Q: What was your team’s evaluation of Doug Martin coming out of the draft this year? I assume you had one.
BB: Yeah of course. We saw all the players. Outstanding player, does a lot of things well: can run, catch, good in the passing game, good in the running game. The guy has value on all downs. Solid kid, hard working kid.
Q: How is today’s regimen going to be different than yesterday?
BB: Well, it's the day before the game, so we’ll tempo it down a little bit. We have some specific situations that we want to get covered, offensively, defensively and in the kicking game – a little more emphasis on those today than yesterday. Yesterday was more kind of the core stuff: first, second and third down. Today we’ll work on some specific situations: end of game things, kicking situations that might only come up once or twice a season, but we work against those things against each other, but we know what we do and we know what we do, so if you work against another team, you see a different play or a different defense or a different punt rush or whatever it is, so it just makes you better prepared for those situations whenever they come up because they’re so critical when they do happen.
Q: I know it was just one day, but how do you think
BB: It looked like his first practice. He has a long way to go.
Q: You’ve done these joint practice several times, and Greg Schiano talked about how you don't want to do them with just anyone, it has to be someone you have a good relationship with. What are some of the criteria that go into choosing who to do joint practices about?
BB: I'd say just the number one thing is that it’s not about beating somebody in practice; it's about working with somebody and getting better. We’re not here to try to win a drill or trick Tampa on something. That’s not the point of it; the point is to work on what we want to work on and work on what they’re working on so that we can become better and when we walk off the field we’re a better team than we were when we walked on it. That's the way we practice against each other: we compete against each other, but we compete in a way that we can improve each other – not get guys hurt, not a bunch of piles, not fight, and get all caught up in did he gain five yards, did he gain two yards, did we sack the quarterback, did we not sack the quarterback? We pull off, we don't hit the quarterback, we don't hit guys that are – the same way we wouldn’t hit our guys in practice. We take care of each other but we work hard and we set up the drill so that they're fair, competitive drills. It's not tilted one way or the other so that you can have an equal competition and equal evaluation. We made some plays out there, they made some plays out there and both teams can learn from both those situations. But it's not about going out there and winning the practice; it's about going out there and improving your team and making sure that when the players are on the field, they're kind of of comparable levels, too. We want to compete both athletically and also schematically with players that are their experienced players and that are their best players. At the same time, our younger guys and some of our less experienced guys just aren’t ready to handle some of the things that – but they should compete against simpler plays, simpler formations. They could do something formation-wise or blitz-wise that we just aren’t ready to handle with that group of players and so what good is that? We’re not ready for it, so okay, they did it because we're not ready for it. So we want to try to compete on an equal level and let the players play and then as they develop and grow then obviously they’ll be able to move to that higher level. But you have to evaluate them on what they know how to do first. A lot of things like that go into it and it’s just again, working together. And not just Greg, but the entire staff has just been great to work with – the assistant coaches and coordinators working together and so forth. We’ve tried to create game-like situations but structured in a way that we know what we're doing and we can get the right people on the field, we can be competitive with each other and not get into a situation where somebody is overmatched or under-matched.
Q: Do you plan on not running the first teamers so much today, considering that you have a game tomorrow?
BB: We have practice structured in a way, just like yesterday, that everybody participates and I think that each group that’s out there will benefit from whatever it is they're doing. So, we’ve tried to structure it that way. Everybody is going to be involved in the practice and hopefully everybody will improve from the snaps that they get out there.
Q: How would you assess the conditioning level of the team?
BB: Even though it wasn't that warm yesterday, it was humid and it was probably a little warmer than we've been used to, so it was good for us to experience that. I’d say we have a ways to go, not just in our cardiovascular conditioning but just in our football conditioning. Honestly, we probably won’t be there until somewhere in October, but we keep getting better at it all the time and work on it on a regular basis. There’s a fine line there: you don't want to have a tired team that's worn out so you're not productive in practice, but at the same time, you want to push a little bit harder to keep getting your team into better condition. Sometimes that hard because you have more depth at one position than another, so it's not always equally distributed, but we do the best we can on that. I think it was a good day for us conditioning-wise and I think Friday night will be another good day for us conditioning-wise where we'll improve our conditioning as well as improve some of the football things that we’re working on.
Q: Does a team usually peak conditioning-wise in October?
BB: I think we talk about people being in mid-season form and it's a cliché, but it's true. In a lot of ways, once you’ve played six, eight, 10 games including preseason, then you’re mentally in that quick–reactive mode for 60 minutes, you're physically in it, your timing is such that you've been doing it against a lot of different situations that it should be at a better level than it was the first couple weeks, that kind of thing, all those things. Yeah, I’d say somewhere in that neighborhood. There’s not one player in the league that’s going to have played 60 minutes of a preseason game – certainly won't be one on our team, let’s put it that way, I don’t know about anyone else’s [team]. So for them to be ready to play 60 minutes on opening day, some of them will do it, but three, four, five, six, eight games into the season, it will be a different story – for us and for basically everybody else. It's a process, and I don't really know how you can short cut that process. I don't know how you can walk into camp and say, ‘Okay, everybody is ready to play.’ I just don't think that’s – I mean, yeah, you can go out there but I don't know what that would look like. I think there are some definite concerns relative to the athletes, so it's a steady process.
