Initial comments ...
"From an injury standpoint, Will Jackson reinjured that shoulder, so they're going to do some MRIs this afternoon. We'll make a decision tomorrow on the best way to proceed. Stanley Morgan and Tony McRae are both in the concussion protocol from yesterday. Both took tough hits there. We will put A.J. Green on IR (Reserve/Injured) this week. I know we're here in Week 17 making that decision, but that's just the way the cards have been played this year. We'll put him on IR."
Do you have an injury update on G John Miller?
"John Miller is in the protocol and he's doing well. He hasn't cleared it yet, but he's making good progress."
OT Fred Johnson got extended snaps yesterday at Miami. How did he hold up, and what does that mean for him this week?
"He showed some positive signs. We'll continue to give him more work this week. We'll make a decision on how much that is, but he's a young player that has done really well in practice. He did really well on the tapes we watched when we claimed him. He certainly has all of the size and the traits you look for in a tackle, so we felt that it's important to evaluate him. He's earned those reps, and he'll earn some more reps against Cleveland."
Could Johnson start against Cleveland this week?
"We haven't made any of those decisions yet, but we certainly want to see him play."
What have you learned from your first year as a head coach?
"You learn how to handle that not everything is going to be perfect. Not everything is going to be the way you envisioned it. You picture coming right in, winning every game and going to the Super Bowl. Those are the dreams you have obviously, but your day-to-day work has to match the dreams you have for the future. Those are things we have improved upon every week we've been here. We just have to continue to be real with ourselves as a staff and as players. What can we continue to do better this week against Cleveland, and in the future? Now that we have a whole season under our belt, you think, 'OK, this is a little bit of a rhythm. Here's how we can improve.' I'm certainly excited to do all of that. It's too much to put into words, how much you learned. You learn a lot, especially in your first year in a job like this. I am fortunate to have really good people around me that have helped me along the way."
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
"There's time for reflection on that after the season. I'm so much into the game-planning mode during these weeks. Especially with Christmas this week, you feel like you're in a little bit of a condensed schedule with Cleveland, so there's plenty of time to evaluate all of that."
When you look at the way the team fought back into the game in the fourth quarter yesterday, is that your favorite moment of the season?
"Yeah. Well, for all the emotion we felt when we got back into it and got into overtime, you certainly felt like, 'We're going to go win this game. We're going to win it.' We fought our way back. When you don't win in it, you're almost confused, to be quite frank with you. The way that we fought back and got in it, you're so convinced you're going to win, and when it doesn't happen, you're just trying to process all of the emotions. I have a hard time finding many victories in that. We need to come to a point here where we're past all of that. We need to start winning these football games. We're in these situations. We respect the hell out of our guys for getting us back in it and not giving up when a lot of people probably did, outside of our sidelines. We need to find ways to win those games."
How crazy was the feat of coming back to push the game into overtime? A team has never scored 16 points in only 29 seconds.
"To complete the ball where we did, outside the 25 yard-line on the last play of the game, and then at this point in the NFL to then recover the onside kick was really the most remarkable part of the whole thing. The percentage of that happening is not good. For Randy (K Randy Bullock) to do it like he did it, and Stanley to go make the play like he did to go keep the thing alive — that's where he got the concussion — and then for Jordan Evans to come up with it. I'm standing right there. It felt like that ball was on the ground for an hour, and then you watch the tape and (Morgan) just tipped it and (Evans) recovered it immediately. But it didn't feel that way when I watched it live. The effort the guys gave is just remarkable. There are some moments you'll look back on and be fond of, but ultimately we'll remember that we didn't get it done."
WR Tyler Boyd got injured in the final moments of the game, yet he picked himself up and lined up for the next play in order to avoid the 10-second runoff that an injury timeout would require. Is that one of the moments when you see a guy that's fighting for you, no matter what?
"Yes, it is. It's a guy that understood the situation. It's these little things that we talk about every single week. (You see) moments of past teams, where a guy can't get up when he's injured and you get a 10-second runoff and the game is over. For him to be able to process it in that moment, whether he remembered or not, and for his teammates around him to remind him — everyone knew he had to get up or else the game was over. If he lays down, it's over because of the 10-second runoff. Game over. For him to get up, get in position, and to get off the field for the next play, was remarkable for him and the guys around him. We had plenty of guys, like Shawn Williams, who don't play a lot of special teams but saw that our guys couldn't go because they were hurt or they were dead tired, so we had starters going in on special teams they're not normally used to going in on. They felt like they owed it to their teammates that, 'I feel that much better than you do right now, so I'm going to go do it.' A lot of the things that we preach, and how we talk about what a Bengal is — a physical, hungry, accountable teammate who's willing to do his all to get the job done —I saw that so many times yesterday, on the road, in a game that we could have been out of early. But we weren't. Our guys fought to the very end, and those are the things we need to continue to build off of."
Following his injury, Boyd came back on the field for the two-point conversion after the touchdown. That seemed like proof he didn't care whether the team had one win or 11 wins ...
"The guys only care about winning. They only care about helping their teammates. Tyler knows he's one of our best players and (felt), 'I need to be out there on the most critical play of the game.' To get himself back out there, knowing they're going to double him, and he got out there and gave them everything he had."
What's the value of winning this week?
"Everything. It's a home game. We've only won one of them. We haven't won a divisional game yet. You can end the season on a positive note. It's no different than any other game, in that we always want to win. There are a lot of things to pull from here. It's a reward for hard work and for the things these guys have put in, and a reward for the city. I know the city wants us to beat Cleveland, as they should — the fan base, the coaching staff, everyone in this building. There's plenty to play for this week."
Has it been frustrating or difficult to be the head coach while there's been so much speculation about next year, and about the franchise's future?
"No. We're really good at staying focused on what's important. Truthfully, the only time I hear it is in these press conferences, because we're pretty isolated from the outside world. The reason you want to be here in Cincinnati, and in the NFL in general, is because of the passion of the fans. One way or another, they care. They want things for this team, however they want it. That's why I love being in this profession and having the opportunity to lead a team, because when you do get things turned around and going the right way, that passion is going to be in the stadium with us, pulling for us. Those are just the reasons you do it. We know we have to put in the work and make ourselves better so that people are doing it. When it comes, it will be a lot of fun."
Going back to Green getting placed on the Reserve/Injured list, does it seem almost unbelievable considering how that situation and everything else has played out this season?
"Nothing's unbelievable anymore (laughs). You just have to take each thing as it comes as what it is, and address it day-to-day. (You can't) get overwhelmed with the things that have come up this year. You just need to take them and keep persevering through them. A.J. has done everything he could to get back, and he just wasn't able to do it this year. The time off these next couple weeks is certainly going to help him, and he'll come back ready to roll. We'll figure the other stuff out later, but that's just the way it has been."