Is the reason Garrett Grayson is not here college-related?
“No he is at that mandatory rookie premiere so he was here (prior to today). He has been here throughout and he had to leave last night for that event.”
Are you hosting the New England Patriots at the Greenbrier? How much did you want to host two teams during training camp?
“We're having a joint practice with them (Patriots). This will be the third time we've done it and that's really the only planned joint practice. We've talked with the Texans (about joint practices) the following week, yet we won't be having any joint practice with Houston, but it will be with New England. And I have to look at the calendar but I think two or three days prior to playing them down here in our second preseason game. So that is the team we plan on practicing with, we've done it before. Like I said this will be the third time.”
Does that have anything to do with Houston being on Hard Knocks?
“Well we typically have gone with one team. We discussed and talked about a second team, really the decision was more about getting back into a schedule here and then certainly recognizing the fact that they are going to be featured on Hard Knocks, but it was really about our team and what is best for us.”
What are some of the benefits of bringing in another team?
“I think it can come at a time when you can work against different looks defensively and offensively. It also can pick up the focus and attention to detail. Typically and our experience has been when we have had practices with New England, I can't speak for Bill (Belichick) but I think we have done a really good job of focusing on certain periods and it gives you a different look. It gives you a different offense, a different defense, maybe techniques and certainly for us they are one of those teams that we feel like have been right at the top each year competing for a championship. The experience has been good in the past.”
How much does it help Jairus Byrd to be able to participate in OTAs?
“I think it is significant. He is in good shape now and working through. There are still some maintenance things he is doing with his knee and yet to get out here, for all of these guys, but specifically a player like him (it's important). The message this morning in the meeting was we are preparing mentally with alignments, there are some conditioning elements to what we are doing this time of the year, obviously that is important, but it is to allow ourselves to be better prepared when we put the pads on and get into training camp. I think it is also beneficial to the other 10 guys when you are talking about a veteran playing like him with regards to calls, with regards to communication and leadership.”
How much comfort does it give you to have a guy like Brandon Browner opposite of Keenan Lewis?
“It is one of the parts to the equation that attracted us to him. He's competitive. He's driven and certainly one of the things we talked about this offseason through the draft, through the acquisition of players is the makeup and making sure that that is something we felt like was a plus and certainly with him we feel that that is a strength of his.”
What do you see as Benjamin Watson's role?
“One of the things with him, I don't want to say it unique but one of the traits, when he came into this league he was, I don't want to say featured as a receiver first, but when we studied him in Cleveland he was used in both in blocking and a receiving role. I see that being the case for us. He has pretty good versatility, really good versatility. He is an experienced player. He understands certainly the run game and the passing game. He will be involved a bunch, no different than he was last year. I don't know with Jimmy's (Graham) departure that changes Ben's role because he was very involved a year ago. Certainly Josh Hill will receive more snaps because of that. Ben is one of those guys that can play the true Y and also be a guy that can be a threat in the passing game.”
What is Junior Galette's status on any disciplinary action and have you seen any difference in him in the meeting room and on the field?
“There is no status update and none that I am aware of. I would know if there was. With regards to his preparation, he has been good, focused. I think he is in shape and going through this program like everyone else. But really there would be no news.”
What can Anthony Spencer bring to the defense?
“He is a veteran player. I think sometimes there are tougher positions to evaluate during this time of the year but I think number one he can affect the passer. So when you can rush the passer you are seeing a lot of base. Next week we will get into some nickel but more snaps are being played now in nickel than in base and truly if you were looking at the percentages you know well into the 60 percentile is you are dealing with nickel personnel in offense and defense. He is an edge player. I think he is very good at fitting the run and I think he can affect the passer.”
What have you seen from CJ Spiller this week?
“He's explosive. He knows what to do. I think there's a real good fit for him with what we're going to do offensively. We'll put him in a role where, whether he's in the backfield, (or) flexed out. The key I think for him is when we study him is finding him ways to get him the ball in space and let him utilize his skillset and speed.”
What can you tell us about Mark Ingram?
“We just had him back today, but he's been full speed up until this afternoon. He's doing well. He just has a foot or an ankle. There is no injury specific. We just backed off a bit.”
How much does Josh Hill's role expand?
