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Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 16

(Are you just being safe with Nick Barnett or is something aggravated there?)

Nick Barnett, we'll be smart with him today. He'll probably be limited tomorrow, and then we'll re-test him on Friday. He has some swelling and we're just being smart.

(Is he any worse off than he was last week?)

I think it's similar to last week.

(What's the plan with Pickett?)

Ryan Pickett, he tested today with the trainers, and I have not been given the results yet. Just like a lot of muscle pulls or strains, tomorrow will be the determining factor. The little that I did see of the workout, I thought he was moving pretty well. We'll see how he feels in the morning.

(You said today would be a big day for Mark Tauscher to see how he responded. How did it go?)

Mark took the majority or pretty much all of his reps. We have three days of work, but we are going to watch his reps this week, and just from a coaching standpoint, make sure T.J. is getting work over there. But I just think with the full week of work last week and then playing in the game, that's the first week he did it. Talking with Mark Monday after the game, we just want to be smart with him.

(Obviously it's a business trip, how special is this for you to go back home?)

It's very special to go home. Make no bones about that. But it is a business trip. You probably have about two or three hours to have dinner with your family. But it's a great opportunity for our football team. I have a lot of pride in my football team, and to take them back to Pittsburgh and to compete against the world champions. That's the way I'm viewing the game, I know that's the way our team is viewing the game. This is a great opportunity for us to get to 10 wins, and they are still the champion until acknowledged otherwise. We're looking for a competitive atmosphere over there at Heinz Field, and I'm really looking forward personally.

(Do you see a difference between Pittsburgh early on and where they are now in the five-game losing streak?)

Well, they've lost five in a row, but every game has come down to the wire. I think it starts with their defense like it always has. Their defense is definitely one of the top defenses, especially one of the top defenses the last two decades in the National Football League. They're always going to be in the game because of that defense. We have a lot of respect, particularly for their outside rushers and the scheme, and frankly, it has a lot to do with why we're now in a 3-4 defense. Offensively, they've got some big-time weapons. They have the ability, it starts with the quarterback, to get the ball to their perimeter players, and special teams, we like their returner. This is going to be a tough football game. I know they've lost five in a row, but it looks maybe a little bit like what we went through last year. They just haven't come up and made the appropriate plays in the tight games, but they're still a very good football team.

(How does growing up in Pittsburgh mold a guy's mindset or philosophy in football?)

That's the way it always was in Pittsburgh. You play great defense, and that was always the bottom line to winning championships. I know being a Pittsburgh native during the '70s, their formula has not changed. They had great defenses in the '70s and was the backbone of their championship years, and they really never changed it. I know my history as an offensive coach, but clearly when I became a head coach, I did not want to be known as a former quarterback coach that was a head coach. It definitely starts with defense. That's always been my vision, and we feel like we've made strides towards that this year definitely. I think that's just part of growing up in western Pennsylvania.

(The hiring of Dom, could it have worked out any better for you?)

I think it's gone extremely well. I agree with you. Dom Capers, and really the whole defensive staff, I just really like the way the group came together back in February. Just the little time I spent around Dom, I knew right away, his reputation, he's extremely detailed and organized, and just the way he brought the staff together and how detailed and organized and how ready they were when the players showed up in March. Just going into his first install meeting with the players, they knew right away that the culture and the environment was different. He made that impression on me frankly back in February and March, and it's held true. Now, it's just like any installation of a system. We had some growing pains earlier in the year, but we feel like we're hitting our stride and the exciting part is we think we can get better.

(Can you talk about the team's ability to make the key plays at big times?)

That's something we talked about today as a team. I think our No. 1 asset as a football team is overcoming adversity. They don't have statistics for how many times you overcome those particular situations in a game, but I think that's really been a strength of our team, and it's kind of been our battle cry as we move forward. The ability for the individual or the unit to step up at key times in the game, and that's what the bottom line is. Sometimes we get caught up in situational football, which is a big part of being successful in the NFL. But making key plays at key times. You always want to be a dominant offense or dominant defense or dominant special teams, and you're always working towards that. But making key plays, the adverse situations in a game, we've been doing a very good job of it, and we need to continue to do that down the stretch.

(Is that how you grew as a team from last year? Is that some of the payoff for all those close losses last year?)

I would like to think it's a product of the experience of last year. We came out of last year, we felt as a football team we needed to be better in the two-minute situation, both on offense and defense, so we spent a lot of time towards that. We spent a lot of different time, a lot of different situations in training camp and so forth trying to create adverse situations to overcome that. It's kind of hard to train that like you do red zone, third down and two-minute, but it's definitely something that was identified coming out of last year, and we're doing a much better job of it. You're always trying to get better, you're always trying to identify the things you need to improve on as a football team, and that was definitely identified with what happened to us last year, and it's been very big for us.

(How do you drill that?)

Well, you create those type of plays. You have sudden change plays and those types of things. Like I said, it's not like a red zone drill and so forth. You talk about it a lot, you point to it, you emphasize. Problem solving is really about creating solutions long before they happen. It's really a mindset, and I think our players have really responded to it.

(What's the biggest challenge facing a quarterback who will stand in there and take punishment to extend plays?)

