BB: Not too much new on our end, the injury report is the same. Today is a day where we start in the red area in our preparations and of course Miami is leading the league in both offensively and defensively in that scoring zone which is a little bit unusual to be on top of the league in both on both sides of the ball on that. They are also leading the league in short yardage offense and defense. So those are two areas that they have done very well in and keeping people out of the endzone, getting the ball in the endzone and converting on those third and shorts. [We will have] a little extra preparation in those areas this week, as well as third down and two minute, those special situations. These guys do a good job on a lot of things, but the red area has really been good for them. It seems like every week it has helped them win one of these last four games, keeping people out of there and missed field goals and all of that and they are getting it in. That is what happened to us down there last year too, they got down to the red area and they got touchdowns out of all of their opportunities. That led to a lot of points, 21 of their 23 points, whatever it was.
Q: How would you assess your team's play in those areas?
BB: We started off the season poor. I think it has gotten a little bit better. We have had our moments. Like everything else, it could be a little more consistent.
Q: Both sides?
BB: Yeah. We've run the ball into the endzone. We have converted and executed well down there at times to get the ball into the endzone and then there are the times where we obviously haven't. So it's been inconsistent. It's the same thing defensively. We have had some good stands, held people to field goals, got our hands on a couple of balls there to keep some points of the board. It will be a big challenge this week because these guys are good. They get the ball in, they've got a good running game and that is key to red area production always, is to be able to run the ball so you don't have to throw it every snap down there. They do that well.
Q: Do you feel like you have gotten better as the season has progressed?
BB: Well, it started so poorly you couldn't help but get a little bit better. I think it has been inconsistent. At times it has been good, at other times it is not as good as we would like for it to be and that has been on both sides of the ball. It includes converting our scoring opportunities as well too, in terms of the opportunities on field goals and all of that. At times it has been really good and at other times the production hasn't been where we'd like for it to be.
Q: Can you talk about what Roman Phifer has brought to the team this year?
BB: He just keeps going. 19 tackles or whatever it was last week, I didn't realize it was that many, but then after watching the tape, he is in on it seems like just about every other play. Boy, that is a lot of production. That is a lot of production. I think the guy has got really everything you want in a football player. He is smart. He is athletic. He is fast. He is instinctive. He is tough. He has got a good demeanor but at the same time is athletic enough to be able to handle just about every situation you put him in whether it is man-to-man coverage, playing in space, taking on blockers, taking on tight ends, covering good backs, covering big tight ends, he has had a lot of different responsibilities for us this year and through the years. He is really a versatile player, but physically and mentally. Not only has he had a lot of experience, but he is a very instinctive and smart player so he can make adjustments and can adapt to different things where it seems like very easily.
Q: Off the field, has his role changed at all with all of the injuries?
BB: I think he has been pretty consistent. I really do. I think he has been pretty consistent. I think that he is the guy that is very well respected. He is not a big team speech guy but I think he his well respected. I think that certainly when he says anything, people listen because of what he has been able to accomplish for our team and for his career. He is not the kind of guy to stand up and address the team everyday. That is just not his personality.
Q: Has Kenyatta Jones experienced any kind of set back?
BB: No. Not at all. With the PUP [Physically Unable to Perform] situation, we have three weeks to…once we start the clock running on a PUP player we have three weeks to practice him. At the end of that time we have to make a call one way or the other, either put him on the roster or put him out. The sooner you start the clock running, the sooner you have to make a decision. If you don't start it until it is three weeks in a six-week window and we start at the six-week window you are only allowed to do it for three weeks. If we pushed that starting point back, then we push the final decision point back too.
Q: So it was more like, 'Let's wait until he is completely ready?'
BB: No, he's ready. It was more of when do you want that window to be open to you. It is really a team decision. At this point it is not a physical decision, which sometimes it is, but in this case it isn't.
Q: Either way, week12 is the cut off date?
BB: Right, week 12 is the cut off. So we would start him practicing in week nine at the very latest. If we did it at week eight then week 11 would be the cut off. It is just a question of where you want that to fall.
Q: How about any of the other guys on that PUP?
BB: Yeah, [Chas] Gessner is in the same category.
Q: Have you started the clock on any of the other one's?
BB: Tully Banta-Cain started practicing yesterday.
Q: Do you have anything on Stephen Neal?