“It just depends on how much two tight end sets we're in, how much sub. I couldn't say specifically that he is going to have 25 percent more playing time but certainly his playing time will increase. We utilize multiple tight end sets and obviously that'll affect him with his number count (of snaps). He has good position versatility. We think he is a guy that can run and stretch the defense. A lot of it will be by game plan and what we are trying to do.”
How much have you seen Brandon Coleman and Seantavius Jones grow over the year?
“Those guys had a real good rookie season as practice squad players. They were guys that did not miss a beat. They didn't miss practice. They worked real hard this offseason and so it is good to see them out there running around and making some plays but they are both dedicated, physical, young talented players that just need snaps.”
Is it understood that they know they have an opportunity to contribute this year?
“Yeah and you are just mentioning two of them, Nick Toon, Joe Morgan, there are a handful of guys out here that are all going to be competing for touches and playing time. I think that is a good thing.”
Has it been a different vibe out here this year?
“I think our offseason program's been, up to this date, real good. The attendance has been fantastic. Everyone is here. The couple of guys that aren't here, Max (Unger) had a baby this week, I mentioned (Garrett) Grayson who is at the rookie premiere. There are a couple, which is pretty normal this time of year. I would say it is a different team which is not unusual when you consider the turnover year to year with personnel. I think they are preparing hard. I think the work they put in so far has been good and then getting out here and fighting through the heat a little bit today, they handled it I thought pretty good.”
Can you tell us about the street sign?
“It is a point of emphasis of what you are looking for. It is interesting, someone said this this offseason and we were talking about basketball and there are so many organized basketball leagues now whether it is AAU, your school league and there is that one element that you can all remember or some of you that are older can remember when you were just playing and it was winner stays. So think about how you played when it was 10-10 going to 11 and winner stays. It was going to be your guy that scored because if you knew if you lost you weren't going to play the rest of the day, there were five other teams waiting. That would be an example of just that level of competition, creating that sense of urgency and that desire not to let your teammates down if you will. That is just one of a handful of things we put up.”
Do you expect to have any guys out for a while?
“Listen, I will be honest with you, typically I do not go through injury reports right now and I do not have to. The guys that are rehabbing are rehabbing and will get out here as soon as they can and get ready for training camp. It would be very normal for two or three guys to miss practice today.”
Can you talk about Stephone Anthony and his interception today?
“I was back behind the defense on that play. He did a good job getting to his hook zone and timed it pretty well. He is doing well. There is a lot going on with these young players. They are digesting a lot now that they are kind of into the regular mode with the veteran players. But I think they have handled it well. So far it has been a good young group. They are pretty mature and pretty focused to what they want to do. I think they also understand that this time of the year is getting themselves ready for when the pads come on.”
How anxious were you to get out here and see how things pieced together?
“We had the rookie camp. I think the signing of players is easier now than it has ever been. You guys who have covered us a while, there used to be a time where is the first round pick going to be signed in time for training camp. Since the new CBA that seems to happen a little quicker and easier. But you are always anxious this time of the year. There is so much time you spend in the weight room. There is a lot of time spent with coaches and film study and what you are wanting to change and add. You get anxious to get out here and start teaching them. I do think there is a part of the program that is important where the players arrive and they are focused on lifting and running and they don't feel like they are arriving to football practice necessarily in April. But we are at that point now towards the end of May and starting June next week where we have an important three weeks ahead of us still with regards to our installation and with regards to getting a lot of work done.”
Do you think the players are aware that there is zero tolerance with the league's new Personal Conduct Policy?
“Yeah but I think everyone is though. I think everyone with all the attention that's been drawn to it over the last year or year and a half, I think everyone, not just players but I think league personnel. Fans pay attention to that. It is not something that you have to sit down and go through a big presentation, of course there are mandatory league meetings that we have with regards to player development and part of that process would be in the area of domestic violence.”
A lot of people describe Dennis Allen as a calming influence, an organizational guy, a teacher, is that accurate and is that something you were seeking?
“It is accurate. I would say he has a presence about him. He is a real sharp coach. I would say he is a real good teacher and because I have worked with him it was an easy fit to see and just to know what you were getting exactly. Those guys have been working well defensively and he is a good addition for us.”
