So coach Hue Jackson is back with the Bengals now…
"Yeah, he's here (laughs)."
What was your reaction when you heard the news Hue Jackson was returning?
"With what's going on, I think it makes sense. With Marvin (Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis) taking over the defense, have another set of eyes out there for him. It's good to have him back."
Do you wonder how having Hue Jackson back will impact things?
"It's good to have him here. He's an asset, and he's definitely going to help out, especially with what Marvin is going to be doing with the defense now. He's another place of communication with everything going on, on the sidelines. We'll see how it goes, but I don't see there being any kind of issue with it."
Does it make it awkward from your perspective, just because he used to be your offensive coordinator and there is already an offensive coordinator in place? Does it impact that dynamic at all?
"No, not at all"
How do you make sure it doesn't?
"First thing is that he's on the other side of the ball. Hue and I had a great relationship, and we still have a good relationship. It's good to have him back in the building, but it's not going to affect anything (offensively)."
Were you surprised with how everything unfolded in Cleveland for Hue?
"Obviously he was a great coach. He helped us here a lot. Obviously it's weird talking about another team that's in our division. You want him to have success, but not too much success — that whole thing. You still want to beat him. Whatever happened, happened. All that's behind him now, and he's now here. He has something else he can focus on now."
Does Hue provide an advantage game-planning with two games left against his former team, the Cleveland Browns, and the rest of the AFC North teams?
"For sure. Hue's been in this division for a long time. He's been in this building at different times and for a while (throughout his career). It's an asset having him here. He's seen a lot and been through a ton."
Does his passion and love for the game become contagious?
"For sure. That's one thing he will bring. He will bring his energy like he always did when he was here before. It will be a good thing for us."
Do you expect much interaction with him? Will he have anything to do with the offense?
"It's hard to say. I think for the most part he is going to stay on the other side."
Does the offense feel the pressure to be perfect on every drive, considering how the defense has played the last few weeks?
"We don't feel the pressure, it's what we expect. We expect to get points every time we have the ball. Regardless of what's going on in the game, you want to score and want to go down there. We don't feel like there's any pressure, it's just what we're trying to do."
Do you expect Baltimore's defense to use a heavy blitz package on Sunday?
"Yeah. That's what they are. They have so many different ways of doing it. It's like everybody else, you get in the flow of the game and see what's working. Last time, we were able to hit some big plays when they did blitz, which took them out of it for a little while. That's still the personality of their defense and what they do."
What kind of memories does last year's game-winning pass to Tyler Boyd in Baltimore evoke?
"There's a lot that came from that play. Not only did it get us a win, but all the stuff that happened with my foundation and all of that. It was a pretty cool moment. It was one of the coolest moments of my career, with everything that happened on the play and afterwards. We're just going back to play another game now."
What is it about playing in Baltimore? It seems like the games you play there are always entertaining or having something crazy happen.
"I feel like the games we've played have been crazy. They've gone back and forth at the end of games. We've been able to finish some of these games. I don't know what it is about that place, but we've found a way to win and make the big play when we needed to."
The offense struggled after the first drive of the game last weekend vs. New Orleans. Why?
"There were just a couple plays that, if we would have been better, it could have changed what was going on. We've looked at it and seen what we needed to do, and we've it corrected."
How stunned were you when you got hit by a Saints LB's facemask and there was no penalty on the play?
"I've gotten used to it."
You don't get a whole lot of love in that regard, do you?
"I haven't, but I have to keep playing and maybe they will get called."
Jeff Driskel entered the game last weekend for a play to run an option run, and you were split out as a WR. Did you like that?
"I've done it some in my career. We've had some success with different guys back there, especially when Mo (Mohamed Sanu) was here. I'm waiting for them to use me as the viable deep threat out there (laughs). We'll see how it goes."
You have a pretty good yards-per-catch average…
"Yeah I do (laughs). One-for-one. I may want to keep it that way."
Do you think you will bring Jeff Driskel in for those types of plays more? Is it hard with only two active quarterbacks?
"We'll just kind of see how it goes. Obviously Jeff played well last week. He had a big (touchdown) run at the end too. We'll just kind of see how it goes."
Is it something to put on tape that can make Baltimore plan a package similar to how they use their guy, Lamar Jackson?
"It's a big competition there (laughs). That's what it is."
Is your biggest challenge in this role that you've taken on to get the defensive players' confidence back?
"Execution and crisp defense will continue to do that. I don't think they've lost confidence. We just have to make sure we play sound, play defense and have guys do their jobs. I feel good about that."
With Hue Jackson now being here on the coaching staff, how important is it for everyone on your staff to have a crisp understanding of exactly what they're going to be doing and how that should unfold on Sunday? Do you see that as something that's hard to do?
