"[LB Michael] Wilhoite and [G/T Alex] Boone, they'll be out. They'll be out for the game. I don't think there is any mystery to that. [WR] Torrey [Smith] will be back at practice today. We are expecting good things there, but we will know more after practice. But, he will be at practice and rolling. Everybody else will be practicing."
Has Torrey's back calmed down over the last couple of days?
"Yeah, they've been doing the therapy and all that kind of stuff. The target was to get him out on the field today. It felt good, it felt good, so he's got to get out there and run around. He's done a little bit, but get him running routes."
He hasn't missed a game in his career. Is that a pretty important stretch to keep in mind for him?
"I haven't really spoken to him about that. I really haven't. And I usually don't speak about those kind of things with guys, because if you're injured, you're injured. So, I didn't speak to him on it."
How about LB Aaron Lynch and TE Vance McDonald? Are they good to go?
"Vance is cleared. I think Aaron is still in the protocol, but he's practiced all week. There's something at the end they've got to do. But, he's practiced all week. He hasn't missed anything, so I feel good there."
Is he a little bit slower than Vance because of what happened over the weekend that, like you said, the trainers didn't like what they saw in Cleveland and that kind of backed him up as far as where he was in the protocol?
"Yeah, I don't know the specifics of the protocol. I know there's benchmarks and I know those things. But, when it gets into the actual treatment and the specifics in that area, I don't go there and I don't go there on purpose because my opinion when it comes to somebody's health, my opinion is not important. I know that they didn't like where he was at over the weekend. They thought it would be best if he took another week, he did. What I do know is what we were told. He gets to wear the blue jersey and he can do everything we do in practice, they just don't want any contact. So, he has done every single thing in practice, every drill, every rep, everything. That's why they wear the blue shirt, nobody hits them."
Offensive coordinator Geep Chryst was asked yesterday just kind of about the overall struggles of the offense and he mentioned not being able to run out three tight end sets to do some things and obviously RB Carlos Hyde has not been active. When you look at the offense this season, can you put your finger on just kind of the general overall struggles from that side of the ball?
"I want to answer that question, but I want to say this: there's a long list of excuse we can grab and we can make those reasons and we can validate. I could do all those things and I'm not going to and we're not going to. We've had struggles on offense. We've seen some things improve on offense. We've seen individuals improve. Not consistent enough. Too much up and down. We've got to just keep that going up. But, in terms of the roster, every team in the NFL has players in and out of the lineup every week. So, we have to overcome those and we have to perform on Sunday."
How would you evaluate the job Geep's done this year?
"I think Geep does a nice job. I think Geep does a good job. Again, just talking today, we were talking about [QB] Blaine [Gabbert]. People talk about, I don't know that you all were surprised that Blaine has come out and done some good things and the way he's handled himself on game day. But, you've seen him in practice. You've seen him since he's been here. But, I think people outside of our hub, from what I understand, were surprised at what Blaine's doing and the way he's progressing. So, we were talking about that with he and Geep and the way they worked last year and then the way Blaine's working with [quarterbacks coach Steve] Logan and Geep this year. There's some really good things going on there. So, we've got to continue to improve. None of us have done a good enough job or the left hand column would have a higher number than it does."
Your run defense is ranked 31st in the league which is pretty staggering compared to where it's been since you've been here. What do you attribute that to? Defensive coordinator Eric Mangini talked yesterday a little bit about how the secondary's so young that they've had a hard time forming that second level and making a wall there. What are you seeing from the defensive perspective?
"I'll agree with that in terms of an explosive run being 12 yards and not 54. So, I'll agree with that statement there. But, to me it all starts with the fits of the front seven and making sure that that's tuned up and people are playing a disciplined style and that we are playing a disciplined style. And again, there's games where it's spot on and you feel really good about it. You say, ‘OK, let's grow from there.' And then we take a step backwards. So, it's two steps forward, one step backwards. We've got to stop that backwards step. We've got to continue to get better at that. I always say finish each other's sentences. When you're playing in that box and you're doing anything, we have to be able to finish each other's sentences. We've got to be able to play together there. I know where that guy's at, I know what that guy's doing and I'm fitting off of him and I can stack him here and I know how he's going to react to that, those kind of things. So, continuing to work on that and when we have a step forward, growing on the step forward."
You guys officially can't go to the playoffs. I realize the guys are professionals and all that, but do you have to explain to them there are still things to play for and if so, what are those things you would highlight?
"Quite frankly, no I have not had to have that conversation. That's what I do really enjoy about this locker room and the guys that we have here. No, I haven't had to have that conversation at all. They come to work and they really are working hard to get better. There's a wonderful focus level yesterday and this morning, in terms of getting ready to prepare to get to practice today, to win the day. We've got to take those into Sundays and win on Sundays. Winning on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, we've won a lot of Wednesdays and Thursdays and Fridays around here. We've done a really good job and guys have done a great job of working and being focused and doing those things. Where we have fallen short is winning on Sunday. So, we've got to carry the week into the game. That's the biggest focus that we're talking about."
It seemed like DT Tank Carradine had a couple of quarterback pressures in a very small amount of snaps on Sunday. Has he warranted a little bit more playing time?
"Well, you saw him get, he did get more reps on Sunday and he will continue. We talked about that with the path that we changed there with Tank. And I'm excited about it. I'm really excited about it. And you will continue to see Tank have more opportunities. But, I'm excited about the way Tank has gone about this. I'm excited about the way he's working at it and just his attitude and approach to it. Since the day I sat down and had the meeting with him to talk about it, to his openness to it and to the way he's attacked it."
Will that metamorphosis, his changeover, continue throughout the offseason and is the ultimate goal to have him become an outside linebacker in this type of scheme?
"Well, I'm not going to say an outside linebacker right now. But, I'm going to talk about an edge player. I will say an edge player that has value to come in and rush as a three-technique."
Is he in the 270 range?
"Yeah, he's in there somewhere."
With Cincinnati Bengals TE Tyler Eifert ruled out, what's your scouting reports on Cincinnati Bengals TEs Tyler Kroft and C.J. Uzomah?
"They're good. I mean, they're good. That's a good football team man, they are. Obviously with Tyler, he's had a heck-of-a year with touchdowns and he's done a really good job. But, you also see the way they scheme their tight ends open. They do a nice job of getting tight ends in those concepts. So, they're good. They're a good football team."