Bucs’ Bruce Arians on the Falcons: ‘They’ve grown so much’

U.S. President Joe Biden holds up a Buccaneers jersey while standing next to head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Tom Brady as he welcomes the 2021 NFL Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on July 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)
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U.S. President Joe Biden holds up a Buccaneers jersey while standing next to head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Tom Brady as he welcomes the 2021 NFL Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on July 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Here’s what Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians had to say to the Tampa media on Friday, a day after wide receiver Antonio Brown, safety Mike Edwards and tight end John Hope Franklin III were suspended by the NFL for misrepresenting their vaccination status

Opening statement: “Obviously, we have two guys suspended. The league did their due diligence, and we’ll move on. I will not address those guys for the next three weeks. They’ll just be working out. And then we’ll address their future at that time. Other than that, there is really nothing to say. Out for this game will be Jaelon Darden and Jordan Whitehead. Everybody else will be a game time decision, and it’s a big, big game for us – a division game on the road. And I know everybody wants the other story but we’re playing the Falcons. I don’t give a sh-t about that.”

(On clarifying that there have not been decisions made yet on the futures of WR Antonio Brown and S Mike Edwards following their suspensions from the NFL)

“Nothing has been decided.”

(On punter Bradley Pinion helping to stop the Colts long kickoff return on Sunday by keeping Isaiah Rodgers from cutting back)

“That was big, just to pin him on the sideline and have a chance to get him down. It was a good job by Bradley.”

(On how significant of a calf injury Jordan Whitehead suffered on Thursday)

“Very, very. We’ll see. His MRI can’t happen until the swelling goes down. He’ll probably get it sometime tomorrow and then we’ll know more.”

(On if Whitehead’s injury was a fluky thing in practice)

“Yep.”

(On if DB Ross Cockrell would be part of the solution to the thinned safety position)

“Yeah, he’s been there for a good while now. He plays some nickel, but he’s been training at safety for six or eight weeks. We have another plan or two and we’ll get through it, no problem.”

(On if the team that won the first of two games with a division opponent has an advantage in the second one)

“No, especially ones that were in September. A couple fluky plays there at the end really – that was a 28-25 game in the fourth quarter [before] a couple fluky plays that we make to spread it out a little bit. They’ve grown so much since then. Hopefully we have, too.”

(On what he hopes to see from G Nick Leverett on Sunday)

“I hope he sits on the bench the whole game and has some ice cream afterward. He’s not planning on starting. He did a hell of a job last week and I’m sure he’ll be ready if his name is called.”

(On what he sees in Atlanta QB Matt Ryan)

“I see quality, man. He looks younger than he has in four or five years. He’s running more, he’s doing some things. He’s still got a great arm and he’s extremely smart. I’ve been impressed with Matt for a long, long time.”

(On how he feels about the status of cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis)

“I feel good about Sean and Carlton. Jamel, we’ll see. I think he’ll be [available]. He has practiced all week and hasn’t had a setback yet. I feel good about getting the corners back. Now we’re a little short at safety but we’ll get through it.”

(On if he will try to limit the snaps of older players in December)

“Game snaps? No, more practice snaps. Now if we get a lead, that’s different. Like we’ve gotten Tom [Brady] and some guys out in the fourth quarter so far. But, no, we try to limit it all out here so that they can go full speed on Sundays.”

(On balancing playing veterans in December and keeping them fresh for January)

“January won’t happen if we don’t take care of business now. You can’t worry about January now. You’ve got to get to January. Like last year – we go to Green Bay, we don’t have Antonio [Brown], we don’t have Antoine [Winfield]. Guys stepped in and stepped up. You can’t worry about that. You’ve got to win now to make sure you’re in January.”

(On the focus of the team after the news on Thursday)

“Totally on Falcons. Ahead of us. Two guys – basically as we look at it – they’re hurt. And I will say this, the last two years I don’t know if there has been a team better against COVID than we have been. This is a setback because of what happened, but we have done an amazing job. We’ve never had an outbreak in a position room. So, I’m very happy with that part.”

(On if the team’s strong adherence to COVID protocols makes the two suspensions more frustrating)

“Yeah, it pisses me off. It is what it is.”

(On the league punishing the players but not the team, which was very cooperative)

“We’ve done everything, everything. There’s a lot more to that story. I just hope they don’t stop looking.”

(On if he thinks there are other similar issues around the league)

“Maybe.”

(On how the team remains focused on Atlanta)

“It starts with the coaching staff and the veterans. We have great veteran leadership and we talked a lot about it at the end of this practice, guys taking care of their room. Especially the young players – they’re starting to hit the wall a little bit and we’ve got hopefully 10 more games, nine or 10. We can’t get mentally fatigued right now.”

(On how happy he is the team has OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka with OLB Jason Pierre-Paul fighting through injuries)

“You can’t say enough about his toughness. And obviously Joe was a great pick – still can’t believe he was there. It’s nice to have.”

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Falcons’ 2021 schedule features trip to London, January trip to Buffalo

Atlanta Falcons schedule and scores

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons 30, Dolphins 28

Panthers 19, Falcons 13

Falcons 27, Saints 25

Cowboys 43, Falcons 3

Patriots 25, Falcons 0

Falcons 21, Jaguars 14

Next four games

Tampa Bay at Falcons, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 5

Falcons at Carolina, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12

Falcons at San Francisco, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 19

Detroit Lions at Falcons, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 26

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