Q: Has the injury to Dan Koppen caused you to scramble this morning and do some research to look at interior offensive linemen?
NC: Yeah, I would say today is no different than really any other day. I would say that we do research all the way through the year, whether it's during the spring, through training camp, during the regular season, so our approach today is no different than it is any other week and we're just going about business as usual.
Q: What is the market like for interior offensive lineman?
NC: I think there are a lot of players at a variety of different positions that have a degree of experience that have played football. We'll do what we always do: we'll evaluate every position relative to what's on our football team and then we'll make a determination as to where we feel there's an opportunity for us to improve our team. Whatever way that manifests itself, then we'll consider it and go from there.
Q: Looking ahead to the San Diego Chargers, what do you see will prevent challenges for you guys?
NC: Defensively, this is a pretty disciplined group. They've got a lot of good football players at all three different levels: the front seven, the linebacking corps – they signed Takeo Spikes – the inside – Donald Butler didn't play last year. Along the defensive front or front seven, they signed Travis LaBoy, Antwan Barnes, who gave us some problems last year rushing the passer. They drafted Corey Liuget who looks like he's going to be a pretty good player for them. They sustained an injury there to [Luis] Castillo the other day, but they've got a lot of depth and their secondary, collectively as a group. [Eric] Weddle is probably as good of a weak safety as there is – a very smart, instinctive player, very aware, good ball skills. And [Quentin] Jammer has been a real productive player for their secondary here – basically since he's been a rookie. And then [Antoine] Cason's given them a lot of good snaps. So defensively, they certainly present a lot of problems. And offensively, they've got a lot of weapons. They lost [Darren] Sproles, but between [Mike] Tolbert and Ryan Mathews in the running game and the passing game for that matter out of the backfield, they present some issues. And then [Antonio] Gates is as good a tight end as there is in the league. They've got a bunch of big receivers: [Malcom] Floyd had a lot of production for them last year. [Vincent] Jackson looks like he's back at playing at a high level. I think across the board, this is a good football team. A.J. [Smith] and Coach [Norv] Turner, they've put together a solid group. We're certainly going to have our hands full. This has been a consistent, high-performing team for a number of years now, so we're going to have to prepare on a short week and get ready to go out there and play our best game to date.
Q: When the schedule puts you guys a little bit behind like this, getting in around 5:00 a.m., what do you guys cut out?
NC: We'll prepare the best we can to play that game and whatever opportunity, whatever time we have to allocate, whatever it is, we're not going to cut any corners. We're going to do the best we can to make sure that we're the most prepared football team out there on Sunday. We've got some work to do. We've got a lot of catching up to do, collectively as a coaching staff and from a player's perspective, and when the players get here tomorrow, we'll hit the ground running and we'll get ready to play on Sunday.
Q: On the broader level, seeing your offense execute the way they did, is that affirmation that you guys ran an efficient training camp given the unique challenges this year?
NC: Really, the whole goal of training camp is to lay your foundation as a team, and it's just day-by-day, brick-by-brick, and one practice at a time. The players put a lot into it, the coaches put a lot into it, and it's all sort of geared towards that first week. Now that we have that behind us, now it's preparing for the next challenge that's in front of us and that's San Diego. So, the players work hard, they're in there, they're committed they show up, they put the time in, the coaches put the time in – that's the only way you can do it, to put the time in, invest the work, and get your team prepared to play. I mean, we play once a week; it's not like some of these other sports where you play twice a week or three times a week. You have one opportunity to play on Sunday and the goal is to maximize your performance on Sunday and that's all we try to do.
Q: Can you talk about Matthew Slater's development? He started as a special teams player and now he seems to be getting snaps with the first-team offense. Is he a late-bloomer in that respect?
NC: I think since the day Matthew been here, he's worked hard. There's probably a no more professional player out there than Matthew Slater. He shows up, he does his job, he puts the team first, he's attentive, and he's worked at his craft and he's made himself into a better football player. And that's really what we ask of any player – to come in each day and try to improve. There are plenty of opportunities to improve your performance as a player and Matt has taken advantage of his opportunities, whether it's in the kicking game or offensively. So it's a credit to Matthew and his work ethic and his approach and really, the players electing him as a captain – I think that speaks volumes as to what his teammates and fellow players think of him.
Q: In your opinion, what is holding Brandon Spikes back from being on that 46-man game day roster? He was inactive for this season opener…
NC: Really, each week, it's a week-to-week proposition in terms of, there're only X-amount of players that you have available for the game, so we make the decisions that we feel are best for the team given the opponent and that's what we do each week. So this week, we'll see what happens. We'll go through practice, the players will prepare – all 53 on the roster and then the eight on the practice squad, or however many we have on the practice squad at the time. Everybody will prepare for the game and then we'll make the decision that we feel is best for the team in terms of who's out there on Sunday.
Q: Is Brandon Spikes in good enough shape to play in a game?
NC: I think he's like a lot of players – they're here, they're out there, they're performing, they're practicing, they're doing their best to try to put themselves in a position to play on Sunday. So, he's like any other player that's on the roster; he's no different.
Q: In terms of Dan Connolly and his background at the center position – I'm looking back at his college years and he played offensive tackle and then he's been an interior guy for you guys. How much work has he gotten at center and what have you seen from him there?
NC: It looks like you've been doing your research. All those guys, really to tell you the truth, all the offensive linemen – Dante [Scarnecchia] really rotates those guys through at multiple positions. Everybody kind of takes snaps at every position, so everybody gets experience in practice, and then some get a little bit more experience in the games, whether that's in preseason or an actual game performance. Dan's a versatile player. He's smart. He can handle a number of different things, and I think with all our offensive linemen, I'd say those attributes are similar across the board. He's had experience for us. He's played center for us. He's done it in practice, so last night he just bumped over and we just continued to move forward.
Q: Can you talk about Brian Waters and how he's done since coming here?
NC: Sure. Brian is an experienced guy. He's played a lot of football throughout his career. He's come in here and he's done, really, what we've asked of all the players: he came in, he worked hard, he got himself ready to play in the game, and he was out there for a number of snaps last night. So I think the most important thing for him and any other player is to look at last night, make the corrections and try to improve your performance and just continue to improve, whether it's your fundamental techniques, whether it's the understanding of the offense or whatever your role is going to be that particular game. Brian is a professional. He's played a lot of football and we're glad we have him here.
Q: What were some of the initial thoughts on the first game with the new long snapper Danny Aiken?
NC: It looked like it went OK. I think the ball handling was OK. I mean, he made coverage on one of the punts. He did an OK job. I think he's got a long way to go as well. I mean, he's only been here for a week. The most important thing is just the consistency between those three players, those specialists. Those guys are probably together more than anybody, so they'll continue to work together. There're going to be some things that he hasn't see that he's going to need to prepare for, so we'll see how he does this week against San Diego.