BB: OK, well this is a big week for us here. We've got five practices before Jacksonville and we've got a lot of work to do. We've got a lot work to do with third down, down-and-distance, moving the field, situations, kicking game and so forth. So, we need to have a real productive week. I think we got some fundamentals started last week and feel like we're ready to dig into this week here and get after it, but that's what we need to do. Hopefully we'll get out there and get off to a good start today and start stringing them together.
Q: You walk into a press conference and see a long snapper, Lonie Paxton, from your first championship team. What's your reaction?
BB: Always under the gun, huh, L.P.?
Q: I didn't tee that one up.
BB: Oh yeah, sure. Yep, yeah, that was a great camp, the 2000 camp - the start of building. It didn't start off too well, but we eventually got it going. Always a good feeling knowing the ball's secure going from the snapper to the holder to the punter to the goal post or wherever it needs to go.
Q: I'm sure it means something to you to have a player from your first year come back, showing that the connections are still real.
BB: Yeah, absolutely. So, now we're done with the hard-hitting questions.
Q: Speaking of hard-hitting, what was the takeaway from having Marvin Hagler around the team?
BB: Great. It was a great experience for all of us, for the team - a legend, a great champion in a different sport. He talked about a lot of the things that we talk about - preparation, focus, mental toughness, just kind of what it takes and it's interesting. Obviously, a different sport. You're only working with one guy, we're working with a lot of guys, but the level that they're at and the skills that he developed and preparation that he went through is very enlightening.
Q: Is there anything that the players can apply from his fights?
BB: Yeah, well, we watched the [Thomas] Hearns fight. We talked a lot about that, some of the things - I mean, obviously a different sport - but strategy and having to make adjustments and being ready to go and so forth.
Q: A long time has passed since that 2000 camp, but how different does it feel now with the program you've built and the consistency you've had? Can you speak to some of the differences between then and now?
BB: Well, I mean, I'd say first of all, the biggest difference is in 2000, a quarter of the team couldn't pass the conditioning run, so that wasn't a very good start. We don't really deal with that now or haven't dealt with that in a while. Yeah, I don't think there was a lot of commitment with that group. We obviously made a lot of changes from 2000 to 2001, and a lot of the guys that we stuck with from that team became pillars of the program, the organization in later years. That was a pretty slow start. I mean, it wasn't a very good football team on a lot of levels. So, we've moved past that hopefully.
Q: How do you as a coaching staff utilize the players' day off during training camp?
BB: Go back and look at the first week of camp and talk about all those things - the operation, what we got done, if there was anything we were behind in or maybe even a little bit ahead on, kind of how it's going - and then talk about the plans for the next five days, big picture, and more specifically, today's practice and the immediate challenges. Start to get into things like working players at different positions. We're getting into our sub third-down packages, so it's different personnel groups, so how we want to work the rotations on those, that type of thing. And then at some point, we'll change those up and change the rotation. So where we're going to start, and then at some point, what's the next step to give ourselves depth and cross-train some players. So, things like that, look at our overall workloads, what we're doing and how much it is relative to other years and where that needs to go, things like that. I mean, that was after eighteen [holes], a couple hands of gin and a little time on the beach.
Q: How has Shea McClellin done in his second offseason with the team? What have you seen from him in terms of versatility?
BB: Great. Yeah, Shea's really been good. He had a lot of experience before he got here of playing on the line in college, and for a year in Chicago, then he played primarily off the line. We did both with him last year as a primary position and then we have different calls on different defensive fronts and alignments where he could be in either spot from one play to the next, even though the same people are in the game. So, he's worked very hard to play with those different techniques and have versatility for us playing on the end of the line, playing off the line, playing in pass coverage, rushing the passer, running games with the defensive linemen and has a number of roles in the kicking game for us. He's smart, he's athletic, he runs well, he's got good size, he's got experience, so he's really a very valuable and versatile guy for us. He can do a lot of different things.
Q: Are there any similarities between he and Rob Ninkovich and the different positions they can play?
BB: Yeah. I mean, they both played on the line in college. Shea's probably played a little more off the line than Rob has, but Rob's played off the line, too. They've both played a lot in the kicking game. Yeah, I think there's definitely some similarities in their skillsets.
Q: When it comes to a player like Jordan Richards who's had limited playing time in his two years with the team, is it hard to know what you have with him?
BB: I mean, I agree he hasn't had a lot of opportunity for playing time, but I think we know what we have with Jordan. Jordan's play time has increased this year in the practice opportunities that we've had in the spring and in training camp. He's done very well with those. I mean, I think he's going to be very competitive for playing time with those guys. I mean, there are good players ahead of him and he's a good player. He's in that same conversation, as well. He's improved every year. I think he's going to continue to do well. He works hard, he's tough, he's very smart, he's a very instinctive player, and as he's gained more experience, a better understanding of our system, better, more experience in this league and working against other players, he's had a lot of production on the practice field in the first four days - pass break-ups, interceptions, he's had his hands on a lot of balls, he's around the ball, so he's doing well.
Q: How has Kony Ealy adapted from Carolina to this program?