What are your thoughts on the new PAT rule change?
“I completely understand the change based on the percentages of the PATs. Hopefully we can convert the point after kick from that yard line as efficiently as we can from the two and yet you would say any time that ball moves back a yard there is a drop off in accuracy, that would be just a fact. So does it affect when you, I think it would affect possibly when you go for two in the game maybe a little bit earlier than not but a lot of it would be how do you feel you are hitting those kicks because that number, that percentage number I am giving you is representative of all 32 teams so that means it is affected by the best kicker in the league whoever that is and it is also affected by the other sliding scale of the worst kicker in the league. Where do you feel like your kicker is with regards to his accuracy and that would probably dictate it more than just the rule change. But certainly that accurate kicker I think it increases his value a little bit because he is going to hit a number maybe higher than the norm.”
Is the kicker race wide open?
“Absolutely, two young guys, well it's kind of difficult to have a competition with three kickers. We were not going to do that. And after the rookie minicamp we felt real confident about how (Zach) Hocker worked and made that decision. We will see how they do. So far with the amount of time they have had out here they have responded well. Both of them understand that they have a real good opportunity.”
Was Zach Hocker a guy you guys targeted?
“No, honestly, it was really a guy once we brought him in for the rookie minicamp we kind of know the backgrounds of certain players but it was once we had him and looked at it, it was after that evaluation.”
Do you like the idea of youth at the kicker position?
“I like the idea of just a good kicker at that position whether he is young, I am not partial to his age, I am not partial to whether he is tall, short, fat, I like the idea of not having to worry about the new rule change at 15 yards. Hopefully we can see what we get from these two guys.”
What are you trying to get out of this week with so many young guys around?
“Well the point of OTAs, with the physical contact is very limited, in many cases is to install the offense and the defense, working the new wrinkles that you've put in the offense in the offseason, getting to know some of these young guys whether they are young rookies or free agents. I had a chance to work with all of the tight ends, receivers, running backs, fullbacks, all the skill positions during this phase two and we had some time together on the field and that kind of stuff on our own. That was good, I think that gave us a headstart to what we want to accomplish during these practices.”
Would you call CJ (Spiller) a Scatback or how would you describe him as a running back and compare him to similar guys you have had?
“I think he's all-purpose, he's got some of the quickness and the speed and kind of that slash element like a (Darren) Sproles but he's bigger in stature like a Pierre (Thomas) and so there's really not anything he can't do. He can be a feature back in the base offense, certainly he can play in the nickel, he's a guy you can free release, a guy who can block, a guy who can run screens, a guy who can do a little bit of everything. You like those guys.”
How much did you feel like you and Brandin Cooks are really starting to get on the same page, when he has the hand injury, how much do you think he can really elevate his play and be a big time receiver?
“The more time on task we have together, the more we can build that relationship and I know this about him, he already came back better then he was before and I think just mentally tougher, stronger, ending the season with an injury, certainly not the way you want to go out, especially for a guy who is used to being durable and tough and playing through anything. That was just one of those unfortunate deals but I know he has been chomping at the bit now for a while now so just getting back to work and watching his attention to detail and his work ethic. He's everything you want in a teammate.”
Is it an adjustment period for you not having Jimmy (Graham) there anymore as a big target, is that different?
“Honestly, I think you can't dwell on who you don't have or the circumstances there but I love Ben Watson, I love Josh Hill, and I love the guys that we have and I feel like those guys can make a big impact for us as well as the other skill positions, the receivers and the running backs. I love Jimmy (Graham) and I miss Jimmy, not only as a player but as a person, life goes on and I like the players that we have.”
I know you're not hanging out in the wide receiver group but I would imagine they all understand the opportunity they have this year, they have a real opportunity to be a real part of this offense this year?
“Absolutely, and what's good is they know they're all going to have opportunities, we'd say as an offensive staff, quarterback group, gave a lot of thought to how to create that competition and put guys in position to succeed. Some guys playing positions that maybe they haven't played before and yet ‘hey this your opportunity to get on the field and make a big impact for us'. So I think those guys are excited about that and I think its shows. I think the transition for them has been smooth thus far.”
When you get a new center like Max (Unger), I know he wasn't out here today but I'm sure you guys have a lot of work to do together to get acclimated. How big is that adjustment?
