Q: Could you talk about the Raiders? They've struggled the last two weeks, but I'm sure you expect a very hungry team. **
TB: Yeah, they're off to a start they obviously didn't want to get off to, but they've got a lot of really good players, especially on defense – a lot of experienced players, a lot of guys who have played a lot of football, won a lot of games, championships, playoff games. I think we're going to get their best shot. It's a very good defense. They're hungry for the ball. They're always trying to strip at it. They've got some playmakers in the secondary – very experienced secondary. [They have] a really good front, active front that gets into the pocket. So, we've got to do a good job all around. It's got to be a great execution.
Q: What do you do this week to address the penalty issues from last week?
TB: Well, we practice a lot and we try to practice as disciplined as possible. Coach talked about that a lot. A fast way to get you beat is penalties or turnovers, and we haven't done a very good job the first week with turnovers or penalties, and last week it was penalties. We're going to need to do a much better job. I hope that we're much more disciplined out there in all phases – offense, defense, special teams – and that'll go a long way to help us.
Q: What can a skill player do to earn your trust and confidence?
TB: It goes back to a lot of practice execution, anticipation, confidence in one another that I'm going to throw the ball where they need the ball and they're going to run where I expect them to run. That's why we practice so much. We meet, we talk about different situations, and every week it changes so you start the week, you've got a different defense, they have different players, we're running different routes, and the process to build starts over again. That's why football, every week you never really know how it's going to turn out. It's a matchup game, and we're trying to install the things that we think we can do best and that allow our players the best chance to get open and for me to read it out and make the plays, and then we go out there and try to practice them all week to see if that's the way it actually turns out. If it doesn't, you try to make adjustments before the game. If you get into the game and things aren't going we try to make adjustments during the game. And then ultimately, you're just trying to do it consistently for four quarters. But if we do it well, then they adjust. It's constantly that type of game. It starts on a Monday when we game plan. It goes all the way through to the end of the game on Sunday. The more that we can be out there together, talking through things, communicating through things, making adjustments in the game, the better we're going to be.
Q: What's the correlation between the protection you get by your offensive line and your ability to make the reads you need to against any defense?
TB: Everything is tied together. Football is the ultimate team sport, so in offensive football all 11 guys need to be on the same page with great communication, everyone doing their assignment the right way. If you have a guy open downfield and we don't protect it, then it's a bad play. If we've got a guy open downfield, we protect, and I make a bad throw, it's not a good play. If we get a guy open downfield, we protect, I throw it and we drop it, it's not a good play. So really you need good protection, good routes, good throws, good catches, no penalties, staying on track so you don't have to overcome third-and-15s, and we had quite a few of those last week. There's not one thing. It's all of us being on the same page, working together, and like I said, a lot of it is in practice and our ability to go out there and do it at a high level in practice so that we have confidence we can do it well in the game, do it well together in a game for 60 minutes. That's what we're trying to build towards.
Q: You've targeted Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski a lot these first two games. Is distributing the ball evenly to more players something you want to work on?
TB: Absolutely. I think that's definitely a big part of what we're trying to do offensively to make us hard to defend is to be able to throw the ball to everybody. And you're right, those guys have seen a majority of throws, and I've got to do a better job finding the other guys because it's a lot of good routes, they're big targets, guys are working really hard to get open. So hopefully it shows up this week in our pass game. We're going to work hard this week to see if we can all be on the same page more often.
Q: Where are you right now with Danny Amendola?
TB: I have a lot of trust in Danny. He battled through some injuries last year and has had a great spring, great training camp, and he's been out there quite a bit. It's my responsibility to get him the ball and there were a few catches that got turned back, a few big plays that would extend drives. But I don't think our passing game has been really stellar to this point, so it's hard to sustain much over the course of the game and get those guys the ball when we're not doing as good a job as we're capable of. We've got to keep going after it, and guys get more opportunities to get balls, and I need to do a better job finding those guys when they're open and running the routes that we talk about all week. That'll go a long way to help us win.
Q: It's only been two games, but the Raiders rae tied for second in the NFL in yards allowed. What are the challenges they present in playing press coverage?
TB: They've got great coverage guys – one of the most experienced secondaries in the league with Tarell Brown, [Chimdi] Chekwa, Carlos Rogers as the three primary [defensive backs] and then Charles Woodson and [Tyvon] Branch as the safeties. Those guys have a lot of experience. Teams have done a good job running the ball against their defense, but we're going to need to do both. We've got to be able to stay balanced. Whatever they're trying to take away, we've got to try to execute against what we feel is the weakness of their defense. That's part of the chess match that we go against. If you get yourself in a situation where you need to throw the ball a lot against this defense, it's going to be hard because that's a big strength – their pass rush and certainly their pass coverage. You're right – they haven't given up many yards. Hopefully we can go out there and have a great week of execution.
Q: What have you seen on film from Charles Woodson, and does he still blitz the quarterback hard off the edge?
TB: He looks phenomenal to me. I've known him for a long time. I've practiced against Charles when I was in college. We've known each other for 20 years. I have a lot of respect for him as a player, as a person, as a friend, and he looks phenomenal back there. He's a big playmaker for that defense, and he gets his hands on a lot of balls – not only in the pass game but in the run game. He's trying to strip the ball out on every play. He's a great tackler. He's got great anticipation. He's someone that I really have to know where he's at on every play.
Q: Do you guys ever talk about the moment you had in the playoffs in 2002?
TB: I don't think we've ever talked about that, but I remember it very well, and I'm sure he does, too. He was making plays back then, and he's still making plays the same way. He's got long arms, a really strong tackler. He's been a ball hawk his entire career.
