BB: As I am sure you could all see, we have things moving at a lot faster pace today. Two-a-days have started. We had a lot of contact work out there this morning in the running game and to a certain extent the passing game. It is good to see everybody moving around. The contact has started, and I think we have started moving forward here at, hopefully, a pretty good pace because we certainly have a lot of work to do and a long way to go. On two of the draft choices [Cedric] Cobbs and [Guss] Scott, we expect those to be done today. I have been wrong before but I hope that will be the case. So that leaves one player that is unsigned. That is probably it from me. What are you guys working on?
Q: When you signed Josh Miller, how much of your desire to sign him was based on how you thought he kicked in cold weather?
BB: It was somewhat of a factor. He had been outside. He had been in cold weather. He had been in conditions in Pittsburgh, which we know is a little bit of a wind tunnel there too. He has been a pretty consistent player through his career. He has good hands and can handle bad snaps. We felt that he could work in as a holder even though he didn't do it there the last couple of years as he had done it in the past. So the overall value for the position we felt was solid with Josh. A solid kid.
Q: If there is one area that you could strengthen on your o-line, what area would that be?
BB: One area to strengthen the line in? I don't know. I really haven't seen enough at this point to know exactly how that whole situation is going to shake out. We have a lot of people competing for a few spots. We will see how that all comes together. I am not sure exactly where everyone is going to end up on this one. I think it is probably a little bit too early to target that. I think at this point what I am looking at is to try to evaluate the whole position, try to find out what the best combinations are, where our depth is and that is probably going to be several weeks away realistically from being able to determine that. That is true of a lot of other positions as well.
Q: Tully [Banta-Cain] missed training camp last year. He is getting some extra opportunities this training camp. Has he picked it up? Do you feel good about where he is in his development?
BB: He is a lot further along than he was last year. That goes without saying. How big of a feature are we doing on this guy?
Q: [Laughter] Why, did a lot of people ask about him?
BB: Well, there are three questions about him everyday. Yes, he didn't get anything done at this point last year. He is certainly way ahead of that. He was making the transition from basically playing down to playing up and did a lot of that during the year, but I think being able to start with it right from the first day of camp and build on the fundamentals and not try to catch up at a later point during the season, those all worked to his benefit. He has had a good offseason. We will see how all of that transfers onto the field. I think that he has worked hard. A lot of elements are in place for him to continue to improve in development as a player and there are some skills that he didn't have a lot of experience in at Cal.
Q: Does he remind you at all of a young Lawrence Taylor? [Laughter]
BB: [Laughter] Identical. Yes.
Q: Back to the offensive line, you didn't allow a sack in the postseason but weren't so good with opening holes in the running game. Do you think the offensive line could be better there?
BB: Well based on last year, yes, there are a lot of things that could have improved in the running game. That would be part of it.
Q: Are they a better pass blocking line than a run blocking line?
BB: I would say they probably were last year. Whether that will be the case this year or not, I am not sure. But in any case, we have to work on all of those things and we have to try to get good at every phase of the game on the offensive line and that is what camp is for, the running game, short yardage and goal line, play action pass protection, third down and sub situations where the defenses are teeing off on you because situationally they know you are pretty much throwing on every down or pretty much on those downs. There are all of those different elements, and we have to address all of them.
Q: With the running game, how much of it is the offensive line and them opening holes and how much of it is the running back finding the holes?
BB: It is a combination of both. They are all inter-related and that sometimes makes it hard to specifically identify what the biggest things is to be corrected or needs to be corrected but certainly they are all elements of it including ball handling.
Q: With Ty Warren what role do you see for his this season inside or outside and what does he need to improve on?
BB: Inside or out? In the 3-4, he is going to play inside. There is no doubt about that. What will his role be? Whatever he can develop it into. I don't know. He will get every opportunity to do that. I think there is good competition on the defensive line. We have some guys that are experienced. We have a couple of young guys that are in the mix there. We will see what everybody can do. Ty has had a very productive offseason. I think he is in real good condition. He is strong. He was one of our offseason reward recipients. I think that just speaks to the dedication and the improvement that he made in the offseason. Again, getting all of that to work on the field, that is what we are here to evaluate in camp. I think that he has, individually, gone quite a ways and now we have to start putting that together in a team concept.
Q: You have a lot of players that are able to help Tully make the switch from defensive lineman to linebacker. With Dan Klecko, it seems to be a unique switch. Do you have anyone who could help him make that switch?
BB: [Tedy] Bruschi.
Q: Playing inside?
