What We Learned in Wednesday's Media Availability

Transcripts from Wednesday's press conferences

HEAD ATHLETIC TRAINER RICK BURKHOLDER

OPENING STATEMENT: "So it's not even an update, it's a new injury that we have that we didn't know about right away. Tamba Hali broke his right thumb during the ball game in Baltimore. Came in after the game with a little bit of swelling. We x-rayed him back here at Arrowhead on Monday. He had a fracture that was displaced, so yesterday he underwent surgery with Dr. Bruce Toby at Kansas University Medical Center. He's doing fine. He has three little screws in his thumb. He's in a pretty nice splint. The first question you guys probably have is, will he play? We don't know that right now. We're just starting with him this morning, rehab-wise and he's going day to day. That's what happened to him. He doesn't know when he broke it, we don't know when he broke his thumb, but we've got him fixed up and headed in the right direction. Thank you."

HEAD COACH ANDY REID

OPENING STATEMENT:"Alright, just to add to the injuries, the guys who won't practice today are obviously Tamba (Hali), (Husain) Abdullah and Justin Houston. Abdullah and Houston are making progress, they're rehabbing. Everybody else will practice today. Just to reiterate what Rick (Burkholder) said about Tamba, we'll just see day to day here how it goes. Because he had surgery doesn't mean he's just out. That's not what that means. These hand specialists have done great things over the years here, being able to put things back together where the players can do their thing and still participate. Look forward to the challenge of playing the Browns. It's a well-coached football team. They really haven't had a lot of injuries on either side of the ball, so you're going to get a fresh, pretty explosive football team that comes in here with good schemes. We've got to make sure we prepare ourselves right this week and get ourselves right. Also, just a congratulations to guys who are members of this year's Pro Bowl team from our group here."

Q: Is Frank Zombo the next guy up here?

REID: "Yeah, Zombo would be."

Q: Do you expect De'Anthony Thomas to return this week?

REID: "Yeah, De'Anthony will practice today."

Q: What are your thoughts on Johnny Manziel on the field?

REID: "I've had a chance to look at the games he's played in, and I'll tell you the same thing I told you when he was in college. He's an explosive player, makes a lot of things happen. He's great at extending plays. From a defensive standpoint, you've got to make sure you play the whole play, and then a little. He moves around well. He's got a very strong arm."

Q: Do you feel like your defense excels when plays get extended a little bit longer?

REID: "Yeah, I think they do okay with that. I mean, I don't have a stat for you on it, but I think they do a nice job with it. They'll prepare themselves for that this week."

Q: What does it show you that Eric Berry came back from his illness at such a high level, and was selected for the Pro Bowl?

REID: "It's a great tribute to Eric and his family. The doctor that took care of him did a heck of a job. Eric being so strong mentally and gaining that physically as it's gone on here. He's a tough kid. Great tribute to him, great story."

Q: Looking back, would you have imagined Eric would be playing at this level now?

REID: "Yeah, the reason you imagine it is because he was telling you he's going to. He was so driven that way that you kind of had a feeling that he was going to get there, as crazy as that sounds. When you look back on it, and now that it's real, what a great story. True toughness and grit to be able to do that. You think about it, when he first started, he had no hair. The medicine that he had taken had disrupted his whole body. He was able to come back and I kind of joked about it, but was serious, the more his hair grew back, the stronger his body became as he went. Here he is today as a Pro Bowl player."

Q: Were you hoping Derrick Johnson would have been on that Pro Bowl roster?

REID: "Yeah, Derrick is one of the alternates, so that's a positive thing. But, what's unique about these guys, I had a chance to talk to them all and they really didn't get caught up in that. They just kind of go, 'hey, listen, we've got other things we're doing.' Pretty humble approach to it."

Q: Is that different than previous teams or is that unique to this team?

REID: "I think it kind of tells you what this team is. I thought, to them, man, they're going, 'okay, thanks, we've got to get ready for Cleveland,' type deal, so it was pretty interesting."

Q: Earlier this year, you said you've never had a one and five start, have you ever won eight in a row?

REID: "I think we won nine the first year. But, before coming here? I don't know that."

Q: How have you been able to keep these guys on track with everything going on around them?

REID: "Listen, it's a tribute to the players and the coaches for what they're doing. They understand we're not done here. I say we just broke .500, but we've still got to take care of business here. Really, nothing has been accomplished at this point until we get ourselves ready for Cleveland. That's the approach that everybody has taken. It's important. I'll tell you, my hat's off to John Dorsey and the job that he's done of bringing players here to allow us to work through some of the things that have happened and still coach good players. He's been a big part of that."

Q: What will determine if Tamba plays this Sunday?

REID: "I think we just see. It's too new, it's too fresh right now. He just had the surgery here yesterday. He's just kind of coming through that part of it. We'll see how it goes. Right now, if you asked him, he'd want to be out there playing, but let's just see what happens. Let's just take it day by day. Probably all of the above of what you said. I don't know exactly what to expect on it, but we'll see how it works out for him."