BB: We have not started him yet either. Again, part of the problem is if we start everybody at the same time, then they are all up at the same time and if you want to bring them onto the team, you would have to create let's say three or four roster spots in the same week and, it's possible, but it would probably be hard to do. With [Gene] Mruczkowski, Gessner, Neal, Banta-Cain and Kenyatta, realistically I don't think it would be good to start them all this week even though we could just because then the decision point would be all the same at the end and that could knock somebody out that you would really want to keep the door open on. I think we will probably stagger it a little bit.
Q: How does Tully look? He didn't practice in all of training camp.
BB: No he didn't. Tully has worked hard. He has lost some weight from where he was in the spring. He played down at Cal. He is getting more work here as a linebacker so he has lost a little bit of weight. I think he might have picked up a little bit of speed and quickness relative to where he was in the spring. He looks like he is certainly over any physical problems that he had earlier. So he has a long way to go. He has a lot to try to catch up on. It is good to see him running around out there.
Q: Is it realistic that he could be a spot contributor this year?
BB: Well, we will see. It is possible. Again, he really hasn't had an opportunity to do much. On the other hand, we are a little thin at the spot that he plays. That works to the disadvantage of the people who are missing but it works to his advantage because it creates a little bit more of an opportunity there. If he can get out there and show us that he can do something, it could be a consideration.
Q: Did he end up being a seventh round pick because personnel staffs might have viewed him as a 'tweener'?
BB: That is probably fair. He played defensive end in college. He is not probably the prototype 4-3 defensive end that a lot of 4-3 teams would be looking for. He is really more of an outside linebacker in terms of his physical makeup but he hadn't played outside linebacker so you would be projecting him to a spot where it was really hard to see him play.
Q: Production wise, because the Raiders took a guy out of Cal in the first round…
BB: Well two years ago they took [Langston] Walker in the second round that was an offensive lineman. This year they took a corner [Nnamdi] Asomugha.
Q: I was thinking he was from Cal, the guy they took from Colorado was a defensive end.
BB: They took Tyler Brayton.
Q: Out of Colorado?
Q: That was my mistake.
BB: But he was no tweener.
Q: No, I thought he was at Cal.
BB: Oh, okay. Right, Brayton was from Colorado.
Q: Is Mike Vrabel less doubtful today than he might have been yesterday?
BB: No, I think they are all the same amount of doubtful. I think if they were going to change, then we would change them.
Q: What if it is 62 percent and not 75 percent?
BB: Pick a winner. That is such a hard thing to say what is 20 percent and what is 50 percent, what is 70 percent. Even then we are just trying to take a stab at it based on what we know but it is certainly inexact. I know the people that are questionable it is 50/50. I am sure that some of them probably are going to play and some of them probably aren't. That is what 50/50 is. They probably all won't be ready but hopefully some of them will.
Q: When Vrabel does come back there wouldn't be any reason you would put him on a short leash would there? When he goes back in he should be ready to play right?
BB: Well I think that anytime a player plays who is less than 100 percent, you have to look at what those limitations are and decide what you want to do about them. If you want to wait until he is 100 percent healthy to play him, I am talking about any player it doesn't matter who it is, then you say, 'Okay, he has no limitations.' If you want to say, 'Well he can so some things and not others due to his physical condition,' then the things that he can do, he can do. The things that he can't do, you are not going to ask him to do. So, yes he is playing but no he is not really playing like he would be if he were at 100 percent. But you still may, from a competitive standpoint as a coach, decide to play the player even though you realize that he is somewhat limited because you feel like those limitations you can live with those in your scheme or in that particular week or that particular game plan.
Q: If the defense is playing well with the guys you have out there, how do you plug those guys back in there after returning from injury, even if they have a certain chemistry going or if the team is in a groove with the guys that are out there?
BB: Well, you just have to make the decision as to whether you think that player will improve your team and maybe it's just situationally to start with. So when you bring a player back maybe you just put him in situationally—he plays first down or he plays third down or he plays in a certain defensive grouping that you have. See how that goes rather than putting him out there for 60 plays like he did at an earlier point in time. Any time he plays—say he plays usually 60 plays a game—and now he's out and he's back and he's missed two, three, four weeks, whatever it is and you put him back out there again, it's unrealistic to think that in all those cases the performance level is going to be exactly where it left off a month ago with no practice, none of that sense of timing. Every once in a while you luck out with one of those but for the most part that would be abnormal. If you work the player back in slowly, where he can concentrate on a smaller role and really get that down and get that timing down and start to rebuild his conditioning and his confidence and his reaction skills and all that, then the next week you increase it and then maybe you get it back to the point where it was.
