Q&A with Todd Haley 8/14

Posted Aug 14, 2011

OPENING REMARKS: “Back at it today, had a chance to look at the tape from the other night: pretty much what I felt again, for us coaches and players really, no matter how bad it seems out at practice or in a game, it generally looks a little better on tape. When it looks real good, it generally doesn’t look quite that good on tape, that’s a rule that seems to hold up most of the time and that was the case. I thought that we have to stay focused, our team has to stay focused on what we’re doing and it really comes down to just baseline fundamentals: offense, defense and special teams. I think most of the glaring negatives from the tape and the game against Tampa fell into that group. Whether it was fielding kicks; being smart as far as how we do that. Whether it was tackling on defense. Offense, whether it was just understanding exactly what our rules were up front as much as anything. Our approach is going to stay the same. We have another week that’s going to roll by here pretty quick that we have to get a bunch of work done. We’re going to be back out there at three today. Which, we have a good practice planned. We’ll be in full pads. We have a couple of little different periods to work on some things again, that fall into that baseline fundamental football area. Again, we can’t miss many opportunities here to help figure out what guys are going to do for us, what role they’re going to play; each and every one of them. I think that’s a critical factor here as we go forward. In a short evaluation period, figuring out what role each guy potentially can play for us and what role gives him the best chance to succeed or gives us the best chance to succeed also. That’s where we are. We’re moving forward and like I said, this week’s going to go by pretty quick I have a feeling.”

Q: Is this afternoon’s practice going to be full pads the whole time?

HALEY: “Well again, I’ll leave that open. I just don’t think we’re out of the woods yet as far as where we are physically. We’ve still got, you know we’ve got a couple of new-new guys on the roster in addition to some guys that weren’t quite there, obviously, as last week wound down. That’s still the number one thing for us and for me as the head coach is getting this team, taking every day possible to physically get these guys in a position, whether it’s strength or conditioning, in a position to succeed and hold up for what we hope is a good long season.”

Q: Did you see anything Friday night that would lead you to think your approach the last couple of weeks was not the right approach?

HALEY: “No, I feel really good about the plan. I said it after the game, that’s the first one, not the last one and I’m going all the way to the last one of the season. We’re in training camp as I keep telling the players, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Each and every day counts for us and them as far as getting this team to where it needs to be to start the season and what we believe is to then, have a successful season. I feel good about what we’re doing and we had a real good lift this morning which was a good hour and 45 minutes of work.”

Q: Why did you resist your assistants maybe pushing you to do a little more on the practice field?

HALEY: “Like I said, you have to as the head coach, you have to look at the big picture all of the time. I’ve been an assistant coach. I know how assistant coaches think and they’re worried about, which they should be, they have their area or agenda that they have to worry about first and foremost. It’s my job to look at the big picture and like I said, we have a great, experienced coaching staff. We have great conversation and there hasn’t been a time that we left out of any meeting or gone to then spread the message, so to speak to the players, that we aren’t all on the same page. I think it’s just human nature to this time of the year, you’re used to being in pads a little more and you’re used to doing things a little differently, but it’s a different set of circumstances. The goal is to be ready for September 11 and that’s all really that I’m focused on and understand and again, these other things will take care of themselves.”

Q: What stood out on the positive side from Friday night’s film?

HALEY: “Well, I think that the effort across the board was really good. There wasn’t a time when I was disappointed in many guys as far as effort went and that’s going to be part of our calling card: a hard playing team that plays physical. I thought that we played reasonably smart and disciplined as far as penalties go. I think anytime that you come out of a preseason game, and you know, we had a couple declined, but that’s a good sign that some of the things that we’ve been pushing, preaching and coaching over the last couple of years are staying in place because I know that we’re a team that’ s probably not going to be able to hurt itself a whole bunch. As far as break downs go, it wasn’t, when you watch a game live, you feel like, when there’s a jail break say offensively, and the quarterback’s under great duress, you tend to think it’s everybody, but it wasn’t quite. It was one guy here, one guy there, it wasn’t the three, four guys all with breakdowns, and the same defensively. Our defense only works if everybody is doing their job first, and we had some instances where one guy got out of place that then made a lot of guys look like maybe they weren’t doing what they were supposed to and the same with special teams. That’s why we go through the tape and go through it thoroughly. We had a great meeting yesterday really evaluating all the team. We had a bunch of guys that got to play a lot of snaps for the first time in the NFL really, and that was great for us as far as trying to evaluate and figure out exactly how each and every one of these guys could potentially help us.”

Q: What’s next for the draft picks?

HALEY: “I’m not specifically worried about the draft picks. I’m worried about everybody. We have a plan for this week. We’re going to have another game Friday at Baltimore, but the plan is going to again, revolve around more about us than anything else right now. Again, doing all the things necessary that we need to do as a team to continue along this road to being ready to go when the official gun sounds.”

Q: What’s your sense right now of how things are going to play out with the new kickoff rules?

HALEY: “Well, you know again, I’ll hold out evaluating that fully until we see a little more. The other night, there were a bunch of touchbacks for us and it sounds like around the league. We brought one out when we shouldn’t have and we paid for it. I think as we go through this and get a couple more real games under the belt, I’ll hold to really let on what the plan’s going to be because I think the plan is evolving as we speak. It’ll be interesting. I think you’ll have two choices like everybody thinks.”