QB ALEX SMITH

Q:How does this team avoid falling into a trap of playing to the level of an opponent with a losing record?

SMITH: "It has to be through your fundamentals and who you are and how you go about things. Really, I think it's kind of just a mindset week-in and week-out. This is the NFL, I don't care who you're playing, you have to understand the margin of error. And I think, for us, it's understanding why we're here, how we got here, the difference between winning and losing and how small it is. A lot of it is the week of preparation and the mindset and intensity, the attention to detail, those things. And I think this season has taught us that a little bit. But a little bit of the proof is in the pudding, you have to go out and do it."

Q:What's your opinion of Johnny Manziel?

SMITH: "I don't have an opinion, to be honest."

Q:He's one of those guys who extends plays.

SMITH: "Yeah, for sure. I think anytime you're playing a guy with that kind of elusiveness and legs, yeah, you always have the potential for him to extend plays, make things happen – crazy plays happen – with guys like that. There is always that potential there. But like I said, I'm not playing him, I've obviously got my hands full getting ready for the defense."

Q:How proud are you of Travis Kelce making his first Pro Bowl?

SMITH: "Happy for him, he's worked really hard, worked really hard. He's in here every off day catching balls, watching film, staying healthy, doing all the little things that it takes to have the year that he's had. I'm happy for him."

Q:What's it like for the offense on the sideline to see the defense produce and score points from a point-production standpoint?

SMITH: "It's been fun to watch, especially here these last few weeks and all the turnovers they've been getting. And then being able to convert them into touchdowns. Those are huge plays in the game, huge plays in football games, especially this time of year, huge difference makers. Yeah, you love seeing that stuff. From the sideline, it's awesome."

Q:When the defense is scoring, do your priorities change as an offense?

SMITH: "I think it's always kind of changing, depending on the situation, where we're at in the game, the score, all that stuff. You read into all that. Obviously as an offense, you're always trying to go out there and execute every play and score points, period. But as you get into the second half of games, fourth quarter of games, yeah, scenarios change, situations change and all of that kind of comes into play, absolutely."

Q:What kind of advantage does it bring to come back and play at Arrowhead?

SMITH: "Yeah, it's awesome. This time of year, Arrowhead, to have the homefield advantage they have, to have our fans behind us is awesome. I know we're all looking forward to it. We've got the best fans in the country, so to come home here for these last two will be fun."

S ERIC BERRY

Q:You haven't seemed impressed with what you've done this season, are you finally impressed that you're playing in a Pro Bowl 13 months after being diagnosed?

BERRY: "Not yet. Like I said earlier, it's one of those checkpoints. You know I'm excited about it, but right now, I feel like I have more stuff to focus on. It's good and everything, but right now I'm just focused on something different."

Q:The checkpoints, do they mean anything more to other people than they do to you?

BERRY: "Possibly, I can't really be too concerned with it. Overall, I just hope that people who are going through things and going through different situations can see that if you just stay focused and keep faith, just try to push through whatever you're going through, you can get back to where you are or better. So that's really what I hope."

Q:Was there a point where you felt physically you'd be able to get over the hump and play the way you had played before?

BERRY: "I kind of brainwashed myself from the get-go just that I was going to be where I was and better throughout the whole process. I just kind of started mentally picturing myself where I wanted to be. I just focused on that every day and just kept striving for it every day."

Q:Did you flash back to what you were doing this time last year to continue that motivation?

BERRY: "I actually flashed back to everything when I found out (Pittsburgh Panthers All-American running back James) Conner got diagnosed. Seeing him go through the beginning stages of it – and I've been talking back-and-forth with him – I guess you can say that kind of refocused me, everything that happened in the past, a year ago. All those memories and all those things I went through came flooding back. I just kind of refocused on everything that I needed to do to keep pushing forward."

Q:Do you surprise yourself, how do you assess your play from the beginning of the year to where it is now?

BERRY: "The thing I focus on is just getting better every week. Probably after the season, I'll look at the total body of work. Right now I just want to keep getting better, keep getting better every day I step on the field or in the meeting room and just try to keep striving for greatness. That's the main goal."

Q:What are your thoughts on Marcus Peters making the Pro Bowl?

BERRY: "I'm not really surprised, because he told me this in camp. He told me everything that he was going to do as far as on the field. We talked about it doing some extra drills after practice one day and he was just telling me everything he was going to do for the team and how he was going to come out and perform. And I believed every word of it because he has a lot of passion and you can see it in his eyes when he talks about football and what he wants to do on the field."

Q:Were you surprised that he was as confident as he was? What was your reaction to his confidence?

BERRY: "Just embraced it. That's his character, that's who he is. That's not a façade, that's not a front, that's just the type of person he is. When you come in like that and you definitely back it up – his confidence is not cocky, it's not cocky at all. He believes in his skills, he believes in the work that he puts in and he just goes out and performs."

