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Tomlin on stench, 'next men,' Najee

Q. You talked about it before the game against Tampa Bay, then again immediately after that win, and then you mentioned it again at your news conference on Tuesday – that one win, one good performance was not going to get the stench off the team's 1-4 start and how it was achieved. How do you get the stench off?
A. Continually put back-to-back days together, keep the trajectory of our development where it is, whether it's individuals, or collectives within the collective, or the collective itself. It's just messaging for me. We have to come to work every day. We've got to keep our head down. We've got to continually get better knowing that our peers are doing the same.

Q. Are there a number of games attached to that?
A. I really don't even think about it in that regard. I'm just trying to set a mindset. You know, I'll probably say it until it no longer becomes a topic of discussion, and that's just our general mindset.

Q. A couple of the guys who made significant contributions to last Sunday's victory were Mitch Trubisky and James Pierre, and both of them had gotten opportunities in the starting lineup in the past but weren't able to hold onto the job. What about getting a second chance like they got can bring out the best in a player?
A. Life is about opportunity and redemption. I'll never ask men to be patient in this business, because it's not a patient man's business. But I will ask them to work while they wait for their opportunity. In some instances, or in the instance that you just mentioned, it's a rebound, if you will. And I'm always excited for a guy who has an opportunity to answer the bell for himself and for us, and to prove his capabilities and be a reason why we're successful. I think that's what we're all doing here. We're all competitors. We're all living out our dreams. We've all got a desire to be a part of something that's good – the creation or the construction of victory and the roles that we play in it. It's American. It's the things that make this game of football such an important thing for us as Americans. That's why it's so entertaining. I think that's why the game has the relationship with the fans that it has, because everyone can relate to redemption opportunities and seizing opportunities and fighting back from whatever circumstances you're in.

Q. But if a guy experiences failure, does he maybe develop a "this is my last chance" attitude, an "I've got nothing to lose" attitude?
A. We better develop all of those. Whatever produces the desired result. The reality is you don't get a whole lot of chances in the National Football League, so there's some urgency to it. You're right. There's that component of "this is my last chance," if you will. But a lot of it is personality-based in terms of that person's perspective. Some people see the glass as half-empty; some people see it as half-full. The reality is that there's a fork in the road, and they better recognize it.

Q. How does a player whose current role is as a "next man up" go about taking over as a starter?
A. He works while he waits for his opportunity. Sometimes his opportunity has nothing to do with what it is that he does. It might be someone else's misfortune, such as poor performance or injury, or what have you. Sometimes things are matchup related. Somebody has a unique personnel set that requires us to approach it in a unique way that might create a role for someone, and they get elevated for schematic reasons. It really does not matter the means in which they get an opportunity. But their readiness when the opportunity presents itself is key. And that's why I always talk about working while you wait.

Q. In the game against Tampa Bay, we saw your defensive linemen shifting shortly before the snap in short-yardage situations. What effect does that have on the offense?
A. You know, we want to challenge their blocking assignments. We want to challenge their communication, however subtle, particularly when you're in a road game environment like Tampa Bay was in, during those weighty moments. Communication gets difficult, cadence gets difficult in terms of communicating and coordinating the snap count and coming off the ball in sync. And so those move calls and stemming, and things of that nature are just schematic weapons that we use to take advantage of those circumstances and cause problems for the offense.

Q. You praised Mitch Trubisky for his "aggressive pursuit of victory" after he relieved Kenny Pickett last Sunday. How did that "aggressive pursuit of victory" manifest itself?
A. Working to throw the ball beyond the sticks on third-and-11-plus, to hit Chase Claypool several times under those instances, and that's playing and playing to win. Sitting in that pocket and doing so, the prudent use of mobility in an effort to close the game out, putting that ball on his hip on the quarterback keeper there at the end of the game. He just played with an aggressive nature, and that's what we need, particularly in those moments when you come into the game in relief of someone.

Q. During your news conference on Tuesday, you were asked about Najee Harris always being one of the last to leave the locker room, and you said, "That's routine for him, win or lose. He's always last out. He's always reflecting and thinking about what transpired and trying to learn and grow from the experiences that transpired. He's a young guy, but he's still called to be a leader. He understands the gravity of where he is and the responsibilities that come with being him, and he's just always trying to get better. That's just a component of his 'get better.'" Can that become paralyzing in a way that inhibits him from playing fast?
A. Sure if you're scared of the pursuit of greatness and living life. We're not. We're competitors. We're pressing it and pressing it always. And so, we just don't have that mindset. I understand the nature of your question, but that's a loser's mindset in our eyes. And in our eyes, that guy understands the road that he's traveling is a lonely one and there are obstacles along the way. He's not running from it. He's running to it, and there are some things to balance and that's just what it is.

