Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
**You had a lot of guys working in – like Tandon [Doss] and Bobby [Rainey] … How did they do on returns? Were you pretty happy with how they did? *(Aaron Wilson) *"Overall, our return game was real sound. We had a couple penalties that hurt us that we need to get corrected. There were those youthful early penalties in the season. There are things that we obviously can't do, and we got good lessons from penalties. But having said that, the thing I appreciated about our punt return game was we got north and south. We got positive yards. There wasn't a lot of dancing going on. There wasn't a lot of running to the sideline. Bobby [Rainey] and Tandon [Doss] both showed that ability."
**And for Brynden [Trawick] and also LaQuan [Williams] to be on the spot like that and make some things happen and make some blocks – just what are your thoughts on those guys? *(Aaron Wilson) *"There are times in the preseason where you wish you get practice in certain situations, but you can't script the game. And that was one of those situations at the end of the half where it really worked out well for us, because we had an opportunity to practice some of those situations. Brynden [Trawick] had an excellent get-off, [and] that's really what led to the block. He was off the ball almost a full head in front of the rest of the rush team. He was legal. He was onside. Really, that was the reason for the block – his real good get-off and fast technique – and he was able to smother it."
**For young players to do things like that – it's the more you can do to try to make this team, right? *(Aaron Wilson) *"All the guys we have playing on special teams – and there's a lot of them … We went through almost three full teams-plus in that game. All of them are trying to make an impression in whatever way they possibly can. They understand the importance of the moment. I thought we got real good effort from the first quarter through to the fourth quarter. When we were doing substitutions, guys were on it. I was really impressed by that. Every one of our substitutions was perfect in the fourth quarter, and that's when it's the most difficult."
**What about Aaron Mellette – what have you seen him and the contributions he's been able to make? *(Garrett Downing) *"We're working Aaron [Mellette] in a number of different positions. He's a young man who's got size and speed. He's a long-armed guy, so we're training him for gunner. We're training him for end on a punt rush. We're training him on the front line on kickoff return. So, we're giving him a lot of different skills that a lot of the wide receivers that come into the National Football League have never done. It's an incremental process. He was better this week than he was in practice, and this coming week, we expect him to be even better."
Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell
How excited are you about the additions of Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark? (Garrett Downing)"[We're]* *certainly glad to have them. Both are guys that have talent and have been very, very productive throughout their career. We're glad we have the opportunity to throw them in the mix with the rest of our guys. It makes for a really, really competitive atmosphere."
Did you have any input on signing Brandon Stokley or Dallas Clark since you previously coached them in Indianapolis? (Garrett Downing)"John [Harbaugh] and Ozzie [Newsome] take a look at all the possibilities and make determinations as such. Every once and awhile they'll ask for what [my] opinion is on certain situations, but it does not carry the predominance of the weight. They look at it, see if it's a good fit for us and make the decision from there."
How soon do you expect [Dallas Clark] to get on the practice field? (Aaron Wilson) "I'm not sure exactly what [Dallas Clark's] timetable is, but when he gets here, we'll try to get him up to speed as quickly as we can."
Have you talked with [Clark] recently? (Aaron Wilson) "I had a chance to talk with him a couple of days ago. I spoke with him a little bit, and fortunately, things worked out. I haven't spoken with him since that time – we text back and forth – but we'll get a chance to see him when he gets here."
Do you think we'll see Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce in the backfield together more this year?* (Matt Vensel)*"There's always that possibility. The nice thing about it is the fact that our offense has so much flexibility. There are a number of things that we can do, tandems that we can put together. The that fact that we have skilled guys that can play multiple positions – and obviously Bernard and Ray would certainly fit that bill – Ray could play the slot. Ray can move around a little bit, which we've had him [do] from time to time out of the backfield. That probably could be … That's a possibility."
Do you think it would take some selflessness from [Rice and Pierce] if they had to share the ball more? (Matt Vensel)"There are a number of different things you can do with them out there. That's the great thing about this game. It takes some creativity, and you still have to put them in a position where they do the best. Those guys can carry the ball extremely well, but they can also catch the ball. You've got to use their talent."
What will you look for in aging veterans Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark to ensure they are ready to play? (Mark Viviano) "I think when you look at them, you can see that they've been productive. Obviously, their roles have changed over the years – maybe haven't played quite as much in certain situations. We have a good blend of personnel groupings that we use and we certainly would be able to get them in the mix and give them an opportunity to show what they can do and see where it shakes out."
