Considering the unorthodox schedule that we have had this year in training camp, this is a good week for us to get into the regular season routine. It's pretty close. We are going to treat today like a regular Wednesday and also Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and right up to the game on Sunday. There are a couple of logistical things that we have to work out, but basically it is a regular week for us. It is a good chance for the players to get a run through of how things are going to be during the season. Off the field preparation, studying film at home, going over the game plan, getting together in groups and talking about different situations that will come up during the game, and things like that. This is a good opportunity for us in terms of that. On the quarterback situation we are going to play Drew (Bledsoe) this week with Michael (Bishop) following him. Next week in the Carolina game John (Friesz) will follow Drew. That's are plan as of now, so we will continue to get an opportunity to look at all three of those players and we will make our evaluations as to how the quarterback situation is going to be resolved after Drew.
Q: Can you talk about your wide receiver position and what you hope to get from it?
B: We are going to have Troy (Brown) on the field more than he has been in preseason and more than he has been in the past. He's had a real good camp, and I think he is ready to play a significant role in the offense. Tony (Simmons) right now is the third receiver. We brought Chris (Calloway) in, and we'll see what kind of depth he gives us at that position. We'll see in the last preseason games where the three young guys are in terms of the offensive scheme and special teams in their battle for roster spots.
Q: Do you think J.R. Redmond will be more ready to play this week?
B: He'll definitely be more ready. The last three practices he has practiced more. You can see that he is regaining a little more spring in his legs and his conditioning is improving. I'm hopeful that by Sunday he'll be able to play in the game. We'll see how much he is going to play as we get later on into the week and how long he'll be able to go. I definitely expect him to play.
Q: How much do you expect to play Drew?
B: We haven't set an exact time frame yet, but until he gets an opportunity to have a number of situations come up during the game.
Q: When some of the injured offensive linemen start coming back do you immediately try them with the starting unit to see where they are or do you wait on that?
B: No, it's a whole process of coming back and practicing and then practicing for an extended period of time. Until we are comfortable that they can go into the game and play, we'll take a look at them. For each guy it would probably be a little different depending upon how he has done in practice, what position he plays and who else is playing there.
Q: Anything new on any of the injured players?
B: No, I think everything is moving forward. No setbacks.
Q: How far behind is J.R. Redmond?
B: He's definitely behind. He missed three and a half weeks of practice, so he's definitely behind. We are trying to catch up with him. We're spending extra time meeting. He's staying after practice and working an extra twenty or thirty minutes everyday. We're trying to make up some ground, but there is no question he has to make it up, and playing in a game and practicing are still, of course, two different things. Even though I think we are closing the gap on the practice field, what will happen in the game I don't know. It might happen quickly, but sometimes it takes two or three games for a player to get comfortable.
Q: Is there still competition between (Antonio) Langham and (Kato) Serwanga at cornerback?
B: Yes, I think it is still a competitive position. I would say that Antonio probably has a slight edge. We have in no way resolved the position. Kato has played well. I would say Antonio is slightly ahead of him now, but we'll see what happens in these last two preseason games.
Q: Is Antonio close to what you remember him to be when you were his mentor?
B: His rookie year he was on the learning curve. He learned pretty quickly. I think Antonio has played just about the way I had expected him to play. He's had a good solid camp. Kato has done a good job too and I just don't want to make a commitment on one guy or the other as long as it is still a good competitive situation. If either one of them were not here then I think it would be pretty clear cut that they were ahead of whoever came next. That competition is pretty close. I see Kato improving considerably and consistently through camp, so that has been a positive too.
Q: Will the one who doesn't start (Langham or Serwanga) be used defensively as a nickel back?
B: Right now both of those players are on our nickel package.
Q: Has Serwanga's solid play in camp carried over into the games?
B: Yes, at times. I'm sure the are some plays that he would like to have back like we all would. For the most part I think it has. The techniques that we have seen on the practice field have carried on to the game field.
Q: Are there any other good competitions going on?
B: I think that there are a handful of positions that still need to be resolved.
Q: Will these games be the determining factor?
