Q&A with Todd Haley - 8/29

Posted Aug 29, 2010

CAMERON SHEFFIELD: I appreciate everybody worrying, praying and thinking about him. Because of the nature of the injury I will talk about it in here but it ended up being it appears a best-case scenario.

OPENING REMARKS: “Good morning. First off I want to touch on LB Cameron Sheffield. I appreciate everybody worrying, praying and thinking about him. Because of the nature of the injury I will talk about it in here but it ended up being it appears a best-case scenario. He’s in here today working out, moving around, all those things. It had a lot of us worried and I made a late-night visit down there after the game and he was already sitting up eating a sub sandwich. It went from looking pretty bleak to looking real good and I’m just very grateful and thankful that it turned out that way.


“As far as the game goes, reviewing the tape, I think that much of what was said after the game was what it appeared. I think that was the most positive sign to date of this football and the direction we’re going. I know it’s a preseason game and it was a loss, but this team and the things that we’ve been talking about from day one, being smart, tough, physical – the physical nature of that game was evident. I think that if we play with that amount of effort and are that physical on a down-in and down-out basis on both sides of the ball we’re going to be able to make good things happen. The turnovers were ultimately the difference in that game, in my opinion, as they were in the first two. We know that part of being a smart football team is not turning the football over. We’re not going to have many chances to win when we do that. I think there was a great amount of progress made defensively against a good offensive team that was trying to get themselves going for the season. I think the pressure, the sacks, those things were real good signs but even more than that, I think the secondary in general, there was a bit of a challenge issued to them and I think they stepped up and played one of their better games to date, which are good signs.

“Offensively, although a poor, poor start I think the guys got it together, got things going and put us in a position to win. The penalties number-wise are in a manageable situation. We did have two intentional delays, I think one that was turned down but the penalties that we did have ended up being pretty critical for the most part, all but one. The hold at the end of the half cost us a chance at points. Fifteen-yard penalties, unsportsmanlike, those kinds of penalties are not penalties we can have or can overcome very often, when you’re moving the ball 15 yards. Though there is a lot of work to do I think a lot of progress is being made. I think that it continues to be real encouraging the way that number one, we’re blocking up front and the way we’re moving the football on the ground. Those are good trends and good signs of the direction of the way things are going because I know if we can run the ball successfully on a down-in and down-out basis, we’ll have the chance to be a good team. To me this was the most positive sign to date with this developing team we have and now we’re getting ready for Green Bay. It’s going to be a short week. I don’t’ know play-time wise, I can’t give you anything there but we’re going to play the guys that need time and need to continue to develop and we’ve got a bunch of guys on the schedule that they need to get better faster for us to get to where we want to get to and again, September 13th is where the focus is.”

Q: It appears that WR Dwayne Bowe has had a pretty good training camp and preseason and has looked better than he has in previous seasons. What have you seen out of him that maybe we can’t see or haven’t seen?

HALEY: “I think that he falls into the category of developing players, players that were on the roster that must develop – young, two, three, four-year players that have to develop. I know Dwayne’s had some statistical success in the past here. Being a receiver coach for as long as I have I’ve always had a rule that if you’re above .500 then receiver stats count, if you’re not then they don’t. I’ve made that clear to Dwayne and he understands it that we’re trying to be a good team and for him to be a good receiver on a good team, you’ve got to be winning games and then have some numbers to back it up. We’re on the same page there but the important thing is he’s developing. He had a very good off-season, very good. The message was clear to him what he had to do and he came into the off-season exactly the way he was asked, he worked through the off-season the way that good receivers trying to become real good receivers have to and now he’s continued through training camp to be a dependable player for us because receivers do not only catch the ball, they have to block and I think you saw Dwayne the other night have a couple real key blocks and he has throughout the preseason done a real good job in that area and that’s going to be part of our M.O. If you’re going to play receiver here that’s going to be something you have to do. He understands that and looks like he’s working real hard at it. He’s got a big body, strong, should be a real good blocker that can help us in the run game. Those guys earn the right to make plays because when they’re doing the dirty work to allow us to move the football and have success that way, they earn the right to catch touchdowns, make plays and make the ESPN highlight reel. He’s doing all the things that are asked of him, he’s working very hard, he’s focused and I think that it’s showing up and I think that the sky is the limit. He’s just got to continue to stay focused and do those things that will make him a good player in the league and he understands it and I think there are good signs coming from Dwayne Bowe.”