Q: Is the 20, bad field position setting up on defense?

HALEY: “In the past, that starting position as far as a kickoff team, you’d be really happy. Now as a return team, you would not be happy. Neither one would achieve our goal. That’s where things are evolving a bit. You never as an offense want to have to go 80 yards. If you can eliminate one first down you have to make, that’s always a good thing, and defensively, the same deal. Again, I think there will be a couple of choices. You may see cover teams change personnel wise. You may see the kick change a little bit, but again, I think that will depend a lot on who you’re playing, weather conditions and some of those things. The other night it was really perfect conditions. There wasn’t any breeze, so I think you saw the kind of perfect scenario as far as, any way you kicked, we didn’t even know which way to kick.”

Q: Did you sign Todd Carter just to get a look, or could you foresee taking two kickers into the season?

HALEY: “I don’t know. We’ve had him in for a couple of workouts. The nice luxury we have is coach (Steve) Hoffman is one of the guys in the league that really understands kickers and works with them and can make some changes and tweaks. With roster spots available, we had tried getting him a little earlier, and he went to St. Louis, but we got him back here. As much as anything it gives Hoff a great chance to really work with him and get some time under the belt for the kid and for us. We’re, it’s competition, and he’s got some ability. As you saw, I think Ryan (Succop), from where we were kicking, we were asking him to not to get it in the end zone a couple of times and it was still five or six yards deep. Again, I wouldn’t look too much either way other than we’re getting a chance to develop a guy and if he can improve and give us any opportunity then that would be something we would thing about.”

Q: Could you see yourself keeping a guy who does nothing but kickoff?

HALEY: “It would be hard. It would be hard, but if the advantage were one that we felt like was truly an advantage then it’s something you would have to think about. I’ve been places where we’ve done those sort of things. Again, I thought Ryan did a real good job in the game. He’s continuing to improve and we’ll just have to see how it goes.”

Q: Talk about why you move Quinten Lawrence to defensive back and how he’s doing there so far?

HALEY: “I think it goes back to kind of what I was talking about roles and what gives us the best chance to succeed and really what gives the player the best chance to get on the team and be a part of helping us succeed. Quinten, we always say, the more you can do, so as he was on and off the roster the last couple of years whether it was on the practice squad or backup on the active, the one thing you saw from him was no quit. There were days when we were short defensive backs and generally that’s a receiver that you throw over there and he was one of them and showed a couple of flashes on the show team so discussions started. We said, maybe he has a chance. We continued to work him through last year over there and made the decision in the offseason to actually make the switch. It was a tough offseason to do it, knowing that you weren’t going to get to work a whole bunch, actually it ended up being none, with him. He was all in which is important in those kinds of deals. You want the player to really feel like that he’s on board and he was. I thought he was one of the brighter spots the other night. You’re talking about a guy, his first real game action out there at the corner and they have some pretty good receivers that played a good bit it appeared to me. That was a good sign. That was encouraging. We’re not going to pull up the Canton truck yet, but that’s encouraging and I think he’s excited and that’s a good thing.”

Q: Talk about your talent at the outside linebacker position?

HALEY: “I think you’re right. I made that point that I think this is the most options we’ve had as potential, and not that we love that word potential pass rushers, since we all got here. There are some options that look like with some development, could give us some help. With that being said, I think it comes back again to us worrying about us and finding in this different situation, finding the role that best suits the player that best suits us again, because I think otherwise you’re going to waste time coaching. Those were some big discussions over the weekend where just as much as in a normal year you like versatility and practicing guys at multiple spots, we’re getting down to the nitty gritty and we’ve really all ready been doing this, but who really has a chance to be a slot receiver, third-down sub-receiver. Who, is player x’s best chance to make it early as a sub-rusher or as an outside linebacker, and then really just hone in on that ability and maybe sacrifice in the outside linebacker area. At least for the time being. Then, as you see guys come to the forefront, knowing that all these young guys, especially, special teams is going have a big impact on some of those decisions. So the same goes for special teams. If we think the guy’s strongest quality is special teams, then we may sacrifice some position work offensively or defensively to let him really get coached on special teams. I think that’s the part of this plan that I’ve really been talking about, is being a little more specialized with everybody. Then as we move down the road, and guys kind of separate themselves, then kind of work on that position flexibility so to speak.”

Q: What are your plans for Jared Gaither?

HALEY: “Still just again, this is a guy that’s been out and hasn’t been part of an offseason like everybody else, but also has missed a couple of weeks, so even though I believe he’s been working on his own, the number one deal for him is going to be the strength and conditioning aspect. He got a couple of good workouts over the weekend, and we’re going to continue that, and then you’ll see him out there at tackle. I would say we’ll probably start at left and then go from there. First and foremost is trying to get him into baseline physical condition that we feel like gives him a chance to succeed safely.”

Q: How did Bill Muir do calling the plays Friday night?

HALEY: “You know, I think that going back to this idea of us being focused on ourselves, we were so simplified in so many areas across the offense, defense and special teams really that I’m not worrying about that being too good of a grade or too poor of a grade one way or the other. It was just such a very limited package that it really was about as simple as you could be. I still don’t think we’re really at the point to worry a whole bunch about that.”

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