Q: How much do you anticipate offensive communication being stressed this week due to the presence of a small percentage of fans? Is this a situation where you have to be prepared for a silent count?
BB: Yeah, well, we'll have to see how it goes here. We've certainly played in, I would say, potentially louder environments than this, but we'll see how it goes. It's something that we worked on in training camp, not knowing exactly how this whole situation would turn out. I mean, you saw that in the stadium scrimmage that we did and so forth. Yeah, we'll see what we need to do here. I'm sure it will be a little bit different than what we've experienced in the first three games so far. We just have to do a good job of not getting distracted by anything other than our important job of competing against the Chiefs. But, it will be interesting.
Q: We've heard Cam Newton speak glowingly about a lot of his teammates early this season. Is that important and does it matter for the quarterback to show confidence in the players around him? Do you think that has an impact on how they play on the field?
BB: Yeah, of course. I think all good players do that. All leaders do that. You have confidence in the people that you work with and that makes everybody perform at a higher level and have confidence in each other. I mean, you have to earn that, but certainly to have confidence in the people that you're working with is very important to being successful.
Q: Have you noticed that from Cam in the building or on the practice field?
BB: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Cam does a great job of connecting with everybody, whether it's his teammates, his receivers, guys on defense, other people in the organization. Again, I think the captain voting – not that that's the ultimate or final determination of leadership – but I think the fact that he has been here a pretty short amount of time and earned that type of respect and support from his teammates is pretty impressive. But, I think it's across the board. It's the offensive line, it's the receivers, it's all the offensive players and coaches and it extends into other areas, as well – special teams and defense and other people in the organization. I think that we've all seen that and it's impressive. It's impressive. He's here a lot, he's in the building and he's visible, he's in sight and is connecting with people as much as any player. He's in the building more than any player on the team, but he spends a lot of time talking and connecting and building relationships with those people. I mean, he has tremendous leadership, so it's very impressive.
Q: We've seen Shilique Calhoun make a number of plays this season. Is he someone from whom you've seen substantial improvement since he first arrived last year?
BB: Yeah, he's definitely improved. Shilique's a hard-working kid. He's very smart. He can handle a number of different responsibilities, both positionally and within a position – whether it be pass rush, coverage, run defense, stunts, blitz assignments, things like that – and sometimes those are multiple, two or three things that could happen on the same play. You'd have to react to them differently based on exactly how the play unfolded. But, yeah, as he's gained more experience in our defense and with his teammates, his communication and recognition and reactions have all improved, and his overall amount of responsibilities have increased, as well. So, he's done an excellent job for us and continues to expand his role defensively, which is good for him and good for us and gives him more versatility.
Q: You have a tough challenge this weekend with Travis Kelce, and in the first few games you've seen Mike Gesicki and Darren Waller. In a couple weeks, you face George Kittle. Are we seeing in influx of talented, athletic tight ends, or does it just so happen that's how your schedule fell this year?
BB: Well, it's certainly that way on our schedule. I think that's one of the things that really jumped out when you look at the teams that we've been playing – from [Greg] Olsen to, not to look ahead, but [Noah] Fant – I mean, you just go right down the line. It seems like there's one every week. So, guys that have either elite tight end skills or elite receiving skills, guys like Gesicki or Olsen and guys like that that maybe aren't used that much in the running game, but in terms of matching up and just trying to cover them in the passing game, they're very tough. So, yeah, we have seen a lot of them. Like you already rattled off some that are in the future, but we'll be seeing that throughout the year it looks like. Whether that's representative of the entire league or not, I don't know. I'd have to go take a closer look at it. But, certainly in terms of what's on our schedule, there's a lot of them. There have been a lot of them and there are going to be a lot more.
Q: What have you seen from Devin Asiasi that's allowed him to carve out more playing time the last couple weeks?
