A: Good evening, glad to be in pads. Padded work was necessary, obviously. Again, let's get them all out there so we can develop some balance so we can integrate the contract guys with everyone else and try to get on the same page. That's basically what I feel. I'm glad to be out here in pads and I was glad to get the work. There were a couple of things that did disappoint me that we will teach and overcome with the young guys. It was good but you can see that some of the rust has to come off.
Q: What is the availability of the new signees?
A: As far as I know, at this point in time, it is a no.
Q: Do you think it will be done by tomorrow?
A: I think that if they can get it done during the day, with the way we practice late in the day, we can still pull it off.
Q: How did you feel about the hitting?
A: It was good. There were a couple of spots where it was a little too good as always. It is an incredible thing as a coach because what I try to do is make it as safe as we can possibly make it even though I want the aggressiveness. If you can define that for me, it would be the first time that I came into a situation where I felt good about yelling at a guy for being overly aggressive. The term that I use all the time is, you've got to be smart. It is one team and you can't lose anybody.
Q: Is Jim Cordle ok?
A: Yes he is. That was not pretty there.
Q: How is Devin Thomas?
A: Ankle but he will be ok. I thought that he maybe had stepped on somebody's foot but that wasn't the case, he just rolled it.
Q: How frustrating would it be to not have a full team practice because of the CBA?
A: Very frustrating but everybody has to deal with it so it depends on what you make of it. If you make it a huge issue, you make it a huge issue. From a team standpoint, we need to all get on the same field for crying out loud. We have so many of them, you almost need to hire another field so they can hang around it.
Q: How do you feel about Adrian Tracy's development?
A: It would have been nice to have him here all winter but those are the guys that you see are going to not be able to benefit from the early opportunity of an earlier offseason program. But he has done fine and the learning has been good.
Q: Re: Osi.
A: I'm not talking about Osi. I have nothing to say. I don't know anything. It seems like there's chapters. When I do have something to tell you, I'll tell you, but I don't know any more than all of the speculation. I'd rather talk about the guys that are here and are practicing.
Q: Were you surprised to see him out there tonight?
A: Not really. He was given the option. He's here.
Q: Were you pleased that he was here?
A: I was. I was pleased.
Q: That's a good thing?
A: I think it's a good thing. I'm hoping that it's the kind of indication that we're all looking for.
Q: What did you like about Shawn Andrews' brother?
A: He really looks good. He's come in light. He weighed, whatever you want a number to be, 340. He looks to be in outstanding shape. He's got good feet. We plan to play him at tackle, which if you remember a couple of years ago, that is the spot that he gained great recognition at.
Q: He was a right tackle? Can he do both?
A: I imagine he's more comfortable at right. He'll be put on both sides.
Q: Re: Gabe Watson.A: In good shape. Light on his feet. We know quite a bit about him. I'll tell you, a year or two ago he was pretty darn exciting. I can't tell you snap for snap what happened over the last year, but he's a strong, powerful guy that shows good athleticism and quickness. His availability was attractive to us. Hopefully he'll look at this as a new start and do something about it
Q: Do you ever think about guys like that, who have had success in the league then they're on the scrap heap so to speak? What do we know that other people don't? Why are picking him up when others aren't?
A: In this case, not really. I didn't look at that this way. Sometimes you're right. You're right. Sometimes that happens with a guy that is highly thought of. Then you say, 'Uh oh, what does somebody know that I don't know?'
Q: Re: Young linebackers.
A: They've been aggressive and noteworthy in their play. Sometimes they're in the wrong spot or something, but they recover and they seem to be able to go and make some things happen. I like the way they're running around.
Q: Do you think that they know it's wide open right now?
A: I think they do. I don't know why they wouldn't.
Q: Some of them are free agents, some of them were draft picks…
A: Just let it go. Come on in here and give it all you've got. You have absolutely nothing to lose.
Q: Is that what you're getting?
A: That's what we're getting. I like their attitude. I listen to the way they chirp away and I like what I hear.
Q: Beckum with a couple catches on the sideline tonight. Will he have a bigger role this season?
A: I hope so. That's the plan.
QB Eli Manning
Q: How are you doing so far in terms of what you're accomplishing out there and how do you feel about the team?A: I think things are going well. Not many mistakes, not many mental mistakes, which is always good for training camp and under the circumstances of not having the OTAs in the offseason. I think everything's been pretty crisp. Obviously we have to work out some of the timing deals, throwing routes versus man coverage and coming out of breaks. All of those things will get worked out as time goes. I've been pleased so far, but we have a lot of work to do and a lot of things to install still. A lot of time left.
