Q&A with Todd Haley - 8/3

Posted Aug 3, 2010


OPENING REMARKS: “Good morning everyone. We got through yesterday’s afternoon practice. I thought it was another real good day with some situations that came up. I feel like the guys again are getting acclimated to the weather here and we’re starting to become pretty efficient in all areas. They had a big lift this morning and we’re going to have one of those little longer afternoon practices today. I was just down there checking on them and they all seem to be moving around pretty good and getting some work done so we’ll get going here pretty quickly.”


Q: Who do you think the hardest worker on the defensive line is?

HALEY: “Nick, you ask tough questions. I don’t know that I could single one out. I think probably the best lifter is DT is Derek Lokey. Nobody likes the weight room more than Derek. They’re all working really hard. They lifted at 9:00 AM, I was in there specifically talking about that question with strength and conditioning coach (Mike) Clark and kind of checking on those guys in particular and it looked like they were pushing each other pretty hard across the board. We’ve got some veteran leadership in that group and some young guys, so it’s a pretty good mix of guys pushing each other to get better.”

Q: DE Tyson Jackson was working with the second team yesterday. Is that a demotion or is it just mixing it up?

HALEY: “No. Again, defensively and really it’s across the board, but we’re trying to get different matchups – see different players against different players is really the idea. All these guys are competing, the spots are open and somebody’s got to go first, somebody’s got to go second and somebody’s got to go third. Sometimes you’ll hear me during practice say ‘the ones are up’ and then I’ll correct myself and I’ll say ‘first group.’ I don’t think we’re thinking that way right now. Of course, in every meeting we talk about how the guys are stacking and what we think but again, the majority of those discussions in those meetings are about how can we make this guy better, how can we do this, let’s see him against so-and-so. I can’t foresee anything being a demotion or a promotion right now. And if a player thinks that way, it’ll probably get them thinking the wrong way.”

Q: When do you get to the point that you know that you’ve got 11 guys for a certain situation and you know that you have to start working with them?

HALEY: “I can’t tell you a time. I think I remember talking about this last year, you’ve got to try and find the right time because this is an evaluation process. Coach (Maurice) Carthon just brought that up this morning that let’s not get too locked in on anybody. He’s my voice in my ear all the time that we’re still evaluating and let’s make sure we’re giving everybody a great opportunity to see what they best have to offer. I think that’s very critical and sometimes it gets lost when coaches are too quick to make up their mind. Something that was preached to me for a lot of years was ‘think outside the box, keep your mind open, and don’t make your mind up until you make sure you know what’s out there.’”

Q: You’ve mentioned DE Tyson Jackson as one of the young players that needs to get better from last year to this year. What is it specifically that needs to get better with him, is it his focus or what needs to get better with him?

HALEY: “Let me clarify, I have not singled Tyson out. This is a pretty big group of first, second and third-year guys, now second, third and fourth-year guys even that have to take steps in becoming better players for us to be a better team. I have not singled anyone out. Tyson is in the early stages of an NFL career playing a very difficult position against grown men. I’m encouraged with where Tyson is right now. He’s finding out what playing in the five and four-technique for a 3-4 defensive lineman is all about. He’s working his butt off and I think he wants to be part of a good team, part of making us a good team.”

Q: What’s more important for a defensive lineman, size, strength or leverage?

HALEY: “Bob, you know how I grew up. You know my roots. I like athletic football players playing up front. But in this day and age you need some bulk and size. That’s a hard combination to find a lot of times because there just aren’t many 320-pound guys who are able to be real athletic out there. You can see across the front we have a lot of different shapes and sizes. Of course you’d like everybody to be prototypical size and prototypical athleticism but I don’t think it’s possible right now unless you’re picking number one for the next 10 years. I think it’s a combination. If you look across our line, you’ll see some different shapes and sizes, some guys like C Casey Wiegmann and G Ryan Lilja that aren’t that prototypical size, but they’ve been able to forge pretty good careers because number one, they are quick and faster than a lot of guys but more importantly they understand leverage and how to get the job done vs. bigger and sometimes stronger guys. I think I’m looking for guys that like to play football and who are good football players. The more of those you have the better.”

Q: Big, stronger guys have never generally had to rely on leverage until they get to this level. Is that one of the hardest things you have to teach them?