BB: Yes, Bruschi played down similar to Klecko. Bruschi played inside, he played defensive tackle, three-technique, at Arizona. He led the Pac-10 and led the NCAA in sacks and all of that. That transition for him is similar to what [Dan is doing]. Now Dan played primarily defensive tackle though he did play some end a little bit at Temple but primarily he played defensive tackle, three-technique, one-technique, he played in there on the guard and so forth. It is pretty similar to what Bruschi did.
Q: They are going to have a little more significant workload I would assume, Tully and Dan, during this training camp in which they are going to go through some extra film work, etc. Is that a pretty good hunch?
BB: Yes, absolutely. They need the reps. Not that other guys don't, but guys like Ted Johnson and Tedy Bruschi and [Roman] Phifer, [Willie] McGinest, [Mike] Vrabel and guys like that have taken a lot of snaps both on the practice field and in game conditions in this system. Guys like Dan and Tully haven't, so it will be important for them to get those snaps and gain the experience, become confident and also to communicate. In the linebacker position there is a lot of communication involved, especially in a 3-4, so that the communication within the group between the inside backers and the outside backers, or at times from outside to outside, kind of across the ball. There is a lot to that and that is probably the hardest thing for a player like that who is going from down to up, the transition they have to make, because there isn't really that much communication between the down guys, there is some, but it is nowhere near to the degree that it is at the linebacker level. The formation adjustments, all the pass coverage responsibilities, it is really significantly much more of an important part of the game than it is playing with hand on the ground.
Q: Like learning the language?
BB: Right, well new language but also how to apply it and how to react to it quickly. A guy goes in motion, a tight end steps off, that triggers a number of adjustments in certain defenses and being able to react to those quickly and communicate them. My tight end steps off and I alert you over on the other side, 'Hey something is going to change for you over there. Maybe you haven't seen it on this side.' It is little things like that can really make a big difference in the overall performance of the unit. How that group communicates and works together, I think our linebackers overall as a group do an excellent job of that. I think they are outstanding. But guys like Klecko and Banta-Cain that haven't done as much of it, that is a step for them that they are working on they just haven't had a lot of experience with it.
Q: With the range and depth on the defensive line, do you have the luxury of bringing a guy like Vince Wilfork along at a pace you are comfortable and he is comfortable with as opposed to right away?
BB: Whatever he can do, that is what we are looking for. We are going to max out each players performance and their potential. We are not looking to bring anybody along at any pace other than the one that they are going at and try to get them ready to contribute as much as possible for the team. I don't know exactly what that is, but we are going to go as fast as we can. We are not going to say, 'Let's just coast along here and let things run their own course.' We are going to push it with Vince, with Marquise [Hill], with all of them and see how quickly they come along and what they are able to do. In [Richard] Seymour's case a couple of years ago, he was able to do quite a bit for us as a rookie. It is not going to be the same for everybody but I think you want to push to that point and give it a chance and see what happens.
Q: With his size and ability, does that give you some flexibility in where you place him?
BB: He is going to play nose.
Q: You mentioned that you expected the two draft picks to be signed today. Does that mean you expect them to be at practice this afternoon or are you realistically looking at them coming in tomorrow?
BB: I don't know for sure on that. There is some travel involved, there are a few other things that logistically have to take place. When that all is going to happen or be completed, I don't know for sure. But I think that the players will be, by the end of the day, signed.
Q: With the veteran leadership on the team, does it make the transition easier for a player like Corey Dillon?
BB: It probably doesn't hurt. Although, I think Corey has good leadership ability himself, and all players on the team have leadership. If they're on the team, they're in one way or another a leader and participant in the team activities, and that sends a message to everybody else how they're doing. In other words, I don't think you have five leaders on the team. If you have 53 guys, they all have leadership in their own way. Some of them are more vocal than others. Some of them have different styles of interacting with players than others. In the end, they all have a degree of leadership, and as I've said many times before, some of the best leaders I've been around in my coaching career would never say anything in front of the team or in front of the group, but their leadership by their attitude, their example and their work ethic and their team commitment is exemplary and a lot of times way better than a lot of players who sometimes have a lot to say.
Q: Has Corey Dillon given you what you are looking for so far?
BB: Yes, I think Corey has fit in well. He has worked hard. He is coming from a system he was in for a long time to a system now that is different, and he's worked hard to adapt to the things that we do and differentiate between what our responsibilities and requirements are that are different from Cincinnati's. I think he's been very diligent and put a lot of time and effort into trying to understand it and do it, and I think that's shown up in the opportunities, whether it be mini-camp or this brief training camp opportunity. I think that's shown up on the field as well.
