Q&A with Todd Haley 8/4

Posted Aug 4, 2011

OPENING REMARKS: “Okay, day seven for us up here in St. Joe. I thought last night was a good step for us as a team. I want to thank everybody that came out. It was still a pretty muggy night but we had a good crowd out there which always gives these guys a little boost. In fact, I was trying throughout the practice because it was our first time on turf and we’re really not where we need to be, trying to keep them in the mode that it’s just a practice, it’s just practice. Because the guys get excited, they hear the crowd, they hear the cheers and the lights. I think it could easily get away from you so to speak. I thought it was a very good night across the board. We got a lot of work done. Yesterday, in general was a good work day in general coming off of the day off. I think the way that it timed out with missing that 120 degree day on Tuesday and being able to practice at night and walk through inside really helped the guys. This morning they had a pretty good hop to their step, and that’s always good. We’re pushing along. We have a lot of work to do. We’re still not really truly into training camp mode so to speak. We’re working and we’re making progress. We had another really good lift this morning. All the coaches were walking through and we heard them whooping and hollering and they were working and that was good.”

Q: What kind of milestone is it to get some of the guys back for this afternoon’s practice?

HALEY: “I think it does sound like, though not official, that’s the way it’s going. We’re all excited about it. Not that the team is by any means, a finished product. A lot of those guys have a very good chance of being part of the team. Whenever you’re working together is better than when you’re working apart. I’m just excited to kind of get everybody together and just stay at what we’re doing, and get those guys acclimated into what’s going on and start to really get a good picture of what we look like here as we move on down the road.”

Q: Is it a relief to know that Tamba Hali will supposedly be here today?

HALEY: “Again, I appreciate any questions on Tamba, I really do. I just, until, when there is any kind of news that I can speak of we’ll get it to you, or the team will get it to you as soon as possible. Right now that has not occurred and we’ll just keep it to the guys that are out there. We’ll see how this afternoon looks and then we’ll go forward.”

Q: Are you looking forward to the battle at receiver?

HALEY: “I think at a number of positions we have been able to increase the competition, and receiver is definitely one of them. Last night, though I spent most of the time down on the other end of the field where the big guys were working; where there’s good competition. I heard a few of the cheers and things like that so I was excited to watch the tape last night from both sides. I thought it was encouraging for our first real one on one work. With that being said, that’s just a little piece of it, but it does appear there is going to be good competition once we get all of our bodies in here and we have a full corps of guys practicing. I think it will be a little more fun to watch.”

Q: Can you pick a position group that might benefit the most from the veterans that are coming in tonight?

HALEY: “No, I don’t know that I can pick one particular one. I know that there are some new guys that haven’t been a part of this team that are in that mix and some guys that have been a core part of what we’ve been doing. I think we’re just excited to get everybody in a jersey and line them up and get them working with their teammates and coaches on the field, which is a key part of our success here. I’m just excited to get everybody out there really.”

Q: Will it feel more like training camp this afternoon?

HALEY: “From a numbers standpoint, yes. Because we’ve been kind of a skeleton crew here, basically practicing with 61 or so guys, which isn’t a normal camp number even in past years. From a numbers standpoint, yes. From a real training camp stand point, other than the heat and the fans and being up here, not quite yet. We’re adding little pieces each day. I know the coaches would like it to go a little faster. We’re adjusting as we go and I want to make sure we’re doing the right thing all the way along.”

Q: What role do you see for Le’Ron McClain?

HALEY: “I’m glad you brought him up because I’m excited for him to be a part of this team. He’s a guy that coming out of college; when I was in Arizona we had a fullback need, and he was a guy we targeted and really liked and weren’t able to get him. We’ve obviously seen a bunch of him and we saw him up close and personal in our playoff game last year where he was an active part of some of their success against us. I’m glad he’s on our side. I think he’s a big, physical fullback, who’s obviously in the past has shown really good run ability in the year when he had a chance to carry the ball when they had an injury. With that being said, he’s very clear, we’re very clear, he’s coming in to be our fullback, first and foremost. He has real good leadership qualities. He’s been part of a successful college program, successful NFL program with Baltimore around professionals and great players. He’s excited to be here and I’m excited that he’s here. He’s going to come into the mix and be part of the competition and hopefully raise everybody’s level of play.”

Q: Was it a goal to improve your short-yardage running and was this move aimed at that area?

