Initial comments ...
"We have a good opponent this week. They're on a three-game winning stretch. They started the season a little tough, as we've done. They've really found their groove these last three weeks, so it's a team playing with a lot of confidence right now on both sides of the ball. They've done a good job creating some turnovers. They've done a good job finding an identity on defense. Those guys are playing fast and physical. On offense, it starts with the quarterback. He's playing with a lot of confidence right now. He's done a good job taking care of the football and being really efficient. They found a way to get some big plays in some of these games they've won. It's a tough task for us on Sunday. They're going to be coming in here with some momentum. We need to match them with our intensity and overcome all that and go get ourselves our first win."
Do you expect WR A.J. Green to practice this week?
"He won't practice today."
Given that information, you wouldn't expect Green to play on Sunday, correct?
"I'll know more tomorrow as we get through it. He's not going to practice today. Tonight, we'll see where he's at for tomorrow."
Do you have an expected timeline for Green's return?
"I ask the question every day. 'Where are we at for tomorrow?' We just take it from there."
Does Green have the final decision whether he plays or not?
"Yeah. There are some things that he doesn't feel comfortable with when he runs and when he cuts. We want to make sure we feel confident putting him out there, and that he's ready to help us."
Check out photos from Paul Brown Stadium as the Bengals prepare for the Week 13 matchup against the New York Jets.
Do you feel that a player needs to practice for at least a week before they play in a game?
"It depends on how long the injury has been and what the position is. He hasn't practiced at all, really. It's going on a couple months now, so you'd like him to get a couple practices under his belt just for his confidence and Andy's (quarterback Andy Dalton) confidence. Any great player still needs reps to be able to throw the ball to each other. We'll just take it day-to-day right now."
Is there a point where you would consider shutting Green down for the season?
"He wants to play. I don't 'think' he does — I know he does. Right now, we continue to carry him (on the roster), and we're hopeful every week that it may be different, and we'll take it from there."
What does N.Y. Jets QB Sam Darnold do well?
"He's really done a good job. He's been pretty accurate on some tough, tight-window throws. You look at early in that Raiders game, where he had a big one down the sidelines that was really impressive. He's had the ability to create a little bit on some off-schedule stuff. He's really gotten it going. He hit a big third down, I think it was last week. He's done a really good job getting those guys moving forward and hitting the big plays when they're there. He had a great throw against Dallas for a 90-something-yard touchdown that really got them a big lead in that game, and got them going in the first half. You see him coming into it. It's his second year, and it's a new system for him. You see these last three weeks, he's really done a good job and found a good rhythm."
Do you see the N.Y. Jets as an example of how quickly a team can turn things around?
"We know it can. It just takes that first win. I know they got one early in the year against Dallas and hit a slump there, but then you get that win, and you get your mojo back a little bit, and you get going. Now they're on a roll with a three-game winning streak. No one would have said that three weeks ago, probably (not) if you listen to their media, I would imagine. That's just the way this league works. Everyone has good players, and you just need to get into a nice rhythm and get the first one. That's what we've been trying to do."
How much of a learning curve is there entering the NFL, and how much do quarterbacks improve between their rookie year and their second year?
"No question. It is a difficult league. It's a difficult position. There are a lot of growing pains that come with it. You have to be patient sometimes. He matured and learned a lot last year. I didn't spend any time watching him last year. I'm sure he learned a lot. He got those experiences, and now you see in the middle of his second year, things are really starting to click. It's a new system for him. It wasn't the same system he ran last year. It's a new learning process. You've seen him and the receivers and they've all done a nice job."
How did G/C Billy Price respond to being thrust into a starting role at the last minute against Pittsburgh?
"He has a sore back. He went into it with a sore back. He still has some of that soreness."
How well did Price play?
"Those guys all prepare to play. He still takes reps over the course of the week, particularly in that position last week. Billy got a lot of reps. He was ready to play. As a whole, there was some good and some bad with the line as a whole. There were some things that they can all continue to improve on."
What do you want to learn about this team over the final five games?
"We just want to win. We know a lot about our team. We just have to, offensively, find a way to score some more points. Defensively, we've done a nice job stopping the run outside of a few plays in a game. That's usually how it goes. You can subtract the long runs and say, 'The yards against the rush was this, if you subtract those three runs.' The bottom line is, those three runs can't get out on us. The guys that are in position (to make plays) need to make the plays. Those are some big plays, right now, that we need to shut down in order to win some of these games. On the flip side, on offense, our playmakers need to find a way to step up and score more points for us. We need to put them in good positions to have those opportunities. That's really what we've been lacking — the points. Our defense has played well enough these last two weeks for us to win. The offense has to carry it over and put more points on the board."
