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Postgame Transcripts: Preseason Week 3 vs. Buffalo

Head coach Matt Rhule

RE: Opening Statement

I'd like to thank the team. I just told them that the last six weeks has been just a fantastic time with them, starting in Wofford. They've worked really, really hard and I hope everyone is proud of them. I'm glad to see us be able to get so many guys in tonight. I want to thank the fans. Our showing at Fan Fest and tonight, just to brave that rain and that storm, to see the turnout that we had here, was really, really, really fantastic. I appreciate everyone who stayed to to the very end. Obviously, a good game. It's a lot of things we have to work on but it was good for us to get a whole half played for our offensive line and for our whole defense under our belt. Sam [Darnold] looks like so far it's an ankle. We will have to wait and see. I can't give any timelines or prognosis on that. Early indications are and we believe it is not a fracture but hoping it is an ankle sprain. We will have to wait. All they told me is that it looks like that. But I just know I thought last week I thought maybe it was a fracture and it wasn't for Bozeman so I just want to make sure I don't put anything out there. I don't know exactly so I'm waiting to find out. It sounds like it's not a fracture but we will have to wait and see. Derrick Brown, oblique was tight. They said he was good to go back in and I held him. Gio [Ricci] with the groin. Obviously you guys saw Zane [Gonzalez] with the groin. So we held those two guys. [Stephen] Sullivan at the end with a stinger. So we had a couple guys banged up. Hopefully everyone will be healthy here soon.

RE: Observations of starters

I thought we got some guys open. Obviously, playing without Robbie [Anderson] and DJ [Moore] only taking a couple snaps, without Christian [McCaffrey], I thought some of those other guys did a nice job of getting open. I thought for the most part we protected. Well, I'll have to look at the tape. A couple times Baker[Mayfield] flashed but when you looked up at the replay it looked like good protection. But he kind of moved and saw some things. Just disappointed with 3rd and 1, not being able to knock the ball in the end zone on a run play. 4th and 1, short yards, not being able to knock the ball in. That's why you play these guys in these games. They need to have those live looks at those things and see what we need to improve on. Then I would say defensively, not being able to stop some of those 3rd and 2's, 4th and 1's. Obviously, they had a unique situation so they were going for it on 4th down. That long drive, we got bailed out, but we would like to stop some of those drives earlier. The last thing – tackling. We missed some tackles. Part of training camp, you are thudding, you are tagging off. It was good for some of our secondary guys to have some live tackle work tonight. Lot of things that were probably really, really good and a lot of things we will probably have to improve upon.

RE: Baker Mayfield's performance

 I thought Baker did a nice job of moving the football. The thing I like about Baker right now is he plays so steady. You can't tell after every play if it was a drop, if it was a completion. Then obviously, the touchdown, played above the X's and O's. It wasn't there. Escaped. Made the play. So have to go back. I can't say anything about his footwork or all those things but I thought he made good checks. He recognized the game that they were playing. A lot of safety pressures where they played man and got us in the right play.

RE: Shi Smith's performance

Shi continues to make plays. I think the biggest thing is him being able to get open on third downs and catch the ball with his hands. I think that is part of his skill set. Did a nice job. That's what he has been doing all camp. We feel like he has really evolved. Hey, this guy can be in this three-receiver set, play all the spots and get open. I think he is a play maker. I think he can run after the catch. We just have to keep growing him because I think the best is yet to come for Shi.

RE: Seriousness of Zane Gonzalez's injury and likelihood of working out additional kickers

I don't know anything yet to be quite honest Joe. I was standing there and literally we were kind of down in four minute range, either Hekker or JJ said, 'Zane just tweaked his groin kicking.' So I said 'all right, he is obviously down, we will just go for two.' Then we said let's take this opportunity to give [Johnny] Hekker an extra point but I know nothing beyond that right now. I'm sure if he is out an extended amount of time, we would obviously work out some kickers. But I don't know yet where that is at.

RE: Follow up to above question concerning upcoming cuts

There is a lot of things that will happen over the next couple of days. But it is just still so early for me.