B: A combination of games and practice. In my mind the last three practices we have had cleared up a couple of things. Sometimes as a coach you can't see the forest from the trees. You have a lot of practices and a lot of games and you're looking at eighty players. Sometimes you need to back off and say 'lets just watch these two guys right here. Don't cloud it up with everything else that is going on, let's just watch these two guys.' Make a tape of all their plays in practice and all their plays in the game and just really isolate on a couple of guys. Then in practice during the next couple of days you put more focus and concentration on that one specific area. Sometimes it clears up and you think 'I should have seen this last week.' Sometimes it becomes cloudy, and you need to clear it out by just focusing on that one situation. Sometimes that happens to the assistant coaches too. Even though they are coaching one position, they have eleven or twelve playing one spot. As a coach you are trying to make everybody better, but at the same time you have to evaluate how they are doing. Sometimes you are so concerned about covering this play or covering that play, or how are we going to block this, how are we going to block that, so sometimes you lose your focus on: of these two guys, which one is going to play the position better. So a couple things really crystallized in the last 48 hours. I don't want to get into anything specifically, but hopefully that will firm itself up in the next practice week here and in the Tampa and Carolina game. Things can change in a hurry in this game. We still have some time to evaluate, but it's starting to come together.
**Q: Are you now confident that your final cuts will be better delineated?**
B: Yes, and there are a couple of players that whether they are in the starting lineup or not we just cannot release regardless of where they are today. As we try to look ahead we do not want to release those players.
Q: Are you speaking about younger players?
B: Players that could have a role in our system regardless of whether they are rookies, first year, second year, or whatever they are sometimes you see enough of a player that you can just see the future where you are not just hoping, but you can actually see that if you just go a little bit longer you can see that this could really be a solid guy for us.
Q: Can some of these guys not be released because it would be ridiculous for money reasons?
B: I don't think that is really a consideration at this point. There probably are a couple of guys that have signed big contracts in the last year or two, but they aren't the type of players that we would be looking to release anyway. A player like Lawyer Milloy who we have no consideration at all of releasing, but even if we were to do it the acceleration would be so great that I don't think we could afford to do it.
Q: When you say you look at two guys, what becomes crystallized? Is it consistency, or is it ability?
B: All of the above. Sometimes when you do that you can see that it is really one problem that the guy is having. For example maybe if you could just straighten out his stance, that would take care of some of the other things that he is trying to do right, but he can't quite get them right. When you make that correction he operates better and you have a better player. A lot of those things are done on a daily basis, but sometimes it gets clouded up a little bit. You watch a guy that looks bad, but maybe he looks bad doing a certain thing and maybe it's something that when you really think about it, we're not going to be asking him to do very often. If he is in there maybe we don't want to ask him to do that very often. If you focus on these other things, they are actually pretty good, and it's something that we want to work with.
Q: How will Any Katzenmoyer fit in when Ted Johnson and Tedy Bruschi comeback?
B: We have a flexible enough defensive system that we be able to get our best players on the field and utilize them.
Q: Have you considered moving Andy Katzenmoyer outside?
B: Well he has actually played all three linebacker positions. Tedy (Bruschi) and Rob (Holmberg) are also playing all three positions. In one way or another when we call certain defenses he would go to that spot. I think that we have some position flexibility with those three players. Chris (Slade) does some different things too. In sub and regular, so I think that there is some flexibility there as well.
Q: Considering the number of rookies still on your roster how do you see your draft?
B: I think that it is tough to evaluate the draft at this point. I think a better time to evaluate it is probably in two years. When we draft players, and I say this to the scouts and coaches all the time, picture the player a year from now. I know that he is no good now. Orlando Brown, I know he can't pass block now. I know that fundamentally he is terrible. Don't look at Orlando Brown now as a rookie coming out of South Carolina State. Try to picture him a year from now. Try to picture him after we can get some things straightened out. Try to picture, guys we had in Cleveland, Quentin Neujahr, try to picture a guy like that who didn't have any strength when we had him. They power rushed him back into the pocket every time he snapped the ball. Okay, let's try to picture him after a year in the weight room. After a year of increasing his strength and getting him to play with a little bit better base, do we have a chance? If you just like at a guy right now he's terrible. He can't do something that you need him to do, but in a year what is the guy going to look like. If we get him stronger he would look like a guy who would go in third round. Maybe you take a year and sink the weight program into him and hope the following year that you have a guy who is more competitive than a third round pick. I think now is a tough time to evaluate the draft. We had another guy in Cleveland Ed King who started at offensive guard. He played guard his whole rookie season, and he made the all-rookie team. He was a great draft pick, and a great player to come in and play as a rookie. Now two years later he is out of the league. Devin Wyman is a good example here. A late round pick in'96. He started in the opener and he looked like the next Reggie White. Two years later he is out of the league. Two years is the time to look at the draft. I think that it is a tough call right now, good or bad. We've all seen them go both ways in a hurry.
