BB: No changes on the injury report although the thing that worries me is just this time of year and we had a couple of guys get sick last week and you can kind of see it going around, so that is our update. If it keeps raining then we will be inside in the bubble here today. Was it raining when you came in, is it still raining out there?
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the impact that Mike Compton has had in kind of stabilizing your offensive line?
BB: I think Mike's impact here, number one, starts with his versatility. When we signed him we knew that he was a player that has played center, guard and tackle in the league and we had questions at several positions on the offensive line so having a versatile player like Mike in addition to his long snapping ability those were all real big pluses. We had originally penciled him in at guard and then of course we had [Joe] Andruzzi coming off of the injury at the end of the year and then we signed Joe Panos. He had some injury history too whereas Mike is a guy that until he hurt his calf in training camp really had had no injury history in the NFL or college for that matter. So his durability, his flexibility and the fact that he is a tough, hard-nosed, lunch pail kind of guy those were all things that were attractive and he started at all of the positions on the offensive line. It is not just on paper, 'Well we got a backup this or a backup that.' He's played left tackle, he's played right tackle, he's played guard, he's played center, he's long snapped, so all of those things were big positives plus his attitude and his experience and his toughness.
Q: Any concern that he didn't get pursued by his former team?
BB: There is always competition out there. The only thing we can do is, to any player, we don't try to recruit negatively or anything like that we just try to put out what our situation, what our opportunity is, how the player would fit in here and whatever questions they have and then we try to answer them. Really the last thing that we want to do is try to lead somebody down a primrose path and then the day after they get here say, 'Well gee that is not really the way that you said it was going to be,' and then you have got problems. We tried to lay it out. We knew we were going to be young at offensive tackle, we knew that, so having some experience at guard was a big plus for whoever the tackle was going to be. We didn't know Kenyatta Jones or [Matt] Light or [Adrian] Klemm or Greg [Robinson-Randall], all of those guys. We felt like the tackles would probably come from those first or second year guys and having an experienced guard in there to help whether it be Panos or Andruzzi or Compton, however that turned out, you have got a good guy that can help the mental part of it and help picking up games and stunts and blitzes and all of that kind of thing.
Q: Are you pleased with your rookies development at this point of the season, especially Matt Light and Richard Seymour?
BB: Well I think those two would be the guys that we are the most pleased with and have done the most and I think they have come along well, yeah I really do. I think Richard is making good improvement and I think that Matt has too. Matt has had a tough year injury wise, he has missed some time, but the more he has been able to stay out there the better he has been and the same thing with Richard. Richard hasn't missed much time, but he has been more consistent and been able to have more opportunity lately and I think we can see him showing up on a weekly basis.
Q: Does Richard benefit from the four-man line, lining up in the gap?
BB: A lot of times he is head up on the guard so I mean he is head up on the guard or head up on the center. The bottom line is when you are on the defensive line, somebody is going to block you. I mean they just don't let guys go and run in the backfield and make tackles. So the bottom line is that you are going to have to defeat a blocker whether it is a guard, a center, a tackle or whoever it is and that's the key to getting to the ball is being able to defeat that blocker and making plays from there, whether it's pass rush or the running game. The techniques are a little bit different, but in the end you still have to beat somebody and wherever he is playing, wherever anybody is playing, that's what they are going to have to do.
Q: So it is not a big difference?
BB: I am not saying it is the same. I am sure he is more comfortable playing off the center because that is where he played for his whole career at Georgia, but at the same time football is still football and getting blocked is getting blocked and rushing the passer is rushing the passer. So there are some of those technique things you need to iron out and then there are a lot of other ones that no matter where you play the same principles apply, using your hands, playing low, playing with good pad level, not standing up and looking, but attacking the line of scrimmage, keeping your feet clean on cut blocks. It doesn't matter where you play you can do those drills and they will be applicable.
Q: Does versatility ever work against a guy in terms of maybe not being good enough to nail down one spot?