Q: There has been a lot of talk about who's not here, but what do you think about the group that is here?A: That's all you can worry about, is the guys who are here and the guys who are on that practice field. Tomorrow hopefully we'll get some new guys back into it who have not been practicing or not able to practice because of the rules. All you can worry about is the guys who are on the field. Correct what those guys are doing wrong. Praise them on what they're doing right and try to get better.
Q: Have you been in touch with Steve Smith or Kevin Boss?A: I've talked to both of them. They are just trying to figure things out. Obviously Kevin – a little bit more urgency to that one just because he can come back and start practicing right away, as soon as we sign him, hopefully starting tomorrow and getting a tight end. Steve still has some more rehab to do and wouldn't be able to come in and probably, because of the injury, practice right now. Hopefully those things get worked out soon and we can get them back here.
Q: How happy are you to see Ahmad Bradshaw come back in?A: Having Ahmad, a great playmaker, a guy who knows the offense, should be able to step right in and make a lot of plays for us. Good catching the ball and running the ball, glad to have him back.
Q: Early impressions on Jerrel Jernigan?A: Jerrel, he had a good post route yesterday that he caught. He catches the ball really well, very naturally. We haven't put a whole lot of packages in where he's playing different positions. I know in college he mostly played in the slot position. Should have a few more things going in this week where he can work in the slot and see what his ability is there and have him get comfortable running some of the routes that are there. Seems like he's working hard and definitely has some natural playmaking ability.
Q: Who has stood out in that slot role?A: As I just said, we haven't had that package yet. We just got into it a little bit the other day, but still very, very new and fresh. We're going to try to work a lot of guys and hopefully get a lot of guys comfortable with that, where you can move different guys. Whether it's Mario [Manningham] or Hakeem [Nicks]. Last year we got into a bind when we lost Steve [Smith]. None of those guys really worked in there. We just said, 'Hey, Steve's the slot guy. He's the best at it,' and so you work him only and when he got out, a lot of guys weren't comfortable being in there. We're working a number of different guys and see who can come in and do the best job in the slot.
Q: Are you hoping this Osi situation gets settled?A: Yeah, definitely. Any time there's something like this hanging over, you want it to get settled. But we can't make it a distraction. Everybody's got to keep working and guys who are on the field keep getting better. Obviously there are different things and numbers and signing other guys and getting everything figured out, so hopefully it gets solved soon.
Q: What do you think about the additions the Eagles have made?A: Not my concern. I worry about our guys and getting our guys back, going out there and practicing. When we start preparing for the Eagles, then we'll look into their personnel.
Q: Would the slot packages normally have gotten covered earlier on in camp?A: Well it's just the way that things are going – the fact that we've only had one practice a day. What have we had, four practices? We've done a little of it, but we haven't gone into our exclusive stuff like that. We have some tight ends doing it and running it right now. Just trying to stay in our base personnel so far. We should be expanding more in these next few days.
Q: Do you have any impressions on David Baas?A: Seems very smart, bright. A lot of times with offensive linemen, all the stuff's the same, it's just kind of what you call it. He seems like he's picking up things. I've sat in on some meetings with him, just going over my calls, different things that could happen, just he and I. I can't take snaps with him out there, so he gets used to hearing my cadence, hearing my calls, my checks, why we're doing with certain things. Seems like a good guy. He'll fit in with our linemen and the characters that we've got. Should be a good fit.
Q: Do you have to remain neutral with Sage Rosenfels and David Carr?A: I don't have favorites amongst the quarterbacks. Both of them are veteran guys, they know what they're doing. They know the offense. Obviously, Carr really hasn't been battling yet, hasn't practiced yet. I'll be helpful to all of the quarterbacks.
Q: What does Michael Clayton bring to the team?A: A veteran receiver, knows the little tricks of the trade at receiver – how to get open. Last year, brought him in in the middle of the season, took a little while to learn the offense. Now having a full training camp to continue to grow within the offense. Already has a good base. Worked with him this summer. Good to have him in. We have a young receiver corps, bring a little knowledge to that group.
Q: Being down here instead of Albany. Does that give camp a different feel?A: It is a different feel. It's been nice, you're not as spread out. You're not having to drive to breakfast, drive to meetings, and drive back to lunch – you're always on the move. Where here, you come in, you stay here. Everything's right here in the building. I think it's very productive. I think it's been a good camp so far.
Q: Do you think the NFC East is going to be much tougher this year?A: I think the NFC East is always tough. Philadelphia, Cowboys, Washington – all of them are talented teams, good coaching. It's always, always tough each week in the preparation and the playmakers that they have. You have to be on top of your game and play a physical game and make smart decisions. I think it'll always be tough and competitive, which makes it fun.
CB Terrell Thomas
Q: Do you think you will make the Pro Bowl this season?A: That's the goal. I worked my butt off this offseason. Obviously I have to do it on the field and in the film work and that's what I plan on doing. Coaches will put me in the position and it is up to me to make the plays.