Q: Do you find that some of those injured starters returning from injury—when they come back, they aren't that patient?
BB: Oh yeah, sure. Everybody's always ready to jump back in. They'll come up to you and say 'Coach I'm ready to go. I feel like I can do everything so just put me in there and I'll do it'. And then you do that and then a week or two weeks after when you talk to them again, then they'll say 'you know what, I thought that I was ready then and I'm playing a lot better now than I was two weeks ago' and that kind of thing. The adrenaline of wanting to get back in there and feeling like 'boy I really feel great'—well of course, because you haven't played in a month, you're not sore; you're fresh and all that. But from a performance standpoint, a lot of times it's just not at that same level because of that time that we've missed. As I tell the players, if that was really the best way to do it then what we should do is not have training camp, bring everyone back in July, go out and run around in shorts for a couple of days and then go out and start the opening game a month later with no practice. Then everybody would be fresh and they'd have their legs under them and they wouldn't be tired and wouldn't have any injuries, but you know that's just not the way you do it. But that's really what you're talking about. When you play a guy that hasn't practiced and hasn't played in a while, and you put him out there and you expect him to do some of the things that he used to do when he played the last time, well sometimes it's just not there. I'm not saying a guy can't go out and make a few plays and play well—there are exceptions to every rule—but as a general rule, that's normally the way it turns out.
Q: When you lose a player like Ted Johnson, Ted Washington, or Mike Vrabel for an extended period of time, you obviously have to move on because you've got to have somebody else to play in that spot. How important is it that those guys stay involved?
BB: Well I think it's important when they actually can stay involved—it depends on the injury. The most important thing for a player is to rehabilitate his injury and to physically be back out there and able to do it, so a lot of times what you do is you take the player—say the guy looks like he's going to be out a few weeks, three, four, five, six, whatever it is. Maybe you take him the first couple weeks and start his rehab more aggressively. Not to digress, but we've got a number of guys on the injury list and a number of guys who are playing and need treatment. If everybody comes in for treatment at the same time, you've got a big logjam. So during the meetings, when the players who are going to play in a game are getting their preparation and their walk-through, a lot of times that's when you can aggressively treat some of the other guys who aren't going to be playing. Once you get them up to a certain point in their rehab where they start running again or start lifting or start doing things that are a lot closer to what they would be doing as a football player, then you plug them back into the meetings, plug them back into the walkthroughs, plug them back into some individual drills and that kind of thing. They work their way back into it as they're more ready to and closer to playing. When you take a guy who's, say, four weeks away from playing, and you're really running the game plan at him hard and out, but that guy's not going to play for a month, it's not…
Q: Is it almost an out of sight, out of mind kind of thing for injured guys?
BB: No, not at all. I think that each player has things that he specifically is working on so that he can improve, which helps the team improve. What you're working on might not be what I'm working on, which might not be what someone else is working on, but we're all working for the same goal and in the same direction, but we're all at different points in our development, or in our rehabilitation, depending on what the situation is. It's just like you take the rookie players—those guys, again, haven't seen some of the things that some of the other players have seen, so you take extra time to show them what they need to think about. Then other guys—Tedy Bruschi and Troy Brown and those guys—they've played Miami a hundred times, they've played the Jets a hundred times. They're past that; they need to move on to something else. So to have all the meeting time geared toward the most fundamental things for young players who haven't played is at the expense of veteran guys who need more advancement in their preparation and need to move on to a fuller point. Sometimes you break those up separately so that you're not holding the guys who need more work back or you're not moving too fast for the guys who need to catch up. That's where the assistant coaches and the overall balance of the program is, and you try to take advantage of that.
Q: Are those 85 defensive stats—are you concerned at all with how long the guys are out there, a guy his age getting too taxed?
