BB: Well, what's the big story today? Rain?
Q: How many do you have on the practice squad?
BB: We're at four on the practice squad, Ula (Tuitele) took Matt Chatham's place on the 53-man roster. And Chris Hayes took … when we were at 52 with (Jimmy) Hitchcock, so we're at 53 and four on the practice squad. Hopefully we'll get that done this week.
Q: What demands the most physical toughness on the field?
BB: Physical toughness. Boy that's a tough one because there's so many. It's just like you said there's so many different kinds of toughness. You take a receiver, you can look at a receiver going to block somebody and say, 'well, you know, he's not really showing much toughness trying to block.' Yet, you ask a receiver to go inside and catch a pass knowing that when he catches the pass he's going to get hit, is a whole different kind of toughness, and some receivers will go in there and get the ball and take any hit you want to give them. Yet if you watch them block a guy, they don't show as much toughness there. Then you'll find another receiver that'll go in there and aggressively crack-block on anybody, yet you ask him to go in there and catch the ball and take the hit and it's a little bit of, 'where are they coming from,' rather than just going after the ball. So, it depends on how you want to define it, quarterbacks, that's another position where they almost never deliver hit, they're always on the receiving end of them, and yet, paying the price to make the throw, you know, Johnny Unitas, going all the way back to him. Staying in the pocket, taking the hit, and making the throw, saying, 'boy, that's a lot of toughness,' it's toughness in taking the hit versus, you talk about Lawrence Taylor, somebody that it's not the hits that he took, it's the ones that he gave out. I'm not saying that Phil Simms was any tougher than Lawrence Taylor, or Lawrence Taylor was any tougher than Phil Simms, but it was just the whole different element of the toughness, without even getting into the mental toughness, this is just physical.
Q: Would you at all say it was at all in the middle and outside linebackers and the running backs? Numbers wise.
BB: Well, I'd say yeah, the middle linebackers and the running backs in terms of number yeah. Really they're pretty much in on every play, I mean you can't run away from a middle linebacker, the guys in the middle of the field are involved in plays on both sides of the field. If you're playing corner, outside linebacker, or defensive end, percentage wise, half the plays are going to the other side. That's not saying you can't get in on one and chase a play or something like that. But, you're not at the point of attack where, if you're in the middle of the formation, if you're the fullback, or the running back obviously, or the middle linebacker, or a safety to who plays close enough to the line to be involved in those plays, it's almost impossible of them not to be involved in them. I mean they may not be making the tackle, but they're either blocking somebody or getting blocked or trying to make the play
Q: In your career, in-season training, weight lifting, how has that changed since you have come into the league?
BB: Well, when I first came in the league, there was almost no weight-lifting to speak of. They way it was done, back … the first four teams I was with the Colts, the Lions, Denver, and I guess the Giants would have been the first team, but the first three teams didn't really have a strength coach who was a strength coach, it was a position coach, 'and okay, you handle the weights.' Actually, when I was with Detroit, Floyd Reece was also the weight coach, he coached special teams and he was the weight coach. So any time you get a situation like that, the coach is put in a little bit of a bind, he's trying to coach a position, or he's trying to coach something in, he's trying to coach the weights, so there's just not as much emphasis and the time devoted to it is not the same. But, really I think not what you're looking at is a program where you're trying to maintain the strength that you build up in the offseason, and then, as much as you can, rehabilitate the injuries that occur during the season. So, a guy gets a sore shoulder, obviously his bench press numbers aren't going to be what a comparable guy is who doesn't have a sore shoulder, or vice a versa. In those cases you try to rehab those injuries the bets you can so you can keep the guy as close to what his target is, let's say, with his good arm, or his good leg, try to get it up there as much as you can. So it's a combination of rehabilitation, and strength maintenance and just general conditioning.
Q: Do you think it has allowed better performance for this time of year?
BB: No question. I think it's kind of leveled out, I'm not saying that one team has a great edge over another team, but I'm saying a player in 2002 relative to a player in 1968 is a lot better conditioned during the season than 30, 40 years ago, 20 years ago. Yeah, I don't think there's any question about that. But you're right, the season is longer, it's not really longer. I shouldn't say that, it's not longer, the regular season's longer, training camp's a lot shorter. Training camp used to start at the beginning of July, now it starts closer to the end of July, the season drags out longer, but the training camp and the preseason games. So if you look at a guy that played in '75, or '80, he probably played about the same number of weeks as we're playing now, it was just more toward July and less towards January.
Q: How has Matt Light improved from his rookie season?