Q: Greg Robinson-Randall could be your only rookie starter. Are you talking about him because it seems like you know what he can do?
B: No, I think you are talking about players we haven't talked about some of these players. I mean you see it throughout the league. There are a ton of guys throughout the league that are going to be cut. You are going to watch them play in preseason. Our scouts will look at them. We'll get out the preseason tapes and look at them and see that this guy is terrible I can see why they cut him. We would have cut him too, he's awful. A year from now some of those players are going to resurface. They will go to Europe or be on a practice squad for a year. Then a year from now they will make somebody's team. That is what I am saying in terms of trying to see into the future. I think it is pretty clear that Greg (Robinson-Randall) is going to play in the league.
Q: Is Chad Eaton an example of that?
B: Chad is definitely an example of that. He was waived by two or three teams. If you saw him play in preseason you can see why there is no race to get to him. After a year of getting some techniques straightened out, I mean he was a pretty strong kid, he learned how to play better. That's a good example.
Q: You can tell by watching film which guys have that potential and which guys don't?
B: Well, it is not an exact science. If you knew for sure those guys would never be available in the first place. That is what you are trying to do. You trying to get people who you think in time have a chance to become good players.
Q: You would expect draft picks to be people who stick around a little longer and are less of a risk. Is that what makes personnel guys geniuses?
B: I think the thing on the draft pick is if you draft a guy it gives you the opportunity to look at a guy first. We say that in the sixth and seventh round too. Sure, this guy is going to be a raw player. So, Orlando Brown versus Devin Wyman just to pick a name. If you want to look at him, you are going to have to take them in the sixth or seventh round. If you want to let someone else take a look at them throw him out there in the preseason. Now you watch their film and see if you can figure out whether he is or he isn't. You draft somebody else and hope you can sign the other guy as a free agent, but if somebody else takes him, then you are at the mercy of whether they decide to cut him. If he looks good, obviously they are going to keep him and you are never going to get him. The judgment at the end of the draft is who you really want to look at, and know that you are going to get a look at them. Nobody who drafts a player in the seventh round expects them to step in and start for them that year. I mean you pick them in the first if you feel that way about them. It's guys who you want to take a look at, and guys who you feel like have a future and you want to invest some time in. If you don't feel that strongly about them, then you hustle after them as free agents. If somebody else gets them, then they get them. If you wanted someone that badly, then you should have drafted him.
Q: Speaking of the seventh round, where is Patrick Pass at this point?
B: Where is he? Probably down in a running backs meeting. I think that Patrick is coming along. He was a guy who I don't think started out as quickly as some other guys did. He flashed some plays. Now he is starting to gain a little bit of ground. Whether there is enough time for him to catch up, I don't know. It depends upon how quickly he moves here. It's not college. Once you have a scholarship in college you have them whether they play or not. You would lose a scholarship, so you might as well hang on to the guy. You have to make choices. Patrick is in the same boat as a lot of players on this team. We probably have a dozen players that are in that category. They need to do something, and they need to do it fairly soon. If they do, they will have a good chance. If they don't, they may be running out of time.
**Q: Would you say Michael Bishop and John Friesz are even right now for the number two spot?**
B: They are two totally different players. They have different skills, and they are at different points in their careers. Which one can do the most for our team? Which one can do the most in the short term? Which one can do the most in the long term? Whichever one you put in the game, you are going to get some things with one guy and you are going to get something else with the other guy. They have both played and have both practiced. We would like to see a little bit more of them. Really neither one of them has played all that much. It isn't like they have started for five or six games. They have only played a half or a quarter here and there. We'll take a little longer look at them and see if we can define the decision.
Q: How is Drew's comfort level with the new system?
B: I think it's okay. I think it is going to better. I think that he has a good comfort level. It's been three preseason games, so it's not like he has been through two years worth. I think that there are a lot of elements that carry over from '96, and some things that he has done before. We still have some ground to cover.