BB: Sure. Sure, but that's one of those things where, particularly right now, it's hard to do a lot about. You're out there in the fourth quarter of the Giant game, you're not thinking about 'geez, let's get him 70 snaps', you're thinking about 'let's win the game'. You're thinking about who's going to cover Tiki Barber. You're just trying to get out there and manage and win the game. I think from a big picture standpoint, sure you definitely want to say 85 plays times 16 weeks, 1400 plays or whatever it is too much for that player, how can we cut back on it a little bit? One of the things, for example with Roman, that is what we've done is, for the first year, he played on the punt team, he also played on the kick-off return team. So we backed some of those responsibilities down from him. And earlier in the year, with our linebacker situation when we had Ted [Johnson], Tedy [Bruschi], and Roman, that his playing time was a little bit less there. Now the situation has changed a little bit, so his playing time has picked up. What we would hope for in the long run is that sooner or later that's going to happen for everybody—that anybody who you're trying to develop into a little bit better of a role-player, at some point you're going to have to count on him full-time. Hopefully they can step up and answer the bell there like Roman has. You hope that that's not for the entire sixteen-game season, but sometimes if it is, then that's what it is.
Q: Ty [Law] has had to sit out a portion of the second half—is that what we're going to see the rest of the whole year?
BB: I hope not. I hope it won't be that way. I think Ty hopes it won't be that way too, but it'll probably be a game-to-game type situation. Maybe at some point things will clear up. Any time that a player goes into the game a little bit less than a hundred percent, some guys, depending on the injury and the situation, sometimes the player will go through the game and won't have any problem. And then sometimes something will happen and instead of being a little less than one hundred percent, now something happened and something gets tweaked or it gets hit or it gets twisted and it significantly affects him. You never really know how that's going to turn out. We've had plenty of guys going into the game—I'm not saying they were in the exact type of situation that Ty was in—but going into the game less than one hundred percent. Then after the game, how do you feel, 'well I feel good, it wasn't a problem'. Other guys go in a similar situation, and then in the middle of the first quarter it's starting to bother them. It's always a hard thing to gauge because even though we try to go out here and practice it, it's not the same tempo or the same intensity as a regular-season NFL game. It's a lot more taxing, and sometimes raising that level of intensity changes the player's ability to perform.
Q: Is he kind of going through the practice week like Steve McNair was doing last year?
BB: Yeah, I think we've got some guys in that category. We do. I don't know what McNair did or didn't do, but yeah we definitely have several guys who haven't practiced early in the week to try to not send them back there on a Wednesday or Thursday practice to try to get them as healthy as we can, and then get try to practice them on Friday and give them another day of rest to see if we can get them there on Sunday. And that's what the player wants, that's what their goal is too, to be there on Sunday. That's just how sometimes you have to manage it—it's not really what you want to do, but sometimes that's the situation you're in.
Q: Was Roman's defensive performance last Sunday the best of the season?
BB: It was pretty good. We definitely recognized it. He had a lot of production, a lot of tackles, a lot of big hits. He was around the ball a lot, both run and pass. He did a heck of a job.
Q: Do you still watch him, as not employee number 95, but as a 37, 38 year old?
BB: Yeah. He's a special athlete. I remember when I talked to [Willie] McGinest before we signed him in the '01 season, because I'd had him with the Jets and he'd had a little injury there with the Jets and missed a couple of games. Will and I were talking and I forget how it came up with Willie, but I said 'do you see Roman out there in L.A.' and he said 'oh yeah, we work out together' and I said 'how's he doing? What kind of shape is he in?' and he said 'well I'll tell you right now we've got very few guys who will be able to keep up with him'. For McGinest to say that—he's a very hard worker and hard trainer, and for him to say 'you know Phifer, this guy is really impressive, conditioning won't be a problem', that was really impressive.
Q: He had a couple on Sunday—the adjective you would use is 'sweet'. Were those some of the hardest hits you've seen him give out?
BB: He's really a good football player. He's had a great career and he's had a lot of production. Yeah, he's been on the goal line—there's really no situation he hasn't played in. The only reason he hasn't played it is just if you were trying to manage what he was doing. But he's out there on first down, he's out there on second down, he's in the third down, he's been in the pass rush, he's in the coverage, and he always ends up covering good people. It's not like you'd put him on the guy who's the protection guy—he always ends up taking the best guy. He's been on all the special teams, he plays in a goal-line situation. You know when you try to get big, like on the goal line, he plays on those situations, and when you're trying to get fast and athletic, like on third down and two-minute and those things, he plays on those situations. He's played there for a long time. He played at UCLA. He's been playing good football for twenty years now—I'm sure in high school too—but at a real high level for a long time, week after week, year after year, down after down. It's pretty impressive.
