**B:** A couple of updates on the Washington game. Rob Tardio rolled his ankle and he'll miss the game. I think we definitely have a couple of guys back. Brandon Mitchell, Greg Spires, and Mike Woods. They should be all set to go. We've got some other people who are just practicing once a day that have just came back this week, guys like Bruce (Armstrong), Tedi Brushci, (Chad) Cascadden, and (Terrance) Beadles, that group. We'll just have to wait and see how those guys are. We probably won't decide tomorrow whether they will be on the trip or not, it may come down to more of a game time type of decision. We'll just have to play that a little bit day to day. As a team this is a really good opportunity for us going down to Washington, this will be our third road game. This is a pretty highly touted team. They were a playoff team last year and they've added some people in the off-season. I know they have high aspirations. They have a solid returning group, both on the coaching staff and on the field, with some good additions. I think the crowd will be more of a factor in the game. Probably more than it's been the first two weeks. This will be a good test for our team as I told the players yesterday after practice and again this morning. A couple things that I am now concerned with are our third down conversions on both sides of the ball. That hasn't been what it needs to be in the preseason and it needs to be sharper in practice. This is where it usually starts to show up first and then the games. The example that I use there is the Rams. They led the league in third down conversions last year. I don't think it's any coincidence that they are one of the top offenses in the league. Any time you can stay on the field and create more opportunities on offense, that just usually leads to more points, less field position on defense and the whole works. That's a big factor. Another thing I am concerned about is the kick-off return game. We haven't created good field position on kick-off returns. Statistically, it's hard to move the ball 85-90 yards for a score in this league for any offense, in any situation. It is obviously a lot better to play on a short field and we need to create a little better field position in the kick-off return game. I hope that we can improve in those areas a little bit this week. We've emphasized them in practice so hopefully we can see some results down there Friday night. That's my update. We are breaking camp. I know how disappointed that you all will be not coming down here on a daily basis. Once we got down here, I think it has been a good camp. We probably could have used, well, we don't have any control over the weather so that is the way it is. I think that we've gotten a lot of work done. We've had some long days. We had a long stretch at the start of training camp to the Detroit game. I think the players have responded pretty well to the demands of camp. People are coming back. I think the guys that are coming back have worked pretty hard. Mike's (Woicik) worked hard with them to get them back out there. It will be good to see some more faces out there on the field in pads. You would always like to accomplish more in any training camp, but I think we've come together as a team in a lot of situations. In terms of handling ourselves in the game, situations like special teams, substitutions, two-minute drill, things like that. There is a lot of room for improvement. I have seen some progress. We try to build a good foundation on our fundamentals that will carry us through the season. When we get back next week, we'll be in a little bit more of a regular season schedule. Not completely, but a lot closer to a regular season schedule than a training camp schedule. That's about all I got.
Q: Are you satisfied with the team's physical condition?
B: It's a lot better. We are very, very close to having everybody at the correct weight. We are within just a few ounces. Which we were quite a ways away from. We've had some guys putting a lot of hours on the treadmill, the stepper, and the bicycle. I think our conditioning is quite a bit better than it was from the players who have been out there. We still have some players who haven't been able to participate and those guys are making progress, but the fact that they hadn't been able to work. A lot of them had leg injuries. I don't think they are in the type of condition that a player would like to be in at this time of year. I don't know if you can do much about those situations. They have to do the best they can with those.
Q: Does it help you more to play Washington because they are such a talented team?
A: Yes, again, I think it's a good test for us. I think offensively and defensively they have a very formidable group. They are good in the kicking game and they are well coached. They were a playoff team last year so they have a lot of confidence. They have a couple of second and third (round) picks in the draft. They are good, young additions to the team. Both of those guys look like they have a chance to be outstanding players. We will go up against a good football team. It will be interesting to see how we can handle a hostile environment in Washington and also facing a talented team on the field.
Q: How much of a difference do you see between Drew Bledsoe now and in 1996 when you coached him previously?
B: More confidence, more experience, quicker decisions, and quicker understanding of situations. He's got another three years under his belt, really four since the beginning of the 1996 season. He's got a lot of snaps and a lot of game situations. I think he his confidence in what he can do and what we want done on a certain player and a certain situation. I mean, he's been through it a few times and it's gone quicker than how I remember it going in 1996. I'm not saying it was bad then, I just think it is better now.
Q: Having coached against Drew Bledsoe before and trying to exploit his weaknesses, is that an advantage to you coaching him now?
B: No, again, going back to last year, last year's situation, it was more game plan towards the Patriots, more than Drew Bledsoe, or Terry Allen or whoever. It was a game plan towards what the Patriots did and we tried to defend the plays and the system that they were running. If John Friesz had been the quarterback last year, we probably would have run the same plays if Drew Bledsoe was the quarterback. It's the system that we were really trying to attack.
