Q&A with Todd Haley 12/16

Posted Dec 16, 2010


OPENING REMARKS: “We continued our preparation for St. Louis today. Had a little review of first and second down and introduced some third down, sub, punt and punt return. We were inside again. I thought we had a pretty energetic, high-energy practice so I feel like we made some progress today – it’s very critical that we do. As I said, I think this should be a very good game Sunday between two teams trying to get to the same place.”


Q: What can you do at this point to breathe a little life into your return game?

HALEY: “Well, we can just do what we’ve been doing which is keep working on it. Bob asked that question here recently, had we seen improvement? I think we’ve been close on some returns, very close and they don’t show up. All we can say is these plays, we’ve got to continue to understand who to block number one, that these are long extended plays if you want to be good at them and then you need a returner that can generally make one miss or break a tackle. It’s been one thing or the other a bunch of times but that’s all I can say is we’ve been close, we feel like we’re making progress and we just have to stay at it. I know Hoff (special teams coach Steve Hoffman), we stick to our bread and butter, but he has very good creativity depending upon what team we’re seeing and trying to get one to pop.”

Q: How much do you need one to pop, like you said, especially when the offense has some question marks and the defense might be struggling. You’d probably use a free seven points on a return?

HALEY: “Well our goal each and every week is to even set up a score. We had some bigger returns early but now kickoff return, we haven’t had one out past the 50 and there are some things that we keep track of that are our goals weekly that we are just not achieving. We’ve just got to push, work harder. Special teams, sometimes when there are changes to the roster you get some moving parts but I feel like we’ve got guys in there pretty consistently now that know their spot, know their role and we’ve just got to execute because I do believe with our returners we’ve got a chance if we can do what we’re supposed, I believe we have a chance.”

Q: Is it anything that the returners are doing? It’s probably a combination of factors such as not seeing the holes or is it that guys aren’t blocking the right people?

HALEY: “We’ve been on point for the most part. In this game these days, the kickers, there are a lot of factors that have to fall in place in the kicking game, which I didn’t buy into a whole bunch, but I’ve put a lot of time into this this year, paying attention, watching, trying to see what’s going on. The kickers are so good number one that you may block it up perfectly on a punt return or a kickoff return and then you don’t get a kick that gives you a chance. They can place the ball so perfectly and that can be a factor in not getting one when you’ve done everything else right. The returners, both these guys have been beat up, in and out of the roster but I think they’re fighting like heck to be ready to go each week and I think they’re doing a good job. I don’t think there’s been anywhere I’ve said ‘geez they missed it or they missed this opportunity.’ Like I said, to have a big return, you’ve got to either make one miss or break a tackle generally. You’ve got to get a good kick too; you’ve got to get the right kick. These punters and kickers are just really god at placing that football in tune with the coverage that they have called and making it difficult.”

Q: All things being equal, do you want to have one of those guys handle punt return and the other handle kick return?

HALEY: “I think they’re both good at both. There are some situations that we like one or the other and then we’ve had WR (Verran) Tucker back there a little bit on kickoff returns and we just need to keep trying to develop the guys that are doing it and make it happen at the right time because it surely would help us.”

Q: With CB Javier Arenas it’s got to be difficult because you’re trying to balance his defensive snaps and his kick return duties. You are looking at those numbers of snaps?

HALEY: “Yeah, absolutely and he has been getting more and more and with other guys beat up he’s been forced into playing probably a little more than we had envisioned early on. He’s a tough kid and he’s fighting through his own issues but the thing is he’s out there and he’s hard to keep down. I do have to manage both those guys because we could be forcing three and outs and it’s no biggie but then all of a sudden be in a couple long defensive drives where he’s playing a lot or they’re in a lot of sub it would affect a decision there.”

Q: How do you separate quarterback snaps in practice given QB Matt Cassel’s day-to-day status and possibly having QB Brodie Croyle play?

HALEY: “We’ve done just that. We’ve tried to prepare both guys because it is day-to-day and you don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out. Even in the best case scenario that everything goes well and Matt’s out there I think you still have to be prepared and in addition, QB Tyler Palko, you’ve got to make sure that you’re having everyone ready in some form or another. It’s just a balancing act of trying to get both guys enough to be ready in all scenarios.”

Q: Where do you think Matt’s challenge comes in determining whether he will be able to play, is it turning, throwing, is it the torque?

HALEY: “I appreciate the question, but I will stay out of that for competitive reasons.”

Q: How different is the preparation process than when there is virtual certainty that the quarterback is going to play?

HALEY: “I was thinking about that today, I think that’s a very good question. I’ve been in different situations with different quarterbacks in that front-line position and some that are older quarterbacks that you have a more natural balance, but when you are developing multiple quarterbacks reps become an issue. Week-in and week-out if you’re assuming everybody’s playing, you still have to have the second guy getting ready and you need to make sure you get enough snaps for him, just running the show team is not enough, it’s not enough to be ready if something were to happen and he’s got to be in there, like I said, in a perfect scenario. There is a balance there and that’s part of this learning process of making sure, you don’t want to do too much in general, you’ve got limited reps and it is a fine line between making sure the front-line guy, that Matt’s ready to go and that Brodie’s got enough to feel comfortable if something were to happen on a regular week.”