HALEY: “In the offseason, when we go through our musts, our needs, and our wants, our luxuries, fullback was definitely one of those positions. With that being said, our young developing team, you can look across the board, we could add a really good player at almost every position, would help us, as it would most people. That’s just where we are. Coming into this situation, as you see names and players and our scouting department is evaluating all these names that could potentially come free, that do come free and our bottom line number one priority is getting good football players that we think can come in here and fit; are the types of guys that we’re looking for and be a part of this. Le’Ron fits that bill in both areas. He’s got good energy, he’s excited to be here and that’s what we want, we want guys that want to be here. It was very clear from the start that he wanted to be here.”

Q: What category was fullback in your wants, needs, and luxuries?

HALEY: “It was, I don’t know if I can give this away. Is that too much? Improvement at the fullback position one way or another, I’ll say, was a must. Never forgetting that the development of the guys on our team is first and foremost. We have a guy coming back that we lost early in training camp last year in Tervaris Johnson. We have a guy that’s been here and been part of what we’re doing in Mike Cox signed back up and we drafted a guy in (Shane) Bannon. Now we’ve signed Le’Ron. The competition has increased in leaps and bounds, I would say. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee who’s going to come out of the mix as the best fullback for us to win, but it will help.”

Q: What were the problems in short-yardage last year?

HALEY: “We did a full evaluation of that area because efficiency wise that was not winning football. It obviously cost us in some really critical situations right down to the end of the season. Without getting into too much detail, that’s an area that we know needs to improve and we’re working very hard at that because those are situations that will keep you from staying on the field offensively and ultimately get you beat a lot of times.”

Q: Are there any musts or needs that haven’t been filled?

HALEY: “Yeah, I would say, not that any of those situations appear hopeless. Some of those may be depth at positions also. This is training camp. We as coaches have to continue to develop these players. We’ve missed a chunk of time with them when we would’ve been doing that. It’s the same rules for everybody. Everybody’s in a similar situation. I don’t think the answer is always just signing a player. I think you have to take into consideration that we’re a team. There is a core team. You just start grab-bagging and bringing players in because they have been good players somewhere, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee success on our team or that they’ll be accepted in as part of the team. There is a dynamic there that I think you all understand. We’re encouraged across the board that we have guys in positions or backup positions or backups to backups that we’re hopeful for. Now, we just have to use every second that we have to develop these guys so that they can help us sooner rather than later.”

Q: Can you count on a rookie that you draft to fill a “must” position on your team right away?

HALEY: “I don’t think it’s quite that cut-and-dry. I think that you have your ‘musts,’ that’s why we go through the process of really talking through what we absolutely need going forward, what needs to happen. And again, those ‘musts’ can be filled through the draft, through free agency, through the development of your players. But, I think it might knock the priority if you draft – specifically if you’re using a high number draft pick on a position – that it might then drop that priority level down. Then, usually if it’s a ‘must,’ then there’s depth issues, there’s all those types of things. Then, never forgetting that the backups on our team need to be, especially at the core positions we’re talking about today, have to be core special teams guys – fullbacks, safeties. They’ve got to be core special teams players that help you win, because special teams wins games for you.”

Q: What’s the least amount of time that a rookie needs to come in out of college and contribute?

HALEY: “It’s never enough. I’m not going to give a good answer because it needs to be more than whatever I say, generally. That being said, I understand the question. The situation we’re in, I talked about it yesterday, is a steeper learning curve for these rookies. That being said, I believe there’s a solution, I really do. But I don’t think the solution is doing it the way we’ve always done it just because it’s worked in the past, because it’s different. Myself as the head coach, and then along with my staff, we’re working hard at trying to find that solution to help speed these guys along, because again, in a normal year they would have shown up in April. They would have had a weekend, three or four days, to kind of get the lay of the land down there in Arrowhead. Then they would have come back a couple of weeks later and worked out. I went through it yesterday, I believe. They’ve missed a lot of that time. So, I think, I do believe there’s a solution, and then the key for us, and what will help us be successful is finding it. Maybe they’ll all help us, I don’t know. But, I would say percentage-wise and statistically speaking, they’re not. We need a bunch of them, too. I don’t know which ones those are necessarily, but we need some of those young guys to come in and contribute for us early.”

Q: What can Kelly Gregg’s personality and leadership mean in the locker room?

