Press Conference: Coach Sparano Wednesday

Opening Statement:

Coach Sparano:"Today in practice… Vincent Brown did not practice today with a groin. Derek Carr was full today. TJ Carrie did not practice today with an ankle. Chimdi Chekwa did not practice with a hamstring. Ras-I Dowling was limited today with a hamstring. Brian Leonhardt did not practice. Khalil Mack was limited today with a hamstring. Denarius Moore did not practice today with a knee and an ankle. Menelik Watson did not practice today with a foot."

Q: Your thoughts on Marcel Reece's Pro Bowl selection?

Sparano:"My thoughts on Marcel Reece's Pro Bowl selection is that it's well-deserved. It's a great honor for our organization, for Marcel, his family. The guy works his tail off. He deserves it. Really proud of him. Really happy for him. Really happy that he's going to go represent us in the Pro Bowl."

Q: Derek was full today, so he's obviously fine?

Sparano:"Yep."

Q: What do you want to see out of him this last week?

Sparano:"Just want to see continued improvement. I want to see us go into an environment that's an away environment, competitive environment, a playoff team, and see continued improvement out of the quarterback. He's been able to do that the entire season right now so that's what I want to see."

Q: Specifically from him on the road, how do you think he's handled it?

Sparano:"I think he's handled things well on the road. He's handled situations well on the road. Not everything can get pinned on Derek and certainly Derek can't be the benefactor of everything either. When you're out there on the road… obviously we just won three games against good teams at our place. They had to come into our place. They have to answer those same questions. When you get a chance to go out there on the road, it's time for us to step up and be able to bring the swagger that we have at home on the road with us. I think he's handled those situations well. Can we handle them better as a collective team? One hundred percent, yes."

Q: Is there one quality that he brings to the table that has surprised you this year?

Sparano:"Honestly, he just has a bunch of great intangibles. There's not one thing that I could really put my finger on and say 'that's it.' You never know until you get a player in the building what his real study habits are and how he'll really handle the work week, the responsibilities that come with the work week, all those things. I guess that would probably be the best thing that came out of this. I thought obviously during the draft process, we knew that there was arm talent there, we thought he was a high-character person, we caught all of those things. You just never know how they handle a game week and all the preparation that goes into game week at our level because of the type of offenses that they came from, those types of things. He's done that well."

Q: Do you see Derek making the guys around him better?

Sparano:"There's no question. I definitely see that. Derek makes the people around him better. There's no doubt about that. I think that the team, obviously, respects what Derek has brought to the table that way. Any time you can gain the respect of the line room that he's gained the respect of the line room. Donald Penn said that, but if you ask that question to five other guys, they would answer it the same way. Any time you gain the respect of that room, at that position, that says something. Those guys have to go out there and block it up 75, 80 plays for you. I think those guys would do anything for Derek Carr. Q: Don't you think the relationship between quarterbacks and receivers is important, too?

Sparano:"I think it's as important. I guess because of my background and because I've been with the line, but I think at the end of this thing, if you don't block them up front, it doesn't matter what the receivers do. We need those guys up front to block him, and they need to trust what's behind them. He has to trust those people.

Q: You've had some success on the road, but haven't pulled out the victory. What is the key to winning a game like this in a hostile environment?

Coach Sparano:"You know, one of the things we haven't done on the road is we haven't got off to a fast start. I think we've got to get off to a fast start in somebody else's place. We can't let them get off to a fast start. We've always kind of found ourselves in a situation – not always, but in several situations we've found ourselves in a situation where we're trying to fight from behind. You're feeding their ego a little bit. I've used that phrase before, but what I mean by that is you get into one of these deals where you're trying to throw it and get back in and it's loud and you've got pass rushers. We were just talking about it this week, or last night rather, with the coaching staff. You look at the Pro Bowl group that just came out and we seem to have had those guys now for the last four or five weeks in a row. We're gaining a couple more of them this week. It's important for us to get off to a fast start on offense, on defense and in the special teams game – put a little pressure on those people in their place."

Q: Is there any concern that TJ Carrie may not be able to play this week?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, there's concern. I mean, sure. He hasn't been out here – it's the second day of practice. Luckily, players will have tomorrow off and we'll see how he recovers here for Friday. As of right now, he hasn't practiced."

Q: With Khalil Mack's hamstring, is that just a lingering thing from what happened late in the game?

Coach Sparano:"Late in the game, I think that the concern was whether or not he was cramping late in the game. You never can tell with those things and that's the way it felt to Khalil during the game at that point. That's the way we saw it at that point, but then the next day when it still was kind of hanging around, then you figure out that maybe there's a little something there. Khalil, he's a pretty tough guy and he's a competitor. We'll see what happens here. We've got to be smart, but we'll see what happens as we get closer to the game."

Q: A little bit of a different schedule due to the holiday. How would you describe the first two days of work this week?

Coach Sparano:"I think the first two days of work were great. I think the guys did a good job for what we've asked them to do. Now it's time for them to spend some time with their families and get a chance to enjoy them. As I just told the team, the families – they go through an awful lot during the course of the season, make a lot of sacrifices, too. It's a great time for them to be able to do that. We'll get back to work on Friday. Sparano:"Merry Christmas to all of you. I appreciate you, and have a happy holiday."

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