BB: We're rolling through camp here, just continuing to build each day a little bit further along on where we've come from, building into situations, building into all our different techniques, trying to get things a little more detailed as we progress. We'll be heading into a little bit of a game-week preparation next week in a couple days by Monday, so we're trying to move along in the things that we're doing and pretty soon we're going to have to kind of turn the page into a little bit of a different phase in training camp – kind of a combination of our fundamentals, our skills and game preparation. We're trying to take advantage of every opportunity here. We've got a lot going in, a lot of things to cover, but I feel like we're making progress. But we've got a long way to go.
Q: You mentioned the shift into game preparation. What percentage would you say you try to carry over from this week till September?
BB: From this week till September?
Q: From this coming week, like how much of the preparation and installation that you're doing for the Packers would you do for preparing for the Steelers?
BB: Oh, I'd say definitely less than half.
Q: Can you get into the particulars of the things that you want to instill upon the team?
BB: We're obviously going to run … We're playing a lot of people, so it would be ridiculous to have three game plans. Actually we have one game plan that would run into maybe two or three different groups, so by the time you split a game up into thirds, the amount of plays that you need are a lot less when you're talking about a third of a game compared to a full game, so that cuts it down quite a bit right there. We want to work on the things that we've been working on. It's not really about game planning Green Bay as much as it has having a familiarity generally with what they do so that we can go out there and have a chance to execute. You don't go in there blind. At the same time, I'm sure they'll do some things that we're not going to have prepared for, and that's part of football, too, is being able to make those adjustments during the game. But I'd say definitely well less than half of what we would normally do.
Q: There was a lot of work for Michael Hoomanawanui in yesterday's practice. What are the things that make him valuable to your offense?
BB: Mike has been really dependable for us, been very consistent. He's very smart. He's able to handle a lot of different assignments, depending on who the other tight ends are, depending on what we want him to do. He's a pretty versatile player, and he's been durable and dependable through the years for us. He's played a lot of football in a lot of different situations, some contributions in the kicking game. And he's been a first, second and third down player offensively depending on what we needed and what the circumstances have been, but he's played on all three downs and to some degree on fourth down. So, he's got a lot of versatility and he's a smart guy. He does make adjustments quickly and understands what's going on, so if we need to change or adapt or make some type of adjustment, he's good at that, and at the tight end position, which is really where a lot of learning has to take place. A lot of formationing is done by the tight end, and therefore their assignments are based on a lot of different things – defensive ends, linebackers, safeties – there's really a lot for them to recognize at that position that fluctuates quite a bit. I'd say he does a good job of all that, too. Mentally, it's a hard position to play because of the amount, the volume, and then also the variables that come into play.
Q: When you watch a guy like Hoomanawanui or when rookies come in, how much of it is you thinking that he can do something when he gets here as opposed to when he actually gets here and you start giving him more and more based on what you've seen with your own eyes?
BB: I'd say it's pretty true of every position. I think we have a basic set of criteria – this is what the player needs to be able to do. Some guys can handle that. Some guys handle a little less than that. Some guys handle a little more than that. I don't think you really know for sure how that's going to go until you actually get him here and get him in it. You might have an idea, but I'd say we've all misjudged that one way or the other before. You just do the best you can, but as they can handle more, then you give him more. Once you kind of reach the cap, then you probably need to stop it there at least for a little while until that gets solidified, and then maybe you can build on it.
Q: How important is the progression from year one to year two with Dominique Easley and Malcolm Butler?
BB: I think all of the players that we had last year going into their second year now have made strong jumps in different areas – could be physically, could be experience or understanding level, technique – all those. Those two – Malcolm and Dominique – certainly have, but I'd say they all have, and they all need to. It's a great opportunity for them to take a year of experience in the NFL – a shortened version of it by the time they actually get here in May – and take that year of experience and have that as a base to build on year two, which they obviously don't have the first year. So, it's a huge advantage. There is a lot more physical training that they can do, and they are at least further ahead in the mental game, and they also know what to expect, so there's a little bit less anxiety of the unknown. All of those things work in favor of the second-year player, and they need to be able to take advantage of them. I think our guys have, but there is always more they can do, too.
Q: How much growth have you seen from Sealver Siliga in the last couple pf years?
BB: I'd say the majority of his growth came for us after his first year. He came in midseason or maybe a little before midseason and then the following year – which actually was last year – was when he made the biggest jump. Unfortunately he missed a chunk of time last year during the middle part of the year or the beginning part actually to the middle part. But he's another guy who works hard, he's smart, he does a good job of knowing what he' supposed to do and how to do it, so the more time he can get out on the field actually doing it without having any setbacks then the better he's going to be and the better he's been. He works hard, and for a big guy, he moves well and he's pretty athletic for his size.
Q: What have you learned about Jabaal Sheard so far that you didn't know before?
BB: I don't think there's been a huge amount of surprises with him. He's been in the league for four years. Mike [Lombardi] was in Cleveland with him, so we have a pretty good insight here. I would just say the system he played in there – he actually played in a couple of different systems there – and our system is a little bit different, so there's been an adjustment for him there with some of our techniques or assignments. Overall, a lot of things that we do, he's done, so there's been a little bit of an adjustment, but he's done well with that. He's a good player. He's long, has good playing strength, pretty instinctive. He's played on the end of the line for his whole career going back to Pitt and in the NFL and now with us. That's pretty much where he's going to play for us.