Q:If the Pro Bowl wasn't a big moment for you, what has been the biggest or most memorable moment?

BERRY: "I would say just seeing how powerful it is to see people come together. Regardless of backgrounds regardless of ethnicities, religions and everything like that. I got a chance to embrace unconditional love and total passion from everybody, regardless of, I guess you could say, stereotypes or anything like that. Anything blocking that, I think that's a beautiful thing, just to see when people put aside the differences and things like that and just really focus on wishing you well and caring for one another, I think that's a beautiful thing. That was probably one of the most magnificent things I probably experienced. That was cool."

Q:Is Marcus Peters' confidence something that rubs off on teammates?

BERRY: "I would say so."

Q:How do you see that?

BERRY: "Just certain personalities, certain things just rub off on other people. When you see that every day, and someone who might not be as confident or someone that's questioning certain things in a certain situation and you see how they approach it. That kind of gives you motivation to approach it the same way."

Q:When you look back at the journey, where do you think this Pro Bowl honor will fit within the scope of the entire story?

BERRY: "I think it'll be pretty high. The thing that will probably stand out more to me is just the process to get to that point. I feel like that was a big deal and I had a lot of people to help me get to that. That'll definitely be up there."

TE TRAVIS KELCE

Q:On his Pro Bowl nomination.

KELCE: "Yeah, it's a nice little honor. In a team sport like this game is, to get an individual award like this from your peers and the guys around you – in the locker room and all over the league, it's a humbling experience. For it to be my first one – even though my brother is one-up on me over there in Philly, It's awesome for our families and to be able to represent the Chiefs."

Q:What do you think the Pro Bowl experience will be like?

KELCE: "Hopefully I don't have to go, our eyes are on the prize. We're taking it one day at a time and we're looking forward to going after the big dog, we're not looking at the individual stuff right now, we're trying to take this team here to the big show."

Q:How does it feel to get this endorsement?

KELCE: "Like I said, it's an absolute honor. I thank everybody that voted for me all around the league but I wouldn't be in this position if it wasn't for the guys in this locker room, for the coaching staff and for the players that I play with. It's every bit as much of an honor for them for getting me to where I am or getting this team to where we are right now. And it's going to be like that moving forward and we're going to keep this thing rolling."

Q:On the tightness of this team.

KELCE: "A lot of things to accomplish. We've got to finish up here strong with these last games and today being the focus, we're going to go out here and have a great practice – a great Wednesday practice to start off the week. It's sort of an odd week with Christmas coming up here so it's a little bit of a challenge with some distractions but at the same time it will bring a little cheer and a little excitement to the game Sunday."

CB MARCUS PETERS

Q:Were you surprised by the news yesterday?

PETERS:"Yeah, there's a whole lot of veteran cornerbacks who have been making a lot of plays this year. So yeah, I was pretty surprised."

Q:On AFC Defensive Player of the Week nomination.

PETERS:"Coach (Andy Reid) told us this morning, so that was real big. But it was just some plays that I had to make so that we could get a win. As far as getting the player of the week, that's big-time though, but I'll take the win over that."

Q:How has your maturity process come along so far?

PETERS:"It's coming real good, man. The guys are doing a great job of just keeping the whole team humble throughout this whole process that we're going through right now. But it's been a great job for me because I've got a great group of vets that I can lean on and they can help me bounce back and just to settle it all down to bring it back to normal."

Q:Did you think it was possible to make the Pro Bowl in your first year?

PETERS:"No, when I got drafted by the Chiefs I figured that if I come in here and I do my job well we could be going to the Super Bowl."

Q:Do you think quarterbacks are going to start going away from you?

PETERS:"I hope they don't. Keep coming at me. That's the best part about playing this position, you're out there by yourself and you've got some guys that are helping me - to the right of me. I hope they don't, it helps us get a lot more turnovers and it helps us win games so that's good."

Q:Do you feel like you're on the path of earning respect around the league?

PETERS:"No, we've got two more games to end the season out. Hopefully we can win both of those games starting with the Browns this week and it won't be done until I'm done playing this game."

Q:Why does the defense seem to always find the end zone after turnovers?

PETERS:"Coach set a goal for us. In camp we told him that we were going to achieve it. And we're one away from our goal so it's all about just staying true to our word and just getting the ball and scoring."

Q:Do you spend time practicing blocking after a turnover?

PETERS:"We do it all the time. When we get turnovers in practice – the person who is next to the guy who has the ball has to block the intended receiver and it's on. We're all going to the end zone, you've got to make that block."

Q:On Johnny Manziel being able to extend the play. PETERS:"Discipline. We know he's going to give us some movement. All we have to do is we have to plaster and trust that the front four or the front seven is doing their job. We've got some elite guys up front. We know he's going to want to get out of the pocket and try to extend some plays with his legs and he can do it. It's all about us just playing disciplined and just staying on top."

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