"Sundays aren't as hard as the rest of the week. It's just the timing of everything and so forth as we see it. Now we're running a little short on time for me, but I'll make due. I'll get skinny this way (laughs). But yeah, that's the adjustment with me addressing the team in the morning — how long do I spend (addressing them)? Then I move on to the defense — how long do I spend with them before I turn them over to their position coaches? It's just a budget of time. Then I spend time with the offense at night, touching base with Bill (offensive coordinator Bill Lazor) and Frank (offensive line coach Frank Pollack) and so forth to see their confidence level. Also with Darrin (special teams coach Darrin Simmons) with special teams. Everybody is looking for me, and I tell them where I am so it's easy to find me."
I'm sorry for being so direct, but what exactly is Hue going to do?
"Hue right now is here to get immersed into what we're doing and how we're doing it. He'll add (insight) for me from things he sees, and he'll assist with the players on the field defensively with the implementation and development of the game plan. He'll continue to look at things analytically, as he's had more exposure to that than I have. It'll be helpful because we have the data, and we need to continue to learn how to use it correctly. He's been involved in that quite a bit, so that's another added plus exposure to things."
Will he have any involvement in the offense?
"No. Separate from the offense."
When you brought him back as assistant secondary coach in 2011, you said that his offensive background will be a benefit because as they're doing things in the secondary, he can see how things will be attacked from the other side. Is that what you're looking for?
"Yeah. We're looking for the intent of the offense as we put things together (defensively) — the preciseness of things and helping with that as we go to the practice field, and making sure things are as precise as our opponents hope to have it."
Do you see him as kind of an administrator?
"As we move forward, I think he can help more that way, similar to Darrin Simmons. He can help with some of the things I do on a weekly basis."
Did anyone have their responsibilities shifted?
"Not necessarily, not that I would need to offer that (information) to you, or want to (laughs)."
Is he going to be on the sidelines during games?
All other things aside, how big of a deal is it to lose another eye in the booth?
"I don't think you lose an eye. You gain a couple more from my standpoint. I feel comfortable with the guys who've been up there for us. We'll shift around responsibilities up there that gives them more of an opportunity to pay attention to the things that are going on on the field. We'll make some adjustments that way."
From an energy and enthusiasm standpoint, Hue adds to that mix. Every day is good a good day for Hue when it involves football, right?
"Yeah, that's obviously another positive."
How'd it go during the first defensive meeting? LB Preston Brown said the font on your PowerPoint was a little small …
He said they went to their iPads, but he said it was good except for the font …
"It's good that they recognized that."
How was it for you?
"It's fun. On Monday night, I was scripting their personnel and things at home. Once I got out of here, which was really late — around the time the (Monday Night Football) game was finishing up, so we know what time that was (laughs). I'm carving out five minutes everywhere I can to look forward at things. That's the fun of it, and it's part of what I used to do."
Is it easy to go back and do something like that?
"It's fun — I'll tell you that. It's exciting for me, and I believe in our players. I want our players to play well, and I'm going to give them every chance they can."
How different will your game day preparation be? Game day will be different for you, won't it?
"Yeah, it is (laughs). I have an office there (at M&T Bank Stadium) now. I never used to have an office there (as a defensive coordinator with Baltimore). I had a hallway over there before at the new stadium. But it's different. Game day will be different for me. It will be a different approach, and it'll be fun."
It's fitting that your first game taking over defensive coordinator responsibilities comes in Baltimore …
"They buried me last year there (laughs), so we'll try again."
It's not an easy week of preparation, considering you're trying to figure out which quarterback will play for the Ravens …
"Joe Flacco, as we know, is an outstanding quarterback. And Lamar (Jackson) is going to be a good, young player in the NFL. We spent a lot of time with Lamar (before the draft), but right now it's about us, and that's important."
There's a reason why a lot of head coaches don't try calling defensive plays — it's hard. Is that strictly because of the hours spent trying to juggle both the head coach and coordinator positions?
"Again, there's a lot."
Is there anything that's surprised you about what it's like, compared to the last time you did this?
"It's back to setting up the call sheet and all of those things. I've suggested things (to other coaches), and people would ask (for my opinion), but now it's mine again. It was the first thing I looked at this morning."
The call sheet?
"Well, how I want to set things up. That's part of the game day (responsibilities)."
People say that the game has changed. But it's also not like you've been in a cage somewhere …
"I don't know how much it's changed."
Do you draw upon the things that were successful for you when you were previously a defensive coordinator?
"We're not reverting back to 2002, the last time I did this. I've been involved throughout (my times as a head coach), and I study everybody throughout the league and throughout the season, even when we aren't playing them. You're looking at those things. So don't worry about that part, I've got it (laughs)."