In terms of your career, what do these next five games represent to you?
"It's just a great opportunity to go out and get a start this week, and not think anything besides this week right now. That's everybody's mindset. We have a good plan together so far. I'm looking forward to getting out on the practice field, putting the plan to work and ironing things out through the week. We're just looking forward to this week, and doing everything we can to get a win this week."
Out of high school, you were drafted by the Boston Red Sox. Have you ever wished you picked baseball instead of football throughout your NFL journey?
"No. I've gotten that question multiple times, but my answer is always, 'I'm a football player'. It's who I am, it's in my DNA. I love football, and I love playing the quarterback position. There's nothing like it. So no, I've never had any times where I've looked back and wanted it to go the other way."
In college, you said that maybe you would revisit the baseball route after your football career was over. Would that still be the case?
"No. I don't think that is going to happen. I plan on being around a long time."
What did you learn about yourself from your experiences while at the University of Florida? What did you learn about football?
"I learned a lot. Going into college, I didn't know much about ball. I was just kind of out there running around. I think with every experience, good or bad, you learn and take things away from each experience. I really enjoyed my time there. I definitely took away a lot of positive things."
Is it helpful knowing you will be the starter for the rest of the season, as opposed to a week-to-week thing?
"Yeah. Like I mentioned earlier, we're just worried about this week right now. If you start to let your mind wander into the distance, you can't narrow your focus on this week, and that's what I'm doing. I'm just worrying about what to get done this week, and we'll let everything play out how it does."
Coach Lazor mentioned on Monday that the quarterbacks submit their favorite plays for each week. He said you and Andy Dalton are pretty similar in the ones you submit. Do you find that the two of you look at things the same way?
"Yeah, I think so. In the quarterback room, we're always talking and bouncing things off each other. Just the way it works out, we see things similarly, and some of that is based off how things work on the practice field and how things look. I just feel like we're on the same page of what we're trying to do offensively. I think the offense's philosophy shapes our mentality in what we're trying to get done."
What are your strengths as a quarterback?
"Just a guy who can operate within the offense, move the football and score points. That's what we're out there to do, whether that's long drives or big plays — however those come. Our job is to score points on offense, and that's what we expect to do."
Andy has said he's willing to run with the ball, but that it's not his favorite thing to do. Do you see that differently? Do you enjoy running?
"That's a fair assessment of what Andy said. As a quarterback, you're back there to throw the football. Sometimes things break down and you have to make a play, and you kind of let your athletic ability take over. I'm not back there looking to run first, but it's definitely a tool I have and something that generates big plays."
Have you ever been in a situation like this, coming in because the starter was injured?
"Nope. This is the first time. This is the first time."
You've never been in that situation at any level?
"No. Last week was the first time I've come into a game off the bench for an extended period of time. This is the first time I've really been a backup and got a chance to get in there and take over."
You were a member of the San Francisco 49ers in 2016. Are you surprised Colin Kaepernick doesn't have a job right now?
"I was just there for training camp, so I wasn't there for too long. I'm not really sure. I'm not out there for the workouts, I'm not doing interviews, so I'm not really sure what's going on there. It's hard to tell, because I'm not really thinking about that. I have enough on my plate to worry about to really think about other guys and how other guys are being evaluated around the league."
What are the challenges with Denver's defense?
"They have playmakers, and it starts up front. They have a bunch of sacks with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. They're going to line up and play their defense. They have good players, but I think we have players that match up well. We're looking to attack them in different ways. Like I've been saying, keep the ball rolling on offense and score points. I think we have a plan to do so."
How comfortable do you feel with the receivers?
"I feel comfortable. It goes back to OTAs, when we were out there throwing routes versus air. It's carried over. Those things sometimes get looked over, but they're very important. Those are some of the only reps I've had with some of the guys to this point. But we'll get some good live reps this week during practice, and we'll be on the same page come Sunday."
Have these last few months been the craziest of your life, from a having a baby daughter, to winning the backup job and now starting?
"That's the life we choose to live in the NFL. It's a crazy business, and you know that going into it. It's been fun along the way, and I wouldn't change this experience for anything. I've really enjoyed my time this year, and especially this season."
Are you familiar at all with the Brett Favre story?
"What story (laughs)" There are a lot of Brett Favre stories."
He got the starting QB job in Green Bay in 1992 against the Bengals because their normal starter got hurt mid-game, and the rest is history…
"The NFL is all about taking advantage of your opportunities, and he did that. I just plan on going out there, taking advantage of this opportunity and continuing to show that I belong on this stage and that I'm a capable NFL quarterback."
