Labriola On

Tomlin on Edmunds, ties, Mason, Bosa vs. T.J.

Q. When you were asked about Mason Rudolph's performance in the game against Detroit, you said something to the effect that "He gave us an opportunity to win." When it comes to quarterback play, what goes into giving the team an opportunity to win?
A. Putting us in position to make the plays particularly at the significant moments. We were moving the ball fluidly in overtime as we needed to. We didn't do a good job maintaining possession of the ball – ball security was an issue – but he did the things you expect a quarterback to do, base level in circumstances like that. Put your team in position to win, to administer the offense, to do a great job of communicating formally and informally with players and coaches. Some of the big game plan things that he was able to execute: Cadence was a weapon for us, and we got some free plays in those circumstances. We were thoughtfully using cadence as a weapon. He did a great job of articulating that. Just largely when I look at it, that's just my gut response, particularly when you're infusing a guy into a game plan like we were with him last week. Ben took all the reps last week in preparation for the game. I called Mason on Saturday evening and informed him that he was starting and from that perspective, he gave us a chance to win.

Q. Diontae Johnson lost a fumble at the Lions 45-yard line early in overtime, and then Pat Freiermuth lost a fumble at the Lions 38-yard line late in overtime. Chris Boswell already had made a 51-yard field goal that day. Would you have been comfortable with him attempting field goals from those respective lines of scrimmage?
A. I'm comfortable with Boz in a lot of circumstances, and those being two that I'm extremely comfortable with him in.

Q. A couple/three years ago, the Competition Committee presented a proposal to shorten the amount of time in a regular season overtime period from 15 minutes to 10 minutes, and the reason behind the change was player safety. Other professional sports, such as Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, have gone to things like starting extra innings with a runner at second base in baseball, and a shootout after a short overtime period in hockey. In your experience on the Committee, is there any interest by the NFL to actually changing the game to avoid ties?
A. No.

Q. So you're not interested in turning things into a skills competition, like hockey does, in the interest of avoiding ties?
A. None of those options were seriously discussed. It's about providing a sufficient amount of time to declare a winner. It is our desire to walk out of a stadium with a winner and a loser, but at the same time player safety and particularly with weeks and games waiting on the other side of it, some of which are short weeks. You're in the overtime game on a Monday night, you're facing a short week. You've got a Thursday game the following week, you're on a short week. And so those are the player safety related elements of the discussion, which really was what was up for debate, not the formal function of the game. Ties always are fodder for discussion when they happen, but let's be honest, in the big scheme of things, ties are very infrequent. In our game, most of the time, 60 minutes is sufficient, a sufficient amount of time to determine a winner, and if it goes beyond that, it's usually done in in 10 minutes or less.

Q. Are you learning anything about Mason Rudolph during these last couple of weeks, with him getting thrown into the starting lineup the night before a game one week, and then having to prepare as the starter this week without knowing if he'll even take a snap once the game actually rolls around?
A. Not really. Mason has been on this job for a sufficient amount of time now. I think last week's start was his 10th, and so he understands the instability of his role. He understands how he needs to be prepared while being light on his feet at the same time. He displays that in his demeanor. Day-to-day he does a good job of managing that and presenting the things that you expect a quarterback to present in a practice setting regardless of circumstance, whether or not we're going to call on him. I just think that he's comfortable there. I'm not saying that he doesn't have aspirations to play every day and be that type of guy. But he understands his role within this group. It's been a role that he has had for several years now, and he's gotten experienced at it.

Q. This will be your first game without Minkah Fitzpatrick since he was acquired in the trade with Miami in September 2019. Even though Terrell Edmunds plays a different position, is this an opportunity for him?
A. It is an opportunity for him because whoever's replacing Minkah is going to have his hands full just executing football and being where it is they're supposed to be. It's going to be an added responsibility for T.E. to do a great job as a safety communicator, and that position, by virtue of its location, is kind of a hub of communication particularly in situational moments, third down and so forth. Minkah really embraces that. That's a component of what it is that he does and one of the things that makes him unique and who he is. Minkah is always talking about situations and giving tips to guys as we align and kind of being a traffic cop. And so those contributions have to come from somewhere, and it's realistic and appropriate to expect them to come from a guy who has been playing and doesn't have to deal with the elevated number of reps and things that some of the other guys, like Trey Norwood and others have to deal with. And Terrell has done a really good job this week of embracing that and being that hub of communication on the practice field during the preparation process. Now let's see if he can take it into a stadium.