Q: What are some of the things you need to work on to be at that level?A: Consistency. Just being reliable for the defense and becoming a big time player. I think I made some big plays last season but it is time for me to take my game to the next level. That is what I worked on this whole offseason, taking my game to the point where I can be a star for this defense. I told coach Fewell and my position coach, whatever they need me to do to help the team, whether it is being a role player one game and being a guy they have to count on, I am ready to fill that role. Whatever situation they put me in, hopefully I will succeed, God willing.
Q: How hard is it to move around and play different positions?A: It is not hard at all. I have played the nickel spot before my rookie and second year. We were a little low on depth last year but with the additions of Prince, Ross and Corey and being the second year in Fewell's defense, I don't think it will be hard at all.
Q: How much is Prince missing as he misses training camp?A: He is missing a lot. Especially as a rookie not having rookie mini camp and OTA's. The coaches have been doing a good job of bringing it on slow but hopefully he can catch up. It will be fast and me and Corey will do our best to take him under our wings and try to catch him up and so is Ross. Hopefully he can get here as soon as possible and contribute to this team because that is what we drafted him for.
Q: Have you talked to him before?A: I talked to him during the lockout and what not. I sent him a couple notes and he had some questions for me here and there. He had a couple questions for me. I talked to him and Tyler Sash.
**TE Ben Patrick
Q: When you were coming out in the draft, did you have any conversations? Were they looking at you as a prospect?
A: I talked to them, but at the combine it's crazy. You talk to a lot of teams. I'm just happy to be here now.
Q: How do you see yourself fitting in on the team?
A: It's hard to say. I haven't really had the chance to step on the field yet. We'll kind of see how that works out. Obviously right now I'm behind the learning curve trying to learn the offense. I'm just trying to learn as much as I can and hopefully I can get on the field tomorrow.
Q: What attracted you to this team?
A: Obviously the name speaks for itself. They won the championship a few years ago, always successful, always in the playoffs. Definitely an offense that implements the tight end a little bit more than what I'm used to, so that attracted me. Also, being able to play beside Kevin Boss hopefully. Hopefully he returns soon and we can get this thing going.
Q: You're a better receiver than numbers might show?
A: I like to think so. Nothing until you prove it. Obviously, my role on the Arizona offense is a little bit different than it is here. We'll see what happens. Hopefully I can get to work tomorrow.
**OT Kareem McKenzie
Q: What is the CBA update?A: As far as I know, I have not received any update as far as it not being done by tomorrow. Of course that can change throughout the day and whatever different details they need to hammer out to get that done. Hopefully they can hammer them out so that we can get out there and practice.
Q: Have you guys voted?A: Right now they are trying to get the final details of the CBA negotiated so that we can actually see the agreement as a whole so then we can vote. At this point right now, we don't even have the agreement. There are still some main issues that need to be hammered out.
Q: Are you worried that something can be put on hold?A: Not in the least bit. You have to go ahead and let the individuals who have to negotiate and take care of the different issues and we had a conference call the other day to be made abreast of all the things they had to hammer out. We have to put our faith in our leadership and on the NFL side, their management counsel so we can go and get this done. So everybody can get back to work and football as usual. It is conceivable that it can get done by tomorrow.
Q: How is it conceivable with such a short amount of time?A: It is not as difficult as it sounds because the different remaining issues as far as the commissioner discipline and other things that need to be hammered out, should be taken care of. The guys are generally concerned about, in terms of the new CBA agreement and different issues that we have to go ahead address to make sure everyone is in agreement with it. Everyone feels good about it. We can go ahead and not even worry about it, put this thing to bed and get back to football as usual.
Q: What is the process?A: We go ahead and have the remaining issues that need to be hammered out, taken care of. We go ahead and get it, take a look at it and recommend to our players to accept it or whatever the case may be and take it from there.
Q: Out of all the issues, which issue has the widest gap?A: I couldn't tell you. It is really up to DeMaurice and those guys to get me that information because all we know right now is that there are a few remaining issues but as far as the widest gap, I couldn't tell you.
**LB Michael Boley
Q: It's been relatively quietly here, outside of the Osi thing. Have you paid much attention to what has been going on at Philadelphia?
A: You see it on TV every now and then, but I'm not worried about that. It's exactly what it is—I don't pay attention to what other teams do.
Q: People have been talking a lot about the linebacking corps. How good do you think you guys can be?
A: We can be as good as any men out there. We come in here every day in our linebacker room and we put a lot of work in. A lot of demands come on us, as far as the things we need to be able to do in our room.
Q: What do you see from some of the younger guys in the linebacking group?
