Minicamp Media Availability
Thursday, June 06, 2013
Opening Statement: “These players we held out of practice today: Benjamin Watson, Ryan Steed, Terron Armstead, Patrick Robinson and Roman Harper. We put in (the) two-minute in the walkthrough and we got a little work in it during the team period. We’ll do the same thing again on Monday when we come back for our OTAs. We have four OTAs left, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and then we hit a break.”
What kind of progress have you seen from Kenny Vaccaro?
“Quite a bit. I think he is someone, and we felt confident about this when we drafted him but it certainly seems to be true, he is someone who is a quick study. He is a smart, instinctive player so he’s picked things up pretty quick. You’re around some guys that are just football smart and he is one of those guys, (he is) pretty serious, so he’s handled the learning curve extremely well.”
What is your take on the drop-off in fourth quarter points last season?
“We do pay attention to it. We feel like that quarter is something we make an emphasis about, finishing games. Obviously there are a lot of different things that can unfold in the fourth quarter. You can be on real good teams and have a drop-off in scoring because you’re ahead and you’re in four-minute mode and maybe trying to burn the clock out. We do pay attention to it. And that obviously will be an area, one of the many areas, that we have to be better at.”
How do you correct that?
“I think it starts with your stamina. You look at all aspects of it. You try to make competitive drills towards the end of practice when guys are tired and fatigued. Specifically pointing it out and addressing it before certain preseason games, even in the scrimmages, of playing out better football or at least playing up to the same level that you had in the prior three quarters (is important). It’s a point of emphasis. Hopefully the conditioning level is going to be conducive to that. We’re getting there in regards to guys getting in shape. I know we’re lifting well. All of those things.”
Do you think conditioning was an issue last year?
“I have no idea. I wasn’t here last year.”
With the offseason, are you about where you thought you’d be as far as progress?
“Yes. We’re finished with this minicamp. We have one more week left (of OTAs). We’re pretty healthy, which is encouraging. The most important thing is, with so many new guys, how are they practicing. You have to learn to practice with each other when you’re not in pads. It’s a little more challenging than just doing it. I was encouraged with not seeing a lot of guys on the ground. Again, all of it is in preparation of training camp.”
How much more challenging has it been for you with all of the new faces you’ve seen this week?
“I don’t know if it’s been more challenging. I just finished talking about, before we broke out, about new faces, first impressions and the importance that we’ve always tried to do as a staff in regards to evaluation regardless of how a player got here, regardless if I recognize you or not, we really are going to try to find the best 53. As a coach, I’m selfish. I want to win and I think the locker room knows that. The guys that have been here understand that. Finding that right 53 is what keeps you up at night and making sure you’re not missing somebody and someone really good ends up somewhere else that was once with us. That’s the goal. It’s something that we’ve been pretty good at over the years but it’s still the most important element of training camp and shaping your roster. I’ve been around these guys long enough now, since the weightlifting began in the middle of April, and you begin to see certain things that they do and you start to recognize them a little bit easier.”
What do you see from Andy Tanner and what do you like about his game?
“He’s pretty consistent. There is a value in knowing exactly what you’re going to get because then when you put a gameplan together, you kind of count on certain skill sets. He’s smart, he has very reliable hands and he is good in and out of traffic. He missed the first couple of OTAs, or maybe the second, third and fourth one, with the birth of a child. He and his wife had a baby. But he has a real good understanding of what we’re doing.”
Do you believe you have a deep-ball threat on the roster? Who do you see filling that role?
“I know Joe (Morgan) is somebody that certainly has that type of speed. In the past, it’s been Devery (Henderson) and further back it’s been Robert Meachem. I think we do. I think we have good speed there. There are a lot of things you can do to get the ball down the field. It’s important to us to stretch the field with our passing game and not be one-dimensional. But we’ll see. We’ll get a chance to see.”
Did you finish a little early today? And what are some of your goals for next week?