RE: Clarification on if it is a high sprain or unknown for Sam Darnold

Yeah, I'm not in a position to say that yet. I usually wait for them to MRI it. Once they MRI it, they tell me what it is.

RE: The number of quarterbacks team will keep if Sam Darnold is out for a few weeks

I'll have to wait and see. That's kind of why we let PJ [Walker] throw a little bit instead of handing the ball off. We wanted him to play. We will have to wait and see what it is. Sam is a tough kid. He usually comes back pretty quickly but we will have to wait and see. I don't want hypothesize but nothing is off the table. We will have to react. They will get the MRI tomorrow. Sometimes they go in and get something else after that. Once I know, Scott and I will sit down and we will have some decisions to make.

RE: On whether the team would consider re-signing Cam Newton once Same Darnold was injured

Scott (Fitterer) and I would talk about that. Cam (Newton) would have to weigh in on that. There would be a lot of things we'd have to look at. You guys know my feelings about Cam (Newton.) My time with him was fantastic. Probably too early right now to say much about that.

RE: On the list of players who didn't play during this preseason game

We had some different guys with some strains. No one, right now, we think will be out for Cleveland. (Bradley) Bozeman we think will be back this week. We have guys that have some hamstrings and some muscle pulls. Some different things like that. Those guys were all held.

RE: On why he held those players

They were not cleared to play today. We played (Brian) Burns. We played DJ (Moore.) We played (Jeremey) Chinn. We played everybody that was able to play. Anybody that was out, was out. Like Sam Franklin. He's got a bruise on his foot. He was ruled out. Julian Stanford was ruled out.

RE: On the running backs

We didn't have a great run game the first half. I have to watch the tape to see exactly what it is. I thought we found a couple things a little bit later. There were some tough catches. Some balls that I'm sure Chuba (Hubbard) would like to have back. I thought D'Onta (Foreman) made a great catch on the goal line. That's one of the things that D'Onta (Foreman) has been trying really hard to prove. Hey, I can catch the ball as much as a power back. Overall in general, I'd have to watch the tape to see what's really going on with the run game. From the field level on the on the 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1. It looked like they got some penetration. Some surge. They brought a lot of pressure. That's kind of who they are. They do a great job on defense. Coach (Sean) McDermott does a great job. You have to kind of throw a little bit more. I think the backs, they both did solid. Both those guys did solid. (John) Lovett. Special teams player. Does a nice job of running the football when he's in there. And Christian (McCaffrey) has had a great camp.

RE: On Baker Mayfield and his performance

I think the biggest thing is. I guess he's played two preseason games. He's protecting the ball. Kept the ball out of harm's way. At the same time, not afraid to make aggressive throws. The ball he threw to Chuba (Hubbard) was an aggressive throw. The play he had with Shi (Smith), he was outside the x's and o's. I think we have a good feel for it. At the same time, he's just getting started in this offense. He's just getting started. Hey, what can I do? That's what excites me. I think he has a lot of room to grow. I think we have a lot more weapons. The guys tonight did a great job. I'm anxious to see him really get all of that chemistry with Robbie (Anderson), DJ (Moore), and Christina (McCaffrey.) Get Ian (Thomas) back. I'm excited about what Baker's (Mayfield) done. I guess the thing about him. Everyone's like he's this fiery (guy.) He's fiery, like I said, after the fact. He's very in-the-moment. And that's what I want. I want a guy that's in the moment. Locked into football. That's what Baker (Mayfield) is.

RE: On the offensive linemen and Baker Mayfield

I would have normally pulled them in that last drive. And put Sam (Darnold) in. I thought it was really important for those guys to have to protect in a two minute situation. That last drive took so long on defense. We were kinda like, hey. We're going with Sam (Darnold) next. Kind of the part of preseason. You hate to telling a guy he's down and he's going back in. Wanted to get Sam (Darnold) in. They've got a lot of work. We have a lot of things that we want to work on together with those guys. I thought they responded from the 4th and 1. And all that. Which was important. We wanted to give Sam (Darnold) a good look at those guys. I was pleased with the second offensive line for the most part. Cam Erving I think has had a really great camp for us.