Q: Has he begun to improve on the fundamental things that maybe he didn’t do so well in the past whether that was blocking or how he caught the ball, have you seen him improve on those things?

HALEY: “Everything, everything. He’s made progress in all areas. He’s becoming one of our more dependable players and that’s what we want and that’s what we ask of him. As a receiver he has to block and he has to catch. It’s pretty simple. He’s blocking and he’s catching so he’s doing his job. He’s just going to keep working at what he’s working on and continuing what I would expect him to continue to make progress and help us win games.”

Q: Do you ever use him as an example of maybe a guy who had some tough times but who is getting it now, or is that a little premature because Dwayne still probably has a few more steps to take?

HALEY: “It’s all part of the process, Kent. He’s one of many that are making progress. Obviously the preseason games don’t count and the off-season conditioning program won’t matter if we don’t go into the season and continue to make progress in that area, with each and every one of these individuals. It’s all part of the process. We’ve got a game here Thursday and then the next step is going to be the regular season and again these games have picked up in tempo, each and every one of them. This fourth one is always a little interesting to see how that goes. I know that Monday night, September 13th the tempo will be amped up even more. It’s all part of the preparation. That’s what we are doing. That’s what the off-season, that’s what training camp and preseason are for, to get ready to play the real games. I feel like to this point, we are showing continued progress that I expect to keep going.”

Q: Are you waiting to judge these guys until these regular season games get going?

HALEY: “I think that’s the bottom line. Like I said, for each and every guy it won’t matter if you don’t go into the season and continue to make progress. It doesn’t mean that everyone’s an instantaneous superstar. It’s a long season; it’s a very long season. One of our guys said this the other night and it made sense to me, ‘It’s a very long season. The best thing about it is it hasn’t started yet.’ It is a long season and there is no doubt there are going to be ups, downs, the key is that we’re preparing these guys much like in that game. That game was a long game – it started poorly in a number of different areas but if we had said ‘oh here we go again’ or ‘not this’ or ‘we didn’t start good so now we’re done’ or ‘we’re down by 10 points,’ if that had been the mindset we would not have been able to get back into the game and have a chance to win the game in the end. It’s the same with the season, there’s going to ebb and flow, ups and downs and I think the teams that end up being the good teams in the league are those that can just sustain, not panic, not waiver, just continue doing the things that they know will continue to improve their team. That’s the bottom line.”

Q: I know winning isn’t the key thing in a preseason game, but for a team that is trying to gain traction and get out from under three years of misfortune, is it maybe more important to win than say for a team that was in the championship game last year?

HALEY: “I think winning’s why you play the games. Winning is the reward of a lot of hard work and sacrifice by a lot of people. Any time you can win, that’s a good thing. If we were 3-0 in the preseason right now I would probably be out there saying these games don’t matter. We’re 3-0 and this doesn’t mean anything. September 13th is what’s going to count. I’m still up here saying September 13th is what’s going to count. As far as learning how to win, I think in my opinion, in Denver the last game of the year last year; we played better than the Denver Broncos. Our guys played better than the Denver Broncos. We were on the road against a team that was trying to get into the playoffs. We won the game because we played better. That’s it. Now in preseason, the trick is there are a lot of different guys playing, they’re in there playing with some guys that are here, are moving up the ranks, like I’ve said before there are a lot of different variables. The bottom line goal is to play better than the other team – better means smarter, tackle, don’t turn the ball over, don’t take bad penalties, all those things. When it comes to September 13th, if we play better we have a great chance of winning the game. That’s all we’re trying to get done here, we’re trying to do everything we can do to be ready to play that game. If we were 2-1, 1-2, 0-3, 3-0 it’s not going to matter, it’s just not. It’s going to matter September 13th.”

Q: Do you spend time this week prepping for Green Bay or do you go straight to San Diego?

HALEY: “We have to get ready to play the Packers. Again, this game in my opinion will be more about making sure the right guys and the guys we think need it are getting enough reps in practice, the game and all those things to get ready. The hard thing about the schedule is we have to play again pretty quick but then we are going to have 11 days or so to get ready for September 13th. We will have some time to recuperate if we do have to have guys playing. We will then have plenty of study time. Monday we are going to go out and have a competitive day against each other and try to get back to fundamentals. We might have a little correction period from some of the plays from that game that ended up being the difference in the game. It is two or three plays that make the difference for us. I said it the other night but I really mean it, if you are expecting us to look real pretty, greatest show on turf type stuff you are going to be disappointed. Thank God they don’t draw pictures on the scoreboard because our games are going to be like this for a little while and all the little things are going to matter so much to us. We are going to have to do a lot of the little things the right way. That is what some of this week will be on, getting ourselves ready with the things on all three sides that we feel need work. We will devote some time to Green Bay, probably not as much time as we have been. We are playing quick and there is not enough time to game plan and those things anyway or for the guys to learn it and practice it. It is a difficult situation from that standpoint so we have to go out and play fundamental football to win and then get ready for San Diego.”