Q: When you reflect back on his draft year in 2011, he ended up going right around where you guys were picking. Looking back, how close were you to possibly putting his name on a card?
BB: I don't know. He was certainly in the conversation there, but I don't know.
Q: What kind of characteristics do you look for from a player that is moving from guard to center?
BB: There are a lot of similarities between those two positions, with obviously the big difference being the ball, and that is a big difference. They're both interior positions. Sometimes there's a center bubble, sometimes there's a guard bubble, sometimes the center is covered, sometimes the guard is covered. Whichever one you play, it's similar and you're working with that other player. There are a lot of combination blocks between the center and the guard, so again there is a lot of carryover there. The ball is a big difference and the exchange and the cadence and all that. So, I'd say physically the characteristics are similar. Technique-wise and assignment-wise, there is a little bit of a difference, and then the whole guard issue is left guard to right guard, which we've talked about. For some players, that's easy, and for other players, it's not so easy. And then of course center to guard is the same kind of thing. Some players see those positons as side by side and it's pretty seamless. With other players, there's a big difference for them and they have difficulty making that switch from one spot to the other, regardless of which way it goes. But physically, there are a lot of similar characteristics. Now again, it depends on what type of offense you're running. There are some offenses, particularly I'd say the zone schemes, where there are a lot of similarities between guard and tackle, where you're not pulling guards, you're zone blocking, so you don't have a lot of necessarily lateral movement by those guards or pulling or screens or plays where they're getting out and running, and it's more of a zone-blocking scheme or pass-protection scheme. We have probably a little more multiple assignments for those positions than maybe some teams do. Again, I'd say looking at the zone teams, there is sometimes more carryover between guard and tackle than there is center and guard, but for us, we're probably a little more center-guard, finding our guard-tackle combos less frequent or maybe less likely in our system.
Q: Coach, this isn't a medical update question…
BB: Oh, good.
Q: But as you're preparing the team for the whole season, how do you also stay sensitive to wearing out the veterans who have had less recovery team because of how late you played into last season?
BB: Yeah, that's really been a big challenge for us over the last 15 years. It's a good problem to have. Obviously, you want to play long into the season, but it definitely shortens the time period for the players to recover and be ready for the next year, particularly the ones who have more significant injuries – surgeries, depending on what the surgery is – but some type of ligament repair-type surgeries, sometimes those things take a little bit longer. Our timeframe there is a lot of times a month to six weeks less than where some other teams are, and then that affects us on this end of it, particularly in the training camp period. Usually most of those players are ready by September, generally speaking – this is a general question, we're not talking about any player in particular – but the end of July start versus the early September start, that kind of six week gap there is a lot of times the difference between players being ready in September versus ready in August. The problem is in September they may not be in the full training period that a player who is healthy is coming into training camp. So, it's definitely something that we've had to deal with through the years and particularly a year like this, where a lot of players after the length of the season and what happened at the end of the season with some postseason activities and parades and this and that, sometimes it gets pushed another week, 10 days, two weeks back, which just comes up here on the other end. So, timing and the ability to get some of those things taken care of at the end of the season isn't always optimal for us relative to some other teams in the league. It's definitely a challenge. Fortunately or unfortunately – however you want to look at it – we've had a lot of experience with it, and we've learned to work in that timeframe and trying to bring players back at the right pace for each individual player depending on what his situation is to try to have them ready and prepared physically, mentally and from a competitive standpoint in terms of reps and on-the-field experience, so we're not just throwing a guy in there cold. We talk a lot about having to manage that situation. It's a bad problem, but it's actually a good problem to have. But, [it's] an excellent question and something that I think is a very big part of how we have to look at I'd say the first four to 10 weeks of the season – training camp, early part of September into October – there are a lot of situations that kind of fall under that umbrella somewhere along the line. And obviously this year, we have whatever it is – nine players on PUP – and we're into the second week of August. So, we still have a number of guys we're dealing with, and some guys are practicing who have been fully cleared to practice, but they're not 100 percent yet.
Q: Junior Seau is being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame today. How would you sum up your dealings with him as a player?
BB: You know, the one word I've always used with Junior is passion. Of all the players I've coached, his passion for the game in every sense of it was exceptional. In the building, in the classroom, on the practice field, around his teammates, in the games, on the sideline – wherever it was – that was I'd say the one thing about Junior that was always exceptional relative to other players – I mean, forget about ability and all that, but just his playing style, his true passion for the game, for the game of football. Junior and I personally had a great relationship. He was on this team for different parts of four seasons, and he was always a very honest, up-front, team-oriented player, and he brought a lot to this team and this organization. I think all of us that interacted with him while he was here feel privileged to have had the opportunity to play with or coach Junior. He was pretty special. Aside from all the accolades that he rightly deserves for his playing ability and production, I'm talking about really all the other things. So, well deserved and we're very proud of his recognition, and I've expressed that to his family on behalf of our organization. We were fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him.
Q: What are your impressions of Chris Harper, as he's gotten more reps in the last couple days?
BB: Chris is getting better. He's getting better. It's like all rookies – they've got a lot to learn and they've got to take advantage of their opportunities. He's gotten a few more in the past few days with a couple players out. That's what they have to do – they have to be ready for those opportunities and take advantage of them when they come. Chris has also shown some ability to catch punts, return kicks, so when he gets those opportunities in the games we'll have to see what he can do with them, just like evaluating all the rest of the rookies when they get their opportunities. He's worked hard, he's done a good job for us, and we'll see how it goes.