BB: He's been more consistent, I think that's been the big thing. It wasn't like he didn't do things well last year. I think he's just doing them more consistently this year. And he's had more experience in the run-blocking phase of the game for sure than he did coming out of college, and now that he's in the second year of the system I think he's more comfortable because he's had more experience in some of run-blocking schemes.
Q: So game by game, he grades higher than last season?
BB: Oh yeah, he's definitely playing better than he did last year. Well, first of all, he was hurt all last year. I don' t know how many game she missed, but he missed a bunch of them. And then some of the ones he played in, even the Super Bowl, he's out there for a quarter or a half, and then he's out. His durability's been a lot better this year, and he's been on the field and that right there has helped his overall production and his performance as much as anything. But, I don't think he was a guy that was deficient last year, because he still did things at a good level, I think the level's just higher now. Not perfect, but higher.
Q: He's had a number of more penalties this year than last year, is that a big deal?
BB: I wouldn't say it isn't a big deal, it is a big deal, he's leading the team in penalties, and that's bad, you never want that attached to you. I think he's been a more consistent player, he's made some key blocks, he's played against some key people, and he's gotten a lot less help from the scheme standpoint than he did last year. His 11 penalties, or 12 penalties or however many it is…
Q: Is that the most in the league?
BB: Nine, no he's up in double figures. Maybe you're just talking about the ones that are accepted. We don't count whether they're accepted or not, we just count the ones that are called because we can't … that depends on what happened on the play. He's had too many penalties.
Q: Do offensive linemen traditionally have the most penalties on the team?
BB: I would say yes. Unless you have somebody that has … they're going to be up there, they're going to be up there as a group. I think the problem is individually, one guy's got the same number as two or three guys combined, that's not good. Defensively you're going to get a certain amount of line of scrimmage penalties, a certain amount of defensive pass penalties, if you're playing man-to-man coverage. Usually if you're playing zone coverage there isn't that much contact with the receivers down the field and you don't get all the illegal contact, and DPI, and holding, and there just isn't as much of that. But, if you're plying man-to-man in tighter coverage, then eventually that's … so those are the three main areas where they come in, defensive line of scrimmage, offensive line of scrimmage, and holding and defensive pass penalties.
Q: Is that the most in the league? Did you look at that? Is there any way to track that?
BB: I'm sure there is probably a way to chart it. If it's first, if it's third, if it's fifth, it's not like we're giving a prize for it. It's a problem. I said most on the team. He has the most on our team. Now I don't know where he ranks in the league. Like I said, if it's 10th, if it's first, either way, we're trying to cut that number down.
Q: About a month ago you talked about one-on-one matchups, is the team improving on that? How's that going?
BB: There are definitely areas that need improvement. I think that's always the case. We're still working hard on those. I know we addressed them yesterday in practice. Some of it's specific from game to game, where you know it's going to be a lot of a particular type of matchup. Like for example, last week, covering (Larry) Centers out of the backfield was a key matchup because of the type of routes he runs, and the way they utilize him. Another week that might not be as big of a deal, it might be more, like this week maybe it'd be Frank Wycheck. That one-on-one matchup, so sometimes that changes a little bit from game to game depending on who you're playing and the way they play and what their style of play is. Absolutely, that's an area that we're always working on and trying to improve in, and there's still plenty of room for improvement. I do think we've made some progress there, but we've got a ways to go, it's not perfect.
Q: Is there a particular player that has improved the most?
BB: Well if you want to go from the last month or so, I think one player obviously would be (Richard) Seymour. Seymour's a guy that has come out on the better end of a lot of one-on-one matchups in the last four, five, six games. A lot of that's technique, and a lot of that's just one-on-one, it's just playing with better leverage, playing with better technique, and putting his strength against his opponents weakness in a way where he can gain an advantage.
Q: Knowing the schedule making process, you've played five games in 25 days, does it change the intensity of preparation at all?
BB: From a Coaching standpoint?
Q: Yes, and getting the team ready.
