BB: We've had a few roster moves since we last spoke. So, a couple players out, a couple players in, and we're still below the limit here. There's obviously going to be personnel movement here through the course of camp, but we'll see how that goes moving forward. We're anxious to start working with the players that we've brought in, so we'll just have to see how that goes. The COVID rules and so forth are obviously changing. It seems like every day we get some type of new memo or notification about something, so we'll just take that as it comes and whatever it addresses, deal with it. Recently, we've seen the changes in the pro scouting policy and workouts and so forth, so it's a little different than what it's been in the past, but we'll adjust to those. It's good to have something solid to work with there now, and then we'll see how it goes with the colleges. We've, I would say, anticipated that this was a possibility. We've had to spend a little time talking about college process. We modified that in the spring, of course, because we weren't able to go to spring practices and that kind of thing – there weren't any – but that's just part of the time that we're in and the adjustments that we need to make. The first team practice is today. So, we've had endless Zoom meetings, then in-person meetings, walk-throughs since training camp started, some individual drills the last couple days, and then today will be the first opportunity we get to really have any full-speed or high-tempo team drills. That's good. I think we're all looking forward to that. I'm sure we have a lot of work to do, both coaches and players, getting back into coaching at that level and certainly the players playing and reacting at that level and so forth, so this will be a good experience for all of us there. That's kind of where we're at here. We'll get through the weekend and then start padded practices on Monday, so that will be another phase in the ramp-up process, but I feel like we're taking those steps as we're allowed to take them and the players are ready to move forward at the appropriate times. We'll continue to do that, and as they say, take it as it comes.
Q: Historically, you've taken your assistant coaches and moved them to different position groups, which you've done this year with several guys. What is the process of training your assistants when you're taking them from a position of comfort and knowledge to something new in order to reshape your staff?
BB: Well, that's a great question, Andrew [Callahan]. First of all, I would say every situation is a little bit different, but also coaches – they specialize or focus on a certain position, their area of responsibility, but they're also aware of other things, whether it's on the other side of the ball at the complementary positions, like wide receivers and defensive backs type of thing, or whether it's adjacent positions. So, that's linebackers to D-line, that type of thing. I think the move isn't maybe quite as monumental as what you think it is. It's hard to coach one position without knowing what the guys beside you are doing, or if you're a back, not knowing what the line is doing in front of you or not knowing what the guys across the ball are doing. So, I think there's certainly a build-up of knowledge there, and in some cases, it brings a little bit of a different perspective than if you've just coached only that one spot. The opportunity to coach something else and see what's going on around it or how those units work together or work against each other, depending on if it's the opposite side of the ball, that can be valuable, too. So, ultimately, it's the staff on either side of the ball or special teams meshing together and making sure the communication, the assignments and all that are consistent so the players are getting the same thing and it all fits together. But specifically, each person is responsible for a certain area, but certainly the more that they can know, understand and even be able to coach other positions is valuable, too. When we do group drills together – like putting the line and linebackers together, or the linebackers and defensive backs together, or the tight ends and tackles together, or the running backs and the line together – then the more that those coaches can know what's going on with those adjacent or complementary positions, then the more effective they can coach and the better the drills and the information is to the players.
Q: How have practices gone so far, especially for quarterbacks? Because you lost time earlier in spring, is there anything your staff can do to maximize the time now to get more reps in for the quarterbacks?
BB: Well, again, Phil [Perry], I think it's all relative. So, whatever time we have is the same amount of time that everybody else has and vice versa. We try to use our time as efficiently as possible. To this point, for all positions, it doesn't really matter which position you're talking about. The pre-snap, line of scrimmage and initial assignment, we've had an opportunity to go over that extensively and I feel pretty good about where we are there. What we're missing is the things that happen post-snap and the fundamentals and execution of our assignments at a high tempo, with contact, against a quality opponent. Those are the things that we haven't done, nobody's been able to do, and so we'll start that process really today, Sunday and then next week with pads is when we'll be able to hit those with some, I would say, solid experiences for the players and hopefully progressions. We're about as far as we can go in terms of walk-throughs and calls and communication and all that, but the speed of the game post-snap and what happens once everybody starts moving – we've seen some of that at a slow pace and been able to coach it to a certain degree, but certainly nothing like the way it's really going to happen. And then also, we're missing all of the composite of football – offense, the special teams, the defense, the special teams, the offense, to a sudden change and those type of things like that. That's obviously a big part of being able to function as a team that we have on our agenda and on our calendar, but we're just not there yet. Last night would have been our first preseason game. We haven't even had a team full-speed practice yet, let alone in pads. So, that's where we are compared to where we normally are, but that's not really relevant. What's relevant is where we are and what we can do now, so that's what we're going to focus on. We're just going to have to condense some of the things that we do in the first two weeks of training camp to where we are now on August, whatever it is, 15th or 14th or whatever today is, and kind of start that process now, instead of back on July 28 or when it would normally start.
Q: What are your early impressions of Kyle Dugger and how he's done so far?