BB: No I don't think it works against a player. I think if a guy is not good enough to nail down a spot and he has no versatility then his value is diminished. I think you are better off in this league, the more things you can do the better off you are going to be. I mean you are working on a limited roster, guys are going to have to double up and if a player can double up his responsibilities then he has just got more value to the team and if he can't then he better be the best at whatever he is doing because as soon as anybody can do it a little bit better or the same and have versatility in another position then that player is going to have more value.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about Mike Vrabel, he seems to have worked his way pretty quickly into being a key role on this team and has sustained it seemingly the whole year?
BB: Mike is a guy that I did a lot of work on when he came out of Ohio State and Mike was a defensive end in college that was a good pass rusher and the question on Mike really was whether he was going to get bigger and be a defensive end or whether he was going to get smaller and be an outside linebacker. I think he played in-between 260 and 270 [pounds] at Ohio State and was a good player there. When Pittsburgh drafted him they, as you would expect, dropped him into the high 250 range and he played behind [Joey] Porter and [Jason] Gildon and was a very good special teams player for the Steelers. We saw a lot of tape on him, but he played behind two guys that…a lot of linebackers have played behind those two guys. When he did play, whether it be in preseason or he had some limited opportunities to play linebacker and also to rush some on third down as a defensive end, when he had those opportunities from what we saw on tape we thought he did a pretty good job. Mike is a smart guy. He is a hardworking guy. He is in the weight room every day in the offseason. He trains well, is in top condition and football is real important to him. What we thought Mike needed and I think what Mike felt like he needed was an opportunity. When we had an opportunity there then Mike had first crack at it and he has been able to take it and run with it really since day one and that is what we told him we would do. We would give him every opportunity to win that job and if he won it, it was his, but somebody would have to come in and beat him out as opposed to being the position he was in at Pittsburgh where another guy had that spot and he had to beat out the guy in front of him.
Q: Can you have a successful team if you have some guys that football is not important to?
BB: I think it's degrees, it's degrees. If football wasn't important to a player then he wouldn't last too long in the NFL, but there are some guys that it is more important to than others and we like to see it high up there on the list ahead of video games and ahead of some other things that we won't mention.
Q: No, but I meant, you have used that line several times every once in awhile and I was just wondering when you need as many player as you do on a football team if you have guys players that football is not important to?
BB: I guess what I would say is when you get situations in the offseason where a guy tells you I am going to miss a couple of days because I have to get my tax returns done and I am going to miss a couple more days because I have got to get my car fixed and I have got to miss a couple other days because of this and that and then pretty soon you have ten things that are more important than working out. I mean like that is the only guy that has tax returns due, I mean there are other people that do them to and they are still here. There are other people that drive a car and they are still here. It is a family problem here, it's this problem there and you know we all have those things, but there are some guys that just find a way to do it and then there are other guys that there are ten reasons why they can't do it. After awhile, after a period of time with those guys I think you can see that some of them just have football as a higher priority than others do. We like the guys that have it up there pretty high that whatever the other things that they have to deal with, they work them out so that is doesn't interfere with football and they can maximize their performance on the field.
Q: Does [Chris] Sullivan have a chance to play?
BB: He could, he could. I wouldn't want to rule him out, but I certainly can't sit here and say that he will definitely be active for the game. I thought that yesterday, considering that he has been out for awhile, that it looks like he has got some things to offer. He showed a little quickness and showed a little bit of power so we will see how it goes here. I think part of it will depend on what our availability with everybody is with the game also how he progresses here in the next couple of days. A lot of times, as we have said before, that first day guys come out with fresh legs and they look good and then they slow down a little bit and we will just have to see how that goes.
Q: Has anything surprised you about this team?
BB: Are you talking about on the field performance that's been surprising?
Q: Yeah something as a group that you didn't know you could do?