BB: I think in general, this has been a challenging year for all rookies on every team, not just our team. With no preseason games, with no real, live snaps until the regular season starts, it's hard for those guys, any rookie – again, not picking out anybody in particular but just in general – it's hard for any rookie to be able to get into the flow of the game, to learn from the preseason games and the tempo and the contact part of the game that is minimized in a practice setting and so forth. That has to come with game experience, and as a coaching staff, you want to make sure that you don't put guys in in situations that they're really not ready for, and so there's certainly a little bit of a build up that comes there. So, all that being said, I think this is in general a tough year for rookies overall. I think our group has competed very well and they've really done a good job of trying to embrace the challenges and embrace the knowledge that our veterans and our coaching staff has tried to impart to them on what it's going to be like, what they need to do, how to handle certain things that come up on the field, and they've tried to do it. But, again, there's no real substitute for the experience of doing it. Devin, like the rest of the rookies that we have, it's certainly a work in progress. I don't think it's anywhere what it would have been in other years where we had three, four preseason games, maybe a couple of joint practices, things like that. But, it is what it is. All teams are the same and have the same opportunities, so it's just, in relative terms, it's tougher than what it's been. But, I think that they're trying as a group to recognize that and accept it and understand really how valuable and critical every single play is to not only the team success, but to their personal development and improvement, whether it be on the practice field or particularly in game situations, and they really have tried to compete hard in those opportunities that they've gotten.
Q: You've had three weeks now with some of the operations adjustments in the NFL with the expanded practice squad, three-week IR, practice squad protections and the temporary elevations. What have you thought of those new rules and would you like them to stick around in the future?
BB: Yeah, well, it's definitely been interesting this year and it's provided some opportunities in terms of roster management that we haven't had in the past. I think probably the league and the competition committee and all the people that are involved in that will evaluate things at the end of the year. Again, to your point, we've all seen quite a bit of roster movement in the first three weeks, and I'm sure that will continue. We'll see after 16 weeks if there's a trend, if it stays the same or if it gets modified one way or the other and how some teams are affected or impacted a little more in one way than others are, but maybe there's more of a league trend there and so forth. I know from my standpoint, I'm very focused on what our team is doing and what our opponent is doing that particular week. But teams that are past us, like Seattle and Miami and teams like that, I'm not really paying too much attention to what they're doing right now or teams that aren't on our schedule, same thing. So, from an overall standpoint, I'm probably not the right person to make an evaluation on that so I won't try to, but I'm sure at the end of the year, that will be interesting to take a look at. Certainly, it's provided a lot of options and opportunities for practice squad players to play. You see that on a weekly basis. I don't know what the average is, but it's probably got to be at least 30 or so teams that activate practice squad players, and in previous years, probably most of those guys, but by far the majority of them probably wouldn't have had a chance to play based on prior rules. Whether that's something the league does or doesn't want to continue, collectively they'll decide that, but it's certainly interesting from a comparison standpoint and from giving opportunities to more players. Thanks for the question; that's a great point.
Q: How critical has Jonathan Jones' development been in allowing you to be flexible with him in the secondary?
BB: It's been very critical. When we re-signed Jon last year, that was a big step for us. Jon does a tremendous job for us for our total football team – obviously defensively, but he started out as an impact player in the kicking game. He continues to be able to do that when we need him and he's continued to improve defensively where he kind of started as a perimeter corner, which is probably a little more of what he did at Auburn, to really becoming more of an inside player, although he's shown the ability to play inside and outside. But, his tackling, his aggressiveness, his speed really are very valuable qualities, as well as his intelligence and his versatility to play some safety roles, as well as corner-type roles, has been a huge asset to us defensively. To have a fast player inside is a big advantage. A lot of the players that play in the slot now are becoming more in the mold of – obviously Tyreek Hill's elite, but there are a lot of faster players that are now getting played in the slot. As opposed to maybe a few years back, a lot of players inside were, I'd say, more possession receivers, guys that worked more in the short-to-intermediate zones. When you get a guy like Hill in there that can take the top off of the defense from in the slot, that really changes your defense and it changes the passing game offensively dramatically. So, to be able to not have to substitute but be able to play the same guy in there, and regardless of who they put in that position, is a huge advantage for us and all the versatile things that Jon can do are very valuable. But, Jon's got good intelligence, he's a tough kid, he's really a good tackler and a tough competitor. I'm glad we have him. I mean, he's the ultimate college free agent that came in, earned a role in the kicking game, developed into a good defensive player and is having a good NFL career.