HALEY: “I’m glad you noticed that, because I like that, and it’s something that we as coaches definitely talked about and noticed. It’s one of those (times where we) sit in the locker room up there together and we go, ‘Did you see that?’ But that’s a great indicator right there. This Kelly Gregg, he’s one of those guys, I’ve probably talked about them, that probably coming out the odds were stacked against them, just right out of the gate off of prototypical size and speed and some of those things. But much like Casey Wiegmann, he didn’t listen to it, and he’s had a great career to this point. As an offensive coach and coordinator, he’s been a major pain in the rear to deal with. Even into our game last year (in the playoffs versus Baltimore), the big thing for Scott (Pioli) and the coaches and myself was now he’s at an older age, can he still play? According to that game that was played at Arrowhead there, he can play. On top of that, this is a make-up guy. You can feel the energy. He’s been around, again, much like Le’Ron (McClain), he’s been around great players and teams, so that’s always a good thing. I think you’re seeing some of that right away. That’s why I brought them all down last night, or kind of urged them to come down, and watch the night practice, since they wouldn’t be standing in the sun and just killing grass. But I think you started to see some of that, and that was done intentionally to try to get us here, get ready to take a step this afternoon. But, he’s going to be a positive influence for all the young guys – for that entire room, for me as the head coach. That’s a resource. The key is that you’re seeing some of the young guys immediately recognize that that’s a resource, and they’re going to use it. That’s good.”

Q: Is it important for those guys to interact with the team even if they cannot practice.

HALEY: “Yeah, all those guys have kind of been in Club Med. They get free meals, and they get hot tubs and massages. No, they’ve been within their rules and parameters, which are they can work out here, but none of us coaches can be present. They’ve utilized that time when we’re in practice or a walk through, at least from what I’ve heard, is that there’s been some good work going on. That’s coming from them. Again, it’s completely voluntary on their part. But Steve (Breaston), yeah, we had a good conversation in the locker room last night, and they’re all just anxious. It’s an odd feeling for them. They go wandering by, and they see everybody working and sweating, and they don’t like that feeling. So, they’re just anxious to get out and be part of it, and I know Steve’s in that group that’s excited to get going.”

Q: How much will you be relying on the veterans to help bridge the gap with the rookies’ steep learning curve?

HALEY: “I think it’s huge. The nice thing that we have is, I think, that our core young group from last year is unique that way from a leadership standpoint. Though, I mean, I’m not going to throw them in with the vets when you talk about Kelly Gregg and Casey Wiegmann and those guys. It would be very disrespectful to talk about a guy in his second year, all of them. But they’re going to be part of it. It’s going to be an important part of our success this year, I believe, will be that mentorship, so to speak, but coming from really everybody. And all I’ve asked the guys is put yourself in their shoes. You all have been through it. You know even with how it worked for you, in a perfect scenario, was still spin cycle for an extended amount of time. I think we’ve got a good group of guys that can understand those types of things and empathize, and they already have been. The entire group’s got to pull them along.”

Q: Can you talk about Jerheme Urban a little bit? What you’ve seen so far and expect the rest of the way?

HALEY: “I know Jerheme very well. We’ve been together in Dallas, Arizona and now here. I’m excited he’s part of the team. You can’t outwork Jerheme. He’s going to be one of the top dogs, working, lifting, running. He clearly was working back in San Antonio, and it shows. He’s going to be another one of these guys like we talked about. Though he’s competing for a spot and fighting his butt off to be part of this team, he’s still that type of guy that will nurture, mentor younger guys that potentially could beat him out. That’s, I think, when you’re really starting to take strides as a team and have a chance to be great, is when those kind of things are going on. When guys (help each other), despite the fact they might lose the job to the guy their teaching. You’ve got a chance to be great when that’s occurring. So, Jerheme is one of those guys. He’s moving around excellent. He’s running. Looks like he’s in… As I’ve said to you guys all along. I think the tag is that he’s kind of a possession guy, but he’s fast. He’s fast, fast, and he plays pretty fast. He’ll be a welcome… I’m very excited to get him back again, because we’ve talked about that speed need at receiver, and that’s another guy that brings it.”

Q: When the lockout ended and you were looking at the schedule, did you think that at this point you’d have all your rookies here?

HALEY: “I don’t know. I think each year I go in and you always know there’s the possibility of… You hope, you want and you need, but it doesn’t always go the way you want it to. We got all of them but one, and we’re going. I say the train doesn’t stay in town for long, get on. That’s what we’ve got to worry about. If we’re worrying about anything else, it will probably drag us down. We’re pushing hard here and trying to get into position where we can take another step as far as real football goes, and that’s the plan.”

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