**Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
Heard David Reed returned to practice. How did he look and what do you see for his role? (Bo Smolka) "I think we all felt the same way when David took the field yesterday. We were all uplifted by his presence, because in this league, everybody goes through injuries of various severities, and David's, obviously, set him back for quite a while. We all know how much David enjoys football, and to have him come out here yesterday and practice, everybody was smiling. He got an ovation in the meeting, and it was exciting for everybody to see David back out here. He brings a certain spirit to football practice that is unique. He loves football. He likes to practice. He likes to play. And in that regard, he brought a lot to our practice yesterday."**Have you been satisfied to know that all the statistics for special teams this year – almost across the board – are better as far as coverage, the turnovers, than what they were a year ago? You have said all along, 'Look, we are doing the right things.' Is that some sort of an indication of that? *(Pete Gilbert) *"I don't think there's any indication. It's certainly what we want to do to in order to help our team to win. We're a big part of our success; we understand that. When we play well, it helps us win, and that's really the bottom line for all of us in our jobs. We are trying to play really well together to help our team win. If it's a kickoff return or it's punt coverage – whatever that particular phase might be – if we do it well, it will help our team win, and that's what we are trying to do."
**Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron
When you go back and look at the tremendous success the offense had on the first couple of drives and at the end of the game vs. the middle of the game, have you seen anything like that where it was so opposite, and what did you take away from it? (Pete Gilbert)"No. 1, yes, you don't want that to happen, but we've all had it happen. As you guys know, you always want to get off to a fast start. Boom, fast start. At one point in time, we thought we were going to score 100. You guys have heard me say 1,000 times that it's still more important that you finish. That held true in the game. Here's what happened, and we all saw it: The defense gets us a big-time opportunity after a turnover. We get a holding call. It's first-and-20. We don't overcome that. We have a false start. It's first-and-15. We don't overcome that. Uncharacteristically, we dropped three passes, which we haven't done all year. We dropped three passes, now you are in second-and-10, second-and-10, second-and-10. That led to, I think, seven third downs of nine- [yards] plus. You'd lead the league at 30% on third-and-9 plus. So, you're already making it a lot tougher on yourself than you need to. We went 0-for-7. The bottom line is you're off the field. You have to give Cleveland credit. They really didn't make any adjustments, but they just played a little harder. They're developing a prideful group over there, and they responded. We probably didn't handle it as well as we could have, but the great thing for us – and I think you guys know this, too – there is no panic. You guys are down there on the sidelines with us covering us. We are just in a problem-solving mode and poised to be at our best when the best is needed. That's kind of what we do on offense. We need to be at our best when our best is needed. We all know our best was needed. Joe [Flacco made] great throw to 'Q' [Anquan Boldin] – great catch. [There were] a lot of great things on that last drive. The two-point conversion was lights out. It's nice to finish, even though you're not playing as well as you'd like to in the middle."
There is a lot of talk around the offensive line, Michael Oher at either tackle and Kelechi Osemele has adapted to two spots. What is the tipoff for you when a season starts or when camp starts whether a guy can play more than one position? (Joe Platania)"You look at their history, No. 1. You go all the way back to, sometimes, high school. That's one thing you usually ask a lineman in the draft is, 'Have you ever played center?' Most teams are starved for a third center. Most teams don't have three centers. If a guy has ever played center, then you start working him in at some center. You ask a tackle, 'Have you ever played guard?' You do their history, and then bottom line is then you just watch them every day. You know you are going to have seven linemen active. We've had eight a few times this year, which is unusual. When you have seven linemen – we all can do math – guys have got to play multiple positions. You're always starting, 'Well, who is going to be my second left tackle if you have a right-handed quarterback?' It starts with that. 'Who is going to be our third center?' Those are the two problem areas that can get you quickly. Then you just start figuring it out. Marshal Yanda was a tackle, but we always envisioned him, size-wise, as a guard. But, the good news for us is that Marshal could always bounce back to tackle if we needed to. Why? Because he played tackle in college. [There are] a lot of factors. Then you have to take in the mental component. How flexible is a guy, mentally? [You're] getting a little information more than you probably need here, but if a guy is right- and left-handed, if a guy has both stances that he can function in, that gives you some flexibility from side to side. That's about as good as I can do. That'll hold up for quite awhile."