BB: Good. Again, we've worked him at a number of different positions, both inside and outside. I think we've asked him to do more in coverage than what he did at Carolina. Carolina doesn't do a lot with their defensive ends in pass coverage. We probably do significantly more than they do, not with their linebackers, but their ends that have coverage responsibilities more frequently, so those are things he's had to adjust to. But, I mean, he's a smart kid, he works hard, and he's building his versatility. We'll see how far that goes, but he's got the ability to play inside, to play outside on the end of the line, to play in some coverage situations, to have a role in the kicking game, which is another thing that wasn't a big role in Carolina. I don't know how big it will be here, but it's already, I would say, more than what he had there. We've asked him to do some new things, and we'll evaluate those as we go through camp and see how it goes.
Q: At the defensive end spot, are you hoping for different traits at the right and left spot? Or are you hoping that any defensive end can play on both sides?
BB: I'd say it's different playing on the left than playing on the right from a responsibilities standpoint. There's certainly some similarities, but it's different. Some guys can play both. Some guys, I would say, are better suited at one or the other. Sometimes that's a comfort thing. Sometimes it's really a scheme thing and what we ask them to do. They're the same, but they're different more so than say right and left corner or right and left defensive tackle or that type of thing. It's defensive scheme. It's a little bit different.
Q: Is it too simplistic to say that the left defensive end guy you're looking to be less of a rush guy and more of a run-game, stouter player?
BB: Yeah, I don't know if we're looking for less of a rusher or less of a run player. I think it really becomes more of a coverage discussion - how much and what type of coverage responsibilities would you put them in? You know, Chandler Jones versus Ninkovich or Trey Flowers versus Ninkovich. There's some differences in their coverage responsibilities. Especially most teams are, for us, defensively left-handed formation teams, so not that they couldn't do it the other way, but more times than not, there's a high percentage of situations that come up on the left side that are different from the right side, especially with a right-handed quarterback, which most of them are. So, I mean, look, they both have to know them, they both have to do them, but I'd say there's definitely more - it's kind of like left tackle and right tackle. You don't really see the same player at right tackle as left tackle. Some guys can do both, but there are quite a few guys that are better at one or the other, and that's usually where they end up.
Q: In year three, has Geneo Grissom found a home on the line and honed his skillset more at one spot than maybe he did prior?
BB: I'd say it's kind of the same thing with Geneo. We've done the similar thing with him. He's worked outside, he's worked inside, he's had a good role for us in the kicking game in the last two years. He's very athletic, he's long, he's athletic and has coverage skills. So again, we'll see how it all goes, but I think as he's gained experience and improved technique and just reacting a little bit quicker. Those things have all helped him. But he's long, he's athletic, he's smart, he runs well for a 200 and whatever - 60, 55 pound guy - so he's a little different than Ealy. Ealy's bigger, but it's a little bit of the same conversation. And Geneo's role in the kicking game has been a significant one for us, so that's good to have a defensive end in the kicking game. There's a lot of defensive ends that have minimal roles in the kicking game, so it's good to have one that's kind of a core player that can also provide depth defensively.
Q: Lawrence Guy talked about versatility when he came here. Is he a guy that could play further from the ball, or is he more of an interior guy?
BB: I think he probably could play - it depends on the situation, what type of personnel you're talking about - but he could probably play from the tackle in. But I would say the majority of his snaps have been from the guard - guard to the center, three-technique, one-technique, zero. Could he play out a little wider? He probably could in some situations. I don't know that against open formations that's probably where you would want him, but in closed formations, I mean, that's a little different story. It's kind of like the way [Alan] Branch played. Branch is primarily inside, but there are situations where he played over the offensive tackle and did a good job for us. I mean, I think Guy could do that. I think [Vincent] Valentine could do it. I think Malcom [Brown] could do it. I mean, they all could do move out a little bit and we'd call them true. I mean, Vince [Wilfork] did it. Hell, Vince's first year here was to play defensive end and [Keith Traylor] played nose.
Q: When you were talking about fundamentals, preparation, focus, mental toughness, those kinds of things, are you already seeing any of these qualities standing out with this group? On the flip side, are there any areas you're identifying that need more work?
BB: Well, I think wherever we are now is fractional to where we're going to be in five days. So, it's four days of training camp, the first two without pads. I mean, I wouldn't say this is - I mean, it's challenging, but it's going to get a lot harder than this. We have five days this week and we've got four days against Jacksonville - three in practice, one in a game. We're going to start stringing number of days together here, so when we get up into the high teens and we've strung a lot of practices together competitively against each other, against Jacksonville, against Houston, we'll have a lot better indication of where we are in terms of mental toughness, consistency of fundamentals, conditioning - not just track conditioning but football conditioning - being able to push against other people, being able to handle contact, run through contact, deliver contact on the run, things like that. We'll have a lot better evaluation. That's what training camp is for, instead of go out there and do it for a day or a practice or flash a couple plays here or there. I mean, that's good and all, but that's just I would say probably not very many players in the league that aren't capable of that. I mean, if they're in this league, they would have the ability to do that. The question is, who can do it over a sustained period of time versus who can just put one or two out there but a long time in between those flashes? I'd say we have a long way to go. I think the evaluation process is, to me, kind of underway here the last couple days, but it will really, truly come to light on how the sequential performances go day after day, competitive period after competitive period, going against other quality players with different playing styles, not only our players, but players from other teams that change the matchups a little bit and how we're able to adjust and handle those subtle but different matchups. That's what training camp's for. That's the evaluation part of it. I think we're just getting starting on that.