I think it is an important time of year for us, as it always is. A year ago at this time, it was a shorter version of our offseason program, which we would certainly love to have again. However, at this point in time, I think it's a great time for our players and coaches come together. As you know, we've had some coaching changes. We have Bill Sheridan as defensive coordinator, Jim Herrman as the linebackers coach. Al Holcomb. Jack Bicknell. We have some new people in our program. We have some new players in our program. We are excited to bring all these factors together. This is the time of the year I feel really, and there is a sign down there that says it: 'The work ethic has to exceed the expectations.' What I mean by that is it's a time of commitment, it's a time of paying the price. There are no stories written, there are no Sunday afternoons, there is no glorification of what goes on downstairs. It's a time of year of preparation, it's a hard time of the year. We run primarily a free weight program. We make all kinds of adjustments for individuals who have physical ailments or issues, but it is a free weight program. We believe in that. With Jerry Palmieri and Markus Paul, we have two outstanding strength coaches downstairs working with the players. It is a time of year of preparation and paying the price. I always look forward to this. I think it's a revitalization of what the franchise is all about, when the players are here and the energy is here. So it's a great time with respect to that. Usually we don't spend this time together, we don't have an opportunity to speak, and I do so just to signify that it is the beginning of our offseason program. We have an excellent plan. You will see the details of that as we go forward when the OTAs and our minicamps are scheduled. I have been downstairs. We've had two groups through. The third group is coming through now. Basically 7:30, 9:30 and 11:30. We have seen the majority of the guys downstairs and had a chance to be down there with them. They are excited about getting started and we are, too.
In terms of participation today, did you get as many people in as you expected?
We expected 59, and we'll have to wait what to see what the third group is like, but it's a busy place downstairs today.
Were the four new free agent additions in today, too?
They're here, with the exception of…actually there are five with Lee Vickers…Rocky Bernard, who will be in the mid- to latter part of this week.
After the emphasis on defense in the free agent signings, do you expect the draft to emphasize offense?
We have our needs, and as we put all our thoughts together in evaluation at the end of the season and talk about what our needs are. We have needs and things we would like to accomplish basically on both sides of the ball. Certainly we have done some work on the defensive side and feel pretty good about that. In Vickers, we have a big, blocking tight end, a guy who has been a defensive end. We have started to solve, hopefully, some issues along those lines as well. I hesitate because you are not going to sacrifice the extreme quality if it's sitting there at our position in the draft, but we, as I said, we do have goals and objectives and we are working on them now.
Is there anything you can say about Torry Holt?
Is there anything new with Plaxico and his situation?
There really isn't. I don't have anything further to add to where we are. You all know the legal process is forthcoming, and pretty much, that's where we are. I don't have anything new to report.
*He did not show up today? *
Since he is still on the team, is there a method in place to monitor his physical progress even though he won't be in the program?
That all can be something that is addressed at the proper time.
Is this not the proper time?
I don't think so, not with what's in front of him.
Do you have a gut feeling on whether you will even have a chance to decide…?
I wouldn't even go into that. As I always say, that kind of speculation is fruitless. I don't see any benefit in that.
* You always have a theme coming into the season or offseason. Is there one you care to talk about as you head into the start of the offseason program?*
Just exactly the quote that I gave you is the starting point. Other things will come forward as we move further into our work sessions and into the draft and then assembling our group after the draft in May, there will be other things that come forward. At this point in time, it's about commitment, it's about paying the price, and it's about bringing the work ethic, your lunch bucket and going to work in an unspectacular circumstance but a part of the game that is extremely vital to us in terms of the way that we play.
Are there any players that are significantly slowed due to offseason surgeries or injuries that carried over?
We are working with and around Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield and their surgeries. That is primarily what has to be done. Obviously we are very much aware of Osi, but Osi was down there this morning and looks very good and jumped right in.
Earlier you said that if somebody of incredible ability was available in the draft, you can't look past him. Does that include every position on your team?
Well, that is always the case. That circumstance becomes one that has to be discussed because of the value of that particular individual. Obviously you have to solve needs to, but you have to think really hard and long about value. That's all I meant about that. There is nobody specific in mind there.
With the signings of the defensive linemen this offseason, how do you go about fitting them in and playing them all this year?
We look forward to that opportunity. That's one of the good ones. That will be a situation we will look forward to working with. I don't think you can have enough…We have always said not enough pass rushers, but after that it's not enough good, quality football players. With the length of season, with the quality of the games that we play, with the people that we play, with our divisional opponents, just to start there, there are plenty of opportunities for everyone to get a lot of play time. We look forward to working ourselves through that. That will all work out, but everybody will make a contribution.
How much do you think that will help somebody like Justin Tuck, who looked like he wore down at the end of last year?
All you have to do is look at the year before when we did have the solid three-man rotation and the way in which all three players benefitted from that. We have a good, solid example of how that works, and everyone benefitted by that.
You said Osi jumped right in. Is he a hundred percent?
I wouldn't put a number on that. I wouldn't say that. When you are coming off a surgical procedure, you can't just go and put a number on that type of thing. What I mean is he has been cleared to do things. He does have some restrictions, obviously. He was all lathered up and working hard this morning when I was in there, so I think it's only a matter of time for Osi.