Just how much are third downs an issue that you are focusing on now? (Ryan Mink)"Major. It's our No. 1 critical issue – I'd put it that way – that we need to continue to work on. It's no one thing. Maybe we need a little better protection one week. The next week maybe we need a little more separation. Again, uncharacteristically, maybe one week we won't catch the ball as well. So, it's one thing here and there. If you have that problem, now is the time to have it, because from now forward, that problem isn't going to allow you to get done what you want to get done."
Dean Pees was just talking about how a defense can take on a third-down mentality where they almost become better on third down if they feel like they're a good third-down team. Does it work the same for the offense? (Ryan Mink)"Confidence is everything. It really is. The bottom line is the windows are going to be tight. People are playing Cover 11 Robber, they're playing Cover 55, Two Man, they are doubling or three-man rush, where they are doubling guys, tripling guys, whatever they decide to do. So, confidence and your ability to just have the confidence to throw the ball in there and have guys make catches for you is everything. We all see the same games on TV. There are not a lot of guys running around just wide open on third down. So, confidence then takes on an added dimension on third down. First and second down, it helps, but on first down, you still have second down. On second down, you still have third down if you don't turn it over. Everybody understands, on third down, get the job done or you're out. We all witnessed that firsthand the other night."
Cam, you talked about the versatility of linemen. Jah Reid got back on the field finally. He had been a tackle. Is he a guy you could see sliding in and playing guard? Is a strength guard or tackle? (Bo Smolka)"We don't really know yet, but he can definitely play both. He is still young enough that we're not sure which one it's going to be, but we need him doing both. He plays left guard, he plays right guard and he plays right tackle. He can get us by in a pinch at left tackle, but I think we have some depth at left tackle right now. But, the only position we won't have him at right now is center."
Cam, I know you guys are always looking for weaknesses to exploit, but when you watch [Buccaneers RB] Doug Martin do what he did to the Raiders, how much does that kind of loom in the meeting rooms and stuff and how much do you guys talk about that? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I think Ray Rice said it yesterday. The first thing you do is you go look at it. What happened? The initial thing was everybody thought they ran it 35 times. Not. They ran 18 times, basically, and then got a bunch of carries late after they were trying to put the game away. Then you realize, 'OK, what was this magic scheme?' The bottom line is the Raiders missed three tackles, and the three tackles that they missed gave him 180 yards of rushing. So, Oakland had unblocked guys. They had three unblocked guys on all of those long runs that they missed the tackle. So, they are not looking at their scheme. I read where their coaches were talking about that the bottom line is they have to tackle better. It's probably not what everybody thought, but, the bottom line is to be a good running team in this league, you have to be able to break tackles."
Is it the constant balancing with guys like Jacoby Jones and Vonta Leach to see which of them is on the field in different personnel sets, in terms of what you guys want to run? (Garrett Downing)"Not really. We have a plan, and it's kind of [like] we talked about like we do with Ray Rice. You can take a fullback … A lot of fullbacks don't make it to the last third of the year. As many people as they hit, you have to at least judge that. In any given game, they are going to have a significant role. Jacoby, probably, you'll see him play more, but once he became the kick returner, that has a little bearing on how much he plays. But, I think you'll see him out there more."
Cam, you have done so well in the red zone. Last week again, you got touchdowns and not field goals vs. the Browns – getting field goals and not touchdowns. You guys are sixth in the NFL, I think, in red zone success. Why do you think you've been so good there? Do you feel like when you get there you are going to be able to be successful? (Pete Gilbert)"I think we were 3-for-3 and they were 0-for-5. That was the game, right? It's a lot. No. 1, we get a tremendous effort in all areas from our staff. We kind of break up our game plan areas amongst the staff. I think as a staff we do a great job in the red zone. I think that's a big part of it, but I think our guys are confident. Last year, we were one of the top three teams in the league in scoring percentage. Our touchdown ratio wasn't quite what we wanted, but last year we had zero turnovers down there. If you look where we have come the last two years, I think there is a lot of confidence. That would be the first thing that I would think of. I think that last call, it was interesting, on first down we run the ball, second down, I said to [QBs coach] Jim [Caldwell], 'Have something in mind on third down.' Sure enough, we get stopped on second down, and Jim came up with a great call and then, obviously, we executed it. So, the one thing is I am getting plenty of help from our staff in all the situations – red zone is one of those. I get a lot of feedback from 'Hoss' [WRs coach Jim Hostler] and [TEs coach] Wade Harman, [RBs coach] Wilbert [Montgomery], all of those guys. That was a call that came right out of the press box, and it was pretty timely."
**Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
We saw Courtney [Upshaw] play a little inside this past game. Is that something to look for moving forward, or is that something for maybe just now as you tweak the defense moving forward? (Jason Butt)"You saw him in there when we were in sub. You didn't see him in there when we were in regular defense, so he was still an outside 'backer. That's always something in sub. All those guys have kind of learned to play inside, outside – trying to put the best guys on the field based on the situation – like we talked about before, maybe where we can put guys to utilize them the best. It was more of a sub thing than it was anything in regular defense."
**He has a skill set that he can do both, though? *(Jason Butt) *"Most 'backers do. This is not really something new. There are other teams that do it. I've done it in the past a lot. I've played defense … I played a Super Bowl one year with five linebackers in the game and four DBs the entire game. You just try to put them in a spot. You aren't going to try to put them in there where there's going to be a lot of power football and stuff like that. But, if you can figure out the situations and maybe based on their personnel – how to match up best – a lot of guys could do it."
**Coach Harbaugh addressed you being upstairs for the game and said that it was your idea. Can you talk a little bit about what went into that decision and why you wanted to give that a try? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"I've done both. This isn't something that, 'Oh geez, I'm going to try this.' I've probably – as a coordinator in 25 years – spent 12 years in the box and 13 down or something. It's not something that was new to me. What I felt was – after the bye week – I just felt like there is some information sometimes that I maybe could utilize a little quicker when making adjustments and making some calls. You can, obviously, see the game better from the press box. The other thing is it actually speeds up some of the calls, because for an example, if you are standing on the sidelines and they run the ball, I can't really tell if they gained two or four or five yards, really, until someone upstairs tells me that. That means that there is a little delay. When I'm in the press box and I see the run and it has gained two yards and it's second-and-8, I know right now. All my calls, a lot of times, are based on down and distance and all that kind of stuff. You can see things. Sometimes I can't tell if the ball is on the hash or in the middle of the field exactly. That speeds things up a little bit. The other thing is you can maybe see some technique things that you can't see on the sidelines if the play is away from you. You can usually see if there is a breakdown if it's a play to you. But on a play away, sometimes you can't always see it. And the thing of it is I can't ask right away, because I'm on to the next call, whereas if you get upstairs, sometimes you can see that. I can at least keep it in my mind; I saw it and I can make a note in between series, and I can relay it down to the coaches. The downside of it is that you don't have quite the one-on-one rapport with the players on the sideline talking to them coming off the field. But, if you noticed what we did was the entire staff was down. I was the only one up. I felt like every position was covered. [It was] different than a lot of other times, [because] you might have half the staff up and half the staff down. Coach [Don] Martindale was down there for the inside linebackers. Coach [Ted] Monachino was down there for the outside linebackers. 'C.B.' [Clarence Brooks] was down for the D-line, and 'T.A.' [Teryl Austin] was down for the secondary. The entire staff was down there, and I have communication with all four of them, so I could pass along information to the entire group or to any specific group and get it taken care of right away. We thought, 'Hey, let's take a look at it.' Like I said, I've done it before, so it wasn't a big deal going to the press box necessarily for me. Really the staff, we thought it worked out pretty well."
Speaking about that communication aspect, Jameel [McClain] has been wearing the headset for a couple of games now. How do you think that transition is going for him? (Matt Vensel) "It's going real well. He's worn it before. In preseason he has worn it. In preseason you don't have to have one; you can have multiple headsets, because you are practicing. That's what preseason is for. So, most of the time during preseason, even if Ray [Lewis] was in there, he had the headset, too. When Ray came out – Jameel usually stayed a little bit longer – and he had the headset. That's been going fine."
We're talking a lot about versatility in some of the players. I remember when Jameel [McClain] first got here. He played some inside and some outside. What is the tipoff as to whether a guy can play more than one spot? (Joe Platania) "First of all, does he have the athletic skills to do it? I'll go back to what an old coach told me: First of all, does the guy have the size and the speed and the skills to play a position? That's the first thing that you always look at any – whether it's offense or defense – [is] can a guy physically have the tools to do it? That's the No. 1 thing you have to look at. Second of all, does he have the knowledge? Is it going to be too much if you start moving him around, which it is for some guys. Sometimes you move guys around that play multiple positions – it's too much for certain guys. That doesn't mean that they aren't really good football players; they just can't really switch around. It's like 'Double J' [Jarret Johnson] coming here a defensive lineman in college [and then] going to linebacker. I can name 100 guys that have been like that. They end up playing a different position, but then the other part of that is that at some point in time you have to try to experiment and see if they can do it. You may think they can do to it, but that doesn't mean that they can. Then you experiment and try it, and if it works, great, and if it doesn't, then doesn't. Just like Albert McClellan – we have tried him at both. 'Mac' [Jameel McClain] can really probably play both. There are different guys that can do it."
