Q: With three preseason games and all the practices you’ve had since the spring, is there anything a guy can do in the next 72 hours to get through that bubble and make the 75 cut? Or even looking ahead, how much do they realistically have to do over the next week to make the 53?
BB: I mean, every player’s situation is different. You know, the 53 is, I guess one number, but it’s really more than that when you get into practice squad positions and really, we have a number of players that have played here and have ended up playing for other teams and vice versa. Players that are playing have people evaluating them, both on the teams that they’re on and throughout the league and in other leagues for that matter. Guys that want to play football that have an opportunity, I think they want to take advantage of that opportunity and make the most of for themselves on it or whatever it is. That’s really all they can control. Whatever else happens is beyond their control. They can just do the best they can with the opportunities they get. Make the most of the ones they get and that will lead to more. I think, honestly, everybody pretty much understands that. We all knew at the start of the season that rosters were at 90 and they were going to be cut to 75 and the 53 and so forth. Everybody knows it’s a competitive situation. Just try to go out there and try to do the best you can to make the most out of it.
Q: What factors go into the decision to start younger, less experienced players like
BB: I think Tyms has done a good job in camp of taking advantage of his opportunities. He’s been durable. He’s been a pretty consistent player for us, as far as being out on the field and working hard every day, showing some ability to make some big plays downfield both in practice and it in the games, as well as on some of his short and intermediate routes, showing some ability to run with the ball after he catches it. He was a guy that was a little bit behind in terms of the overall installation of our offense from the spring, but he’s worked hard and done a good job of catching on. There are still a lot of things he can improve on. We’ll just have to see how it all turns out, but Brian has been a great guy to have on the team – his work ethic, his toughness, his competitiveness has been really good to have and to work with. He’s worked hard to improve every day, so you can’t really ask any more than that. And again, each players’ individual situation is different. We talk about every player, I’d say, a minimum of two times a week just to talk about where that player is and how he’s progressing and what he needs to do and so forth and so on. We try to make decisions in preseason based on what’s best for the player and what’s best for the team – it’s a combination of those two things. They’re interrelated, but at the same time they aren’t independent because you have to prepare the team, but at the same time, you want to give a player the best opportunity you can to see what he can do and have him show his skills and ability to compete with the other players that he’s up against. There’s no set formula. Each situation is different. Sometimes circumstances dictate some of those decisions; sometimes they don’t and you have to make them. But however it turns out, we try to do what we feel is best for the team and also what’s best for the player, some combination of those two things. We just do the best we can to maximize both of them. Sometimes you have to give up one for the other, but sometimes you’re able to coordinate it so they coincide, but each situation is different.
Q: Since you guys took a timeout before you challenged the Vereen touchdown, was there any consideration to just go with the call and get some extra red area work? And then on the sideline [Microsoft Surface Tablets] you’ve been using this preseason, just wondering how those have been going and if you may be using them going forward?
BB: The on-the-field tablets, as you mentioned, we’ve worked with those in all three preseason games. A little bit in the Washington game to try to get a feel for it, but not really using them as a big part of our operation. And then we expanded that last week against Philadelphia to try to incorporate them more into what we’re doing and then I would say we built on that a little bit this week. It’s the same thing we talked about before. There’s the wireless system down on the field and there’s a possibility that that could not be available, so we’d have to make some other adjustments. There’s the coordination of getting the pictures sequentially right and on the right [tablets], because obviously you have a lot of different people using different [tablet], offense, defense, special teams, end zone, sideline, so forth, so there’s some coordination in all of those things. And familiarity with the coaches, I think, and many of the players that used them have become more familiar and more comfortable using them as time has gone and we’ve gotten more experience with it, so there’s a level of that. So until you put it all together, there are still some moving parts. There’s always a chance that they won’t be available or that the functionally will be, at some point, not optimal, so you have to have some kind of an alternate plan. It’s no different than when the coach to quarterback headset goes off or whatever. I’d say it’s similar to that. As long as it works, it’s fine. When it doesn’t work, you have to have an alternative and you have to be ready for it. But the quality of the pictures and the potential for it is good. At times it’s functioned well and at other times it needs some fine-tuning, so we’ll just see how it goes along. On the challenge, it was a close play there on the goal line and initially we weren’t sure. We talked to the people up in the booth and I kind of told Josh [McDaniels] to just – because he wasn’t sure whether I was going to challenge it or not, so I had him hold off for a second. And by the time – I took too long on that, so by the time I made a decision, we were at 15 seconds and Josh couldn’t talk to the quarterback because the coach to quarterback had shut off at that point, so there was really no way for him to even send in a play to the quarterback at that point because I had already used that time trying to sort that situation out. So after the timeout, which obviously gave us more of an opportunity to look at it, and it was a close play but in the end we felt that it was a touchdown. So we made the challenge. Once we took the time out, we knew that we had a maximum amount of time, if you will, to look at it. In the end, it cost us a timeout, but I think when we made the challenge we felt very confident that the challenge would be upheld, so I guess in our mind that part of it was worth it.
