It's a pretty hectic week for us, as I'm sure it is for all of you. Today is really like a Friday practice. We have to pull everything together. We have to do our moving the field situations and do all of our special teams. Then we are heading out to Detroit tomorrow. We just have to cram a lot into a short period of time. What I've emphasized is that we need the same type of preparation for this game as we had for the last game. Actually, we should be better prepared because a lot of things that we had to do last week we have already done. Things like sideline organization, and pregame warm-up, just logistical things. On the injured guys, we had a walk through this morning, Ted Johnson, (Brandon) Mitchell, (Mike) Woods, and (J.R.) Redmond, are all practicing. They're back, and (Tedy) Bruschi is out there. We also have a couple of guys who are getting closer. I don't know exactly where they are, but it looks like these guys are going to be ready to go this afternoon. Terrance (Beadles) had a little injury to his knee. I think if this were a normal week he would probably be able to play, but given the time frame that we are under I don't think he will play against Detroit this week. We're down one on the offensive line, but that's the situation.
Q: Talking about the offensive line, in the case of Jason Anderson with his versatility to play every offensive line position, what does he bring as far as value that you can count on?
B: It is a very significant point. It is something that works very strongly in his favor. When you go to a game you can take probably no more than eight offensive linemen, it would be rare to take nine, and sometimes seven. The more flexibility you have at that position the more it strengthens your team. There are very few offensive linemen that play much of a factor on special teams, other than the field goal units. In terms of punt, punt return, kickoff, and kickoff return you don't see offensive linemen taking many plays on those kicking units. If you can go with one less offensive linemen, then that gives you one more linebacker, tight end, or running back who can help you in the kicking game. Maybe it provides another offensive package for you, another five wide receivers, four wide receivers, three tight ends, or whatever the other skill spot is. Not only does it help the offensive line, but it also gives you some flexibility to strengthen your team somewhere else, either in your packages or in your kicking game wherever that forty-fifth comes from. Jason (Andersen) has done a nice job all camp of being both physically and mentally flexible to play center, guard, and left tackle.
Q: What skills does he (Jason Andersen) have that allow him to play all the different areas on the offensive line?
B: I think it is a combination of size, athletic ability, intelligence, and flexibility. For some players moving from the right side to the left side is a big thing. With other players it is not. You have the hole numbering, and say you have all the even number holes on your right and all of the odd on the left, then you get used to hearing the even numbers which are on your side, so you have a certain group of assignments. If all of a sudden you are on the other side, now those even numbers flip everything, and that flips the whole play backwards. The protections are completely opposite if you are on one side of the line or the other. You have to be able to make a transition pretty quickly, and it is hard for some people to do that. Other people are able to do it without a problem. You never really know until you put the player in that situation. Some guys aren't bothered by those kind of things and for other guys it slows them down. Jason has been able to do that, and I think the mental part of playing those positions is probably more difficult than the physical part.
Q: Will the offensive line look pretty much the same this week as it did last week?
B: I think (Max) Lane will probably be able to go a little longer. Without (Terrance) Beadles, there is one less guy in the rotation, but otherwise it should be about the same.
Q: Is there an advantage for these younger guys because of all the injuries? You really get to see what they can do.
B: Yeah, it's opened. It's giving all of the younger players an opportunity. We came into camp with what amounted to three (offensive) lines, about fifteen guys. Five of those guys haven't been able to do very much, so now we're at ten, or really nine this week. That group that would have been looking at third group reps are looking at second or first group reps. It has given them an opportunity to show what they can do. For the most part they've done pretty well, not unbelievable, but good.
Q: Are the young guys playing well enough where the veterans who are injured have to worry about their jobs?
B: I don't know. I haven't seen the veteran guys play, so I can't really make a comparison. I don't what level they're at. Everybody on the team has to establish a level of performance, rookies and veterans. Once they establish that level we can get a comparison.
Q: What are you looking for at free safety and is Tebucky Jones capable of filling that role more so than cornerback?
B: We worked Tebucky at cornerback in the spring in the passing camps and mini-camps. He has worked at safety in training camp. We are going to go through this week because with this short week it wouldn't make any sense to move anybody. We'll go through this week and then evaluate what we've seen of him at corner through an extended period of time and of what we have seen of him at safety. Then we will go on from there.
Q: What are you looking for from the free safety?
B: Every defensive back has three major jobs. They have to be able to play man-to-man coverage. They have to be able to tackle, and they have to be able to defend the deep ball. Any player that can do those three things can play somewhere in the secondary. In addition, the safeties have to be able to run the defense. They are in a sense the quarterback of the defense. In the secondary, the deep part of the field, which is really the most important part of the field because there is no one behind them making adjustments and good decisions and being able to handle the different situations that come up are an important part of that position, more so than the linebackers or defensive line.
Q: At this point you haven't determined whether he is a cornerback or a safety?
B: Our whole philosophy on the team was to take this period in training camp right here, teach them the system, teach them the fundamentals and put them through the two-a-days. Then we will evaluate how they do in these two games against San Francisco and Detroit. Honestly, we haven't had a lot of time to have meetings and make decisions about the San Francisco game. I don't think it would be appropriate to do that anyway. I think that we need to let them play the San Francisco game. We'll make the corrections from that game. We'll tell them what they need to do better, how to improve it, and what mistakes were made. Then after Detroit we need to solidify things a little bit more.
