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Ron Rivera press conference | May 31, 2023

On what differences he has seen in QB Sam Howell from the end of the season to now:*"He's still confident. Got a lot of confidence, but the difference I'm seeing really is from when he first got started when we began OTAs to where he is now. The way he handles things, his command in terms of the things that he's doing. One of the things that we're doing, it's something we had done way back when I was in Chicago, but we mic Sam up, so we can listen to him. The way he's handling the huddle calls, how he's handling things at the line of scrimmage, it's given us a lot of insight into that. We're gonna do with all our quarterbacks, but we started with Sam last week. It's real interesting to watch the way you can see him stepping into the huddle. He's taking charge, taking command and it's one of the things that when you listen to Eric [Bieniemy] and you guys will hear him, when something happens, he'll tell the quarterback, Hey, you gotta take charge. You're starting to see that and with all of them, but you are seeing it now. I do notice it with Sam."

On if Howell has progressed by going over watching him mic'd at practice:

"We've only done it a couple of times, but you see the growth already and for me, it was pretty good. I was watching it this morning. A couple things that really stood out to me was really his confident level in terms of calling the huddle, breaking the huddle, getting to the line of scrimmage, making his calls, and then operating the offense."

On what he has seen out of QB Jacoby Brissett:

"One thing you notice really is just his ball placement. I mean, he always seems to put the ball in a good position for the receiver. You know, he understands leverages, so he's throwing away from where the defenders are. You also see him again working with the younger guys. Talking to them, not just the quarterbacks, but the positional guys. Talking to the young receivers about how to run around, how to turn and come back to the ball, stuff like that. I mean, that's something that a veteran guy does and like I said, he's doing a really nice job. I love the way he handles it."

On if the team can sign guys with the current ownership situation:

"We'll have to work through some things before we can do any of that stuff. We're in a good position right now. I don't think we really need to make those type of moves. If something does come up, I'll probably reach out to the current owner and see what we're capable of doing still. So far everything has been going well. We haven't gotten to that point, so we're just gonna continue to work as if it's business as usual."

On what he is seeing from Howell in terms of leadership:

"You saw it in the Dallas game. Coming to the sideline, communicating with the guys around him and you see the same thing now even though it's practice, communicating with the guys around him. You see the extra things that he's supposed to do in terms of setting the example. All the quarterbacks do that. They do the little things, the little details. They do 'em really well. You see him taking responsibility for something that happens out there. So, if something goes awry, he steps up right away and tries to get it corrected and if it's his fault, he'll let everybody know. You see him go over and talk to guys, so there's a communication element that's important that they're all on the same page."

On where Howell's leadership comes from:

"I think certain guys have it and other guys have to learn to have it. It's a little bit innate for him. I mean, he's grown up in the position from way back when to when he played football as a youth and where he is now today."

On Juan Castillo working with the offensive line and what the vision is for the group:

"What's really cool about it is, Juan's kind of over the top of a few positions. Again, we haven't been able to do all this stuff formally, but what he does is he does a lot of the run game work and does a lot of the pass protection work and he bounces from one position to the other. He's gonna work with the offensive line. He'll have some input with the tight ends. He'll do some of the installation stuff as far as protections and some of the run game stuff. He's very thorough. I will tell you that. I've sat in a couple of meetings, listened to his presentations, and he's very, very thorough. I think the guys are getting a lot out of it. What it does is you have a veteran guy that's coached a couple of positions in this league, and he's working with two of our younger coaches, guys that have gotten opportunities. Again, once we get an opportunity to take care of all the stuff, the restructuring of the offensive coaching staff, you guys will get to know what everybody's doing."

On what is needed from the offensive line for them to be better this season:

"I think more so than anything else is staying healthy as far as that group was concerned. If you look at the injuries that we've dealt with in the last two years, probably one of the positions we struggle at is center because of the injuries that we had. It's one of those things that if we can keep guys healthy and stay healthy and continue to add depth, it bodes very well for us going forward more so anything else. But I will say, having a veteran guy over the top of a couple of younger coaches will help develop them even more so as well."

On where he puts his time and energy since he has delegated some things to other coaches:

"The big part of what I'm doing, more so than anything else, is I'm just kind of observing the different groups out there now. Talking with the younger coaches. Talking with some of the younger players and seeing how they're developing and growing. Like you are saying, I feel more like a manager at times than I do anything else. It's about making sure that I'm delegating the authority to these guys and letting 'em do their responsibilities. With a veteran coach like Jack [Del Rio], I've been able to rely on him and his staff to go forward. Spend a little more time bouncing in between the different groups."

