A: I don’t know, sometimes I think we do an outstanding job of getting ready early in the year. We practice hard and prepare at a very high rate so I think we do get out in front of teams because of our preparation and early-on intensity. I don’t think that (hurts us), I just think other teams catch up to us. Once you get out of the shoot, which we have in most years, gotten out pretty fast, then you put a couple Super Bowls there also, you’re everybody’s homecoming game. If they play well against you, they’ve done something really good. These teams prepare hard for us and so we see the best from everybody, and I think that really shows up in the second half of the season.
Q: What role has
A: Well, we almost had one yesterday (at Cincinnati, Nov. 11). Had some other opportunities in other games. You can’t ever control where the ball goes. The way the defense plays has something to do with that, but he’s not less of a target than he has been. As you begin to put a few pelts on your belt, people play harder against you and they do more things to try and stop you. After he had a score-a-game, early in the year, he was able to get off the line of scrimmage a little more freely because they really knew who he was, but hadn’t hurt anybody significantly. After that first month, people started playing him with much tighter coverage, battering him as he’s coming off the line of scrimmage and made his job harder. He has to play a lot harder against that type of coverage. I say to him, “if you don’t catch many balls and you’re not a threat, and they don’t ever hit you, then you’re probably not going to be around for too long.” It is a badge of courage when they start beating you up and trying to keep you from releasing; that’s what they do to the better players in this league. He’s starting to get some of that kind of treatment. That part of it has made it a little more difficult. It’s the player’s and the coaching staff’s responsibility to do whatever we can to try and continue to keep him as a weapon, which he certainly has been, particularly down in the scoring zone. He’s made some plays for us in the games that we’ve played very well in. He’s had a pretty good contribution to those games.
Q: Is the bye week a good time to get
A: He played a little bit yesterday. He still isn’t back to playing full speed. When you have a major surgery like that, you only get confidence back from playing. Hopefully we’ll get him involved more because he is a weapon out in space. He can run, he can catch and he’s a good blocker out in space. We’re going to analyze all of that in this next week and see how we can best go play our next game. Hopefully a lot better than we played yesterday.
Q: Talk about his play last year vs. the Packers:
A: When players do go have some success, the quarterback’s impression of him are different, he’s looking for him a little bit more often. When you can produce when you’re given those opportunities, then you become a part of the weaponry of the offense. He did grow into that capacity last year. During his confident streak, he was a terrific blocker down in space. I mean, he did a terrific job for us. He really helped our outside running game and he does make defenses play differently, I think, because of his speed. They don’t often like to put linebackers on him because the game you’re mentioning, against Green Bay, they didn’t put a safety on him and he went 73 yards or something. That was the end of that. It’s back to that same thing. Where are the weapons? What are they trying to take away from you? For all of those guys, mainly those two that have the speed, Bennett and Travis, it’s helpful when they can contribute to the receiving corps group. Then you have more things to be concerned about as a defensive play-caller.