Q: Did you throw to him at all when you were at Michigan?
TB: Yeah, I did. I didn't get a lot of those reps. I wasn't in there much when he was there. They didn't give me chances to throw the ball to him. I was kind of with all the backup guys at that time. When I did, he was probably our best receiver when he was there. Whenever we need a big play we put him in, and he always seemed to make it, so that's why he won the Heisman.
Q: How big is the gap between where you are and where you want to be with this offense?
TB: We've got a long way to go. Every week it starts again, and whatever we did last week, you're trying to make improvements so you come out the next week and play better and there is more margin of error because we're doing things better, more crisp, with better anticipation and confidence in one another. We'll ultimately see how it plays out. It's really early in the year; we've got a lot of football left. We're still trying to figure out what we're good at, and we'll probably be trying to figure that out for a long time. All the way through the season, that adapts and changes with the guys that are out there and what we think we need to do to win, but we're trying to make improvements. I don't think we're ready for the Super Bowl this week. I think we've got a lot of work to go, and certainly playing against Oakland gives us some big challenges because they have a great pass defense, and we have to understand where their strengths are and hopefully go out and execute better than we have the first two weeks.
Q: Is finding the open guy on every play ultimately what you're looking for?
TB: I think that a great offense is one where you just go where the reads take you and then you throw it and we're open and we make the catch, the blocking is good, the throws are good, the timing is good. That's what we're looking for. It's a lot of practice. We're still early in the year. We've got a lot of work to do. This is obviously a big week for us with the challenge that is presented by their pass defense, so hopefully we can go out and do a better job. But we've got obviously a lot of work ahead. It's a long season. But the better we practice, the more confidence we have in each other in the games and hopefully the better it shows up in the game.
Q: Does having as many personnel groupings as you guys use create more challenges for you to get in rhythm on offense?
TB: We practice that way quite a bit, so we get a lot of opportunities to execute doing that. I don't think there are really any excuses for not executing the way that we're capable of. We just need to do a better job whoever is out there, whether it's the same group or multiple groups, that's who our offense is. I think we've got a lot of very skilled skill players that can help us win a lot of games. All those guys have been involved, and we're going to keep trying to find ways to get everybody involved. We're just going to try to go out there and execute at a higher level.
Q: Do you ever have to ratchet down your intensity so guys don't think that you're beyond pissed off at them?
TB: Yeah, it's an emotional game, and I think that level of intensity that I feel is … I've always felt that on game day. I don't know how they respond to it. I know how it helps me, but I have a lot of other intense guys that I play with. Julian [Edelman] is one of those guys who is very intense on game day. Nate Solder, Dan Connolly – there are a lot of guys on our offense – Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] – that have a high level of expectation that we want to go out there and play well. We get one chance a week to go out there and play well, and we work really hard year-round for one game a week, 16 weeks a year to have an opportunity to go out there and be at our best. So whatever is happening over the course of the week, you've got to prepare yourself to be at your best for that moment. That really peak performance needs to happen at that time. Whatever you need to do to get to that point, that's what the goal is.
Q: So, when something bad happens on Sunday and you're not going up to them saying that it's OK, it's because it's not OK?
TB: Absolutely. I don't think we're settling for anything less than what we think our best is. We don't go, 'God, we really want to be a mediocre offense this year. We'll go out there and run a few plays and hopefully some of them are good.' I don't think that's the kind of offense we want to be. I think we want a sustained level of peak performance every single game. That starts in practice with the execution. That ultimately carries over because Coach always says practice execution becomes game reality, and that's true. The better we practice, ultimately the better we play, and we have more confidence in the things that we're doing when we're playing because we practiced them well. If you go out there and run a play three times in practice and it never looks good, you're going to get to the game and go, 'Why are we going to call that play? It didn't look good in practice.' But if you've hit it three times in a row, you're going to have a lot of confidence going into the game that, 'Hey, this is how it's going to work out.' Offensive football is about anticipation, and it's about awareness and doing things on time, and you only get that in practice.
Q: How would you say practice has gone these first two weeks?
TB: We keep making improvements. I think we're still building. Every week is different. We practice, Coach has a high level of expectation at practice, so those are the things we're working hard at it. It's not like you grade yourself, like that was a 'C' week or a 'B' week. We try to put a lot into it every day, and I think Coach holds us accountable every day for what we're trying to do out there. We're never just running out there to break a sweat. We're going out there to get something done, and hopefully it's to make our team a better team.
Q: What is the non-throwing hand important for in terms of helping you be more accurate?
TB: I think everything is important when you throw a ball. Obviously, the physical mechanics of throwing and also the mental decision-making and the decisiveness, it all plays a factor in what you're doing. Throwing the ball is mental and physical. Sometimes you think it's all physical, but sometimes it's mental as well. There are a lot of different mechanical things that you could work on over the course of the year.
Q: I saw that in the season opener, you had no glove on your hand, and then last week you had a glove. What goes into that decision?
TB: It was pretty dry up there in Minnesota. It was nice and humid and sticky down there in [Miami], so it helps your grip. Quarterbacks like sticky footballs. It's nice and grippy, and you can really [apply] light grip pressure. You don't really get that in the winter months here, so it's probably why you see the glove a little more often.
Q: What is Bryan Stork's potential?
TB: Whatever he makes of it. Everyone's role is determined by what they do and what they earn, and we'll see. He's had opportunities on the team. He's had a chance to get in there and try to make plays to help our team win. But like any young player, there is a lot to learn from every time you go out there and run a play. You've got to evaluate it and try to get better. But that's all of us. We're all still trying to do that.