“It’s Seattle week. We’re all very excited. It’s finally here. We named our captains today. On special teams, it’s Clayton Fejedelem. On defense, it’s Geno Atkins and Shawn Williams. And on offense, it’s Andy Dalton, Gio Bernard, and A.J. Green when he gets back and healthy. I’m excited about that group. It’s a good group of leaders — guys that exhibit all the things that we’re looking for in a Bengals player. The team voted on that and came to those (decisions). We had a lot of good candidates, and those are the guys they settled on.”
What do you know about your team so far?
“They’re going to be very prepared. They’re confident with what they’re doing. We’ve worked on setting the foundation and the culture for this team the last six months. Now, we’re relying on that to carry us through the season. We talk to players all the time — there’s going to be some great moments, there’s going to be some adversity we face — and we just need to be the same through the whole process. This will be the first test for us.”
Have you ever been in a situation where the crowd noise has affected your communications in the headsets?
“Oh yeah, oh yeah. Last year in New Orleans, I didn’t hear one play call in the championship game. I’ve certainly heard the worst of it. Seattle is one of the top environments on the road that I’ve ever been a part of. You need to communicate. We really worked in the springtime on our nonverbal communication. That’s one of the things that we stress in everyday life — the communication — both verbal and nonverbal, making sure everyone is on the same page. It’s a great test for us. We feel like we found good answers during that process. We can’t let that be a factor in how we play on Sunday.”
How much does Seattle’s signing of DE Jadeveon Clowney affect your game plan?
“Every snap I’ve ever seen of Seattle has (featured) an elite pass rusher. Whether it was Michael Bennett, Frank Clark or Jadeveon Clowney. We spent a lot of time watching tape from last season as well, and Frank Clark is all over that tape. I know he’s not there anymore. You’re seeing these pass rushers and disruptive guys in the run game. They just substituted one for another great player. Jadeveon is a great player. That’s nothing new for us. When you play Seattle, they’re going to have a very good defense, they’re going to be physical on offense, they’re going to be sound on special teams. It’s nothing new. Whether they get players, traded in or out, it doesn’t matter. It’s going to be the same team. They’ve had success for a long time. We’re excited to match their intensity on Sunday.”
What makes Seattle such a dynamic rushing team?
“They have good backs. They know where they’re going up front. They’re always targeted correctly. Their quarterback adds that element that is tough to defend. When you have a running quarterback in the NFL — someone like him, who’s not only a great runner, but (also) a great thrower — you have to respect that as a defensive back, as a linebacker. He also has the ability to make you pay with his feet. That’s an element that can create a lot of rushing yards and really keep defenses on their heels.”
Is there an advantage to you being first-year head coach in your first game, being that you don’t have any film?
“You hope that’s the dilemma that they’re in. We know what we’re doing. It’s hard to speculate what they think we’re going to do. That’s not something where we can’t (let ourselves) go too far down that road, because you get too far in your own head. It works both ways. There are always things as a new coach (coaching against) a team that’s run the same scheme for a long time. There are both sides to it. I think both sides need to be ready to make adjustments on Sunday as the game gets going.”
Do you allow yourself to think about how big of a career accomplishment this is for you?
“No, you don’t allow yourself to think about that, to be quite honest with you. There are so many other things on my mind this week. As a coaching staff, we’re just making sure we’re covering everything we can cover. That’s all we’re worried about — putting our guys in the best position to win, and allowing them to play with confidence. That’s all we care about. Those personal moments take care of themselves sometimes, when you get caught up in that moment, but right now that’s too hard to think about.”
What’s the most innovative technique you’ve discovered to deal with crowd noise?
“As you study teams and how they do their nonverbal cadence, there’s a lot of different ways to go about it. The center looks back, the quarterback claps, the guard looks back. There are a few tempo cadences you can utilize. To say which one is the most innovative, I think, in their own sense, they were all innovative five or 10 years ago, and now everyone is using similar stuff. It’s really the ways you can use the complementary stuff off of it so the defensive linemen can’t just tee off whenever they think they know your nonverbal cadence. That’s typically the No. 1 concern you have when you’re on the road — being too predictable, especially when they have great pass rushers like they do. You don’t want to be predictable and put your tackles at a disadvantage. That’s something you always have to have in your arsenal.”