On the expectations of Howell:

"Well, I think more so anything else is he is what he is, and I think he's a very consistent quarterback. He's a good decision maker and I think he throws a good ball. I think it's really just about understanding what is expected and that'll be stuff that we will talk to Sam about it. More so anything else, you look at a guy and you say, what do you need from that position? Well, from my perspective, you need a position where a guy, first and foremost can manage a game and understand how the temp of the game is going and recognize when he has to make a play to help us win a football game or when he can take control of a game and slow the tempo down or speed the tempo. I mean, those are things that you hope quarterbacks get and I think he does have that. I really do. I think he understands that. I think the big part for him more so than anything else is just going to continue to be getting reps and reps and reps. As much work as we can get him and Jacoby [Brissett] in this system, I think the better off we will be as an offensive unit."

On if Castillo working with the offensive line will have a big impact:

"Well, I think more so than anything else is we got a group of young guys that as they develop and come through, I think they're gonna be very good. I really do. I think we've got some guys that are gonna come into their own. I think Sam Cosmi is a young man that's got an opportunity to really grow and show us what he's worth. I think Saahdiq Charles has that ability as well, as is Chris Paul. I mean, those are three young guys that we are counting on to take another step and I think they can. I'm very confident in what I've seen so far. The truth of the matter though is we're not in pads, so right now we're just seeing skill sets more than we are in terms of the physical ability of the position."

On how stable he feels his quarterback room is:
"Well, I feel it's pretty stable. I mean, we like the guys that we have. We got four guys, young guys, three of 'em are really young. And then you've got a guy like [QB] Jacoby [Brissett] who's a veteran who has had some success, who can help us with the development of all those guys. We'll see. But, it's one of those things -- this is a quarterback driven league, and that is what the difference is, is that teams that are having consistent success right now are guys that have consistent quarterbacks. And that's what we've been trying to do. We've been trying to find that quarterback situation, the guy that can step in and really take charge and hopefully be around for 7, 8, 9 years. I was very fortunate in my previous stop that we had a guy healthy and playing well for seven seasons. It shows and if you can get a guy that can stay healthy and be productive, and understand what the role is and what the expectations are to the earlier question, I think you can be successful. You really can. And so yeah, I'm putting a lot on that position here right now, but I really feel confident and comfortable in the guys we have."

On when he will be able to make a determination that Howell can be the guy:
"Well, as we get into training camp. What I'm really looking forward to is playing the games. But, I'm looking forward to the Baltimore week because there's gonna be a lot of work done that week for us. Obviously going up there and being able to practice against [Baltimore Ravens Head] Coach [John] Harbaugh and his team, I think it'd be a really good thing. Because there's a team that's been a stalworth of consistency. Again, it's been built around their quarterback. He's done a great job for them. They got him re-signed and re-upped and ready to roll and they're gonna change some things up there as well. But it's gonna be a good example for us to look at as a football team. So, I'm excited about that week."

On if he has been able to gain any insight from the trio of CBs Benjamin St.-Juste, Emmanuel Forbes Jr. and Kendall Fuller:
"It's been interesting to watch it because for the most part, we've moved those three guys around. We've played [CB] Benjamin [St.-Juste] inside, we've played [CB Emmanuel] Forbes [Jr.] inside. The one guy we haven't put inside has been [CB] Kendall [Fuller]. We really think that Kendall's a guy that plays with great vision and again, you saw what he's capable of last year with the way he played, especially with some of the things that [defensive coordinator] Jack [Del Rio] and the staff did adding a match zone type coverage that we used, and they've adapted to it very well. They're gonna be into the second full year with it, which will be even better for us. So, it's gonna be interesting to watch those three guys as they continue to grow together. It's been a lot of fun, and you do see those guys all making plays right now."

On how the ownership situation effects S Kam Curl's contract situation and on if he's addressed that with Curl:
"Well, I haven't talked to anybody about that as far as the players are concerned as much as it's been put out there that everything's kind of in a holding pattern until we get everything done and put into place. I do know that there is a plan. We've had a plan. We went through what the plan was in February, March, April. We've adjusted it because we got [DT] Daron [Payne] taken care of. And so now, we have a plan to focus on the next few guys that we feel we've gotta be able to go after. But once the ownership change happens, we'll be able to sit down with the powers that be and explain to them what we see and hopefully they'll agree with it, and we'll be able to go forward."