Are there some intangibles that [Stokley and Clark] bring to this team beyond their physical capabilities? (Mark Viviano) "I think our team is made up of men of character, and [Stokley and Clark] have great character, unbelievable work habits, are good family men, and they love to play the game."
How did Brandon Stokley do in his first day? (Matt Zenitz) "If it's somebody's first day and [they're] just learning the system … The system is not easy to learn, but it was great that he was able to get out there and do something for us. We'll get him in there and let him go. I'm not going to evaluate him on his first day. We know what he can do, and I think he'll have an opportunity to show that as the week goes on."
What kind of shape is [Stokley] in? (Matt Zenitz)"He passed our conditioning test, so he's in pretty good shape."
How much will Tyrod Taylor and the option package be a part of the offense? (Garret Downing)"He's a pretty versatile guy. He does just a little bit of everything – he can throw the ball well [and] get out of the pocket. We just tried a couple of things with him to see if it suited the system, and he's been able to do quite well with it. We've been experimenting a little bit, and we'll see how it goes."
Are you worried about getting your backup quarterback injured using him in the option package? (Garrett Downing)"We don't put him out there thinking [we're] trying to prevent injuries or anything of that nature. Obviously, we look at it and try to make certain we put him in the best possible position to demonstrate his talents and abilities. But nevertheless, we don't plan on getting him hurt. We try to keep down the number of times he gets hit and things of that nature, because he's not a running back – he's a quarterback. Taking as few hits as possible is extremely important for us."
How are Gino Gradkowski and A.Q. Shipley are progressing? (Matt Zenitz) "[They are] still making good progress, still battling it out. Every single day they work extremely hard, work extremely well. Both guys are growing. Both guys are getting better, and I like where we are there because it is a very, very competitive atmosphere. Both guys are doing extremely well. "
What will be the determining factor in which center will start? (Matt Zenitz)"[I'm] not real certain, we'll just see how they play. We've got a couple more ball games left – a few more preseason games – and we'll make a decision at that time. That's really going to be the determinant – how they play."
How was it having Marshal Yanda back on the practice field? (Kris Jones) "It was great to see him back out there a limited amount just in terms of what he was able to do. [It's] always great to have him out there. He's a great leader, obviously. He's been in meetings and things of that nature, but he brings a lot of experience and a lot of toughness to our guys up front."
With a bunch of young wide receivers playing well, how difficult will it be to separate them when it comes time to making cuts? (Matt Zenitz)"You hope it's really difficult. If it's really difficult, then that means that you've got a number of guys that are really, really close just in terms of having the ability to play, play in this league, and play well. We hope it's not going to be easy. Those young guys – you're absolutely right – are coming along, making catches and doing things quite well at this point. They'll get a lot of playing time here in the next few weeks, so you really get a chance to see what they can do, how well they develop throughout the games."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
**You've seen your defense for a game. Granted, it's early, but do you like the way it is coming along? *(Dave Ginsburg) *"I think we're practicing hard. I thought we showed some team speed in the first game. We had some communication errors that I wasn't real happy with that gave them a big play. And the penalties – we've got to eliminate that. But overall, I like our effort. I like the way we're coming around. It was a pretty simple game plan the first game, and we'll keep adding to it as we go. But so far, I like the way they're working. We've got a long way to go, and we really have to eliminate the mental mistakes. Those are always going to kill you. They killed us on the 61-yard pass, and then the penalties just gave them field position. I think every point came off of either a turnover or a big play. And we didn't give up that many big plays, but the one we gave up was huge."
**Are the communication issues a product of so many new guys or is it a product more of just this time of year? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"I don't think it was so much new guys. It was actually one of those things that we've actually done in practice probably plenty of times and really got it right. It was just one of those game situations that we had them backed up, and I think everybody was feeling we were going to get after them a little bit. We just didn't have good communication. It was just a breakdown. I don't think it was so much new guys. I don't think it was so much time of year, as much as just we just weren't on top of it on that play. We've done that same call over and over out here. [Offensive coordinator] Jim [Caldwell] has given us that same look with the same call, same check, and I would say we've gotten it [right] 90 percent of the time, but that one time we didn't."
**Communication in general – how do you work on that? Is it just a matter of repetitions? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"The biggest way you can do it is not only out here on the field at practice … That's the best way. It's like anything else – there's nothing better than practice [in] that situation. The other part of it is [that] when we're in a classroom and you're showing a play on film, and I'll make a defensive call, and I don't want any of the coaches to talk. Everybody else – all the players have to do all the communication while the film is going on. That way, you know. That's the time to do it. Like I've told them, don't be shy about it. If you're wrong, now we can fix it. If you don't say anything, I don't know if you know. But even if you say it wrong, then I can tell you why it's wrong and we can get that fixed. So, the biggest thing in communication is both in the classroom and then taking it to the practice field."