Q. So is that something you mention to Edmunds, maybe in a meeting early in the week? Something like, "Minkah's not playing because he's in the COVID protocol, and so you need to be the guy to do this?"
A. We have small group meetings all week, with selected defenders specifically, when you're talking about defense, where we read between the lines with them, we tell them the why. This is why we're doing this. These are some of the critical issues. And those guys take the message to the masses. And so there are pre-meeting meetings, if you will, on every Wednesday, where that core group has a pre-meeting meeting before the defense has a meeting. When special teams is meeting, because these core guys often maintain significant roles on defense, they're not involved in special teams or they have secondary roles on special teams, they're meeting. And that group usually comprises the starting inside linebackers, the starting safety tandem, select corner defenders, like Joe Haden who's been in the league and who was a supplementary special teams guy, and we expect those guys to be out in front of issues and do a really good job of communicating in practice during the course of the week, getting guys ready for anticipated things, being a step ahead of the posse. And really, we expect them to carry that over into stadiums. And so that's what I mean when I say that although it'll be a new role for Terrell, he has been positioned to do this. He's been in those small group meetings, along with Minkah. He's watched how Minkah builds his preparation process to deliver critical information to the defense during the course of the workday, and how it kind of manifests itself in terms of showing up in a stadium.

Q. The Steelers haven't played the Chargers since they drafted Justin Herbert. Can you compare him to someone Steelers fans might be more familiar with?
A. He's Josh Allen without as many designed runs. He statuesque. He's a big guy. He can make all the throws. His stature allows him to see throws. He's got arm strength. He's got arm accuracy. He's fluidly mobile, like Josh is. Buffalo just probably has more designed run concepts for Josh Allen than the Chargers do for Justin Herbert, although his mobility is still a factor. There's less designed quarterback runs in the system of offense that they're in.

Q. In the past you've talked about how football is a family game, in that there is something to the concept of having football in your DNA. The Edmunds Family, the Watt Family, and this week it's the Bosa Family. John Bosa, the father, has a son, Nick, who plays for the 49ers, and another son, Joey, is on the Chargers roster. How are Joey Bosa and T.J. Watt either similar or different as players?
A. They're similar in the fact that they dominate games in a very similar way. They're edge guys who primarily play on the defense's left, so they get to play against offensive right tackles. And you know when you think about the historical flame-thrower matchup, it's always the pass rusher vs. the left tackle. You think about Lawrence Taylor vs. the other team's left tackle. There is a unique thing going on in today's game, where some of the most significant edge rushers predominantly play on the left side of the defense and go against right tackles. T.J. Watt, Bosa, Von Miller all fall into that category. That's something that they similarly share, which is somewhat unique. A difference is that T.J. by nature is an outside linebacker. He plays the game on two feet. He sees the game from a perspective of a guy who plays on two feet. Bosa is a defensive end, and he sees the game from an end's perspective. And although he plays on two feet, he plays a style of ball that a defensive end plays, and T.J. plays a style of ball that an outside linebacker plays. They dominate the game in similar ways, but I think there's a distinction there in terms of the mode in which they do it.

Q. Your injury report this week had some interesting names on it and therefore attracted a lot of attention. How much attention do you pay to the upcoming opponent's injury report?
A. I do, but I don't. You know, I think we always go in with the mind-set that we're prepared to deal with our opponent's best. We acknowledge some information that's out there. We acknowledge the elephant in the room, but we're putting ourselves in position to win and often times, that means making decisions that prepare you for worst case scenarios. Bosa has missed some time this week due to being on a COVID list, but we're negligent if we're not preparing our group to deal with the ramifications of his presence in the stadium, for instance.

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