BB: Well, I think all of our rookies have worked extremely hard. I mean, they're in deep water and turbulent water and it's going to get rougher, just in terms of the volume and the level of competition and becoming a professional athlete and the full day and the consecutive days that get strung together with very high demands, both physically, mentally and rest and recovery and all that. So, I think all the guys are adjusting to it. They're all working hard at it. It's a really hard-working group. They haven't been any problem. They're just trying to do the best they can, but they're swimming. They're in deep water, and their eyes get opened every day as we move up in the process. And we're still a long way from anything close to real football, but we're doing more now than we did before, so each day is an acclimation day and an adjustment day for them. I think they're just trying to keep their head above water and try to swim or paddle in the right direction knowing that they're not really able to keep up, but they're doing the best they can and they're way, way ahead of where they were a week ago, two weeks ago, a month ago, two months ago. So, a lot of progress there, but a long, long way to go. They're really all in the same boat. It's a hard-working, conscientious, diligent group that they have a lot that they're going to have to absorb. We'll get a much better evaluation of where they are in the next week to 10 days when things start happening on the football field and we start playing some football.
Q: I want to ask you about two long-time members of your staff, Moses Cabrera and Jim Whalen. What kind of challenge was it for Moses to tailor the workout program to all the players in their own individual circumstances during the offseason? For Jim, how has he handled the added responsibilities during this pandemic? How would you describe what they've had to go through?
BB: Yeah, well, it's certainly been different. Jim is really our point person on all the COVID protocols and so forth, but we've all learned a lot and we're all learning really every day. As I said earlier, some of the guidelines and protocols and policies and rules that the league sends us have changed, and we have to adapt to those. Some of it is just learning more about, as our football team operates through this period, training camp, different types of practices and interactions and so forth, what we need to do to make it as safe and efficient and productive as we can. Certainly, everybody's level of comfortability is important here. So, without that, I don't know how much you really would get done if everybody is worried about other things and not football. So, we've tried to address all those issues so that everybody feels safe, they feel like everything is in a good place, they can do their jobs and focus on them, and so that's really what organizationally we've tried to provide. But, Moses has a lot of experience in training, and he's trained so many different types of athletes in different situations and with different equipment and so forth. So, there's very little that he hasn't done. In the offseason, whatever that player was able to utilize and in some cases, we could send them equipment that was small or that you could package and send, that type of thing, that would assist that player's training. We did that as well. So, he's very creative and could tailor workouts individually. Now that everybody's come back together, we have more of a routine. But, still each player is different, and certainly on a football team, you're training guys that are very big, very powerful, have one type of physique, and then you have the skill athletes that are 100 to 150 pounds smaller, faster, quicker, that have a lot of different needs, plus specialists like quarterbacks, kickers and so forth. So, it's a wide, wide range of training that a football team goes through. We're very fortunate to have Moses, Deron [Mayo], Johann [Bilsborough], all the people that work in the training and development department, Joe Kim, all those guys do a great job and have done a great job this year of adapting to the conditions that we've been under.
Q: What are your early impressions of Cam Newton and what has it been like to coach him so far?
BB: Yeah, well, again as I said, we've done a lot of meetings and a lot of walk-throughs, a lot of information has been transferred to all the players, and he's worked very hard, I'd say, as all our players have. We have a hard-working group. Those guys are ready to go and we've put in some long days and they've been very attentive throughout the process. I'd say that certainly for all the quarterbacks at that position, those guys have been locked in, been focused, have worked extremely hard, all four of them, and when they all get in the huddle, everybody has a lot of confidence in what they're able to do and the information they have to give to the team – play-calling, adjustments, audibles or protection adjustments, things like that. That's all gone pretty well, but again, we haven't played at anywhere near the speed that we're going to be playing at, so we'll see how it all comes together at that point. But, Cam is a hard-working kid. He really is.
Q: With regards to the Bengals situation last year, how frustrating was it to lose a draft pick on something that didn't seem to have anything to do with the football staff?
BB: Yeah, well, I think that obviously the league had a long investigation on that, but really we're just looking ahead and we have a lot of things in front of us here, especially getting ready for the season and all that. We've moved on and we'll deal with what we have to deal with in front of us here and just let everything go in the rear-view mirror and move ahead.
Q: You've said in the past that this offseason was similar to the 2011 lockout. Were there any lessons you learned from that offseason that you could take toward this summer as it pertains to helping newcomers and rookies catch up?
BB: We've had an opportunity to meet with and spend more time individually with the players than we did during the lockout. At that time, we weren't even allowed to communicate with the players. At least now, we've had several months of that. I would say the big difference really has been the way that this season has ramped up. So, everybody was here but out of the building for a number of days, and then in the building but just training and not really doing football other than meetings and walk-throughs, which are important – I'm not minimizing that – and then to activity on the field, to now for a couple days of call it Phase Three or OTA-type activity. So, the ramp up is a lot different. In 2011, when training camp started, training camp started. We just went right into it. The first day of training camp was the first day of training camp. We've had almost three weeks of being in some phase of ramping up, and that's again quite different from 2011. So, the meeting time and the opportunity to communicate information and ask questions and answer questions, all that, has been much greater. The opportunity to be on the field and work on techniques and so forth was challenging. I think in 2011, we had, along with a lot of other teams – and that was a good year for us, I mean we won the AFC Championship that year – but, we saw a lot of soft tissue injuries. We saw a lot of injuries early in training camp. So, we're very aware of that experience. But with this ramp-up period, I think that the players are probably collectively – I think we have a lot of veteran players that have been through this and were ready to go, but there are other players that are newer, either to our team or to the league, that have had a ramp-up period that's been beneficial to them that they needed, rather than just throw them right into the fire. So, I think that that part of it has been good. So, there's some similarities and there's some differences, but in the end, I think that this is a good plan, I think it's working and we've made progress to this point. We've had to deal with a number of changes and adjustments, but it's probably going to be that way for quite a while. I think we're used to that.