**I know you guys have said you've been happy with [Lardarius] Webb's progress with the knee. Did it seem like it was an especially active day for him, though? *(Matt Zenitz) *"[We're] trying to pick it up a little more and more all the time. When you're bringing a guy back, you don't want to overdo it. [Secondary coach] Teryl Austin has been doing a great job of weaning him in and letting him go a little bit more each day. A lot of it depends on how much [of a] contact day we're going to have. As you saw today, we were in shells, so there wasn't going to be a lot of physical contact and a lot of really thudding up. It was going to be mostly tagging off, so it was a good day to maybe get him a little more work."
**Is Courtney [Upshaw] a new dad? *(Aaron Wilson) *"Yup, he's a papa. He was a papa last night at about four o'clock in the morning, I think. That's why he missed yesterday."
**And as far as Courtney, I know we saw a decent amount of him with the first-team defense. On Thursday, he rotated a lot with Elvis [Dumervil]. Is that kind of the plan for them – to utilize Courtney and take advantage of him as a run-stopper? *(Matt Zenitz) *"If it was, I wouldn't tell you. They'll all play. They all have a role on this team, and we'll just see … It's a game-to-game thing, and a lot of it depends on the packages that we have in and what we're doing for that particular game. They're all good players and they're all going to play."
**Terrence Cody last year lost his starting spot. What did you tell him, coming into this offseason, that you wanted to see from him this year? *(Matt Vensel) *"Part of the thing was last year, in defense of Terrence [Cody], he was injured, and a lot of people didn't know it. He didn't say anything about it. He didn't tell anybody about it. And then we found out, and he ends up having offseason surgery. So, that tells me a lot about the kid right there. He took a lot of heat for maybe not playing as well as he should have, but I think to his credit, he's come back. He knows he's competing for a job. They're all competing for a job every week. The thing that I like is [that] in this last week or so, I think he played very well in the game, and I think he's really played pretty well in practice. I've seen good things from him. I feel very encouraged by him."
*From a pass-rush standpoint, how much flexibility do you feel like you have, [considering] the fact that some of these guys can play a lot of different spots in a two-point or three-point [technique]? (Aaron Wilson) *"I feel good about that whole group. Hopefully, we'll find as we package things, we can get guys on the field in the right situations and have a good pass rush. I'm very pleased right now with the speed of the things that we're running when we're running the pressures. I think we're running them at a good speed. We've just got to make sure we're communicating well and not turning anybody loose. That's the good thing about this. I think we got a lot of competition, which is good for us as coaches. It not only makes everybody work hard to keep their job, but it also – when you have a lot of competition – that means you can also play a lot of guys. And if you can play a lot of guys, you can spell them, and [then] a guy maybe doesn't have to play 65 snaps in a game. Maybe he can play 45 [snaps] and be a little fresher at the end of the game."
**As far as Courtney [Upshaw], I know a lot was made about his weight during spring. How have you seen him look through the first couple weeks of training camp? *(Matt Zenitz) *"Great. He has worked very, very hard to get his weight down. He's been keeping it down. He's been weighing in, and I feel very good about what he's done there."
**Seven new starters – how tough has it been for you or has it been easy to make this adjustment? *(Dave Ginsburg) *"I don't think it's been all that difficult, because I can't say enough about the professionalism of the guys that we've brought in. I'd mention guys, but I know I'll forget somebody. I just want to tell you that everybody that we have brought in as a free agent, I've just been absolutely very pleased with as far as their professionalism, learning the system [and] buying into the system. And that's half the battle. If you get a guy in here who thinks, 'Well, this is not like the old system that I had,' it doesn't work. These guys [are] nothing like that. They've bought into what we want them to do, and they're competing. So, I really don't think it's been difficult at all. We just have to work through the communication issues because really, a lot of it is just verbiage. What one guy may call a certain coverage, it's the exact same coverage, but it's got a different name. So, the guys just have to get used to hearing it over and over again."
**Could you talk more about Lardarius Webb's progression? He intercepted a couple of passes during practice, but he also seems to be running full speed. *(Kris Jones) *"I think he's getting there. I can't tell you – the trainers would have to tell you where he is as far as his rehab. But I know we've been bringing him along and practicing a little bit more, and I think he got a little more reps in there today. He's working hard. He's been very good in the classroom [and] hasn't missed a thing, so now it's just a matter of getting him back and knowing he's healthy before we put him into the action."