Q: Miami has success in running the ball. You are having a lot of success running the ball—what do you attribute that to?
BB: I'm not trying to be funny, but better blocking and better running. I don't think there's any secret. It isn't like we've gone to a lot of new plays or a lot of new blocking schemes or anything. The guys who are blocking and the guys who are running are, for the most part, guys we've seen block and run before, other than [Dan] Koppen or [Mike] Cloud, who had a couple of carries against Tennessee. For the most part it's a lot of the same players, whether it's [Christian] Fauria or the linemen or the backs or even the receivers who are involved in the running game on some of the runs, it's a lot of the same people. I just think we're doing it a little bit better than we were doing it last year. A lot of it is the same thing, it's just better.
Q: Is it surprising because of the flux in the offensive line?
BB: I think it started off better in training camp, and I think that for the most part it has been at a higher level than it was last year. I'm not saying it's great—this isn't the electric company in Buffalo in '76, but I think that it's been better on a consistent basis than it was last year, and we would like to take it to higher ground.
Q: Is he rushing less than he was a couple of years ago?
BB: He still does both. I couldn't give you a break down on it. I think that part of the situation that you are referring to a couple of years ago, we probably had less overall as a team, less outside rushers than what we have now. As I am thinking back on it, there might have been a little bit more of a requirement or a need for them there. Whereas now, I think our outside rush depth is probably a little better than it was a couple of years ago, which gives him more coverage responsibilities.
Q: Bobby Hamilton has been a bit of an unsung guy and has been a very productive player for you. Can you talk a little bit about him?
BB: I think you hit it right on the head. Ever since he has come here he has been very productive for us. He has been amongst the most productive players on a per-play basis in the league at his position. He has been consistent. He has been productive. He is not a flashy guy. He is not a big hype guy, but he just goes out there and does a good job. He has a lot of playing strength. He is not the biggest guy on the team but he has a lot of playing strength. He uses his hands well. He is an instinctive player and he knows how to play the techniques in our defense and he is disciplined enough to do them. Therefore, a lot of plays come to him just because he is doing what he needs to do and the ball ends up coming back to him.
Q: Is it kind of odd for a guy his size, I don't know what he weighs but to be able to play as well as he does?
BB: and [Anthony] Pleasant is another one in that category, yeah, that are probably those guys are definitely under 280 [pounds] and for them to be able to play that position, it puts them a little bit on the small size relative to probably the average in the league at that spot, you bet. Again, I think it comes back to what we call playing strength. Size is one thing but playing strength and explosion is another thing. There are some people that, like in Bobby's case, that I would say play big, they actually play bigger than what their actual weight is. Then there are other guys who are big that really don't play that powerfully because they just can't generate the explosion even though they have more size and mass but they are just not as powerful or explosive who actually end of playing smaller. A little bit of it is natural size but a lot of it is also playing style and power and explosion, which is where your offseason program and doing the exercises that build explosions, the squats and the jumps and all of those kinds of things that all football players try to build. Guys that have it are able to utilize it and size really doesn't become that big of an issue because they have explosive strength.
Q: Are Roman and Junior Seau the exception to the rule that linebackers at their age can't still fly all over the place?
BB: I would say they are. That is a tough position to play for a long time and I am fortunate that I have been around some guys that have done that, whether it be Pepper [Johnson], Clay Matthews, Roman, guys like that who just played that position seemingly forever when that position takes a lot of wear and tear because you almost never go unblocked. There is always somebody after you and you are trying to get the runners down and all of that. Junior, since he has come in the league, he has really been an impact player and he still is. Just like we were talking about before, he is very explosive. He has got great lower body strength and explosion when he hits people. He generates a lot of power and knocks them back. It doesn't matter whether it is a 320 pound guard or whether it is the running backs that have a full head of steam or tight ends or whoever it is. He is a very powerful and explosive guy and plays that way. He is very aggressive. He is fun to watch. He really is. It won't be that much fun this Sunday, but when he is playing against other people, the way he flies around to the ball and plays with an aggressive attitude. He is a fun guy to watch