Thursday Practice Transcript - 9/15


Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg

On how the kick coverage team has done so far:"Well, obviously, we didn't cover to our standards in the first game. We're looking forward to this week because we think we know a little bit more about how the timing of the kicks fit. I think that we're going to be playing better this week; we learned a lot in that first game. When you look at it realistically, in the preseason we had so many different guys in there we didn't have many opportunities to cover. This was really the first chance at full speed with the regular lineup in there. We learned a lot by it. I'm looking forward to getting back out there with our guys and having the opportunity to make some tackles inside the 20-yard line instead of inside the 40-yard line."

On whether anything surprised him about the special teams play in the first game:"I think what surprised me overall, just looking at the weekend, is that there are teams that are going to be bringing the ball out more, perhaps, than I thought they were. Including us, we brought one out that normally we wouldn't have. But, it was a good decision. It was within the realm of our coaching and we got a good return out of it. So, that's probably the one thing that I thought was a little bit surprising."

On whether it surprised him that Pittsburgh ran so many kicks out of the end zone:"I really didn't know how they were going to approach it. You really never know going into it. I don't think it surprised me necessarily; we were prepared for it. But, having said that, we didn't do a very good job of defending it."

On whether the new placement of the kickoff gives the returner an advantage:"I don't think that it's necessarily an advantage for the return team. I think, perhaps, that the five-yard start for the kickoff cover team was more of a factor than I originally anticipated it being. When we look at the video and where the blocks are being made, and how they're being made, it's a different feel than it was a year ago. The blocks are much deeper. There's not as much space in between the returner and the blockers as we thought there might be. This week we've got to do a better job of fielding that space and defending it."

On whether he was surprised by how many big special teams plays there were across the League:"I think it surprised a lot of people. Given the guys that ran them back, that didn't surprise me. These are really high-quality, very skilled athletes. Whether you bring it from five yards deep or are catching it at the10-yard line, when these guys have the ball in their hand they're dangerous. That'll still remain to be true. What will be interesting to find out, as we go down the stretch here, is how many of those kicks will be brought out when the game is tight in the second half when you have a lead. Those things could change the whole scope of the kickoff return."

On what WR Tandon Doss can do to be on the active roster:"I'm not the guy who decides whether he's active or not. He's been practicing hard on special teams since the day he got here. Tandon brings a lot of skills to the table, one of which is his return ability. He's competing with others for the gunner spot; he's competing with other guys in kickoff coverage. It's a decision that coach [John] Harbaugh makes on the actives. We use the guys that he says are up. That's really how it pans out. I've been impressed with how Tandon has improved since the day he got here up until this day, and he'll continue to do it today."

On his reaction to the Steelers' complaints about the two-point conversion:"I wasn't aware that they complained about it. (Reporter: "They took offense to it.") Is that right? I guess it's not my job to try and make them happy. We were trying to win the game. That's what we're trying to do. We were trying to score as many points as we can and win the game. That's why we ran it. I wanted to run it in the first and second touchdown, too." *(laughter) *

On whether there's a difference between a five-yard start and a 10-yard start:"As I said, I think it mattered more than I anticipated. We're not getting as much momentum going into the kicks as we thought we might. I think it's a difference, especially for the veteran players. They're used to having that speed build up, and now they don't have that. So, it's going to be an adjustment."

On whether that's because it's hard for blockers to get turned around in time:"I think what you're seeing – certainly in our game, what I saw – was that the guys on the front line… We weren't closing as fast on the frontline as we normally would."

On Tennessee WR/RS Marc Mariani:"He's a fine returner. We've watched him, obviously, up until this point. Our veteran players who've watched him are saying the same thing: He does everything right. He's got great hands and ball-tracking skills and hands and decision making and vision and ball security. He's got enough ability to take it all the way. There's a reason he was in the Pro Bowl. He's a great player."

Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron

On what was different in the offense from last year to this year against the Steelers:"It's interesting. At halftime, something was referenced last week to last year, and Ray Lewis… I loved that he stood up and said, 'This is this year's team. This is not last year.' I was a guy that was a dummy and mentioned something about last year, trying to be positive. And I agree with him – last year was last year. There is no correlation between last year and this year. I appreciate the question, but really, this is a new team – a lot of new faces, a lot of familiar faces that have grown. Guys have gotten better, and I think that's the thing that makes this team, potentially, a great team. It's a unique year, and we're all looking at this year."