HALEY: “Everybody’s made a bunch of this Branden Albert losing weight and things but that’s kind of the deal, when you’re 340 pounds, you do things different than when you’re 310 pounds. Again, I think part of my job is getting these guys into the condition that I feel they need to be to be at their best ultimately. Then, as a coaching staff, the players that we have to figure out what they do best that will give us the best chance to succeed. We’ve had a lot of system and playbook questions – that’s not what I’m about, that’s not what our staff and that’s not what we’ve been trained to be about, a system. What we’ve been taught and what we believe is you’re going to have a group of players, when this all ends, we’re going to have roughly 45 guys and you better make sure they’re the right 45 that give you the best chance to win and then you better figure out what each of them does best to give you a chance to succeed. If you’re not doing that, you’re probably not going to have consistent success. There are a bunch of different ways to skin a cat. There are people that are big system guys and there are people that aren’t. Both ways work but this is what I know, this is what I believe in and I know this is what my staff believes in and that’s the way we’re going to go about our business.”

Q: Is Tyson still trying to get his legs under him and his mind wrapped around the technique and all the things he has to absorb?

HALEY: “I don’t know that Kent. We’ll know more here as we go forward. I think that he learned a lot last year. He survived. It wasn’t always perfect but he came back for more and he’s hungry. We’ll know more about that down the road as we start to get into games and real games. I’ve got a strong feeling that he’ll probably be around here when we’re playing games and he’s got to be better than what he was. When that officially occurs, that somebody gets their legs under them, but we’ll know more as we get going.”

Q: What is the best thing you can say about Tyson as his coach?

HALEY: “There are a lot of good things. I think he likes what he’s doing. I think he’s a big, getting stronger player that has good athletic ability and that’s a pretty good combination. I believe he’s a pretty high-character guy that is prideful and wants to be good. I don’t know that there’s a lot missing from that equation that if he continues to work and do it the way we’re coaching him to do it that he should have a chance to help us.”

Q: With those physical tools and those mental or character tools, if he doesn’t reach whatever your perceived potential for him is, what would be the aspect that could hold him back?

HALEY: “That’s pure speculation Nick. I’m counting on him being a big contributor this year and I know he is and I know his teammates are. That’s where we are right now and that’s what we’re doing. Again, I’ve got a pretty positive outlook on how things are going to end up for Tyson.”

Q: What do you think his potential is?

HALEY: “That’s speculative, too. Again, as the head coach, once they’re in here Kent, and I cannot stress this enough and I know I’ve said it, I don’t care how they got here, I really don’t. I think my time in the league, that’s been proven in the places I’ve been and the players I’ve been around. Once they’re here and once I’m coaching them, I don’t care. I don’t care if there is one pulling up in a van right now that was mowing a yard, I don’t care. I don’t care if somebody was a first pick, fourth pick, ninth pick or Mr. Irrelevant. If they’re coming in here, we’re coaching them and we’re trying to get them as good as they can possibly be to help us win. If they do that then I’m happy. My expectations don’t change once they’re here. I really firmly believe this, my expectations are to eventually be a great team.”

Q: For DEs Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson, what are your goals for them this season?

HALEY: “My expectations for them are to number one, be better than they were last year, throughout the year improve, continue to put everything they have into it and be good teammates. If that’s occurring, then I know we’ll be better. The rest is up to them.”

Q: Is it unrealistic to put 10 sacks or 35 tackles for them as a goal?

HALEY: “Never. Never. Never. I’ll set goals for the team and what we need to do but I don’t think that way.”

Q: Two new guys, WR Verran Tucker and LB John Russell both had previous stops. Can you talk about the process of finding a guy that is somewhere that is undrafted?

HALEY: “You have to remember Josh, we’ve done a lot of work on these guys throughout the year, our scouts have. Those two guys happen to be in this year’s rookie class so we did work on them for potentially two years. We had them on our draft evaluation board going into the draft, after the draft. You get some guys you want, you don’t get some guys you want in that process but we keep those guys on the radar, no different than last year’s guy. We keep a short list and a long list and we’re constantly updating it, constantly looking at it, we’re constantly talking about it and when guys become available or names pop up or we have a particular need or there’s an injury, we’ve just got to be prepared to pull the trigger and you know those guys are given the opportunity to come in here and we’ll see what they’ve got.”

Q: Coach you have two great return guys trying to get on the team, WR Dexter McCluster has been getting a lot of reps since yesterday, more so than CB Javier Arenas. Is that someone you are leaning towards or is there a possibility that we could see them both back there?

HALEY: “Potentially great return guys, one that was a college returner. McCluster did a lot of other things that’s a little more speculative of what his abilities are there, but I think just like every other spot, you know we treat every spot across special teams the same way – we are going to work them, we are going to watch them, we are going to evaluate them and then were going to figure out who gives the best chance and whatever that situation is and then go that direction, but me as a head coach I’m excited about possibilities, potential. The former scout that I am I have a broad enough vision I think, to see some potential there, that we’ll see, you know, hopefully it translates as we go forward.”