Q: Will tonight’s San Diego game play any role in what you decide to do Sunday?

HALEY: “No, absolutely not. This is about us trying to get to 1-1 and doing the things that we would always do in this case, in this scenario. This is the biggest game of the year just like last week was.”

Q: How do things change preparation-wise getting ready to play in the Edward Jones Dome?

HALEY: “Naturally last week, like I said, we tried to practice in some temperature knowing it was going to be pretty warm so that took us inside and it just worked out well with the St. Louis game following a warm weather game that now we’ve got a good deal of practice inside and that’s really all the different that we’ve done. We haven’t put it at St. Louis Rams temperature or anything like that; we’ve kept it fairly cool in there but just to be on turf, get comfortable with similar atmosphere.”

Q: Do you think Cassel would truly tell you how he feels before the game? How much do you trust Matt to tell you the truth with how much pain he is dealing with?

HALEY: “He is competitive and he wants to play. That does make it challenging because you have guys that want to be in there no matter what. That is why you have a medical staff and trainers that you really trust and have great confidence in to ultimately make sure that we are doing the right thing?

Q: Can you see from watching Matt practice that he is not quite there yet?

HALEY: “This is not an everyday occurrence that you are dealing with so I lean towards the medical experts. As a football coach you have to get the team ready to play regardless and in this case we are preparing a couple guys. We will take it a day to day and just see where we are as the week goes on.”

Q: Will you watch tonight’s game between the Chargers and 49ers tonight?

HALEY: “I will probably watch some of it I would think but we are working on what we are working on so it just depends. Generally we get home in time to see the second half and then it will depend on my household and the chaos level.”

Q: Can you talk about DE Tyson Jackson’s performance vs. San Diego?

HALEY: “Yeah, he had production and like I said at the start of the week I am not going to single anybody out in a game like that. That was a team loss and we are all responsible for it. We have put it behind us and we have to move forward. We are in the process of doing that and I feel like yesterday we needed a little push out of the gate but then we got going and today I felt like the energy level was back up where it needs to be for us to continue to get better. He is one of those guys and he has fought like heck since being set back early and I think that he is doing a good job. He is clearly getting better and probably back to that level where he was when everything went down.”

Q: Do they turn up the heat in St. Louis?

HALEY: “I don’t know what they do. 72 degrees is what they list it as, so we will have our thermometers out there.”

Q: You and Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo share similar beliefs it sounds like. Are you familiar with him?

HALEY: “We know each other. We haven’t spent a lot of time together, just competing against each other. I know the teams he has been with, the Giants and with Jimmy Johnson (Philadelphia), we have seen them a lot over the years. I am very familiar with him being a very good defensive coach. We are worried about us and I would say that there are parallels with the two teams. We are both trying to get to the same place and all I can say is that having seen this team a bunch, I can tell that they are being well coached and are becoming a good team.”

Q: Is it hard to keep the team focused with all of the playoff talk? Is it hard to keep the blinders on?

HALEY: “I think that you just keep the focus on what it is and that is each week. That is the reason why, early in the year, you break the season up into quarters. We have a specific goal for each quarter with what we want to accomplish and that won’t change. The games will get bigger but the focus is on this four-game season. Right now we are 0-1 and trying to get back to 1-1 because our goal is to get to three figuring if we get to three good things will happen and we remind the players of that each and every day. Our coaches talk like that, I talk like that and I hear more and more players talking like that so it is a good thing.”

Q: Do you subscribe to the fact that you can confuse younger quarterbacks? What are some of the things younger QBs have a hard time with early in their careers?

HALEY: “I think everybody is different. It is hard to be a rookie in this league and it is even harder to be a rookie quarterback in this league. (Sam) Bradford is a guy that I thought a lot of coming out, I gave him a very high grade and thought he had a chance to be a really good player and you are seeing a lot of signs of that. He is learning every day, I am sure that there are new things that come up that he is taking advantage of but he is a smart guy who is athletically gifted and he has some moxie to him. He is getting better each week and I think because of that you are seeing the team have success. I think a lot of him and we have to go play our best to have a chance.”

Q: What struck you in your evaluation of him?

HALEY: “I think a lot of those qualities that you can’t quite measure. He is a natural leader and you see that moxie and you see it on the field and in the games. On top of that he has the physical attributes to be a good player. He throws the ball very well, he is accurate and he is obviously tough. He is leading their team and doing a good job. We are just trying to get ready for our biggest game and make sure that we are doing everything we can to give ourselves a chance to compete.”

Q: Are you impressed that he can run down a defensive back like he did last week?

HALEY: “No, he is an athletic guy. He has good feet and you see that all the time down in and down out. I hope he is chasing down a lot of defensive backs and linebackers and defensive lineman this week.”

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