BB: We have talked about a lot of things over the last couple of days, a lot of things relating to personnel, to our team, to trying to ready for Cincinnati, to trying to get ready for the season and have thrown a lot of different scenarios around. Today what we are going to do is start on Cincinnati preparations with the scouting reports and going through a little film and that type of thing. We have to have our roster turned in by four o'clock this afternoon. We have defined what most of those are. We haven't had a chance to talk to any of the players yet so until we get a chance to do that I wouldn't want to release the names, but as soon as we do that we will give them to you a little bit later on today.
As you saw in the game Thursday night we used some guys at different positions and tried to create some depth on our team knowing that we have to go to 45 for Cincinnati and some guys are going to have to double up on their jobs and their roles on the team. I'd rather not define what those are right now and until we get a little further down the road, just some of those players we haven't had a chance to talk to and things are a little bit unsettled because we haven't had a chance to get together with the team so if you can respect that.
Q: Any idea when you will announce them?
BB: As soon as we are able to get a hold of everybody and they roll in. This is probably the toughest day of the year for me because there are a large number of guys that we have spent a significant amount of time with either this year or it could have been last year or previous years. Guys that have worked hard, guys that have given us really everything that could, players that have a good package to go with them they are not just here taking up space. They are very competitive and their package is maybe just a little bit different from somebody else's and we have had to determine that somebody else just has a little more value to the team. It is a tough decision and it is a close decision. If circumstances were a little bit different it could have easily gone a different way so it is tough to tell those players when they have worked so hard and done so many of the right things that they have just come up a little bit short. It is tough to put your team out on the field one week and have players in the sixties and be able to substitute when you want to and use players on special teams and do different things formation-wise and have everybody available and then the next week basically go to about 20 players less by the time you get through the practice squad and all of that. Your inactives go down to about 20 players fewer on the sidelines that you are working with and still try to get the same things done. That is the way and every team has got the same situation, but I am just saying emotionally from a head coach and also from assistant coaches who have worked even more closely with the individual players then I have it is still a tough day, it is a tough weekend. Decisions have to be made, but emotionally they are not that easy.
Q: Last year you went through training camp and all the cuts and you realized you needed more people on your offensive line. Do you think that the job that you did this year is going to make it less necessary for you to look at waiver wire and bring someone in after you made these cuts?
BB: Yes I think we will be claiming, and again that's without knowing who will be on it, but my guess would be that we would be claiming a lot fewer people and considering fewer people than we did last year. That would be my expectation. If you remember last year we cut to under 53, I think it was 51 or 50 somewhere in there, so we were anticipating making two or three moves without even knowing what was going to be on the wire. I don't think that will be the case this year. I am not saying we wouldn't make one, but I think it is just less likely.
Q: When you cut somebody do you tell him or does the position coach because there are so many you have to speak with?
BB: A lot of people talk to them. I talk to everybody, our personnel people have to talk to everybody because there is some paper work that has to be done and arrangements, different things have to be done procedurally. The coaches that have worked with them, people like the special teams coach or the weight coach who virtually work with everybody on the squad regardless of position, they develop relationships with them as do the position coaches and the coordinators on the respective sides of the ball. I think as much as possible everybody wants to express the appreciation and talk to them. It's hard when you fire somebody to tell them they have done a good job and not ring a little hollow, but in a lot of cases it really is true. I know that the assistant coaches have as much if not more respect for what some of our players have done than I do. A lot of people have communication with them, but sometimes on a day like this when you have to deal with a lot of players and then you have meetings scheduled right behind it then you are on to Cincinnati and sometimes you don't have the time to be able to spend as much time as you would like to be able to spend with them.
Q: At that time do you tell players if you are considering them for practice squad?
BB: We usually try to be as honest with the players as we possibly can. If we think that the player would be considered in the future for whatever it happens to be whether it is practice squad, an active roster, next year or whatever it happens to be then we usually try to let them know what our interest. If we think that we just wouldn't have any interest again in this player for one reason or another not necessarily because of him, but maybe because of our situation then we try to tell him that too so they don't call every two days saying, 'Gee you guys said you were bringing me back and how come I am not coming back?'
Q: Do you think some guys will already of figured out that they are not going to make it based on their lack of playing time?