BB: I guess the way I've always felt is whatever time you have it's valuable if you use it efficiently. If you don't use it, it doesn't make any difference whether you have a day, a week, a month, if you just sit around and twiddle your thumbs and don't do anything, it doesn't really matter. So I think the big thing is to try to use whatever time you have efficiently. Ina short week like the Detroit week, we didn't have a lot of time, compared to a normal week, to prepare, I think the emphasis that week was, let's not get to the point of diminishing returns, let's do what we need to do in the reasonable time that we have that's allotted, then we're going out there and playing. That's not all bad, they're playing on the same schedule we are, the tough thing there is if one team had seven or eight days and the other team only had four, but that wasn't the case. When it's a longer week, I think you want to try to pace yourself through the week, sometimes when you have a long week, if everything's too intense at the beginning of the week, you get to the end of the week and sometimes the players are sitting there and saying, 'the 19th time we've seen this play before,' and it's almost to boredom, and then you get to the game and it's hard to regenerate that. Sometimes those two week Super Bowl schedules, I mean I've seen that happen a little bit, where you go through that first week of preparation, and then you go down and you've still got a week to play the game, and there's hardly anything that you can give the players that's new, that you haven't already showed them, and talked to them about, and, 'here's how we're going to do it,' and you're going through it for the 18th time. So, I think you want to try to get your team right to that edge, where even as you're going through things on the last two days, or day before the game, that there's something new, that there's a certain amount of urgency there, not panic, like, 'oh no, we haven't covered this, this is going to cost us the game if we don't get it right,' and all that. But a certain amount of urgency that, 'hey, this is really important, and if we get this right in the game, this is going to help us win the game, and here's why we're going over it,' so that they're still in tune to it, and they have a mental alertness that heightens and builds towards the game. I mean there's a little bit of lull there between Friday and, you know, say Friday afternoon to Saturday morning, but you're still pushing from Saturday morning to game time, trying to peak at the right time. And that's, it's a really interesting question, when you get into longer weeks, and shorter weeks and all that, trying manage that so that everybody's peaking at the right time. It doesn't always happen that way, but I think that's what you're trying to get.
Q: If Deion Branch doesn't play Sunday, how will he change your plans?
BB: Well, what'll happen is, one thing that we can do is what we did at the end of the game last week, which, our fourth receiver in that situation was (David) Givens, who stepped in and made some plays against Buffalo. Kevin (Faulk) has returned kickoffs for us, J.R. (Redmond) can return kickoffs, Givens can return kickoffs, (Patrick) Pass has returned them. So, we'll plug somebody in there to do that, and Deion, like any other player, for example, he didn't practice yesterday, but he's still getting ready as if he's going to play, and he'll continue to do that right up until game time, and then we'll see where we are at game time, if things turn the corner, then there will be certain things we might feel good about him doing, maybe others we won't, we'll just have to wait and see. If he doesn't, then the guys who have been taking those reps during the week will get the opportunity.
Q: Are you a little disappointed by (Daniel) Graham's progress? I know he was slowed certainly by the injury. But were you looking at this point in the year for him to sort of assert himself enough to force you to put him out on the field more often than you have? He's dropped some balls.
BB: I don't really go through the year with those kinds of expectations. Take player 'a' and say, 'Okay, by the third game, he is going to be doing this. By the eighth game he is going to be doing that. By the fifteenth game he'll be doing something else.' Because it's just too hard to project where somebody is going to be when they are a rookie. That's saying that about any rookie. If we would have known Lawrence Taylor would have been the defensive player of the year his rookie year, maybe we would have played the first two or three games differently with him. I don't know. I think what you try to do is, you take a young player and you just want to make progress with him. You want him to be moving forward. You want him to be improving in obviously every area, but sometimes progress comes quicker in one area than it does in another. And if progress isn't moving along as quickly in one area, then you devote more time to it or try to find some solution to getting production out of that. So, Daniel has certainly improved through the year. He's made progress in some areas; some quicker than others. Some he has been more consistent in than others. As long as he is working hard and making progress, you hope that it is going to continue heading that direction. Once it turns in the other direction, then you have to decide, 'Well is that the way it's going to go?' Or, 'How do we turn it around?' Not being specific to him, I am trying to answer your question, but I am saying that about any young player. You could say that about any rookie.
Q: Like you say every year, it doesn't matter where they are drafted when they come here, they show you they can play or they show you they can't play. With that in mind, you did trade up to get him. What is he doing best?
BB: I think he has made progress in every area of his game. I do. I think he has made progress in the receiving game. I think he has made progress in the running game. I think he has made a lot of progress on special teams. He still has a lot of work to do and a long way to go. Again, I could give you examples of almost any player, I'm not saying every player; give me a situation and put a player in that situation. Give me a grade on (Tom) Brady on his rookie year. I mean, were we disappointed in him? What grade would you give him after his rookie year? Things change from year one to year two. You can find examples of guys who come in and make a big impact in year one and then you can't find them two years later in the league. Sometimes they start fast and level off. Sometimes they start slow and pick up speed. Sometimes they kind of go at a steady rate and if you expect it to be to fast, then you are disappointed. If you expected it to go a little bit slower, you're pleased with his progress. It's really more related to the expectations than it is more of an analysis of what the player is actually producing on the field. That's the way it is with the fans. A lot of times with the media, you look at where the guy was picked and therefore your expectations and the rate of expectations go right with it. Again, we drafted Mark Haynes in the first round at the Giants, didn't play his rookie year, covered kicks and all of that, first round bust, he was one of the best corners in the league. (He) came on his second year, started in '81 and we went to the playoffs and he covered everybody. It's hard to say when they are going to hit their highest performance level. Whether that is the first year, whether it is the second year or whether it is third year. In some cases, whether it's never.