“For him, coming into a new offense, it's ‘hey what do we call this here' versus what I called it elsewhere so just the verbiage and then it's hearing the play call in the huddle, getting up to the line, communicating it, hearing my cadence, my communication, absorbing that, then being able to pass that along. There's a timing and a rhythm to a lot of what you do in that quarterback-center exchange. Those are things that are just time on task that I'm confident we will have down here pretty soon.”
You could kind of tell maybe with the offseason moves what the message being sent to players was in terms of competition with the street signs. What did you think about it?
“I think we're always doing things that kind of keep what's important in the far front of your mind, whether it's the signs around the facility or outside here, what's being communicated during meetings, what we're talking when we are breaking the huddle down, pre-practice, post-practice. So all of those things are very normal and natural around here, especially when you have a bunch of young guys. You really want to set the tone as to what's expected of you, how we are going to conduct ourselves and what that will result in.”
Isn't Benjamin Watson supposed to be too old to be catching seventy yard touchdowns over the middle?
“He's a stud, Ben's (Watson) such a stud. Certainly one of the most respected guys on this team, not just for what he brings to us on the field, but what he brings to us in the locker room. As a husband, father, a man of faith, just a guy with strong values and principles and really a great example for all of us. I think he's the perfect guy to be stepping into that role and he deserves that, he's played a long time, played at a very high level, played for some very, very good teams, he knows what it's like to win a championship, he knows what it's like to conduct yourself like a pro. Theres no better guy to have on the team and no better guy to have in that position then Ben (Watson).”
Stepping into that role do you anticipate more opportunities as a pass catcher for him this year?
“Absolutely, he's a guy who can do it all, as can Josh (Hill) and Orson Charles, another guy who nobody has heard of yet but I like what I see out of him. I just love the way that these guys work, the way they work together, I just like their approach to everything they do. They are true pros.”
I know each team is different but do you sense a different vibe this year out here?
“Well yes, you come off a seven and nine season, come off a year where you differently didn't reach what you felt like was your potential or what you were striving for. Knowing that there were changes that needed to be made and I think many of them have been made but now it's time to put it all together. Now it's time to get out here on the field, create your identity as an offense, as a defense, as a team and see what that can translate to.”
What are some of the things that Seantavius (Jones) and (Brandon) Coleman do well and how have you seen them grow over the last year?
“I think they do a lot of things well, they're both obviously big and physical guys, guys that can go up and get the football. I think for them it's just a mastery of the offense, a mastery of the route schemes and what we are expecting at the quarterback position, the little nuances that come with each concept, some of the adjustments according to leverage, according to feel, that's just time on task with those guys but they are light years ahead of where they were just at the end of last year. You can tell that it's been at the for front of their mind throughout this whole offseason and look at what's happened here, Kenny Stills gets traded, Jimmy (Graham) is gone, just certain things have happened where they see this opportunity that is out there for the taking.”
With all the training camps you have been through and now you guys are going to practice against the Patriots, are you a big fan of that?
“I enjoy it because it breaks up the camp, there's times where you just get tired of going up against each other and it's just the same old deal everyday. Anytime you have the opportunity to go up against a defense that is naturally going to give you different looks, different personnel, it's almost like preparing for a game a couple days in a row. A lot to learn, watch their offense, watch what they're doing, can we incorporate some of their stuff into what we are doing. There's so many elements to that that I like plus it just kicks it up a notch from a competitive standpoint. Guys are wanting to get out there and compete and show their best. It's very gamelike.
What about the fact that it's a New England caliber team?
“This will be the third time we've done it with those guys and I think it's been really beneficial for both sides each time we've done it. They are the defending world champs, they are a team that over the last 14 years has been playing at the highest level there is. If there is a team you want to scrimmage against, a team you want to compete against learn from at the same time it's those guys.”
Does the defense you've been throwing against the last three days seem different to you and if so how so?
“Well, they are installing some new stuff just like we are so this is very much the early stages, the learning stages, you're incorporating new guys in, free agents, so there's certainly that adjustment but I think as we get into OTAs here, everybody will get more comfortable with what we are doing and there will be less mental errors because you will be more confident in what you are doing.”