BB: I don't know I think that anytime you get into a situation like this on a final cut let's say you have 65 players and let's say you are cutting to 53, there are probably 20 guys who think they are getting cut. There are a lot of people that are on the bubble and some people I think are just a little more naturally concerned, worried whatever the right word is of their position. Probably the ones that you do release probably most of them expect, but I also think there are some that make it that also might have been expecting too and are relieved that they did well enough to make it. I am sure that there is a little combination of both there.
Q: What are some of the less obvious factors that go into it when comparing the packages like works well with others, follow directions things like that when you are looking at the borderline guys?
BB: I think sometimes that falls into it particularly when you look at a players potential, his future. If a guy doesn't work hard and he doesn't take coaching very well and still continues to make the same mistakes on the field and doesn't improve even though he has quite a bit of talent or enough talent let's say to make it then at some point you have to make the determination that this doesn't seem to be getting any better. After a certain period of time you are probably going to have some frustration with how much improvement there is and you have to deal with it as it is and accept the package as it stands or be resigned to the fact that it is not going to improve and decide to move on. I would say that we don't have too many in that category at all. I think that the players, the ones that we are going to be talking to today, that isn't the case with those guys. I think we have already had a couple of players fall into that category that you described and we have moved on from that, but quite awhile ago.
Q: Were the final cuts this year a lot more difficult to make than last year?
BB: Oh yeah, yes. I think that we are going to be releasing some players that I am sure we are going to see in the league this year. Whether it is back here or somewhere else, I am sure that that's the case. We have had a number of teams call about what are situation is maybe not necessarily with a particular player, although sometimes that comes up, but a position where teams around the league have scouted us and see that we have some depth. There aren't a lot of trades at this time of year. Usually the teams can add it up like everybody else can and think, 'there is an extra guy here an extra guy there why trade for him. He will be released in a day or two, let's just wait it out' I think there is quite a bit of that going on. We will see what happens tomorrow, but we have had a number of inquiries as to where we think we might have depth and where the extra guys might be and that kind of thing.
Q: Is it kind of a double edge sword you have spent the whole year trying to build depth and now you have to cut away at it?
BB: I'd rather be in that situation where we have the choice to make. We can decide who is most important that we keep, what their roles and we can arrange it and construct it the way we think most helps the football team. Rather then this is the only guy that we have at that position, he's our depth and there aren't any other alternatives. I also think the competition is brought out best in competitive players and I think that we have a lot of competitive players and I think that they have responded well to the competition. They see the numbers, they see that they are no lock to make the team there are other guys that have definite skills and I think that the competition has pushed everybody to a little bit higher level including the guys on the other side of the ball too. A lot of times in training camp you'd get situations where the first guy or maybe the second guy in some of the skilled positions walks up there and they are pretty good. Then you get guys after that that are pretty easy to cover or pretty easy to get open on or whatever the competition is. So sometimes your competition gets separated with your first team guy going up against the other first team guy and then once your second team guy comes in and goes against the first team guy it isn't really very competitive. I think there is a lot less of that. A lot of times we don't even notice who is in there because the quality is relatively equal. It is hard to evaluate at times in the preseason some of the, not so much in the third or fourth preseason game, but sometimes in the first and second preseason game sometimes there is a real mismatch in players. You put a player out there against somebody who is going to get cut the next day and a lot of guys could look real good against that particular player.
Q: Setting aside you distractions from training camp, how would you evaluate this team going into the first week based on training camp?
BB: I think there were a lot of positive things that happened in training camp, but the slate is clean now and what really matters now is how we prepare for Cincinnati and the next fifteen games. How ready we are to play them Sunday afternoon at one o'clock when the game starts. Again I think there were a lot of positive things that happened. I think the team rallied through some adverse situations and responded fairly well in most of those cases. I think that we had some bumps and bruises early, but that kind of got better week-by-week as guys started coming back to right now where we are probably the healthiest we have been the entire camp. We were up and down a little bit in our performances both in practice and times in the preseason games where we weren't as sharp as I would liked to have seen us, so we'll see. With a clean slate now and everybody healthy we will see how ready we are starting Sunday.
Q: You said one of the top priorities of camp was to establish who would be the five starters on the interior line, where do you think you are with that?
BB: Closer than we were last week, but I am not sure that we can poor the cement over it yet. We are going to put five guys out there as far as the game and those might be our five starters a month from now I can't say that with 100 percent conviction because there are still some guys that just really started playing. They may play better they may play worse I don't really know.
Q: Even though you probably wouldn't reveal it have you pretty much made the decisions or could the quality of the way a guy plays in practice change that?