QB Baker Mayfield

RE: Performance tonight

Some good, some bad. Overall a little sloppy to be honest with you. I felt like my feet weren't very calm. Felt like I kind of drifted in the pocket a little bit, created my own pressure. Room for improvement. Have to look back at the tape, haven't watched it yet obviously. I just thought we played complimentary football tonight which we have been emphasizing that. We went three-and-out on the first drive, which obviously we didn't want to do. Then the defense stopped them and we went out and scored on the long drive. Then next drive they get a turnover and we capitalize on that with answering with points. Those are the good parts that we have been emphasizing playing as a full team, complimentary on all three phases. Happy about that, but just have to go back and fine tune all the little details.

RE: Have you had a chance to talk to Sam Darnold and if so, what did you say?

Obviously very unfortunate. Just that we were praying for him, thinking about him, but he seemed like he was in good spirits for the most part. Obviously, I don't know any details and the extent of the injury but you never want to see that with anybody. Especially not one of your teammates going off on a cart. So, hoping for the best.

RE: On your one scramble can you take us through the play where you lower your shoulder

Honestly, I tried to tell him my bad because I knew he was easing up on it and I didn't want to hurt him either. He didn't take the apology very well, but that's okay. Obviously, just try to protect myself on the boundary. He was playing smart, so I appreciate that. That's one of these things you should go out of bounds.

RE: Tonight's pass protection

Guys up front were great. I thought communication was great. Overall it was a clean game. Proud of those guys. Obviously, we'll continue to improve each game as each game they play together is going to be better and better; looking forward to that. Thankful for those guys up front. Ran the ball well and protected well obviously as well.

RE: Chemistry with the offense?

It's coming along. There are certain things. The line of communication is completely open. We are on the same page, it is just a matter of going out and executing it now. So we are trying to make sure we not just know our jobs, we go out and do it at the same time. The chemistry is improving drastically each day that we go out there and work together. So, that's the progress and we are happy about it.

RE: Grasp on the offense

Obviously, when you are practicing against your own defense and you are trying to game plan for a different team it's a little bit different. Each game I am looking for improvements and adjustments within this system. Yes he is right. Obviously, I'm just getting started within it but I feel completely comfortable within the knowledge of it. Now it's just a matter of going out and seeing it and putting it in to action. It is one thing to talk about the Xs and Os but like I said about the chemistry and all of that and being on the same page, now you just have to go out and do it. Got to be able to pull the trigger when it is a live game and be ready to execute.

RE: Experience playing your first game at Bank of America Stadium as the starting quarterback

Obviously, the rain delay wasn't very friendly to our fans but it was a great experience for us. Obviously, two weeks from now it is going to be the real thing so a good little first taste of it. But we are ready for that stadium to be at full capacity and rocking.

RE: What is working for Shi Smith and you early on?

Shi (Smith) is a guy, obviously young player, that is continuing to improve with each game and each rep he has. He is extremely explosive. He has so much potential and we are just taping into it and I think he is realizing how much potential he really has. He is a guy that is going to be vital for this offense, a key part of it and we are continuing to try to let him grow within the system and see what he can do.

RE: The weapons around him on offense

I feel great about this team. I feel great about the guys up front and the weapons we have in the skill position. We haven't been out there as a complete unit yet and so that's why the line of communication within the meetings and during practice. We didn't have everybody playing tonight, but we can still learn from this tape and talk about it as a complete unit to be on the same page when we get out there. I am 100% confident in this group that we have. Going forward, obviously right now is the not fun part of football when you have to make the cuts. Just feeling really grateful for this group that we've had that welcomed me in here.

RE: Playing deep into the 2*nd* quarter tonight

Yeah, obviously it helps when you are staying clean and the guys upfront are protecting extremely well like that. Happy to get some more live reps and just some situational football. Obviously, that long drive we had a few third and longs and a fourth down conversion. Just stuff that was just really testing for us. I am happy with how much we played.

