, what was the conversation like with DE Brandon Graham about making the Pro Bowl? (Zach Berman)
COACH PEDERSON: First off, I’m excited about the three players, [DT] Fletcher Cox and [C Jason] Kelce and BG. Happy for BG, first Pro Bowl in his career. I really didn’t get much words in with him. He was so excited and so thrilled on the phone when I spoke to him the other day about it and he was just so elated and so happy, and I was happy for him and his family. He’s worked extremely hard in his career and probably worthy of making it maybe a couple of times. But just so happy for him and just sort of the cherry on top of his career.
Q. Are you the one who broke the news to him or was it just congratulations on the call? (Zach Berman)
COACH PEDERSON: I did break the news to him the other night, yes.
Q. You mentioned connecting on deep balls with Jalen Reagor. On the shot play to him down the right sideline on Sunday, on the play in which the whole offense was sort of like pretending to look at the sideline for a check. It looked like a decent of enough placement on that throw and then after the play you got his attention and kind of pointed to your eyes like Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents. What were you telling him after that play? (Jimmy Kempski)
COACH PEDERSON: Gosh, I’m on to Dallas and I can’t recall exactly what I had said. Honestly, I can’t remember what I said, probably something about location, trying to find the ball, probably something like that, I don’t remember.
Q. We talked with you on Monday about that kind of ‘ah ha’ moment that you see from the younger guys now that they’re able to get some of those reps underneath their belts, potentially being the reason why you guys can play some of your best football in December. Do you also feel like, it’s a moment where some of the guys that haven’t played finally get that sense of rejuvenation? You had so many changes at positions in years past, notability at quarterback. Do you feel like that could have a correlation with kind of that rejuvenation at the end of season? (Kristen Rodgers)
COACH PEDERSON: It’s possible. I do think that having some young players that are out there playing, it does bring a level of excitement and energy to the team and I think it kind of really sort of inspires or motivates even some of the veteran players to be around that and have that kind of energy on the field. It’s really a matter of our backs against the wall and we’ve been faced with this before and our guys do a great job of just focusing in and understanding that it’s a sense of urgency this time of year. We’ve got to win games in order to continue your season, that’s what has to happen. The young guys have really brought that energy just like they did at the end of the season last year and the year before and it’s really good to see that so many guys are playing. We do miss the veteran guys that have been starters, we do miss them from being out there, but these young guys do bring that energy level that is pretty exciting because it really goes from practice right into the game and that’s where it all starts.
Q. In your experiences as a player and a coach, when a quarterback is replaced and he doesn’t react well, kind of like the way QB Carson Wentz has reacted well, can that kind of like sabotage and divide a team if that’s the case, if the quarterback doesn’t take it the right way? (Martin Frank)
COACH PEDERSON: You know, it can, if you let it. That’s one thing that Carson has not allowed that to happen and he’s not going to let it happen. He’s been a pro about it, and he’s been very talkative in the meetings, asking the questions just like he had before, and you see him talking to [QB] Jalen [Hurts] during the week and during games. It’s something that I really appreciate about Carson is how he’s handled this. He doesn’t want to be a distraction to the team, and he wants to help the team win. That’s the bottom line. So, we don’t let these things really creep into our thinking and try to keep them out of the locker room, so it won’t divide your team.
Q. The NFL flexed the Carolina – Washington game to 4:00 p.m. Do you kind of like that? That you won’t know your fate until basically after you’re playing or into the fourth quarter and how do you kind of stop guys from score watching?(Mike Kaye)
COACH PEDERSON: We obviously got a big task against the Cowboys who played well Sunday, got after San Francisco, so obviously we can’t control what the league does with scheduling. We know that we’ve been in those situations before, but I would prefer to go into a game not knowing, you know. I think it does give you a level of concentration and focus that you need going into a football game. Listen, our guys, once we tee it up on Sunday, we’re all about the game, we’re into the game, we’re coaching and playing, and we’ll see what happens at the end.
Q. I’ll ask you about another one of the Pro Bowl players. What has C Jason Kelce meant to you, I guess especially this season as you’ve had so many moving parts along the offense? (Bo Wulf)
COACH PEDERSON: Jason Kelce, I can’t say enough good things, positive things about him. He’s been the one guy that in the offensive line, he’s been there day in and day out for that group. The stuff he battles each year through a little bit of soreness, an injury, he wants to practice every day and compete, and he competes at a high level and just does things that other centers in this league can’t do and he does it at a high level. He wants to take every snap in practice. He doesn’t want to miss a rep if he doesn’t have to. He’s a great leader in that room, great leader on the football team and he’s obviously a better person off the field as well. Just a tremendous player, a tremendous person. I’m excited for him and where he is in his career as well and something for him too with the amount of injuries upfront that we’ve had, something positive came out of that group and it was him being selected to the Pro Bowl.
Q. Do you think he has a case to be in the Hall of Fame one day?(Bo Wulf)
COACH PEDERSON: Oh, I believe there’s a case for that. He’s a Super Bowl winning center, he’s done a lot of great things in his career and I think he can be in the conversation for sure.
Q. I know you like to go for it on fourth down a lot. With Cameron Johnston still in concussion protocol, are we going to see all fourth-down plays, or will you use K Jake Elliott in that situation? (Ed Kracz)
COACH PEDERSON: No, we obviously have a plan you know, in case Cam doesn’t make it. You saw in the game the other day. I thought Jake came in and did a really nice job being able to handle the punt situations. I think where it really pertains maybe a little bit more is your extra points and things like that. Maybe you go for two a time or two more. We’ve been through this before actually in the Cowboy game a couple years ago and actually lost our kicker in that game and made it through so there’s a plan in place, but I’m hopeful that Cam makes it through, and we get him for the game.
Q. It’s been a tough year for you guys, it’s been a tough year, 2020, for everybody in the world. We often ask you about players, how do they stay positive, how do they do this? What about you? How about you personally? What has this year been like for you, this season been like for you and how do you remain focused and try to stay positive?(Rob Maaddi)
COACH PEDERSON: I lean a lot on my faith, number one. The time I spend in the mornings just in the word and just kind of reflecting back on maybe yesterday or the week ahead or, the day I got in front of me and sort of how can I create energy for the team today? Obviously, my family is a big support structure there, my three boys and my wife. Then our close family group and friends, you know where football really doesn’t matter and it’s just about you as a human being as a person and making sure that I’m okay and people reaching out with sending emails or text messages to me. Just getting that support that you need through a long season. Even the good times, it’s still a long season and you battle through a lot of stuff and you’re dealing with a lot of stuff with your team, but you still need that support and sort of that structure underneath you to keep you motivated. When you’re in the head coaching position, you got to uplift everybody underneath you and that’s your coaching staff and that’s your players and I feel like that’s a strength of mine. I just think being grounded through my faith has really allowed me to maintain that level of energy. I talk about that with the team every day, ‘create energy when you come into this building and eliminate distractions and fear nothing, attack everything’ that sort of mentality really applies to life as well.
We’ve been in this pandemic now for a while. I could think March 12th was the date we we’re out of the building here at NovaCare. We’ve been blessed really to be able to play these games and really to work. Much like you guys, to be able to still have a job and still be able to provide for your families. I’m very thankful for that because there are a lot of people — I have friends and family around the country that have been devastated through natural disasters, through this pandemic, losing their jobs or illnesses or whatever it might be. Being able to be thankful for this opportunity to coach and play this game with these players and provide a level of entertainment for a lot of people who are suffering this time of year and that keeps me going.