Q: Will this be a great challenge to play this Packers team who has looked good in the preseason?

HALEY: “I hope they feel like their guys are all prepared (laughing). They are a good looking football team and they have been going in that direction here for the last couple years. I watched that game at the end of the year in the playoffs and the way they played offense, both teams really for that matter, it was really something to behold. It looks like they are doing some of the same stuff. This quarterback they have in (Aaron) Rodgers looks like the real deal. They turned the ball over on the plus five and still scored 59. I thought that was pretty good.”

Q: WR Dexter McCluster got some extensive work in the kick return department against the Eagles. How much progress has he made?

HALEY: “I have seen much of the same things I have seen from him in all areas. I think he is a tough guy with quickness and speed that knows how to play football, likes playing football. This guy is quickly becoming someone you like to be around. He took that hit from CB Asante (Samuel) and I looked back at him and asked him if he was alright and he was like, ‘I’m ready, put me back in.’ Those are the kind of guys you like and he just has to keep doing the things that we are telling him to do and it appears he wants to do those things. He is not afraid to do those things from the standpoint that he is not afraid to make a play. He has work to do just like all of them. He is a young player coming into the league and he has no idea what he doesn’t know, he really doesn’t. That is alright because he is working every day and he seems to me to be the same type of guy every day. There are not a lot of ups and downs with him in many areas and that is a good thing. With the team in general, the most positive sign to date is we have more guys doing it the way we are coaching it more of the time and they are running around out there having some fun and knocking the heck out of people. I will say that on all sides of the ball. Again, there are areas that we need to work on but that is the reason why you are in pads during training camp and fighting it out a little bit with each other and that showed up and it was a really encouraging thing for me from the standpoint of the fight we have in the team. That will be a good thing and that will serve us well I think as we get going.”

Q: Did you need to see WR Dexter McCluster get his bell rung to kind of show that he is a tough guy?

HALEY: “You have seen it a bunch. When you watch the college tape this guy is a tough guy. He wouldn’t have survived if he wasn’t. Now the question is, at this level can he? That is what it will be but to this point he is doing the things that we want to see from all of our guys. He is lumped in with a bunch of those guys. I pulled CB (Javier) Arenas out and said McCluster is taking this one, let’s see what he’s got. They are competing. We have two returners that are competing and they both want to do it. That is a good thing and that is the whole deal with being successful in this league is having competition at more spots. We have more competition now than we did at this point last year and I think it is showing because competition creates peoples’ bests and players’ bests. That is what is going on, we need more competition, we need to continue to develop and we need to continue our guys understanding how important it is to be smart football players in all situations because it could be the play that cost you the game. Whether it is being careless with the ball, throwing, catching or carrying or careless with penalties. At the end of the half we were coming out of a tight situation, Jamaal (Charles) pops a run out of there which was real good and then catches the ball. We put ourselves in a situation to get some points after the little scramble throw to Dexter (McCluster) and then a penalty keeps us from those three points which obviously made the difference in the game. There are four or five plays like that in the game that really win and lose.”

Q: You guys have given McCluster a lot to process. Have there been any hiccups there?

HALEY: “We have given him more than most of the guys get. That will be my job as the head coach. When you have players that look like they have a chance to be dynamic players or good players, the coaches have their agenda. (Offensive coordinator) Charlie Weis would want to use him every play in some way or another. (Assistant head coach) Maurice Carthon is going to want to use him in as many plays as he can get at running back. (Wide receivers coach) Richie Anderson wants to use him in as many plays as he can at receiver. (Special teams coach) Steve Hoffman is going to want to use him as many times as he can on returns. My job becomes, ‘ok, the guy can’t play 120 plays in a game.’ What can he play? What is the best thing for the team? That is the process we are in. He is not the only one; there are a bunch of these guys that look like they have a chance to contribute. Not just rookies, guys in general like Jamaal. We have created competition and guys are developing, getting better and it comes down to managing them all. Some of that is mental, some of that is physical and again, I think we are getting to know all of our players.”

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