On what was working so well vs. Pittsburgh:"It started up front with the offensive line. I know it seemed like a little bit of a surprise to everybody. I said it wasn't really a surprise to me, just because of the way they had practiced. I think [head coach] John [Harbaugh]… We all believe you are going to play the way you practice, and we did. We played the way we practiced. We need to continue to do that. That was great to see our offensive line do something that a lot people thought they couldn't do – gel quickly. But, we still have a long way to go. I think they know that and we all know that."

On the decision to go to the zone-blocking scheme:"Really, we just improved the zone blocking that we had done in the past. We primarily were a mixture of things, but we just needed to tighten up the quarterback's landmarks on his ball handling, we needed to tighten up the depth and the course of the backs, we needed to work our combination blocks. [They] all got better, as a matter of improving what we were trying to build on, and then we added a couple of wrinkles. I think getting Joe [Flacco] out of the pocket and letting him use his athletic ability really helps the running game. I think we need to continue to do a good job of that – tying those two things together. A lot things went into it, but it was a little bit about getting better at the things we already believe in."

On what new challenges the offensive line faces against the Titans' defense:"[It's a] completely different front. This is a 4-3 team. It's a fast-flow linebacker team. They are the exact opposite of the 3-4 teams that we will play. Just making that quick adjustment – we talked to our young players about that – that's what makes the NFL a little bit unique. You have game plans within seven days of each other that are completely different. We've got to make that adjustment, and it's more of a scheme thing."

On if the offense has more "tools" this year, or if they are just different:"We have great guys. Weapons, tools… We have great guys, and I mean that. We have guys that want to play together. It's a great group – a very unselfish group. Everybody knows that if they do their job, Joe [Flacco] will make the decisions he needs to make, whether it be in our alert game with runs to passes, passes to runs, throwing the ball to the first progression to the fifth progression. I think it's just a trust factor [with] everybody working collectively. I think you're going to see, through the course of this year, everybody make major contributions. It won't be steered to two or three or four guys. You are going to see five, six, seven guys involved. Joe is going to drive that. I think that's going to be the most important thing for us."

On the balance of calling plays when everything is working:"It's really execution. I think – I was talking to Stan [White, WBAL analyst] just a couple of minutes ago – a coordinator's dream is when players are talking about execution. That's what our guys have been talking about all along. Ray Rice said it last week. Our offensive line says it. We're kind of getting out of the scheme world, thinking he's got to scheme somebody or Cam has to come up with a great call. Really, there was no great call in that game. There was some great execution in that game. Probably, there were two or three bad calls in that game that the guys executed and made work. That's what I think you saw. We're all in this thing together. I don't think it's going to be the call or just the execution – it's a combination of the two – but execution will override a call every time. That's where we're headed. That's been what we have wanted to think we're doing all along. It tends to get steered different ways, but it's about execution, plain and simple."

On if the departure of WR Derrick Mason forced the offense to be more diverse:"No, not at all. I don't think anyone around here is saying that. This is a new year, a new group. Joe is a year older, Ray Rice is a year older, our young players are a year older. I don't think that anybody who is not here is in any way, shape or form about what's happening right now. It's more about who is here, where this thing is being driven. I mean that sincerely."

On T Bryant McKinnie's impact and what he saw on film:"[He is] poised, steady, physical from the first play to the last play. He knows he is still a work in progress from a conditioning standpoint – he knows that. He is working his… I wouldn't say he is working his rear end off, but he is working hard to get into the kind of shape he needs to be in. Just giving us veteran poise and presence on the left side is critical. It will be more critical this week because it is on the road in a crowd noise environment. I think you will even see a little something extra this week."

On RB Ray Rice being a matchup problem and his development as a player:"He has really been that. I think it was his second day of practice, I saw him catching punts and we all went, 'Oh, this guy can catch.' You didn't really know. In the workouts you thought he could before the Draft, but he has really kind of been that guy since the first game against Cincinnati his rookie year. It's really nothing new. I think we owe it to ourselves to make sure that, A) they have to tackle him and, B) they have to cover him. We need that element, and having Ricky [Williams], who has a similar skill set to back him up, really makes, from a play-calling perspective, an easier flow. You don't have to have two different things. You can just call the same plays with both those guys. That makes my job a little easier."