Q: Coach, two quick easy questions. Is one of the adjustments Tyson Jackson had to make that he was just so big and strong in college that he could just pretty much over power guys, and out here he had to realize that he can’t do that?

HALEY: “Well I think that Bob kind of mentioned it, but, I think you are on the right track. I agree. But the biggest point Doug is I think these guys, even the guys playing at pretty high levels of competition in the SEC or wherever it is, they are still not seeing the caliber of grown men, both sides of the ball, offense and defense. Offensive linemen are not seeing consistently the grown NFL men on a weekly basis that they are going to see when they get here, and that’s an adjustment you know and I think the more you talk to those guys they come through that first year, that’s what you hear, ‘Whoa’ you know, these are grown men everyday every week, there’s not one day you are going to line up against somebody that probably end up working in the lawyer office or wherever, you know. You are not going to see that guy very often.”

Q: The league, I read, has kind of put more emphasis this year on trying to prevent head injuries. The AP is asking all camps if they are doing things differently this year other than monitoring things. I think the Vikings have a new kind of mouth piece this year. Are you guys doing anything?

HALEY: “Yes, as I said the other day, players’ safety and the players’ health is number one because without the players we don’t have anything. That is number one and that is something that we are on, our trainers are on our doctors are on. We visited. We have some equipment. I won’t get into specifics, but we have different options to think about, and what they want to do. I feel pretty confident again in our doctors and trainers that we are doing everything we can to be informed and to inform the players more importantly of what they need to be doing to take care of themselves and what we need to be doing to take care of them.”

Q: Coach you have three quarterbacks in camp how do you monitor that, and is It strictly from them telling you how that arm is feeling or do you worry about that because some teams have four quarterbacks?

HALEY: “Yeah, you know, and I have been part of both, some of it, yes we defiantly have to monitor and take feedback and again take all the precautions necessary to take care of these guys. But one of the factors is with these guys we do have a bunch of young guys. We have three young guys, not that there is anything against older guys, like Kurt Warner, but yeah we are taking feedback all the time and watching. We are counting reps and all the drills and we’re making sure we are monitoring where they are and how they are feeling. That’s an arm and you don’t want to overdo it, but, again I have been a part of three and four quarterbacks, one time five. You just have to manage it.”

Q: How much of a potential upgrade does WR Dexter McCluster provide in the slot based on how he’s looked so far?

HALEY: “I think again, and I know I keep saying it, but, this rookie group and as a coach when you are talking about rookies there is always some push back or concern because it is a difficult task. It has been proven over time for rookies in general to come in and figure it out fast enough to be big-time contributors, but this entire rookie group I’m encouraged about what they are doing, how they are doing it, what they look like when they are doing it. Now, it is not without some rough spots as anybody that has been out here, we have seen some rookie mistakes or not so smart decisions but, six practices going on seven and I’m still encouraged, so that’s good.”

Q: You have talked plenty about WR Dwayne Bowe and he’s clearly ahead of where he was last year, but can you talk about how that transitioned and how you coach him, how that is going to help him be more productive?

HALEY: “I think Sam, my philosophy on coaching is you coach them how they need to be coached. Some of that is experience. Some of it is knowledge. Some of it is how your relationship developed and a lot of it is how you think they need to be coached to get the most out of them. That is a feel instinct thing, it’s a response thing. I tell the players right out of the gate, the same thing, I’m not going to coach everybody the same, I’m going to coach you how you deserve to be coached, and that could be a good thing, it could be a bad thing and it could be in-between, but he falls into the rest of the 80 guys. I am, as the head coach, and I know my assistants are going to coach them the way they deserve to be coached and again, I don’t mean reward, not reward, something like that, I mean how they need to be coached.”

Q: Is a 3-4 nose tackle the hardest player to find as you go through each year?

HALEY: “I think it depends on the year Bob. It’s a yearly process that, some years, you know, the five or the four you know, again this is my second year really even caring about that – I have been something going into the draft until, back when I was a scout, yeah, I cared about everybody, but, as an offensive coach I can’t lie and say I was really worried about [the defense] - I was fighting to get more offensive players. Now being a head coach for two years and I’m even more cozy and closer to the defense daily I can feel it, I think it probably depends on the year. There’s going to be years there is a handful of good noses and then there’s a handful of pretty good noses, and you are searching for the other guys, but I just think it’s a yearly deal and it’s how they’re turning out.”

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