Q: You obviously feel like he's got pretty good hands. Are you surprised that he has dropped the ball? Obviously guys drop the ball.
BB: We never call any passes where we … there's no point in throwing it to them if you think they are going to drop it. We've seen all the players drop balls. Ever receiver has dropped them. It's something that you don't want to happen and the receiver doesn't want it to happen. But I don't think it's a question of bad hands, I think all of our receivers catch the ball well. But they all drop them. It's concentration; it's technique, whether it being able to do the right things to finish the play and end up with the ball. I don't it's that they have bad hands but as opposed to just not being able to catch the ball. There are some players that just don't catch the ball well. I don't think our receivers fall into that category, but when they drop it, I mean it's the same result. And that's a hard thing, not to get off the subject, but when you get into scouting, a scout comes back and he'll say, 'Well you know this guy has got pretty good hands, but he drops quite a few balls.' Well it's hard to say he's got good hands when he drops a lot of balls but I mean there is some truth to that where if a guy really can catch the ball softly and he has nice soft hands and he doesn't fight the ball, that's one thing, versus a guy who has hard hands who struggles to catch who is going to drop the ball. I think you have more of a chance to correct one problem than the other one.
Q: Is he still being affected at all by the shoulder?
BB: No. He hasn't been on the injury report in, I don't know, a couple of months.
Q: Has he been wearing any type of brace or anything might restrict movement?
BB: Well, sure. All players, I wouldn't say all players, but probably half of our team is wearing some type of specific padding or equipment that addresses some area that they want a little extra support or protection in it or whatever.
Q: You have been around Anthony Pleasant forever it seems like.
BB: Yeah. (Laughter) I was around him when he was young.
Q: Are you surprised by him at all?
BB: Anthony is one of the most consistent players that I have ever coached. Anthony Pleasant, whether it's Monday, Sunday, a playoff game, a preseason game, training camp, Wednesday practice before the biggest game of the year, he is about as consistent a player as I've ever been around in terms of his attitude, his work ethic, his technique, his effort, he's just the same guy everyday. The surprising thing would be if he weren't like that. If he were to get on some kind of roller coaster, either mentally, physically or performance; just all of those are very, very consistent. So it's really no surprise when he continues to be consistent like that, because that's kind of the way he has been for 10 years.
Q: Why does it seem like he has been jumping around (from team to team)?
BB: Well he's started 68 games.
Q: I think some of those were with three different teams.
BB: Well, he was hurt when was in San Francisco and he was hurt when he was in Atlanta. The only time he hasn't been hurt was when he's played for me. I keep telling him that.
Q: Why is he going around so much? Has it been his injuries?
BB: No. I think that is the NFL. That's the NFL these days, there's player movement. Contracts expire, situations change, sometimes one looks better than another. Coaches have moved, players have moved, I think that's the NFL. I don't think it's any indictment of him or his performance or his attitude or the way he responds to coaching or the way he has played or anything else. His circumstances have been a little bit different than … every player is unique, but that is the way it's ended up.
Q: He says he doesn't want to coach…
BB: I believe that.
BB: Well, like I told him, does he think that me trying to get guys to do what I want them to do is easy, it's not easy.
Q: Would he be a good coach?
BB: Oh, well I think he is. He's like having a coach on the field now. Not a coach-coach, but a player-coach in terms of with younger players and giving them instruction and showing them how to be a pro and showing them how not just play the game but how to prepare for the game and how to act as a professional football player. Yeah, he's a great teacher, a great role model. He can help players and coach players through things a lot of us can't. I mean, I can't. I haven't experienced the same thing that Anthony has experienced as a player playing his position, dealing with the guys that he has to deal with, the tackles and the guards and all of that. He brings a perspective that, you know, honestly, I can ring it from the outside but not from the inside like he can.
Q: Is it important to have that kind of guy on your team who is a player/coach? Have you labored to try and find guys to fill those roles?