So you knew how Favre got his job?
"No, I didn't know that."
How comfortable are you with center C Billy Price? Are you guys taking extra reps together?
"We had some discussions early in the week, just to iron out some communication things and some blitz things on how we're going to pick things up. We're going to get more reps this week than we have all season. We're on the same page and have open communication, and we're ready to get to work together."
How many reps have you got with the first team offense this season?
"None, really. In the NFL, you have to get the guys ready that are going to play. I've gotten mental reps and stayed ready, but I haven't gotten the reps on the practice field. This will be the first time."
Photographs from Bengals practice as the team prepares for the week 13 matchup against the Denver Broncos.
Initial comments …
"The Broncos in the last two football games have gone out and played very well. They've been efficient, taken care of the football and have been opportunistic on both sides of the football. They've been playing winning football. The quarterback is doing a good job, the running back, (Phillip) Lindsay, is a very hard, quick, downhill runner who takes advantage of every opportunity. Defensively, with their ability to rush the passer, and they're doing a good job with the back end and perimeter fitting together. They lost some close football games there four weeks in a row, but they've done well the last couple of weeks."
It seems like WR A.J. Green is back this week …
"That's what I heard."
You have to feel like that makes a big difference as well …
"It's good to have A.J. back. We have to work through the week and see how he comes out of the week, but he's anxious to get back onto the field."
Was that a big thing when Andy Dalton got hurt in 2015 and A.J. McCarron came in? Did he lean on Green in a lot of spots?
"Whatever player (gets hurt), you go to the next guy. I think everybody else needs to raise their level to have success. We certainly have to do that right now. With everything that Jeff (Driskel) has done, he has to concentrate on being Jeff and doing his thing. The other guys have to raise their level and make sure they're fitting around him correctly."
What are your realistic expectations for QB Jeff Driskel this Sunday?
"Just play within himself and continue to make positive plays throughout the game. The ability to keep making first downs and to keep the ball moving down the field, he needs to stay within himself that way. As a group, we need to have positive early downs, on first and second downs. Minimize the third downs as much as we can, just like any football game, but obviously it's very important now just to stay relaxed and to stay within it. It hasn't been too big for Jeff, and he can't let it get too big for him."
What did you like about Jeff when you guys initially claimed him? Based on the scouting report, what drew you to him?
"We felt good about his ability to throw the football and his athleticism. He was a young player who was just emerging that year in San Francisco. They had four quarterbacks in camp, so he didn't get a lot of opportunities. Remembering back then, he made a poor decision in that fourth preseason game. But when he threw the ball, he worked to throw the ball on time."
You obviously had to like him a lot to keep him as a third quarterback, which is kind of rare. Did you see something in him?
"We felt like he had ability. We wanted an opportunity to see that, and we have. He's grown into being the quarterback he is. A year ago, he didn't get the opportunity after breaking his arm. So there's been some ups and downs for him with the broken hand and broken arm, but he's come back through them."
Have you ever attempted to use him not as a quarterback, but used as something else?
"He's suited up before as something else, if that's what you mean (laughs)."
I know it didn't end well, but what did you think watching him play receiver in practice and showing off some of that stuff?
"He did a great job — he's fast, and he's an athlete who can catch and run. He can do those things if he truly wanted to, but he wants to be a quarterback."
What does QB Tom Savage bring to the room?
"Tom has experience. He played on time with New Orleans this preseason, and he's obviously had experience playing in NFL games. We felt like that was a great mix to have and bring into the building — to have somebody with that experience."
On a scale of 1-10, with one being no responsibility and 10 being sole responsibility, how much responsibility do you put on injuries in explaining why your team is where it is right now?
"I wouldn't answer that — that'd be an excuse."
Realistically though, there has to be some …
"It's part of what we deal with. It's unfortunate, but it's part of what we deal with. We as coaches have to continue to find a way to put the players who are out there in a position to make plays. We just hope they can make the plays when they're at the point of attack. We're due to have some of those happen the correct way now. We've been in position enough before and not made them, but now we have to be in position and make them."
How much does overcoming injuries fall back on the coaching staff, in terms of helping the rest of the team overcome those circumstances? Is that part of it?
"It's always part of it. The whole thing is all part of it. We have a group of young guys. We don't have a lot of experienced guys behind those (injured) guys. So the young guys, when it's their turn, they have to step up, continue to play winning football and make winning football plays. That's important."