What has led to the defensive line's increased productivity in recent weeks?
"Some of the quarterbacks we played against are faster than most animals (laughs). They run around and are just impossible to grab. That gets reflected in the statistics. We happened, on defense, to catch the top two rushing offenses three times this year. That puts a real dent in any statistic you want to throw around. Those teams have done an excellent job against every team they've played. Those are some challenges for us. There's no excuse. We need to stop them. One of them is in our division. You need to find ways to slow those teams down. Overall, they've regrouped. The leadership has done a nice job settling those guys down. 'Hey, we need a little extra. Let's make sure everyone is on top of their assignments.' That's not a thing that most teams that are in our situation do at this point in the year. A lot of them start booking their postseason flights, and our guys have done the opposite. They've really clamped down and said, 'Let's figure out how we can get this better and get it right.' That's really encouraging to see from the guys on our team."
Who is the leader on defense?
"There are a lot of guys who I really feel like (are leaders). There's nobody that hasn't bought in, let me say that. Everybody has done a little bit extra to put us in position. That's been really encouraging. Shawn Williams has been a guy whose leadership has really shone through. I could signal them all out. He's one that has really been someone you can lean on as a leader."
How important is it to identify who the leaders are on this team?
"The players don't just want to hear it from (the head coach) over and over and over. When your message can filter through players that you can count on and trust to do the right thing, then that's really how any foundation and culture is built. It's through the players. I can get up there and the coaching staff can get up there and say everything that we believe in and what we want done, but until it filters through the players, you're never going to get where you want to be. It's the beginning of this process for all of us. It needs to show up in the win column, but there are a lot of things that I've said over and over that are really showing up in the locker room that we're proud of."
Why hasn't Green been placed on Reserve/Injured?
"A.J. has been week-to-week. Dre (CB Dre Kirkpatrick [Reserve/Injured]) didn't appear to be on the horizon — (just) one week (or) two weeks. It seemed like it was going to be much longer than that, so (with him we decided to use) the (roster) spot and get another defensive back up. With A.J., you go into every week and you're waiting to see. He's doing everything he can to get back on the field. He wants to as much as anybody, and it just hasn't happened yet."
What are your favorite Thanksgiving foods on the table tomorrow?
"Tomorrow (laughs)? Pecan pie, pumpkin pie. I'm a big dessert guy. My wife does a great job handling all of that. You had to remind me that it was tomorrow (laughs). Hopefully there's nothing I'm supposed to pick up (laughs)."
What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?
"I'm pretty simple. Mashed potatoes, turkey, pie. That's about all I need. I'm not really into the stuffing."
What does it feel like to be back in the starting quarterback role?
"It feels good. As a player and a guy that's started every chance I've been able to without being hurt, it gives you a different perspective being on the other side. I'm glad to be back out playing. I feel like I can help us win. I'm excited to be going these last five games."
Did you think you would ever be back in the starting quarterback role?
"I didn't think so. With the conversations I had with Zac (head coach Zac Taylor), and we've had so many conversations... That's one thing, the communication, between me and Zac, it's been there the whole time. Even when I wasn't playing, we were still talking through a lot of things. I wasn't sure if it was going to happen. If something were to happen to Ryan, I would have gone in. I wasn't sure if I was going to be starting again."
Mentally and emotionally, how did serving in a backup role affect you?
"It gives you a whole new perspective. When it first happened, I wanted to be bitter. I didn't know why it was happening. I knew that God has a plan for me and has a plan for my family and has a plan for my life. I had to trust and believe in that. This is just part of my story and part of something I'm going to be able to relate to people on a different level than I probably could have before. Initially, it was tough. I wasn't going to let the circumstance get to me. I'm glad it happened on the bye week. I'm glad I had time to sit there and think about it and think about how I would respond to being around everything but not being the guy. I'm glad I had that time, because initially it was tough. Why choose to live in bitterness if you don't have to? Why choose to be negative when you don't have to? You're choosing to be that way. Like I said, it was tough initially, but I knew in the end it was going to be a part of my story."
When did you make the decision to put your bitterness aside?
"Initially, it's just talking through it. You don't really know how to respond to it. I wasn't expecting it. It took a day. At the end of the day, it's not who I am. It's not who I want people to see me to be, and it's not my character. It's not what God has called me to be. I think that's a big reason. How would I want to see someone else respond to something like this? Like I said, it would be out of my character to be that way."
Did Taylor need to mend his relationship with you?
"No. I understand what Zac was doing. Did I agree with it? No. I was ready to go whenever the time came. Not that I was hoping it was going to happen or any of that stuff, but obviously I want to play. I didn't think there was anything he had to mend."
What did you learn from being in the backup quarterback role?