Q: Long snapper seems like a minor position to the public, but it is obviously very important to a coach. Lonnie Paxton has been doing most of the work because of an injury to Lance Scott. How is he doing, and how long can you go with him?
B: You bringing up a great question and a great point, and that is why you get paid the big bucks. I can't tell you how many times that exact conversation comes up in our coaching meetings and with Brad (Seely) and I. The one thing about Lonnie is, you take a rookie and you put him out there in the first preseason game and nobody knows what to expect. You don't know if you are going to get three over the punter's head, or two on the ground, or it could be fine. I think that each game that he goes out there and performs at a solid level, as a coach you get closer and closer to feeling comfortable. If it's one game, all right big deal, two games okay. If he puts four or five games together, pretty soon you feel like he could go out there and play, so we know where (Lonnie) is coming from. Lance on the other hand has done it in games. He has done it in the NFL, and has also started on the offensive line. All things being equal, Lance has a bigger package than Lonnie does at this time. On the other hand Lance hasn't played and Lonnie has, so that is where the scale is balanced. The sooner Lance gets out there and can establish what he can do, the easier it will be to decide whether it is a place for one or both.
Q: Would overall roster needs weigh heavily in that debate because it can be hard to take someone who is just a long snapper when you can only take forty-five guys to a game?
B: Right, on the flip side of that though is the situation that if your long snapper is also playing a lot, whether he is a starter or in a rotation, your one play away from being out of a long snapper. If you long snapper is only a long snapper, though it could happen there too, then you feel a little bit better about not losing the guy during a game, but if you have to play sixty and seventy plays of offense or defense, and then go in and long snap after that, maybe he gets his hand stepped on or maybe he roles his ankle. You can need to have a long snapper in an instant. You might make the decision to carry a long snapper and take the duty away from him if you can afford to do it. On the other hand you may just want to go with him, and if you have a good backup snapper that's where the value of a guy like Jason Andersen really comes in. You are not counting on him to be your long snapper, but you know if he needed to do it he could, and that gives you some flexibility somewhere else. Those are the kind of things that we just bat around. In Lonnie's case the more he snaps and the better he plays during the preseason the more his value increases and the tougher the decision is. It would be easy for us if he would just fire three over the punter's head. Then we wouldn't have anything to worry about, but as long as he keeps doing a good job it just keeps it as a competitive situation, and that is what you are really looking for as a coach.
Q: Was Lonnie Paxton the best available long snapper. He was a free agent from Sacramento?
B: Well, we had Thad Sheldon in here too. We snapped both of them in mini-camp. You could work two guys in practice, but we felt like in the preseason we wanted to snap one guy rather than split it up. Lonnie won that competition.
Q: Does it bother you that the center can't do that and you have to waste a roster spot on the long snapper?
B: Since I have been in the league, that's the way it has always been. Having played the position myself, and thrown a couple over the punter's head, I know that it is a key spot. It's not just the snap, but it also effects the performance of the holder and the kicker. It is a key spot, and we all say we can get somebody else to do it, but a good snapper is worth a lot. Should centers be able to do it yes, but there is so much specialization now. I'll come back to the draft. Every year we go through the offensive linemen and we put a gold star on them if they can long snap. You know what, there are one or two a year. They are usually gone in the third round because if they can long snap and play a position, they are gone. Whoever drafts them has got a roster spot. Mark Chumura he was a fourth round pick, or something like that. He turned out to be a much better tight end than what he was projected in the draft, but those kind of guys you have as a snapper and you know he is at least your backup tight end. They are as good as gold, and they don't last long. With a hundred-plus division one schools playing, you would think that there would be seventy-five good long snappers out there. When you start looking at them you find three, and you think how do all these other teams punt. The teams that rush them in college usually block them, and the problem is usually more with the snapper than it is with the punter.
Q: Steve DeOssie was around an extra ten years because he could long snap.
B: He is another great example of a guy that was a middle round pick and lasted twelve or thirteen years in the league. We had one with the Jets last three years John Hudson. I don't think the guy ever played one snap his whole career other than as a snapper, but he was a good snapper. Mike Bartrum did the same. I mean we could rattle off a hundred of these guys.