Q. Is Najee unique in that way?
A. No, not really. Similar things are going on with guys like Minkah, but he's just further along in development. T.J. Watt is further along in development, and they have the comforts of a crusty gray beard like Cam Heyward on their side of the ball to assist them in that, if you will. We've got identified leaders, we've got emerging leaders, we've got developing leaders. The bottom line is, if you have a collective you better be intentional about the development of leadership continually. I think about how much time I've spent over the last decade-plus developing leadership in Cam Hayward because I knew he had leadership qualities as a young guy, much like I'm doing now with Najee. I see the benefits of those efforts now in old No. 97, but I remember similar discussions and thought processes 10 years ago with a young No. 97 that I'm having right now with No. 22. And that's just the beauty of being in the role that I'm in for as long as I've been in it.

Q. When it comes to injuries, you always abide by the NFL rules regarding reporting those and filing the required practice reports. But anything outside of what is required by the NFL, you choose not to discuss or to answer questions about. What's your thinking there?
A. The competitive advantage component of it. I respect the rules that govern our league and really provide the guidelines for competitive fairness, which is something that we all value. But you don't get extra credit for going above and beyond. So, I'm respectful. I have my hand in the pile in that regard. But I'm not going to go above and beyond for competitive purposes, and I'm just going to turn over every stone appropriately in pursuit of victory.

Q. Does that approach also maybe discourage players from seeking to use an injury as an excuse?
A. Well, you know, we resist the excuse business anyway, but potentially there are so many different prongs in that fight in terms of the culture that we work to build here to minimize that, but yes, that's one of many.

Q. When you were the defensive backs coach in Tampa, you got plenty of experience dealing with speed receivers because of games against Randy Moss. How does a secondary deal with difference-making speed?
A. They play things top-down, and really, you respect a resume. And what I mean by that is these guys like No. 10 (Tyreek Hill) and Randy Moss as you mentioned, they have certain resumes and reputations, and those reputations and resumes are well earned. We don't need to add to it. And so, respecting it is just going into the stadium with the knowledge and understanding of who and what they are, respecting it from a schematic standpoint in terms of minimizing our exposure to it, respecting it from an individual standpoint in terms of not being stupid, just in general. And we always start with that broad principle, and then get into details relative to game planning and situations from there. But the quickest way to get beat is to have No. 10 take the top off of you. Just ask the Baltimore Ravens. They were in control of that game a number of weeks back when on play No. 62 and play No. 65 (Hill) took the top off of them on a third-and-6 and a third-and-12, put 14 points on the board and changed the whole climate of that game. And that's what guys like him, guys like Randy, guys like Mike Wallace when we had him here are capable of doing. We used to think of unique ways to hide Mike Wallace. We were backed up in Arizona a number of years ago, we sent him across in motion, showed them a running play structure, and we threw a 95-yard-play-action to Mike Wallace. When you've got a guy like that, you're always trying to feed that beast. And if you're a defender or a defensive unit going against an animal like that, you better continually respect it in all circumstances.

Q. You mentioned "don't be stupid." How is a defensive back stupid and allow something like that?
A. It happens every day of the week. It's life in this game. I'm not trying to underscore it, and I use "stupid," but it's not stupid. Maybe careless. It's the game of football. We knew that Gabe Davis was a deep threat when we went to Buffalo, yet still he got behind us twice. I'm sure Baltimore didn't just discover that No. 10 was a deep threat when they played Miami a couple of weeks ago. I'm sure they went into the stadium, and prior to that, all week I'm sure they had somebody in that jersey number running deep down the field in practice. Yet it still happens. And we're not talking about little league football. We're talking about professional football. Offenses do a great job of dressing it up, situations and so forth. There's complexity to what we do. Our job as professionals is to make it look simple and to make it look easy. That's the entertaining component of what we do. But it is complex. It is difficult. It is football at its highest level.

Q. Besides No. 10 (Tyreek Hill), Miami has another guy on the other side, too, by the name of Jaylen Waddle. How does that increase the degree of difficulty in doing the stuff you just talked about?
A. It is life in the National Football League. Week in and week out, you're playing unique animals, aliens visiting from another planet. It's just the challenging component of what we do that we as competitors, we love. We want to see top-notch people and pit our collective skills vs. theirs. Whether it's Von Miller, whether it's a deep ball receiving threat like Tyreek Hill or Jaylen Waddle. Week in and week out, we're in a competitor's league, and we love it.

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