“I cut practice one period short today so we were a little earlier than what was on the schedule. Next week will be really to continue the installation. Monday we’ll work at two-minute again and get some more work at it in team periods. Tuesday we will get into some short-yardage. It’s really a progression of teaching and then leaving here on a good note. It’s another week where we have to be in the weight room and working on our conditioning level too.”
In the past, you’ve gone on the road for training camp for a week. Is there any thought of doing that this year?
“We discussed a couple of things. When we’ve traveled, a lot of times, it’s been (prior to) the second or third preseason game. I don’t anticipate us doing that. We talked about training camp the same way and, right now, I see this camp being here and us focusing just with our team. We spoke briefly with Oakland because Dennis (Allen) and I know each other but I think right now the plan is to be here and not traveling.”
Safety Jim Leonhard, who you signed in free agency always seems to be around the ball. What have you seen from him?
“Well, he’s smart. He’s an instinctive guy. He’s played a lot of football, he started a lot of games in our league. He is very athletic, he’s sudden. He’s been able to play despite his size deficiency and I think his intelligence and his break on the ball is a big plus for him and something that he’s had success with. He is one of those guys that within a couple of days, he picks things up. His transition into what we’re doing has been fairly smooth and I’m glad he’s here.”
Is minicamp more about teaching and individual work as opposed to training camp?
“I think you have to be careful about individual evaluations. You begin to formulate who learns quicker than others and that’s part of it, but I think the evaluations have to come in training camp and there are a ton of different references for that. That first year with Marques Colston, throughout this time it was bleak, he was on the ground and Mike Haas was running everywhere catching passes. Then we got into training camp and Marques was in better shape, he was healthy and all of a sudden with the pads on, he stepped up and by the time we were three weeks into training camp, we felt that we had a starting X (receiver). None of us, myself included, would have thought that would have been the case. I think it’s preparation. I think it’s us trying to prepare these guys for the upcoming opportunity as best as we can.”
If you’re not patient, then you could end up cutting a player that stands out somewhere else?
“Absolutely, that is what I was saying earlier. What I’ve learned, and I’ve learned it from a lot of good coaches, is the most important job in your task is in those early three weeks of training camp of beginning to formulate who you think belongs on the roster. Those can’t be quick decisions and it has to be well thought out.”
You’ve talked about not caring how a player got here, Saalim Hakim has an interesting back story. How did you guys find him?
“He came last year and I am just going to guess that Ryan Pace knew this was a player that had been on practice squads and shown speed in preseason films. He can really run. When a guy has a redeeming quality like that and you’re able to bring him in, I can’t even recall when we brought him in, but as you look around the group of 90, everybody has a different story. There are first round picks, college free agents, there are pro free agents that have signed. You go back to Billy Miller for instance. Billy Miller was here for a three-day tryout camp. He came and signed a three-day waiver after he had been in the league for six or seven years with Houston. We signed him to a contract and ended up getting three or four good years from him. It’s an area that I think we do a real good job with. The personnel department, both college and pro do a great job in looking for those players and identifying who might fit what we’re trying to do. That gets back to trying to keep a clean slate and an open mind as you watch players because guys will develop later too.”
Since he has not played a lot of football, is that a guy you’re patient with and develop?
“I think so. For him, I mentioned to him during practice, I said ‘I don’t know if you can play special teams or not, but if you can play special teams then you might be able to play in this league a long time’ because what that allows you to do is continue to develop the player while he is on your roster because he is still playing 18 to 20 snaps. It’s hard to have depth that can’t contribute in some way. You have it in the offensive line, they play a handful of snaps and special teams, and you have it at quarterback and a few other positions. These guys understand, and we have to make a good point to them, that’s one of the quickest ways onto a team and you can develop and work your way into the lineup. There are tons of stories. Terrell Davis was an outstanding special teams player in his rookie year before he ever was a running back at Denver. I think they’re smart enough to see that though. When you just look at the numbers, you’re getting to 53, they have to contribute.”
It seems like he can catch the ball too?
“We’ll see. He’s certainly done some things where you see him get off the ball and stretch the field. He can run.”