RE: The touchdown pass to D'Onta Foreman

No, wrong shoulder so it has to be the other shoulder. Those are the little things. You go back, and yeah it's a touchdown but if there is a defender actually chasing them that's a terrible throw. Those are the little things that I am going to be extremely critical about myself and that's just the way I work.

RE: What moment did you like the most tonight?

I don't know. I think the miniature scramble drill, the touchdown to Shi was a good one. Just going through the progression and it was good to see. Obviously, the protection was great, but then we have been talking about scramble drill being a huge part of our game once we get in the red zone and that was the first glimpse of it. Not just for me but as an offense those explosive plays when you don't get the certain look you want. It was good for us to capitalize on it.

RE: Charlie Brewer

I grew up with the Brewer family. His older brother was the quarterback in front of me at Lake Travis High School, Michael. He was actually at Texas Tech when I was there at first. So I have known Charlie (Brewer) since he was in elementary school, since he was a young pup. He has always been extremely tough. Obviously his journey, he has kind of bounced around to different schools but it's fun to see him going. I still stay in touch with him extremely often. Happy for him to be starting there at Liberty and excited to see what is going to happen.

RE: Advice for Charlie Brewer

Seize the moment. It's his opportunity to go out there and play well. Obviously, things didn't pan out for him at Utah, but everybody here is very familiar with Charlie since he was at Baylor with most of this staff. Everybody loves him, we are all talking about him. He knows how to take advantage of his opportunity, so there is no question about that.

RE: Seize the moment, is that fair to say that is where you are right now?

Yeah, like I said, got asked last week about the long term deal and all of that. That has never been who I am. I try and live it one day at a time and try and take advantage of it. There is no better moment than the one you are in, so just enjoying this process right now and trying to get better.

QB PJ Walker

RE: Mindset after Sam Darnold's injury

Yeah, I mean, I can't really look into it like that. I just have to go out there and do what I can do for this team, whether it's being the number two or number three. Anything I need to do to help this team, I got to go out and do it. You also just got to be ready all the time. You just never know what happens because you're always a play away in this league so just going out there and being ready, preparing myself to be ready for any situation. That's really it for the most part.

RE: If he's talked with Sam since his injury

I'm going to go talk to him as soon as I finish here. I haven't talked with him yet.

T Ikem Ekwonu

RE: On the play when he went inside on the line trying to protect Baker Mayfield

Yeah, I'm not really sure.

RE: On the chemistry between him and Brady Christensen

It's been good. I feel like we're definitely growing together. Obviously on the offensive line, you have to work as a unit. On the left side of the line, we got to work as one so I feel like the more reps we get together, the more that we're going to keep growing that chemistry.

RE: If he was excited on being named the starter at left tackle

Definitely excited. Definitely excited. A point that Coach (Rhule) hammered in was having to earn the spot. It's competition all throughout the board, throughout camp and that's something I didn't want to take lightly, the competition part of it. I feel like it really brought the best out of me and I'm definitely proud of myself and grateful that I earned the spot.

RE: Playing his first game at Bank of America Stadium

It's exciting. Every time I go out on the field as a player, it feels surreal. You know, I was watching the Purrcussion today and just thinking about how a couple of years ago, I was in the stands watching them and now I have a first person point of view. Honestly, I'm just grateful each and every day.

RE: Reaction to injury to Sam Darnold

Very disappointing. You hate to see a teammate go down. It's just tough, definitely tough.

RE: If he's talked to Sam since injury

No. Not yet.

RE: How excited is he getting ready for the regular season

Very excited. Very exciting being back here in front of the great fans of Charlotte and the great fans of Carolina. I'm just really excited. Be there for Week 1.

RE: How he stayed loose during the weather delay

I thought they (the staff) did a good job. They were making sure we were hydrated in here, making sure that we had enough fuel in our system because 30 minutes added on especially after the warmups was kind of tough. Big shout out to the support staff that we have here with the Panthers and they did a great job of making sure that we stayed loose and fueled up.

View photos of Carolina's matchup against Buffalo at Bank of America Stadium in the final game of the preseason.

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