Of the guys we talked to, a couple of them seemed to have a lot of confidence in Jeff. They said that Jeff is the best athlete on the team, or one of the best athletes. How much of a difference can that make when all of the guys are buying into who they're playing with?
"I think it's important, and I think that comes from being with him day-in and day-out in the building. They understand how he's gone about his job and how hard he's worked. When the guys see him play-in and play-out on the practice field, they feel good about that, and that's important."
Is the injury forecast as sunny for LB Nick Vigil this week as it is for A.J. Green?
"My predictions weren't good the last couple of weeks (laughs), so I'm going to let you predict. The sun has gone in a lot on me lately."
With the injury to CB Tony McRae on Sunday, should that have been penalized?
That's twice in the last three games you guys didn't have it called …
"We've had a bunch of those, unfortunately. But again, we can't go backwards. We have to go forward and look forward. That's what my job, my challenge and my task is — to get us in position to win a football game. We've got to win this week."
Out of curiosity, what does the league say when they get back to you. Is it just, "Sorry?" What do they say?
"Are you talking about any particular play."
In general, when something comes back and there was an error …
"Generally, the crew or the official will be graded accordingly. It will be brought to their attention, as they have their reviews as well. That's part of it. Sometimes there are things that go on the training tape that comes out. Obviously we're at fault at times too. We made the training tape a week ago for something that happened in a game that we shouldn't have done. Those are things that happen with 22 moving parts all the time and the seven sets of eyes that are responsible for it. It's a lot easier to look back on it after the fact and see. But yeah, we've been on a bad run with things."
How frustrating is it when players get fined thousands of dollars on plays where there wasn't even a flag thrown?
"Again, you take that up with 280 Park (Avenue), or whatever it is (where the league office is located)."
Since you started calling the defense, what have you liked and what have you not liked?
"The hours are too short, that's what I don't like (laughs). There's not enough minutes in an hour or in a day — I need more (laughs). I feel, and I hope our defensive players feel, that they understand what's considered a 'plus' and 'minus' (grade for a play) right away. We just have to continue to work at that. We're kind of starting in the middle and trying to work from both ends out. That's the part we've had to deal with, and to just settle things down and get things back to fundamental with their eyes and communication. It's been a little different for them to understand that and to understand the opponent more, with the things we apply to the opponent and why. When it comes up now, you have to make the play, because this is what put you in the position. I hope that's the understanding, and they'll do nothing but get better with it. Their awareness of the opponent needs to continue to grow. We lost a little bit of that somehow, but we're gaining it back play by play — or I guess I should say day by day — in this with how we go about it. They wanted answers, and I've given them answers. I've put it back on them, because it's point-blank."
Were there more questions from them after the first half last weekend?
"No, because we were in position. We understood that we were in position, but just, 'Do my job.' That's the thing, I can't sit in somebody else's offensive staff room and know exactly what they're going to do, but we can predict pretty close. We can put our guys in position and be fundamentally sound in what we're doing so those things can occur. At that point, we have to then make the play and we have to understand. They're not going to be perfect, but don't go over here and farm somebody else's crops. Handle your own business. If you handle your business, we'll be fine. It's hard to do this from within, but they're grinding at it. Having experienced guys like Nick (Vigil) hopefully back and having Darqueze (Dennard) back last week was helpful. Those guys who are smart and understand can help communicate things — it's been better. Vontaze (Burfict) at middle (linebacker) was better. It was a learning experience for him last week, because he had to listen to me all of the time (laughs).
He doesn't seem to be a fan of playing in the middle, or at least he's said that in the past …
"Well, it isn't going to be his fault (laughs). But he'll be better this week than he was last week. That's the thing he has to do. We had to make a move, and we knew this was hopefully the best move to make with Vigil coming back into the fold."
There has been a lot of rotation at linebacker. Not just because of injury, but because of a lot of different issues. How much has that been a big part of you guys not feeling like you can get what you need going defensively?
"We just haven't been able to put the same guys out there, except for one game this year. Literally not for one game, except for the opener — that's the only game we went into it with the guys we expected to be out there. From that point on, we've had different guys. But again, we have to adjust and move on from that."
How do you think William Jackson has played at cornerback in basically his second year?
"Week after week, he's continuing to play better and better. He had the one poor penalty last week that he didn't need to have, which was a huge penalty in the game. 'Just do your job.' I think Will is starting to understand that there's more to just playing corner in the NFL. There's a lot of things that are occurring, and you have to take care of the details of it as well. I think he's really growing with the details of it, which is good to see. He's conscientious, he's working hard at it and he wants to be good, and I think that part of it will help push him over the hump."