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Jeff Fisher Conf. Call Transcript - 10/01/03

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**Q: Jeff, when you took over in '95, I find it that that seems like a long time ago all of a sudden, one of the things if you do word association with the Titans is 'tough,' 'physical toughness.' Was that something you instilled right from the beginning and have maintained?

JF:** Well back in '95, which was actually the second year of the salary cap, obviously in '94 we struggled, we converted our run-shoot off and switched what was for the most part a finesse offense to a different style of offense. We drafted a quarterback. We drafted a rugged, punishing very physical linebacker. We wanted that to be our philosophy and we've tried to stay with that. You have to win up front in order to be successful. That's kind of been our philosophy. It's a contact game; you have to run and hit and wear down your opponent. We don't do it every week, but we certainly set out to try.

**Q: You may not do it every week, but you do it from both sides of the ball. That's one of the uniqueness of your team if you looking at it from the outside because [Steve] McNair is a tough guy.

JF:** It's a contact game; you have to play this game physical. There are times when we would prefer Steve not to do things he does, but he's going to hang in there. He's going to play hurt. He's going to practice hurt. He's going to get himself ready to play on Sunday. In a lot of ways, I think he can summarize our football team: you go out there, you lay it on the line regardless of how many games you've got left, and the game that you are playing is the one that is most important. That's been his approach.

**Q: He's certainly off to a good start statistically with 70 percent completion average, eight touchdowns and one interception. Looking on paper, he's moving right along. But he credits his defense as putting him in position to have those kinds of numbers…

JF:** Well, Steve is going to be the first one to credit everyone around him. Steve has improved the last couple of years, so have the people around him, specifically those guys on offense, the guys that he now trusts. He understands that there is going to be games where he is going to have take over and win himself and the offense can outscore the opponent. And there are other times, going to be games when you are going to have to win it on defense. Steve doesn't try to do too much. He understands the flow of the game. He pays particular attention to strengths and weaknesses of each week's opponent and we just kind of take it from there.

**Q: Every time we see a release from you guys, week and week, McNair has something. Some sort of a…this or that…he never seems to be 100 percent. Yet he plays, never misses a game. What does that say about him, and the style of football you guys play?

JF:** This offseason was the best offseason he's had since, I believe, he's been here. It's the first offseason where he doesn't have some type of surgery since 1998. He's got a few minor things working right now. He dislocated a finger, came back in and played against Indy. He missed a couple days of practice, but he is healthy right now. He knows that there is going to be a time here during the year where he is going to have to work through something, and he in fact will. He's been able to work through most everything.

**Q: The last time we saw you live was the end of last season, you beat the Patriots up pretty good and derailed their playoff chances. You just got [Jevon] Kearse back that week. Is he back to what he was prior to that injury?

JF:** Jevon really wasn't back last year, even though he did play. He was not effective. He was still sore. We had to, once the season was over, go ahead and do the surgery once again to correct it. I believe he is very close to being back now. He played 45, 48 plays last week and he played pretty well. He had a sack. He's running around. He's jumping on grenades and doing the things he did before he got hurt and playing with a great deal of emotion and playing very hard. He still has a way to go to get back to where he was from a technique standpoint, but effort wise and physically it looks like he is 100 percent.

**Q: Your impressions of the Patriots in terms of their playing without a lot of players and yet they were somewhat combative against Washington last week.

JF:** You are three yards away from tying that ball game, and there is a lot of ways I can make a case that they are three yards away from being 3-1, despite the fact that they have numerous injuries on either side of the ball. And that's very impressive. Offensively, since we've won, they're averaging 330 yards a game. So they are doing good things. Tom [Brady] is making good decisions, spreading the ball around. They are running the football, the offensive line is playing, you've got people moving around, getting people on the ground and protecting well. Defensively, you don't know what to expect. It's a classic New England defense right now, they are going to do different things week after week and put people in position to make plays regardless of whose playing. I would not have thought that Eugene Wilson would play free safety in this league after watching him play corner at Illinois. I was very impressed with his corner skills. It kind of shows you what they are able to do with players with ability. He's come in and he's done a nice job for them.

**Q: What is the key to success on third down defensively for you?

JF:** What you have to do is you have to do a variety of things. It starts with your up front pressure. We've been able to get some pressure because we have been for the most part healthy on the defensive line and with Kevin [Carter] and Jevon [Kearse] and Carlos [Hall] and whomever else is in there, we've been able to get sufficient enough pressure to where we can get ourselves in there to make plays.

**Q: Do you see anything different in Tom Brady than you did when you prepared for this team a year ago?

JF:** I know he's struggled a little bit with the elbow. I think that was evident, I think you could see some of that maybe a little bit against the Jets. But last week he came back and made real good decisions. The first drive was near perfect. So he's throwing the ball away when he needs to. He's for the most part taking check downs. He would probably like to have the last play over again, but based on…you can see what he saw on the cross route, the tight end, he's got a chance to make a play. You can credit the defender with making a good play, but I see him making good plays. The second play of the game, he's cutting a defensive play on a reverse. So he appears to be the same type of quarterback as he was in the Super Bowl year.

**Q: Just a general question, because I'm doing a thing on toughness later in the week, as a coach that preaches toughness and has physical teams. Is there a point early in the game, you try to set a precedent, where you whack a guy in the mouth and slow him down for the rest of the game? Does that happen? I'm talking about collectively…

JF:** No, I don't think…everybody wants to start fast. All 32 teams in the league want to get off to a physical start and a fast start. I think what it comes down to is your ability to finish. Can you maintain your physical style and your play and your strength and your momentum, knowing that there's going to be some changes in the game? I think last week against Pittsburgh is a great example for us. We know that it's going to be a physical ball game and before we blink the quarter's over, we're down by 10, our offense has been on the field three plays. You've got to get your club to understand that there is going to be sometimes where those kind of things happen. You can't panic. You just have to rely on your physical play and just hope that somebody makes a play and trust that somebody is going to. That is kind of what we did last week.
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