Q: It looked like you were moving a lot of different personnel packages on the offensive line. How have the guys responded to that, specifically
BB: Well, I think any specific questions you have of players like that, you really need to ask them. I wouldn’t want to speak for what their feelings are or aren’t. We’ve used a lot of different combinations at, I would say, pretty much every position: defensive line, linebacker, defensive back, receiver, running back, quarterback for that matter. So I think that’s really part of training camp. People get to know and work with different teammates, work in different combinations. Again, we’re trying to create a fair competition on the team so that experienced players can work in with less experienced players and so forth. I think everybody understands that it’s a competitive situation and that’s really what it is. And what they can control, as I said earlier, what an individual player can control is how he prepares and how he performs when he gets an opportunity to perform. He can’t control playing time or coaches’ decision making or those kinds of things. Those are beyond a player’s control, but what is in their control is their preparation and their performance. They should be prepared to perform as well as possible when they get the opportunity. We all know the better a player performs, the more opportunity he’ll get and the more playing time he’ll get. That’s the way I see it.
Q: Have you ever coached a player that has taken as large of steps in his career as
BB: Steve Neal came twice as far. I mean, Steve Neal never even played football. There’s no comparison between what Steve Neal had done and any other player I’ve coached. The guy never player high school football, never played college football. Never played football in the eighth grade, and within two years – well, three years because he got hurt his second year – but within three years he became a starting player for us. So, I think when you start talking about taking great leaps, I would start with Steve Neal.
Q: In terms of Julian and how he’s progressed, is there anything other than work this
BB: I think Julian’s career compares to players like Tedy Bruschi who played one position in college that was, I’d say, pretty unrelated to the position that he played professionally. Tedy went from a defensive tackle always in a three-point stance, never in coverage, to playing on his feet and playing middle linebacker and playing the majority of his game in coverage. Julian was an option quarterback that never returned kicks who now can return punts and plays receiver. I think those kinds of players, although they’re not common, there are certainly more examples of guys like Bruschi and Edelman, players like that who are making a transition from one position to another, more so than let’s say [Logan] Mankins who went from tackle to guard. Even though that’s a big transition too, it’s not as big as what we’re talking about with Tedy and Julian. Again it’s a lot of hard work, a lot of re-training or training, however you want to look at it, understanding what goes into those positions that they haven’t played. Certainly those guys have good football IQ and basic football instincts and intelligence, which helps them transfer their skills and their instinctiveness into those other positions, but it’s still a big learning curve. Hard work, dedication to starting something that’s relatively new and just working at it day by day to try to do the things they needed to do to be able to compete in this league at their new positions. It took a lot of work. Julian has worked extremely hard and like I said, he’s developed skills at two areas – punt returner and receiver – that he didn’t have any experience at and that’s not an easy thing to do at all. You’ve got to give him a lot of credit for the amount of work and dedication and training that he’s put into that.
Q: You had mentioned at some point that fullbacks seem to have been defensive players at some point. Specifically with
BB: I think I would say just the physical skills that the player possesses. The ability to block and play with leverage. The ability to run – a guy who’s carrying the ball, those guys can run too. And then the instinctiveness of being able to have an assignment but have to be able to adjust on those assignments based on some of the things that happen in front of you, like a running back. Really, the lead blocker is kind of the eyes of the running back. He needs to have the same type of vision and anticipation that a running back has when he has the ball, because he’s making that same decision. He’s actually making it sooner than the back is. I think all those things are part of it. If you see a player not playing that position that you feel like has those qualities and has the intelligence to see the game as an offensive player in terms of assignments and adjustments and defensive recognition and all that, which is a lot different than seeing it on the defensive side, then maybe you try that player there, particularly if you think he doesn’t have a long-term future at the other position, in this case linebacker. I’m not saying he can’t play linebacker, but his level may not be high enough to compete for a roster spot there, but maybe at a different position he may have a higher ceiling.