On the level of concern with the health of WR Lee Evans:"There is no level of concern, and I feel exactly the way about these receivers as I did going into last week's game about the offensive line. David Reed, we get him back. David Reed is a player, period. It's just a matter of him staying healthy and getting out there. You guys will all see that. This kid can play. He can run, he can catch, he is smart, he's tough – you have seen that in special teams. Our young guys get better every day. The young guys have the best collective attitude of any young group I have ever been around. Now, they have to continue that, but Torrey [Smith] is going to get better. LaQuan [Williams] is going to get better. Tandon [Doss] is going to get better, and then 'Q' [Anquan Boldin] is a veteran presence and Lee [Evans]… I have so much confidence in all those guys. There is no level of concern. There will be just some normal growth, bumps in the road, I am sure. There always are, but that's not a concern. That's going to happen. We just have to grow with those guys through any mistakes they make."

Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano

On the differences he's seen in NT Terrence Cody from Year One to Year Two:"He looks like half of himself, to start. He did a great job in the offseason. [Defensive line] coach [Clarence] Brooks, along with all the other guys, made it perfectly clear to him from a technical standpoint, fundamentals, all those types of things, [that] if you get to a certain weight, you're going to be that much better. It's one thing coming in and learning the new techniques from college to what we teach here, and he's obviously adapted and done a great job there, but he's just got himself in such great shape, now he can go hard and play with great fundamentals and technique."

On how much playing under NT Kelly Gregg last year helped him begin his career:"When I just read what he says, it was huge. Having great mentors like Kelly and Haloti [Ngata] and those guys is huge. You know, your position coaches, and we as coaches, can [only] do so much, but those are the guys they lean on to teach them the game."

On whether he takes offense when someone calls his players dirty:"You know what? I think they've been playing a certain brand of football and defense here for a long, long time. So, I don't take offense to it; it's just how we roll. It's our brand of football. It's straight up, it's clean, it's physical. We try to impose our physical and mental will on everybody. There are going to be some casualties. So, no, that's just the way we play."

On what he's seen from LB Sergio Kindle and whether he envisions him being activated this week:"He's doing a great job still out here. He's working hard and learning the scheme, but just so happens there are a bunch of guys that have emerged. So, there's a ton of competition there. He's got to prepare like a starter, and if something happens and he happens to be up, he'll be ready to go."

On whether he senses that players are fired up in the meeting rooms about the pass rush and playing aggressively:"I think any time you have success out there, obviously, your confidence builds, not only as a defense, [but] individually. But yeah, they're having fun. They're having fun, and like I said, there's a fine line there, and they know when it's business, and they know when it's time to have a good time. But I thought they did a great job of… Once they smelled blood, I think they just jumped all over it and just did a great job last week."

On what strengths he sees in Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck:"Matt's done well against us, if you look at history. His last couple outings… I know it's been a while since it's happened, but Matt's a heady guy. He's going to get them in the right place. He's going to manage the game. He's a West Coast-type of operator, so he's got a clock in his head. He's going to get the ball out; I'm sure he's not going to hold it very long. They're, obviously, going to pump the ball out to [No.] 28 [Chris Johnson] as much as they can and get it out of his hand as much as they can. So, he does a good job. We'll keep him in the pocket, try and get him to throw from the well, get our hands up, bat some balls out, do some things like that. But, he's still playing at a high level."

On what the challenges are to keeping Chris Johnson from getting outside:"You've got to have an edge. We always say on our defense, 'No edge, no chance.' If you let him get outside… The longest plays in football happen down the sideline. We can't let that happen. So, we've got to have an edge on defense."

On whether it's challenging to keep emotion high two weeks in a row:"No, I've got [No.] 52 [LB Ray Lewis]. We've got 52 in the room, so he handles all that."

On the increased reps taken by ILB Dannell Ellerbe:"That's just the way that things worked out. Jameel [McClain] starts out in our 'Raven' group. Just, the way the game unfolded from a score standpoint, they ended up going more three-wides because they got into a situation. So they got behind, and they had to throw the football. So, we were in more of our sub-package, which is why Dannell got more reps."

On CB Domonique Foxworth getting more reps in last week's game and how his knee is progressing:"You talking Domonique? Like I said in a meeting, I said, 'He's a great pro and he was ready to go.' He knew he wasn't 100 percent, but he knew he had to be ready in case something happened, and something did happen. We didn't expect three guys to come out, and to have to send Haruki [Nakamura] in to play nickel… To his credit, he started the season last year at nickel because Ed [Reed] was out, and he did a great job. He's another guy that's a real pro. But, 'Fox' [Foxworth] is coming. He's just going to get better and better confidence-wise, and the leg and the knee are going to get better each week. So, I expect him to keep playing at a high level."

On potentially promoting CB Chykie Brown:"Well, those are decisions that we'll look at as the week progresses and as we get closer to Sunday. We're going to rep all the guys out here, and we'll put the right combination on the field."

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