It's a huge challenge both for your rush unit and your coverage unit because the rush unit has to obviously keep him in the pocket. He's a very strong man. The first guy doesn't usually get him down so you have to tackle him and get him on the ground is the first part of it. The second part of it is the ability in the coverage unit to plaster and to stay with the receivers because he is definitely looking to throw the ball down the field. He makes a ton of plays week in and week out doing that. He's as effective as I have seen in the league as far as extending plays and throwing the ball downfield.

(With Dom, is there a story or anecdote since you've been working with him that illustrates his defensive mind?)

When you have an opportunity to work with Dom, he's old school in his approach. He's not the guy that is going to sit on the computer and punch out a bunch of printouts for you. He still writes everything out by hand. He has a method that he has done for so long and can jump up and pull the book off the shelf from 1995, and I appreciate that. I have a library from every game I have been in since 1993. So he is just extremely detailed and he writes everything out. We don't have enough highlighters for him but we've invested in that because he has a certain method of how he highlights things. He's just extremely organized. He's an excellent communicator, and it really started from the first day.

{sportsad300}(Is there anything he can tell you about some of the looks you might get on Sunday?)

We've kind of talked all along, but yeah, I spent some time talking to him Monday. I know each offensive staff member has talked to the defensive staff. Yeah, we've definitely talked about things you see on film and just certain adjustments and things that you think they may go to toward us. I really think that stuff is overrated. You still have to play the game. They have a system that has been in place for so long there, obviously since Dom was there back in 1991-92. They are going to make their adjustments. They are going to have a plan for us. It's just good to have those types of resources in Darren Perry, Kevin Greene, and also Dom on your staff, and it just kind of confirms some of the things you see on film.

(Do you have any knowledge if Johnny's situation will impact football at all the rest of the season?)

I have not been informed of anything as far as the details on Johnny Jolly's situation, so we're just going to support Johnny through the situation.

(Can you assess the season Ryan Grant is having? Is he better than people give him credit for?)

Yeah, I'm pleased with Ryan Grant's production. I think he has been very steady. We had some growing pains really as an offense. We were not in sync earlier in the year, and really I felt the No. 1 issue was we didn't really give the run game enough attempts. If you look at the times where his carries were 18, 19, 20-plus carries, he has been very productive. To me, I say it all the time, the most important statistic for running the football is the attempts, and I think when Ryan has been given those opportunities, he has gotten into a groove and has been very productive. I think he is a very steady, solid player.

(How often do you get back to Pittsburgh? Do you go back every offseason?)

I really don't, not as much as you would like. I've been probably back just once in the last couple of years because of everything that has been going on. My family comes here a lot. Yeah, I just haven't been able to get back as much as I would like.

(Grant seems to be better later in the year. Why do you think that is?)

Probably because we are running the ball more later in the year. I think that has something to do with it. We've changed offensively just with the way we approach the game as far as the run/pass-type things we do with Aaron. I think that may have affected Ryan's opportunities more, and just really the way defenses are playing us. But when the weather is changing, your attempts usually go up. You get leads, you're coming out of halftime with leads, you are running the ball more with those types of runs. I think it's just getting more opportunities frankly at this period in the season.

(Are there certain backs who are just better in this kind of weather?)

Oh, no doubt. We played on a different surface down there in Chicago. It was a field that they put the grass in two weeks ago, and it was very high. Heinz Field, I know they changed the sod there a few weeks back, so it's going to be a little different surface. Your perimeter players need to adjust and I think it definitely fits Ryan's running style.

(Is it almost a positive that you've had red-zone issues or special-teams issues, yet your team has been able to overcome them, making that perfect game still out there?)

Oh, I think that's part of our makeup. I think that's our best asset right now as a football team, the ability to overcome those types of situations in games. I'm not happy about our red-zone production; it needs to improve. The only positive is it gives you something to crack the whip with with your players, if there is a positive. We're always working to play the perfect game, you're always striving for perfection, but to me, ugly wins are good wins. And they're all the same because the only important statistic is the win. The adverse (situations), not to be redundant here, I think that's a huge part of why we are winning games and that's something that we can point to.

(When you get into the flow of the game and you're figuring out different personnel groups, what's the key to success in figuring out what a defense is showing you?)

Shoot, you're always playing personnel vs. their personnel and then situation obviously has a lot to do with it. But you really feel like you have a pretty good handle on it going into the game. We're not a team that lines up in two personnel groups, so we're not going to see multiple calls to each personnel. Our ability to get in and out of multiple personnels I think helps us and it streamlines the defensive calls more. I don't ever really feel, there haven't been too many times in my career that I just totally spin out of a personnel group and get into something else because it's totally different than what we anticipated. I think that's just the nature of the way we play on offense. But when you don't have production out of certain personnel groups, it can obviously be one of two factors. It can be yeah, they have a better defensive call or maybe it's our execution or maybe I didn't call it the right time too. Those things all factor into it, but being a multiple-personnel group and the ability, the way we teach our offense conceptually, it's not by personnel. It gives us a lot of flexibility.

(Going back to Pittsburgh, do you know what you're going to do or how you're going to spend your time?)

Yeah, we haven't really had an opportunity to be together as a family, shoot, for I don't know how long around Christmas, so we're going to have a Christmas dinner. We're going to have dinner together.

(Are your mom and dad still in the same house you grew up in?)

Yep. Right there in Greenfield, yep.

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