Q: What did you like about Kurt Kittner?
BB: We [looked at] Kittner coming out [of college]. We thought he was a very productive quarterback at Illinois. [He] won a lot of games, took the team to the Sugar Bowl. He's accurate. He's smart. I think football is important to him, and he understands the game from the big-picture standpoint…production and ability and overall command of the position and ability to lead his team, I know it's a different level, but to lead his team to a good performance.
Q: Where is he fitting in so far?
BB: Well, he is practicing and he is out there. And I think that we are able to see what Kurt and Kliff [Kingsbury], because they are getting a lot of reps on the field, we are getting a better evaluation of them now. Jim [Miller] still has some rehab to do and I think it will be a little while until he's out there, so in the mean time, we'll try to take a look at the three young quarterbacks—Rohan [Davey], Kurt and Kliff. And then, at some point when Jim is ready, we'll factor him in there. But, that's probably a little way off. I mean, he is not going to be out there [tomorrow].
Q: When Corey Dillon is healthy he has been a 1,000-yard rusher. Do you expect that he will be that for you?
BB: Well, we don't go into any game or any season trying to produce certain stats for this guy or that guy. Like, 'This guy is going to have 'x' catches, and this guy is going to have so many yards, and somebody else is going to have so many sacks.' We just don't look at it that way. We do what we need to do to try to be productive and efficient, and I hope that Corey will be productive in his role. But I think that the other backs, Kevin [Faulk], Mike [Cloud] and Patrick [Pass], I think collectively as a group I hope will be productive there too. How much of it falls on one guy and how much of it spreads to other people, I don't really know at this point, but things will work out and I don't think I really care either.
Q: The Democrats are saying "Help is on the way". Does this year's team have a specific theme for this season?
BB: No, I think we've tried to touch on a lot of different things, not just one road. We have a lot of things that, I think, in the end are going to be important, and we will try to touch on those as we go through camp. We will probably pick out one or two of them on a daily or nightly basis to talk about and present to the team so that they understand the importance of that particular aspect of it and where it fits into the bigger picture. So, rather than just one slogan, no, we don't really have that right now.
Q: Are you proud of the team and their participation in the offseason program? How important is the offseason program?
BB: Well I think it's really important. We are playing a game two weeks from today and I don't think there is any way, looking back on other training camps I've been in without the offseason program and offseason camps at different points in time, I don't think you can get your team ready to be where it needs to be in two weeks. So, those camps, and the offseason program and the training that the athletes do on pretty close to a year-round basis certainly helps. We couldn't be at the point we are now without a lot of work having gone into it previously, and it has. I do think they are important. I think it builds chemistry and it builds a relationship on the team with the players and working with the coaches, and being able to create more of a one on one or a smaller group basis, and then build that into the overall team concept like we have in training camp, where everybody is working in big groups, and ultimately in very big groups. In that offseason program you can break it down so the players and the coaches can get to know each other and develop a much closer relationship at that time than sometimes we can in an environment like we are in now. So, I think it all blends in well together.
Q: On Ty Warren—is there something unique with him that makes him better suited to play defensive end as opposed to nose tackle?
BB: I think his body type and his skills all lend itself to that in our system. I think he could play nose, and I'm not saying he couldn't. And he did play some last year—he played in the first Miami game and played pretty well. But, for the long haul, and his number one position, I think he is better suited at end. One thing an end has to do in a 3-4 defense at times is to play on the perimeters, play on the outside. I think his speed and his range allow him to do that like it does with Richard, whereas if you took a player like Ted Washington, for example, to put him out on the perimeter and expect a lot of range from a nose tackle like that, that's why he's more of an inside player, and guys who have that kind of range are generally more of an outside player in that system. I'm not saying that he couldn't play inside, but I think it's a little bit more of a fit for him at end.
Q: Do you think it's important to have height at that position?
BB: Well, a big part of the time, they are going against an offensive tackle, and most of the offensive tackles in this league are 6-5 and up, or at least 6-4 and up. You don't see many under 6-4, so you are dealing with the big frames, long arms, and in order to deal with that type of player it is good to have a big frame and long arms to be able to counter that. A lot of those tackles, when they get up against those smaller guys, short-armed guys, they are just able to reach out and kind of cover them up and engulf them—not necessarily blow them off the line, but just tie them up, and the guy really can't get off a big body. So, I think that is a factor in it, yes.