"I've been fortunate to have several good backups here. One thing that I've learned from having other guys be around is, the backup needs to be so encouraging to the starter. I was trying to bring encouragement to Ryan (QB Ryan Finley) the whole time. I let him know what I saw. I wasn't trying to overstep. When I felt like it was necessary to say things, I would do it. You get a different perspective being on the sideline rather than being on the field. There are several things I was able to take from it."
What have you said to Finley about returning to his backup role?
"With everything that happened with Ryan — and obviously we're in the position that we're in and I'm back in — but there's a lot of stuff that wasn't in Ryan's control. It affects a lot of things. If you watch some of these games, he was put in a tough spot, and I understand that. I told him that I've been through it all throughout my career. If he ever needs to talk about anything or if he needs me, I'm there for him. Ryan and I have a great relationship. For him, he just needs to make sure he's in-tune with the game plan and knows what we're doing and still be part of it. I know he will. Ryan is built the right way. He handles everything the right way. I don't expect anything less."
Do you feel that the final five games of the season are opportunities to prove that you're still worthy of a starting quarterback role in the NFL?
"Absolutely. I feel like I've proved that throughout my career. This is just another opportunity. To sit out for the last three weeks and then to come back in for the next five, our goal is to win. I want to win every single game that we play."
Do you think you will be back next year?
"I'm worried about this season and these last five games. I have no idea what's going to happen moving forward. I'm just worried about these next five."
Having sat out for three weeks, do you think you'll be rusty?
"I was taking all of the scout team reps. They obviously weren't our plays, but I've still been playing football. I don't feel like there's going to be any rust."
When you arrived at the stadium on Monday morning, did you think there was a chance you'd be named starter?
"I didn't. I didn't think this was going to happen. Was there a possibility? Yes, with just everything that was going on. I didn't think it was going to happen."
What was the moment like when Taylor told you the news that you'd be the starting quarterback?
"He just felt like he wanted me get the chance to play these last five. He feels like I give us a good chance to win, and I agree with that. Like I said, I'm just glad to be back out there and know that I'm going to be playing these last five."
Are you aware that you are on the precipice of setting the new Bengals records for most touchdown passes and most completions?
"I knew about the touchdowns, but I didn't know about the completions. When you're able to play as long as I have in one spot, that stuff comes. I obviously haven't been thinking about that. We'll see what happens."
Given the improvements in the running game, do you feel like you're in a better situation to succeed compared to earlier in the season?
"Early on, we struggled running the ball. Over these last few games, we've been able to find a groove there. Any time you're able to run the ball, it helps everything offensively. Hopefully we can continue that."
What did you learn about the offense while you were watching from the sideline?
"I'm thinking through every play like I'm out there playing. You have to think that way when you're on the sideline. 'What would you do with protection? What would you do with a throw?' Go through your reads the same way. It's a different perspective. You're not seeing it exactly the same. You still need to be out there and treat it the same."
What did you learn while being on the sideline?
"That I want to be out there (laughs). That's the biggest thing. It happened, and I'm glad to be playing again."
What was WR A.J. Green's reaction to the news that you were returning to the starting quarterback role?
"There wasn't much of a conversation. He's happy for me. There wasn't much beyond that."
Do you fear losing popularity if you win games down the stretch and play the team to a lower draft pick (laughs)?
"If this city isn't happy for wins, then I don't know what to tell them. Like I said, our whole goal is winning. We're going to do everything we can to win this week against the Jets."
How soon do you think you'll throw a pass to Green?
"I don't know. That's not for me to decide."
What challenges does N.Y. Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams present with his schemes?
"It's a team that moves around a lot. On defense, they're not standing in one spot. They're all over the place. They have some blitz schemes and different things. You need to be prepared for all of the different movements that they have. Gregg Williams has been around for a long time and he's been a very successful defensive coordinator. He's had a lot of really good defenses, and this is one of them."
Does Williams have any specific tendencies that you'll key in on?
"Jamal Adams is a really good player. He's one of the best, if not the best, safety in the league. He plays all over the place. He's down, he's deep, he plays halves, he plays in the middle of the field – he really does it all. I wouldn't say it's easy to compare, 'Well this is exactly how he did it in Cleveland, exactly how he did it when I faced him when he was in St. Louis.'"
You probably need to be prepared for the Jets to blitz from multiple directions on third down, right?
"Yeah, you just need to be prepared for all the stuff they do."
Would you compare how the Jets use Adams to the way the Pittsburgh Steelers used S Troy Polamalu?
"With Troy, he was so smart and understood exactly what they were doing on defense and how offenses were trying to attack. Jamal is similar. He can start down (toward the line of scrimmage) and run out to the half (of the field he's covering), and he can do all the different things that Troy did."