Q: Would coaching against him give you advantages to knowing his strengths and weaknesses?
B: He's got a lot of strengths. He's got a lot of strengths.
**Q: How is this week different in terms of practicing game plans or just practicing?**
B: I think it's still pretty much of a balance. We really didn't get a chance to install anything before the Detroit game because it came up so quick, we just came here, turned right around and went to Detroit. This week, at the beginning of the week, we put in some installations in all three phases of the game that have been lagging. New plays, different defensive adjustments, some adjustments in the kicking game. We went over some situations that we didn't have a chance to go over. Things like that. Yesterday we did our preparations for the Redskins. Today we'll come back, wrap it all up and try to pull it all together. I wouldn't say more game planning. It's just been a little longer week, but we've tried to use that extra time to catch up on our installation as opposed to just gearing up for the Redskins.
Q: Since coaches use the second to last game to play most of the starters, and Tampa is first game of the season, do you hold back for that preseason game and play your starters more in Washington?
B: We'd rather not do that. To tell you the truth, our focus has been getting our team ready for the season. I think that we'll have to take a look at the Tampa game for what it is. It's a unique situation, but just kind of putting that aside, I think the bigger picture for us is having them ready to play the regular season, having them ready to start in September and we've got to stay on track to do that. What we call in the Tampa game or what we don't call, we can adjust that a little bit. The main focus is for us to get our team ready to go the best we can. That's what we'll try to do. Whatever that necessitates, that's what it will be based on, not necessarily the schedule.
Q: Are the ball carriers not finding the seams or are the seams just not there on the return game?
B: Both. It's a combination of the returner setting some blocks up and the blockers making the blocks and making them correctly, at the proper depth and at the proper level. Ball handling can be an issue. Our overall time and execution is not what it needs to be.
Q: Is being a professional football coach as time consuming as it appears?
B: I've got some free time between 2:00 and 4:00 in the morning usually. It's a pretty full time job. I've been down this road. There's a point of diminishing returns. I think it's important that I come in everyday, fresh, ready to go. I don't want to feel stale because I've been up all night. It sets a poor tone for the way the day should go for the staff, the team and everybody else. I try to stay as on top of it as much as I can, but at the same time do what it is that I think needs to be done. This is a tough time of year for coaches. Out of all of the times during the year as a professional football coach, this is one of the hardest times because you're still in training camp and you're still trying to install things on your team so you can get things right that just don't look right. We've mentioned those. At the same time, you have some personnel decisions that either you're facing or you know you are going to be facing when the cuts come in two weeks, well a week and a half and then two weeks. The personnel part of it is an issue. Then you are doing game plans for the preseason game, which is minimal, but you still want to give the players a chance to half way know what they are supposed to do. Show them that you at least want to make it look like you know what you are doing as a coach. Then you're really trying to look ahead to the opening part of your season. The opener and the second and third games are coming right up after so that they don't all come up on you right at the end because when you get to that final week in pre-season, after the Carolina game, then you are tied up usually with a lot of personnel decisions. You get trade calls or you think about claiming guys off of waivers. You are wondering whether you waive a younger player, whether you will be able to get him on the practice squad. There is a lot of personnel jocking there which takes away from preparation for that first game because you are trying to get your roster set for the year. Knowing that that's coming up, you try to push some of the scouting and some of the early season preparation into this time of training camp. Of course, you are breaking camp so you are relocating and all of that. So you've got a lot going on for the coaching staff at this time. There is a lot going on for the players. They've been through 26, 27 days of practices. They are leaving camp. We've got more people here than we've got jobs so there is some pressure there. A little tension. From a coaching stand point there is a bottleneck there. We just have to try and sort it out. You have three or four bases you have to get covered all at once.
Q: Is there anything you are doing differently here based on your experiences at Cleveland?
B: It's a different situation. It's a different organization, so there is no way it would be the same. I think some of the things that I first talked about when I first took the job. Trying to delegate to the assistant coaches. I'm a little more involved defensively than I will be in the long run, but I think that's more of a temporary situation. Personnel, I think some of the off the field issues, I've tried to be more explicit with the players so that we are all on the same page there. I think the five years of experience definitely helped me and I feel confident with what I am doing. What we did in Cleveland was successful. We turned a not-so-good team into a good team by 1994. So I know what we are doing is working, but I think I've gained through the experience and hopefully managed my time and the rest of the staff a little smoother. I don't know, you'd have to ask some of the players that are involved there. They could probably give you a better grading on that than I could.
Q:Antonio Langham says you smile a little more.
B: Is that what Langham said?