BB: Well I don't know if surprised is the right word, but I think the two biggest areas of improvement have been third down and red area on both sides of the ball and those are the two areas that we targeted the most in the offseason. Now just because you target something doesn't mean that it is going to turn out the way that you wanted to, but we have improved significantly in both those areas and they killed us last year. We couldn't score in the red area, we couldn't convert on third down on either side of the ball and we weren't stopping people in the red area we were giving up too many touchdowns. So having those things be better this year and significantly better, again I don't know if surprised is the right word, but I think that has given us a big lift and it has been a big area of improvement. Just because you try to improve something doesn't always mean that you improve it.
Q: In terms of being surprised or not being surprised, does the way the league is structured now having something to do with that because every year it seems like a lot of different teams have a chance to compete whereas in the past it was not necessarily that way? Having said that, would you say, 'Every team has a shot, we can't really be surprised with what people do?'
BB: I think it is a very competitive league. I think every team has good players and has good opportunities, but you still have to climb the mountain and where we were at last year we were pretty low there on the totem pole in a lot of categories. I mean if you just look at our team statistically in the 2000 season I mean we were pretty much in the bottom third of the league in pretty much every category whether it was rushing, stopping the run, passing. Other than punt returns, we were pretty far down there on most everything. So it is hard to make up all of that ground, I mean you try to make it all up, but sometimes you can't do it all at once, but we have been able to improve a couple of those things this year and I think they have made the biggest difference. I would say one of the other big things for us it's on the field, it is not on the field Sunday afternoon, is as a team, learning how to practice and learning how to get better in practice. Everybody goes out there and practices, but it is really what you accomplish on the practice field and I think that our team this year has done a much better job than the team did last year of knowing how to practice, how to improve, how to work with each other, how to have good, competitive practices that get the football team better as opposed to just putting in time and getting through it or in some cases maybe creating bad habits as opposed to creating good ones.
Q: Earlier in the year you working talking about how your special teams need to get more consistent. This week was a pretty good special teams performance. Do you attribute that to personnel that is out there or special teams players learning how to play the position?
BB: I think it is a combination of both. Certainly the special teams has a lot to do with personnel and it also has a lot to do with those guys working together. I mean really all special teams is, is organized chaos because once the ball is kicked everything breaks loose and it really never happens the same way twice. The ball very seldom goes in the same spot with the same hang time with the weather conditions being what they are and then all of the guys who are covering or blocking or whatever it is always contorted a little bit differently from the time before. So you try to set some boundaries, you try to set some guidelines and then it is players being able to operate within that framework, within those guidelines to have a successful play in the kicking game. Of course the other factor that is big is the specialists. You can't have good special teams without good specialists. I think we have gotten a good solid performance from Kenny Walters since he has come in here. Adam [Vinatieri] has done a good job in a lot of areas. Troy [Brown] is a good punt returner and Lonie [Paxton] has done a good job for us snapping the ball probably more than any of us expected that he would do over the last two years. He's really been about as consistent a player as we have had on this football team. For the job he has to do and doing it he has had very few screw-ups. I think those are the things that factor into it. If you look at our team this year you will see that we have been pretty good in the punting game on both sides of the ball. We have punted the ball and covered it throughout the course of the year. Other than, there have been some obvious breakdowns, dropping the snap in the San Diego game and a couple of plays like that, but for the most part that has been good. Our punt return game has been relatively good, again, other than a couple notable miscues. The bigger problem has been our kickoff coverage and our kickoff return and those are two areas that we are not, we are in the bottom half of the league in that and we are even below that. We have blocked some field goals and for the most part our field goal kicking has been good. We have had some tough chances there, some longer kicks in tougher situations, but overall I think our field goal kicking for the most part has been pretty good, all things considered.
Q: One of Chris Sullivan's strengths when he was here before was punt returns and all of that. Does that factor into whether he plays or not?
BB: It sure could, it sure could, absolutely. Any guys that can contribute in the kicking game as well as playing offense and defense always have Brad [Seely] pulling for them and when Brad is pulling for you that's good. That is how you are active for the game. Guys that aren't starting on offense and defense, in the end those decisions are going to come down to who can contribute in the kicking game and in a lot of cases players contribute in the kicking game before they do on offense and defense.