BB: I think I know what we are going to do against Cincinnati, but I think that includes more than five players. Whoever the five starters are I think more than that will play. How they will do or how they won't do, how's number six and number seven I am not sure. There are some players, guys like Greg Robinson-Randall who has been out there every day in practice, has been in all of the preseason games, has had a pretty good preseason better than last year, I think we know how he is going to play and I would be surprised if we have a lot of variation from what we have gotten through training camp, through the first four preseason games. I think he is going to be at right tackle. There are other positions where we just haven't had that kind of continuity or that kind of consistent performance. We just haven't had the opportunity to see it. So what is going to happen when those guys play for three or four games I don't know. If it is like Greg's performance I am sure that they will continue playing. If it is not then we will try to find a way to strengthen it if we can.
Q: [Mike] Compton will start at guard?
BB: Mike will play, if he is ready to play he will certainly play. How much he will play I am not sure. Until he goes through a full week of practice, even if he does I don't know whether he would be able to play in every play of the game. I don't know what the conditions are going to be in Cincinnati, but I have been there before on opening day and it has been rough. It's hot, it's humid so I don't know. I am not sure what his conditioning will be come Sunday afternoon at one o'clock.
Q: Not really having a bye week, will that change the way you pace the season?
BB: Yes that's a good question, it is a real good point. What we've tried to do right here at the end of the preseason is to anticipate the fact that we are starting sixteen weeks, a sixteen round fight. There is no off time. We didn't go out in pads at all between the Tampa and Washington game and we are in the process of giving the players five days off now after the Washington game. We watched the tapes on Friday, weren't in Saturday, real light day today, not in tomorrow and then they are back starting the preparations on Tuesday. I think that is as much time as we can give them and with no contact prior to the Washington game I think that we are as rested as we can be at this time of the year. I don't think you are ever going to be as fresh as a daisy now, it is the first of September, but we tried to give them some time, tried to keep their legs going a little bit with some running, but overall not a lot of contact other than the game and a minimal amount of stress on the body in the last few days. Now we are trying to get ready for a sixteen-week push.
Q: How much do you think that practice style improved the preparation?
BB: We talked about that. It might have helped us a little bit. I think there might have been some other factors at work too, but I thought the players did work crisply on Monday and Tuesday last week. I think one of the things that this team has gained and it really has impressed me a little bit in this season has been that I think we have learned to practice as a football team. I think it is a lot better than it was last year and I think it is a little better than it was at the beginning of training camp. I think that we know how to work hard and at the same time take care of each other and not be out of control where we are having a lot of guys on the ground falling on each others legs and getting those kinds of things happening to us that you always want to try to avoid. I think that when we are not in pads the team has learned how to run plays at a high game type tempo without the contact, which improves the execution during the game if you can carry it over to the game field. Those things I think are a significant improvement from where we were in the past and I think it's helped us as a team and it should help us if we continue to do it.
Q: Injury-wise you had some guys Ty [Law], Ted [Johnson], Tedy [Bruschi], Lawyer [Milloy] banged up where are you injury-wise?
BB: Ty didn't get banged up. Those guys have been getting treatment every day. We are just going to do a real light practice today. Visually showing some things that Cincinnati does and not really practice them so to speak. What we are really trying to do is not really overload the bodies too much until Tuesday and then start back on regular practice. Basically they have been coming in, they have been getting treatment, they have been resting the injuries and the bumps and bruises and that kind of thing so we haven't really tried to put anybody out on the field. I am not sure exactly where those guys are. We will do that on Tuesday and put out the league injury report, but I think everybody is getting better. I certainly would not rule anybody out of the Cincinnati game at this point that doesn't mean that they are all going to play, but I would say that I think that we have a shot with everybody as far as I know.
Q: Does the coaching staff take Labor Day off?
BB: We were talking about that today. I think that the last time that I remember being off on Labor Day I was about nine years old. All the kids that are playing football now in high school and junior high they are all practicing. Maybe not Labor Day, but part of that weekend. So I think that everybody that plays football, coaching or playing and I have been involved in it since however young I was, I can't remember a labor day weekend off since way back when, but my dad was working because he was a coach. So as a family I have never celebrated a Labor Day weekend. Everybody talks about the traffic and the beach and the traffic coming home from the beach and all of that, that was over for me a long time ago. Happy Labor Day to everyone.