BB: I think that is just part of their package. I don't think you bring in a football player who is not a good football player and say, 'Well, you know, I hope he can help Richard Seymour or Jarvis Green,' or whoever it is. You look at three, four, five players or however many it is and look at the ones that were legitimate guys you were thinking about possibly adding to your team, 'Here's what this player brings, here's what that player brings, here's what somebody else brings,' they all can bring something. In Anthony's case, he brings other things besides what he does on the field; those are important. I don't think that is the only reason you would want to bring a player onto your team but when you add it up with everything else, it just becomes a more valuable commodity.
Q: Do you ever suggest that he talk to certain players or does he just do it on his own?
BB: Both. Sometimes we talk about it, I mean he does a lot on his on, sure. I don't know. It's not like I go around and ask him, 'Who'd you talk to, who didn't you talk to.' I mean, that's just the way that he is. Sometimes he'll talk about a specific situation or sometimes I'll ask him his advice, 'How do you think we ought to handle this? Or how do you think we handled that? Do you think I screwed this up? Should I have handled it differently?' every couple of weeks usually. He's not afraid to speak up.
Q: Is versatility more important than it used to be? And how has it helped Damien (Woody)?
BB: Well, I think it's real important.
Q: More so than …
BB: First of all, I think on a couple of different levels, (is) one the number of things that you see on the other side of the ball, the things that you are having to face defensively. One week you can go from seeing a power team, a two-back team, to a three wide receiver team to a squared out team, a scrambling quarterback or a pocket quarterback, a receiving back to a more of a running–blocking back, they're all different. So, they come in different shapes and sizes. So, somebody that is versatile that one week you can match up on a quarterback. And the next week you can match up on a tight end. The next week you can put on a running back. The next week you can play down. The next week you can play up. Those kind of guys, you need them because you have to face a lot of different problems. If you have 11 guys and all they do is what they can do, then your always a little bit on the edge. You can never quite get to where you want to be because you are asking guys to do things that they really can't do and that lessens their value as a player. Anytime you get into the numbers which, you know, we're all facing between not just offense and defense, but you add in the kicking game and you get guys like (Mike) Vrabel, like (Roman) Phifer, like Vic Green, like Lawyer (Milloy) that make an impact on the kicking game as well as on the defensive side of the ball or (David) Givens or (Daniel) Graham. Guys like that show up and do more than one job, that makes you a stronger team down the line, so that is important. Then you talk about depth. We go into a game with seven offensive linemen, well somebody has got to play those other three spots. I mean, five and then the five behind them. So however you do it, either one guy is playing two or three, or everybody is playing two, you've got to do something there. If you want to go in with seven linemen, then that gives you a chance to bring another special teams player to maybe bring another pass rusher or bring another skill player on offense that can give you another package that they have to defend against. That extra flexibility, it helps that player, but it really helps the team and helps the team, not in that area probably in some other area. So Damien Woody being able to play multiple positions on the offensive line maybe gives us another receiver in the game, Given, you know, who makes a catch, who plays on special teams, who fills in for Branch when he gets hurt. If he can't do that, you carry another lineman and then you're down a receiver. Now it hurts you at the other end.
Q: Is it a big change to go from playing center to playing guard?
BB: You know, I'll say the same thing I've said before on that. Some guys, it doesn't bother at all. You can go from center guard, guard to center, right guard to left guard, it hardly bothers them at all. There are other guys, if you move them two inches from one spot to the other; they have a hard time making that adjustment. From right corner to left corner, they can't play it. Other guys, right corner, left corner, I don't care, it doesn't make any difference, and it's all the same. The next guy you try to flip from one side to the other, and it's, 'My foot works backwards, I can't get off balance, I can't see the quarterback, I can't find the ball.' Put them in one spot and he goes over there and plays it confidently and plays it good. It just varies from player to player. I would say with Woody, he's very adjustable. You ask him in the middle of the game, just like we did last week, we go from center to bump him over to right guard at the end of the game, he played good. You watch that and say we should have him at right guard, it looks like he plays better at guard than center.
Q: How about Grey (Ruegamer)? He's played both center and I think he played at right guard.
BB: Yeah, he played right guard in the Miami game. I think that Grey is more of a center. Not that he can't play them all, but I think he is more of a center. Right now, our preference would probably be to move Woody rather than move Grey. Again, (Mike) Compton is a guy that has played everywhere but tight end. He played tackle, left guard, right guard, and center. (Joe) Andruzzi has played right and left guard. (He) probably could play center, but with our center situation, we haven't really needed him there. So, we haven't gotten to that with Joe. But I think if the situations or circumstances were different, I think Joe could probably play center and has played center. Not extensively for us, but has done so in practice and so forth. Some guys it's just … I wish I could explain it. And then it's a problem when you draft a guy too. You draft somebody and say, 'Well this is g