You emphasized cadences when you were practicing in the spring. Is that because Seattle is your Week 1 opponent?
“Our division has great crowds that we’re going to face on the road. Even at the time we started talking about nonverbal cadence, we didn’t know Seattle was our Week 1 opponent. We were going to have this plan in place regardless of what our first game was. It just allows you to focus on it a little sooner, possibly before you would have placed a point of emphasis on it. I think that’s good for us because we’re going to play in some loud environments, so you may as well get one out of the way right off the bat.”
How would you evaluate Seattle QB Russell Wilson?
“He’s a winner. That’s the biggest thing. He’s a playmaker, a smart quarterback. I can go back to remember interviewing him at the combine. I only had 15 minutes, but I was really impressed. You look back to his college tape, and really, in my opinion, he went undefeated his senior year. He got beat on a Hail Mary. He got beat on a spike when the clock ran out. Really, he’s just won a lot of football games. He elevates the play of those around him. We need to be on the top of our game on Sunday. It’s going to be a great matchup for us.”
Is there a part of Wilson’s game that you need to focus on taking away?
“All of it. He’s explosive down the field and he gets the ball out of his hands quick. He’s a twitchy guy. He can extend plays in the pocket and allow his guys to buy some time down the field. The play is never over for the defenders. That’s the important thing that you always need to stress.”
It seems like Wilson is a player that puts defenders in a situation where they can’t guess right. Is that true?
“Yeah. He’s a dynamic player. Defensively, we feel that we have a good plan in place to do our best to contain that. It’ll be a good test for us.”
How often do you need to tell WR John Ross III to slow down in practice?
“In walkthroughs in general, we have a lot of players who are ‘tempo violators’ — guys that are going too hard in walkthroughs. The purpose (of walkthroughs) is to be mentally stressing and taxing (but) not physically stressing. That’s good that you need to slow guys down. They’re excited. They want to get going. We spend a lot of time in the sports science part of things, trying to take (stress) off of guys’ legs, and making sure we’re mentally focused. John falls in that category with a dozen guys we have that are always excited to run the play. They can be a little overeager sometimes, but that’s a good problem to have.”
When fully healthy, what is Ross capable of?
“He’ll play two or three plays for us on Sunday (laughs). No, he’s a good weapon for us. We have a lot of great weapons on offense that we can utilize. It should be difficult for the defense to hone in on one guy because we have a lot of different weapons that we can disperse.”
Do you expect Ross to play?
“I expect him to play.”
How nice is it to have Andy Dalton as your quarterback? How has your relationship with him evolved?
“He’s just very calm. Whether you’re putting in a new play or running a play for the 1000th time, he’s very level-headed. When you face adversity over the course of the season or within a game, at least you know that your quarterback is that calming influence for everybody — sometimes for the head coach too. If you look over and your quarterback is calm, it calms you down too. It’s really good to have a leader like him — someone who has the football acumen that he has. He’s really impressive to be around. I like him more and more every day that I’m around him, and I liked him a lot when I got here. I’m really glad we have him.”
What is the most defining characteristic of a Pete Carroll-coached team?
“They attack the ball. They try to get the ball out. They take good care of the ball on offense. Oftentimes, over the years, I’m sure they’ve led the league in fewest turnovers given and most turnovers taken away. That’s something they do a great job of. Again, we need to match that intensity because they’ve set the standard for a long time in this league.”
Do you expect OT Cordy Glenn to play on Sunday against Seattle?
“He’s day-to-day. He’s still in the (concussion) protocol. Right now, we’ll just continue to take it day by day with him.”
What’s your confidence level in OT Andre Smith?
“He’s been in the league a long time. I know he left here and came back. He’s a guy that’s excited for the opportunity. We have a lot of confidence in what we’ve seen him do so far this preseason and in practice. He’s a smart guy. He loves football and he loves being around it. If he needs to play, then he needs to play, and we have a lot of confidence in him.”
How much of this season is going to be determined by players with breakout potential?