Q: How unusual is it for you to speak to an ownership group or general manager about a potential coaching hire like you did with Greg Schiano?
BB: I’ve had people call me over the course of my career. Those conversations are personal, they're private, so what's said and all of that, I just don't feel comfortable sharing that with other people. The people who have called, I respect their privacy. I’ve done it before. Certainly it’s not like every job that comes open, but from time to time. Certainly if I know the person, you know – I mean, if you don't know the person or haven’t worked with them or you don't have a good relationship with them or a long relationship with them, then it’d be hard to recommend anybody. Not that they're not a great coach, you just haven’t had that personal interaction.
Q: You’ve said Greg Schiano did a good job of developing players that were ready for the NFL. What did he do that made them NFL ready?
BB: I couldn't tell you that exactly because I was never there in his program, but I would just say that he’s had a lot of players that have come into the National Football League, whether they were drafted or undrafted, whatever it was – but a lot of those players play in the National Football League. A lot of teams, other colleges, have ‘X’ number of guys in the league, but only a fraction of those actually stay and last in the league as professional players. To me, what that showed is that if the player had enough talent, that Coach Schiano had the player ready to go to the National Football League. If he didn't have enough talent, then he didn't have enough talent, but the players that got that opportunity and got that far, there’s a very high number of them that are still in the league on a percentage basis. I think that speaks a lot to the program and the preparation. How exactly they did it, you should ask him that; he would know better than I would. But I think the professionalism that I’ve experienced with those players like some of the ones we’ve had on our team – Devin [McCourty], [Tiquan] Underwood, [Alex] Silvestro last year, guys like that – they come to work, they're ready to practice every day, they’re ready to work, they're prepared in meetings, they’re in good condition, football is important to them, they’re not looking to cut any corners, they’re trying to do their job and usually a little bit extra. I would say that’s been kind of the common theme with those players that I’ve worked with or that we’ve even scouted coming out of Rutgers like [George] Johnson, who’s here, guys like that. Those guys are guys who do extra, they work hard, they’re tough, football is important to them and that’s why they last as long as they do.
Q: What does Pepper Johnson bring to the staff and how has that evolved with his new role with the linebackers?
BB: Pepper has worked with the linebackers before, but I'd say the big thing with Pepper is, unlike really anyone else on the staff, he’s actually played in our system. I’ve coached the way I’ve coached at the Giants and at Cleveland and New York and so forth, but he’s actually played it and I think there’s something to be said for that. There’s certainly a perspective as a player who’s played in the system relative to a coach, even though I’ve coached it a long time, he has the perspective of playing in it that I just don't have or our other coaches don't have – Matt Patricia or Pat [Graham] or Brian Flores or any of those guys. Nothing against them, it's just different. Bryan Cox is kind of – I mean there’s something to be said for a player who's played the game – particularly played the system you're coaching and can coach it. He has a perspective on it that as a coach having never played it, I just can’t give. And they can talk about, ‘Hey, when you're out there in this situation, here’s what you're thinking about,’ or ‘Look, the coach is telling you to do A, B and C, but really what you have to worry about is C; A and B, yeah, but forget about those and let’s make sure we get this one right.’ Things like that, things that happen in a game. And they talk to our players, Pepper talks to our team, not just the defensive players or the linebackers, but our whole team about that from time to time about just what it’s like – especially the rookies – what it's like to play in a preseason game, what it's like to play in an NFL game, the difference between NFL and college football, what the adjustment was for him, what he’s seen from other players that he’s coached in that experience, what things to expect, what's different from a pro game and a college game, things like that that I think helps them make their transition. He brings a lot of that to us.
Q: You have quite a few players from the University of Florida on your roster. Do you think it has to do with the school’s pedigree or is it just a coincidence?
BB: First of all, obviously, Florida has a lot of good football players. It's a great football state. The University of Florida has great athletes and great players at their school as do a lot of the other Florida schools. But I had a good relationship with Coach [Urban] Meyer as I do with Coach [Will] Muschamp and so maybe we had a little more insight or opportunity to evaluate or whatever and we felt like those particular players that we drafted there fit our system and what we were doing. Not everybody worked out and some worked out better than others. But that particular class, the [Jermaine] Cunningham, [Brandon] Spikes, [Tim] Tebow, [Aaron] Hernandez, [Percy] Harvin the year before that, [David] Nelson, the receiver [Riley] Cooper – you know, those guys in those couple years there, for whatever reason just…[Coach Meyer] asked me to speak at a clinic so I was there, Charlie [Weis] was there last year, so I just had a little more opportunity to interact with those players and that school and they were available at the particular times we were drafting and so forth. Some of it was coincidence and some of it was maybe a little more homework and with a player like