Q: Do you think batting down balls is underrated?
BB: Well, yeah, that is something that we work on. It is certainly a skill that a player can become more proficient at. I don't think, defensively, you want to get into one of those things where your defensive linemen are trying to play volleyball and stand there and bat balls. You want to really make progress to the quarterback, and, in doing that, if you're in the throwing lane, then sometimes batted balls will occur, and that's a good thing. But, we are not really trying to emphasize standing on the line of scrimmage and jump. We are trying to make progress to the quarterback, and ultimately that's where a lot of those batted balls come from, when the defender is so close to the quarterback that it cuts down the passing lane. But being tall and having long arms, and being able to get them up at the right time so that it is disruptive to the throw, whether you bat the ball or just force the quarterback to throw around it which could result in an incompletion or even an interception if the ball is off target down the field, those are important and they are part of what we consider ball disruptions, just like fumbles, strip sacks, interceptions and plays like that, disrupt the ball. A rusher in the quarterback's vision that he has to somehow avoid or, if the guy is able to disrupt the ball, that is being disruptive.
Q: With Tedy Bruschi and Dan Klecko both moving from linemen to linebackers, is Bruschi acting as a mentor to Klecko during this move?
BB: I don't know about that. I think all the linebackers work pretty well together. You would have to ask Klecko, but I think he would be just as comfortable asking Tedy or Ted Johnson or Roman or Larry [Izzo] or anybody else a question about a technique or a read or something. I think he would feel just as comfortable with them as he would with Bruschi, and I'm sure he feels comfortable with Bruschi. I don't think those guys are joined at the hip or roommates and doing everything together. They work together, but I don't know that it's any more so than it would be with another player.
Q: Willie McGinest and Kevin Faulk didn't practice today. Were they just not physically ready?
BB: No, I wouldn't say that. I think we have a number of players that, well, first of all, let me get back to the personnel thing. We released [Matt] Cercone, today and so that puts us under the roster limit. Also, I can now say that every player that ran the conditioning test passed it. Now, all of the players that are not practicing are in different stages of rehabilitation or experience. We aren't practicing everybody all the time every day. Without getting into a lot of specifics and getting into a long-winded discussion here, I think that most of the players on the team are capable of being out there and participating, and you'll see them out there. There are a couple guys that have a little bit of rehab to do, and it may be a couple days before they're out there, or they'll be out when they're ready, but I expect them to be out there fairly soon.
Q: Has Kevin Faulk been diligent with his work ethic?
BB: You're going to see Kevin out there. Without getting into each player's specific situation, I'll just say that you're going to see Kevin out there. I'll let him know that you were looking for him. [Laughter]
Q: [Laughter] Is Wilbert Brown here?
BB: Wilbert Brown is not here. He has been excused for personal reasons. He had a personal situation come up, and as soon as that is resolved he will be back. I'll tell him you were asking about him too.
Q: Did Rohan Davey ask to wear #73? Is he a fan of John Hannah?
BB: No, he didn't ask to wear it. That is just a little thing between me and Rohan, and we'll just leave it at that.
Q: That's a lineman number.
BB: Right. It's between Rohan and I.
B: Can you talk a little bit about the receiving corps? Was last season a breakout year for them?
BB: Well, it certainly was for Givens. He caught seven or eight passes the year before, so he didn't really do hardly anything in 2002. He probably dropped as many as he caught, so relative to that, last year was a significant year for him. I think overall the receiver position is a good one. There is good depth there, and there is good competition. I think it is interesting that we have a number of different types of receivers. There are a couple big guys like Gessner and Stokes. There are a couple of fast guys like Bethel [Johnson] and Jennings and David Patten. There are some strong, physical players like Givens and Bethel. You've got guys that are smaller and really quick, like Branch or Troy Brown. So I think overall it's a good combination, it's an interesting group. I'm not sure exactly how that's all going to fit together, but I think that they have different skills and there is a good level of skill and that position and there is good competition at that position. We have older, experienced guys like Brown and Stokes, and then you have some young guys, obviously Sam, but then a couple second and third year guys that are at a different point in their career than the Patten, Stokes, Brown group. It'll be interesting to see how that all plays out and how those players are able to create a role for themselves and how we'll be able to work with them in combinations so that they'll be effective as a group. I think it's an interesting position, and I think that from a defensive standpoint, it's a good group for our defensive backs to work against, to work against big guys like Gessner and quick guys like Branch, and hopefully that competition will help to make us better on that side of the ball as well