“All I can focus on is this first game and just making sure they’re ready for the first game. They wouldn’t be on the team if we didn’t feel that they had those intangibles to come to the next level. If there was a guy we were concerned of, he wouldn’t be around. We feel like we’ve identified some traits in these guys that made it that are younger players that fit your description. Whether it’s this week, in 10 weeks or a year from now, (those players) are going to hit that next spot where they’re great contributors for us.”
Do you have an update on WR A.J. Green?
“There is no updated timeline.”
What does RB Giovani Bernard’s extension say about the types of players you want to reward around here?
“He’s consistent every day with his approach. You know what you’re getting from the player. He’s very detailed with his craft. He’s a good runner. He’s a good receiver. He’s a good protector. He fits all three of those traits that you want in a running back, and particularly in a No. 2 running back, because Joe (running back Joe Mixon) gets the brunt of the (touches). He’s just a dependable guy that has always been reliable and goes about it the right way. He sets a great example for the other players on this team. He’s very deserving of what he got and I’m happy for him.”
What’s the one trait that you must see in your players?
“Mental toughness. I think those are the guys that irritate you the most — when they’re not mentally tough. They can’t power through that adversity. Not always directly, but in roundabout ways, we talk about (mental toughness) with our players all the time. There are situations that arise in meetings, practices, games, where there are great examples of things that happen to other teams that we talk through how we’re going to respond to that look. Mental toughness is a key characteristic that we want in all of our players.”
This might be a record for the age difference between opposing head coaches.
“I think that happened last year with Pete Carroll and Sean McVay, I believe.”
Could you see yourself still doing this at age 68?
“Oh yeah, I love it. Every day I come in here I’m really excited. I don’t know if people believe me or not. The hours fly by throughout the course of the day. It’s fun. I could imagine doing it for a long time. But I’m just worried about winning this game this week, so it’s hard to think about when I’m 68. But right now, I could see that happening. It’s fun to be around. This is the environment that we create. We love being around the guys and all working toward a victory, that’s the key thing. It’s a fun process every single week.”
What has been the most rewarding part of this job so far?
“We’re starting to see the guys understand the standards and expectations and they’re meeting those. The conversations that we had to have with guys early on in the process, getting them to understand, those conversations are disappearing. Now, we’re getting into every day, the players know what you expect of them and they’re providing that. They set their own standard to where we don’t have to say as much, because they know or they’re the ones saying it. That’s where we want to be when we’re a championship-caliber team. That’s the process that needs to take place and we’re seeing the guys start to take hold of that.”
Do you have a specific game day routine?
“I drink a big coffee the morning of the game. It’s good to get a workout in because ... you’re not stressed, you’re not anxious. You’re just ready for the game to get going. You’re looking for something to kill the time and make you feel at peace.”
Black coffee or cream?
“Black. Straight-up black. Venti black.”
How does the Seahawks’ addition of DE Jadeveon Clowney change the way you prepare for their defense?
“You have to prepare for him. He’s been so destructive throughout his career, and you have to know where he is at all times. He can change the way a defense is schemed, and he can make plays a lot of people can’t make. You’ve got to be prepared for him. He’s a really good player.”
Is there concern on offense given how loud CenturyLink Field can get? How do you prepare for it?
“When you’re playing in the noise, you have to have good communication. You’ve got to make sure everybody is on the same page – everybody is dialed in and everybody is listening. We’ll prepare as much as we can for it. We know it’s going to be loud with it being the first game of the year, and Seattle is already a loud place. We can’t have the mistakes. We can’t jump offside, and we can’t do things that will set us back. We’ve got to prepare for it and be ready for it mentally.”
What have you seen from the Seattle secondary, despite no longer having the ‘Legion of Boom?’
“They’ve got really good players. It’s different guys back there from a couple years ago, but they’re still really talented. You see that all across the board on their defense. They’re good up front, and their linebackers are probably some of the best in the league with K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner. Those two guys have been together for a long time, and they understand that defense in and out. Obviously there are some new pieces in the secondary than there were a couple years ago, but they are still talented.”
What are your expectations for how the offense will transition on Sunday?