*When you look at the Raiders, they are known for drafting really good athletes and speed merchants. Do you see that when you look at this team? (Ryan Mink) *"Oh yes. They are fast. I wrote down on the bottom of the board this morning, I said, 'Do not underestimate anybody's speed.' When you play the Raiders, they are going to look good getting off the bus, and they are going to be fast getting off the bus. They are always a fast football team. They've always been that way, and they will continue to be that way. They are a very fast football team."
**Carson Palmer now 32, 33 years old. What do you see in him? Is he the same player he was four or five years ago? *(Bo Smolka) *"Yes, I think he is, because I actually … We don't have a lot of background watching the Raiders a whole lot. It seems like even in crossover films we don't really get them for whatever reason a whole lot. When I was going to look at it … When I first thought about it this week when I started looking at them, I thought 'OK, I will probably see a quarterback that has probably diminished a little bit.' I don't see it. I don't see it. I saw a guy throw a 15-yard comeback from the opposite hash, which he has done before. He stands in the pocket. He stands tall. He delivers the ball. I don't see a lot of difference in Carson Palmer now than when we used to play him."
Dean, your thoughts on the run stop defense in this game versus the other games earlier in the year? And then Cary Williams getting his fourth interception and then Ed Reed getting No. 60 [of his career]? (Bill West)"Are you talking about back on the Browns, talking about the pass? *(Reporter: "Yes.") *We were better against the run except for really two plays; and the one really bothered me because we had him stopped for no gain and it was his longest gain of the day – I think a 17- or 19-yarder where he bounced out – and we got it stopped for absolutely nothing and we just weren't patient on the edge. We jumped off a block inside and he bounced out, and when he does that, that's a bad guy, and I think we missed a tackle which gained five more. So, up until that point it was pretty good. And then we had one, kind of a technique error inside. But overall, I thought we played better – not good enough – but better than we have played. It was great seeing Cary get a pick, especially it was nice having it right after we just dropped a pick the play before, so it was good. And I give Cary a lot of credit on that, because that was a boot one-way, throwback pass over the other way, and he stayed at home and it paid off. Guy made not a great throw, I might add, but at the same time, we were there at the same time to make the play, which was very good. And Ed, what can you say about the guy? He scares you to death and then goes and makes a play. So, he's … The thing about it – somebody asked me about it on the play – and Ed will be the first to tell you he probably wasn't in the best position on that pass route. But the thing about him, which makes him special, is when he knew that he was out of position – some guys, especially young guys, will just kind of turn and look back at the quarterback and just watch the ball get completed. And the thing about him was, he knew he was not … As soon as he saw the quarterback look that way, he knew he'd turn – and if you watch him – there was no looking back. It was turn and sprint to where he needed to be, then the ball was underthrown and he made a play. But even had it not been underthrown, at least he could have made the tackle, where other guys that would have been a [touchdown]. So, to me, that's what it tells you about Ed; he's an experienced guy that can go make plays."
Do you feel like the run defense is getting better, and is there a certain element to it that's stopping you from being the group you want to be? (Jeff Zrebiec)"We've just got to keep working on technique. I think the whole thing all year has been technique, especially with the front seven – not any one guy in particular, not any one group in particular, [but] all of them. The one game – the Dallas game – was a lot of missed tackles. [That] was the No. 1 problem. But just all year, just keep working on technique and getting better with our hands and feet and steps and all the little things that make you a good run defense. It's not about calling blitzes at the right time and pressures. Hey, they'll all work and they'll all not work, but you've got to make them work, and that's all by technique. And it's just doing it over and over and over and over again, and that's what we've got to keep working on. And we've gotten better, but we're not where we need to be."
On a performance level, what's different about the defense in the red zone? (Morgan Adsit)"A little bit, sometimes, can be mindset, but I think the other thing is that, let's be honest, when the offense gets down there things condense. All of a sudden, you don't have the same wide open field and some of the routes and stuff like that. And I think that, along with when you have confidence in anything you do – it's kind of like third-down teams. There are good third-down defenses, and I think they just think they're pretty good on third down and they end up being good on third down. A lot of times it's a confidence level, but the other part of it is, hey, in all honestly, the field shrinks on the offense and so you can defend things a little differently."