**Q: What would you liked to see improved upon from Monday's game?**
B: Well, we had some substitution errors where we didn't have the right people in there, or they were late getting into the game. We had some communication errors where the plays that were called on the sideline, weren't called that way in the huddle. We had some plays that were called in the huddle that weren't run the way that they were called. We had some situations that we had covered pretty thoroughly with the team, you know 'when this happens, this is what we're going to do'. Then when 'that' happened, we didn't do it. Things like that. If it's third down and seven, only gaining five yards is not what we are looking for. When it is third down and twelve, it should come as no big surprise to us to see the other team run a thirteen-yard pattern. What was surprising was to see them hit it. That is what was surprising. Those are situations that we have to be able to execute better than we did. We were 0-5 on third downs in the first half offensively. That's not going to get us anywhere.
Q: When you said substitution errors, do you mean the coaches sent in the wrong guys, or the right guys didn't know that they were supposed to be in?
B: There were players that were told that they needed to be in. We're substituting a lot of people. You call for the second kickoff team and you have ten guys. We put the dime defense out there one time, and we only had ten guys on the field, so we had to blow a timeout. Those timeouts are valuable. We're going to need them in tight games. Did we get by with it? Yes. Did it really make any difference in the outcome of the game? No, but if we keep doing that it will be a problem. We had mistakes throughout. We had them in the kicking game, we had them on offense, we had them on defense. You know those things are just habits. As a football team you need to prepare for the game well. You need to know what to do in the situations every week, and they change from week to week. You need to know the game plan. You need to go out there and play hard and play with a lot of enthusiasm. You need to play together as a team and communicate as a team. You need to make adjustments during the game. That's the way it is every week, and that's the mentality I'm trying to get across to our team, that is what we need to do. There's no difference between, well there's a difference but not mentally for a football player, whether it's Wednesday practice, Friday practice, or Sunday afternoon. Those are good habits that need to be practiced all the time. To not do them at one time and then think 'well when we need to do them, we'll be able to do them,' I just don't think it works that way. We also want to set the bar for our team high. I just got through telling the team out there today that I don't want to get into one of those deals where we win so 'okay everything's great, it's unbelievable, everything is fantastic.' Then we go out there the next week and make the same mistakes and lose. So now all of a sudden we have a big crisis. 'Well, this week we lost and we missed a substitution, and we missed a call, and we missed an adjustment now the world is coming to an end.' Well, we did the same thing the week before and won. It wasn't any better that week than it is this week. It's no more acceptable. That's the level I'm trying to get the players to understand that we are working towards. We're making progress, but we still have a long ways to go. It was one step, and it is a long flight of stairs here.
Q: Willie McGinest has a lot of versatility. What are some of the things he can do for you that an average player can't? How does he help you in your defensive plans?
B: Part of the whole process of training camp, and particularly this year, is to understand what the players can and can't do. How much is too much and how much can they handle? Whether it be Jason (Andersen), Willie, or whoever the player might be. Willie is a tremendous athlete. He runs like a linebacker. He has the power of a defensive lineman. He's a very intelligent football player and very instinctive. In a lot of ways he's like Lawrence Taylor. Lawrence was a guy who might not have known everything in the game plan, but when the ball was snapped he knew how the play effected him, and he knew what to do to defeat it. I think that Willie has that same type of instinctiveness. There are things that happen out on the field that when he sees them happen he just knows right away what the problem is and how he has to solve it. It's a very unique trait and it's something that has to happen instantaneously. It's like quarterbacks, they get the ball and somehow they just know that this guy is going to be open. Maybe the read is supposed to take them over there, but they can just tell by the cornerback's alignment, or the split of the safety that even though the ball is supposed to go over here, there is a weakness on the other side of the field. Willie is very instinctive and he has tremendous athletic ability. He has a high motor, and the game is very important to him. Football is important to him, and he prepares hard. He's ready to go, and he has all of the qualities that we are looking for. I think that's why the team elected him captain of the defense. I think that he has earned the respect of everybody around here, particularly his teammates. That's pretty clear.
Q: Did you guys practice this morning?
B: We went out and walked through some situations, or jogged through them, to get some real specific things out of the way. This afternoon will be a normal Friday practice for us. We'll review everything. There were some things this morning that we really felt like we had to hit so that the players would know what we are doing.
Q: You mentioned J.R. Redmond will be at practice this afternoon, do you hope to get him some time this week?
B: I really can't make a determination on those guys until I see them do anything. At this point the people that I mentioned will be out there today and we will see how they do. I had a player from that group today come up and ask me 'coach what am I going to be doing in Detroit?' 'How do I know, I haven't seen you play. Get out there, and let's see what you can do. I have no idea.'
Q: Can you talk about the quarterback rotation for Detroit?
B: It might change a little bit, but it will basically be the same as it was in San Francisco. I'm not going to say that I'm going to make the switches at the same exact time, but I would say similar.
Q: With the young guys on the offensive line, might they have an advantage over a veteran because they have more upside?
B: They could. Your talking about degrees here, and that is the judgement that you have to make as a coach. You have a veteran player who can perform at a certain level, and you have a younger player who isn't quite at that level. You could see the younger player going to a higher level, but right now he is lower. If you think he is going to go higher is that more valuable than the veteran player who right now is ahead of him? Will the young guy catch up, or won't he? Those are decisions, and they are tough ones that come up every year that every coach and every team is going to be faced with at some point in training camp.