“We’ve got a good game plan going into it. Today is the start of it. We’ve worked on some things up to this point, and we feel really good about the plan that we have. Now it comes down to the execution of it.”
What’s the difference between trying to implement a game plan in a game, as opposed to in practice?
“With all the different things we can do offensively, we want to work on it as much as we can. I think we’re prepared for however we want to play this game.”
How much does playing music during practice help you prepare for the atmosphere on Sunday?
“It’s definitely loud, and it can definitely help. It’s not going to be the same as it will be on Sunday, but it’s as close as you can get to simulating crowd noise. It’s good to work with it, as opposed to not having it. Obviously it will be different, but we will be used to playing with some noise.”
Do you have a favorite song that’s been played at practice?
“I don’t know half the songs that have been played, so I can’t say I have a favorite (laughs).”
Do you remember the loudest game you’ve ever been a part of, regardless of venue?
“It’s hard to pick the exact loudest. Kansas City kind of got loud last year. We played in Seattle my rookie year, and we played a couple playoff games in Houston, and those were loud. We’ve played in some loud environments in the past.”
What have you seen from WR John Ross since his return from injury?
“John has been great and has done everything that we’ve asked him to do since coming back. He was limited early on in (training) camp, but John has been in the play book, and he knows exactly where he needs to be. John has speed – everybody knows that – and it’s been there from the moment he came back.”
Will he bring anything different to this offense?
“Yeah. You can’t coach speed, and that’s one thing he’s got. Any time you put a guy with his elite-caliber speed on the field, it can change some things. We’re excited to have John in this offense, and he’s going to have a big role in what we do this year.”
What are people outside of the Bengals’ facility missing that will allow this team to have success in 2019?
“People don’t see all the things we’ve been working on. There’s a lot of things that are unknown with this team with Zac (head coach Zac Taylor) taking over, and with some of the new pieces we have and the different things we’re going to do. We’re hoping to surprise a lot of people this year. We’ve got everything we need in place, so it comes down to us playing the best we can, and the way that we know we can play.”
Do you use the outside negative energy as positive fuel inside the locker room?
“There’s two ways to look at it: When things are going good and everyone is pumping you up, you don’t want to listen to it. On the opposite side, when no one is giving you a chance, you don’t want to listen to that either. You can say it’s motivation, but for now we’re focused on what we’re doing. We have a lot of confidence in this building, and a lot of confidence in what we can do. Now is when it matters. The regular season is about to start.”
What kind of message or tone would a win in Seattle set?
“We want to start the year 1-0 – that’s the big thing. To go into Seattle and get a win would be huge. They’re a really good team over there, and they’ve been a good team for a long time. To get a win on the road in Seattle would definitely make a statement for us.”
How different is Week 1 from a Week 4 midseason game, considering you haven’t played in a couple weeks?
“This is the longest week of the year because when the schedule came out, we knew we’d be playing Seattle. We’ve looked at this game for a long time, so once we get past this week, the weeks go a little bit faster because you don’t have all this time to prepare for the game.”
Do you embrace being on the road to start the season?
“It’s basically all I know. I’ve only had one home game to start the year, and I try to forget that one (laughs). For us, we are used to it, and we are used to playing on the road to start the year. It doesn’t matter where the first one is, you just have to do whatever you can to get a win.”
Does heading into this season feel different now that you’re older and more experienced?
“I feel good about where I’m at. I feel good with everything we’re doing. This is a change with Zac running everything now, but for me, it’s a different role because we have a bunch of young guys that can lean on my experiences. I can say what it’s going to be like in Seattle because there are only a couple of us that have played there. We understand the environment that we’re about to go into, and that’s just one example of where I’m at now compared to five, six or seven years ago.”
How much would the absence of OT Cordy Glenn affect what you want to do offensively?
“Obviously we want Cordy back. If he’s not in there and Andre (OT Andre Smith) is playing tackle, he’s a guy that’s played a bunch of games, a guy that I’m really comfortable with and a guy that knows what he’s doing out there. We want Cordy back, healthy and ready to go, but we are fortunate to have a guy like Andre who can step in and play.”