On what he thinks about being more of a manger as a coach right now:
"It's frustrating because some of the things I have to manage and work around, I kind of step back and have to deal with things that aren't necessarily football related. It does takeaway from the time and that's kind of one of the things that I'm looking forward to is getting into a situation now where it is more focusing on managing what's going on with the team specifically -- meetings, practice, on the field, in the facility and hopefully be able to stay just there."

On if this is the most he has delegated in his career and on the adjustments he has had to make in doing so:
"Well, just getting used to looking at personnel reports. [Laugh] That's one of the things that is a little bit more different."

On why he felt it was important for him to make this change at this point in his career:
"Making the change more so than anything else, just trying to get back to just football. I think that's one of the things that's gonna come out of this for me personally. And I think getting back to what I really do more so than anything else, and that is just strictly around the team, the players, the coaches. That's more what I'm looking forward to."

On what he has seen out of quarterback coach Tavita Pritchard and on how he has observed Pritchard working with Howell:
"It's been interesting watching Tavita and not just working with Sam but working with all the quarterbacks. What's been really interesting is when I first got the list, [assistant head coach/offensive coordinator] Eric [Bieniemy's] list of guys, I knew who Tavita was. I didn't [personally] know him, so I called around and talked to some people and what was amazing is he's always been at Stanford, which I struggle with, but I'm okay. [Laughs]. But I talked to people about him and like Coach [David] Shaw was tremendous about him. And then some of the other people I talked to were like, 'Oh yeah, Tavita is great.' I'm thinking, how do you guys know him? I said, well he's only been at Stanford. Yeah, but you know, you go in, you sit down, you talk with him, you listen to him, you watch tape with him and you listen to him there because that's how Eric got to know him was when he was in the college ranks and he was recruiting and all that stuff. And then he got into the NFL and then he started going to Stanford, he'd sit down and he'd talk with people and that was the thing that was also impressive about Eric, Eric had an extensive list of guys that he knew, people that he had on his list of names and they're all good names. But just kind of doing a little background on Tavita, he was impressive. Then watching him and listening to him, and every now and then I do sit in on their staff meetings and listening to the way Eric handles it, but the way he talks at Tavita, the way he talks to the other coaches and their responses. You see exactly what Eric saw in him. You know, [wide receivers coach] Bobby Engram has been tremendous. He really has. He got an opportunity last year as a coordinator. Unfortunately, things went a little different in Wisconsin and once they got it going, you could see the development and growth. So now watching Bobby with the receivers and listening to him and Eric and some of the other coaches talk, you see that there's some young guys that have really got some good insight as far as football's concerned."

On if he plans to play Fuller on the outside:
"We'll see. I do know one thing and talking to Jack [Del Rio] when we talked about Emmanuel [Forbes Jr.] and that was one of the toughest positions to play on defense is the slot, is the nickel. And putting him inside, it kind of puts his progression of learning a little, kind of speeds it up a little bit because you gotta be aware of what's happening around you on both sides as opposed to just being outside where you're only really worried about the inside guys. And so Jack wanted to do that and I thought it was a great idea. So, they're doing it, throwing him inside on occasion. You know, we have a plethora of guys because [DB] [Jartavius] Quan [Martin] plays that. He's a guy that can play not just the safety position, but come down and play the nickel and he can play the corner. And so we've thrown Quan inside and we've thrown him outside a little bit just to see him and watch him and he's handled that very well. So, we've got some options there. But knowing that, and the one thing that we want to try to do is be able to always have Kendall in a certain situation as far as matchup is concerned or on the outside."

On how Forbes Jr. has looked on the inside:
"He's looked pretty good. He really has. He's very quick. That's one of the things that he is, he's really quick. When you get those little water bug routes where the guys are trying to run options off you inside or out, he seems to handle those very well."

On how RBs Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson have looked:
"I think those guys have looked really well. I really do. I think one of the things that's been really good is with Antonio you see AG get the opportunity to go out and catch the ball a little bit more. You see his athleticism because again, that's what he came in as a receiver out of Memphis. And he's really shown that, that his pass catching ability is there. And then once he's got the ball in his hands, especially in space, he's a load. Matching him up one-on-one with a corner or a nickel out there could be pretty good as far as being able to take the hit, bounce off and just keep running. BRob has done a really nice job. You can see his explosiveness. One of the comments in talking with [Executive Vice President of Football/Player Personnel] Marty [Hurney] and some of the scouts as we've been watching practice is you listen to them talk about BRob and the explosiveness seems to be there immediately. Where last year, after the situation he had, he kind of worked his way back. He looks really good right now. He really does."

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