A: They've been doing really well. It's a little bit of a rush, for the guys. For most rookies, they didn't have that Rookie Mini-Camp and OTA's and all of that. There's kind of a lot being thrown at them at once. They seem to be picking up on it pretty well and are doing well at practice.
Q: Do you have a different role on the team now that you are one of the more experienced players?
A: It doesn't change anything. I'm trying to take on more of a leadership role with the things that I do on and off the field. Being around guys like Kiwi, I learned a lot from him as far as the way he leads, the way he talks. I've been able to take on things like that over the years and try to implement that in the stuff that I do
Q: As one of the veterans on this team, how worried are you about the Osi situation?
A: I'm not worried at all. I love Osi to death, but what he's doing is his thing—I can't think about it. I think we have a lot of other good guys here that can step in and fill that void even if Osi is not back with us.
Q: How hard is it to see Osi on the sidelines rather than on the field?
A: It's not hard. It's one of those things that you try not to think too much about. I'm glad he's in the building, that's for sure. It shows that he still wants to be here.
Q: How excited are you about Jason Pierre-Paul from what you see in him?
A: Very. He's a tremendous athlete. He's fast, strong and could make a lot of plays for us.
Q: What do you miss the most about Osi?
A: A speed defensive end. He's very quick off the ball. He commands a double-team* *with the way he comes off that edge.
**DE Mathias Kiwanuka
Q: How much reservation do you have coming off this injury wanting to get out there and hit, not knowing exactly how you're going to react?
A: I've been in this position before, so it's something that's going to be in the back of your head until you get out there and get that first hit. I know the process, I understand there's going to be a little bit of that, but after I get out there and get a first hit it's full steam ahead.
Q: The herniated disc in the neck can go either way. Did you ever worry that you might not get back out there again?
A: That was a very real possibility. I think a lot of that played into my decision to come back. When you're a fifth-year player looking at the possible end of your career—it puts things in perspective. I was blessed by God and I thank God I have the opportunity to come back. I was cleared to play some time ago, so it's been something I've been ready for for a few months now.
Q: Since being cleared, what have you been able to do to test it and see how it reacts?
A: I've been working out. Obviously, we're not allowed to put on pads and come out here and play, but we got together as a group. I feel real confident about where it's at. There's no reservation in terms of how it's going to react once I get out there.
Q: Are you looking to that first hit?
A: Oh yeah. I guess we can't put on pads until August 4th, but I'm going to be ready.
Q: How close was it that maybe you would come back, but not with the Giants?
A: As a free agent, you have to test your options and it was definitely something that almost happened. Like I said, I'm happy to be back and looking at the opportunity that this defense has presented not only to me, but everybody out here.
Q: How much do you monitor the Osi situation and how does that impact you?
A: Unfortunately, we're kind of used to that around here. Personally, I don't ever want to get into discussing someone else's financial situation because I feel like every man has to do what's best for him. If he feels like this is the route he has to take, then I'll come behind him 100 percent. We'd love to have him on the field, but whatever is best for him and his family is what I want for him.
Q: You think it would be more defensive end for you if he's not here?
A: Yeah, most likely. That's the position I came into the league playing and probably where I feel most comfortable. I feel like things are going well and regardless if he's here or not, I'll be able to move in and out of positions pretty smoothly.
Q: How would you describe the market for you throughout the whole process?
A: The health was definitely a concern. I think if I go out here and play for a year and I'm healthy, then the market will definitely come back. It's not something that completely disappeared. Obviously when you have a serious injury going into free agency, it's not a good situation.
Q: You could have been a big-time free agent. Do you allow yourself to think about that?
A: No, because the other side of that coin is I could be done playing football. The opportunity that I have right now is a really good one so I'm just happy to have the opportunity.
Q: Have you ever talked to Osi about that? In a way, you're the example of why he's fighting to get what he can while he can, because it could end at any second.
A: Definitely, I am the example. It's definitely a concern to every guy that goes out there. Every time you step on the field, Coach Coughlin always says "you never know which snap is going to be your last." It has to be in your mind when you're out there playing hard, but when it comes down to business it is also something that you have to consider.
**CB Coach Peter Giunta
Q: Have you met Prince yet?A: Yes, we met him right after the draft. He came in for the day and we were able to say hello, tell him to get in good shape and come on back. That was it and I haven't seen him since. I talked to him a couple times on the phone since the lockout has ended and that's it. That has been it.
Q: How much is it hurting him not being here in training camp?A: He will have to come in and compete and he will have to spend the extra time studying to get caught up with these guys as far as the mental aspect of the game goes. We will start working on his technique and try to grab him as much as we can when he is free. We have some volunteer days when players get the days off and we will try to catch him up as best as we can.
Q: What did you like about him coming out of college?A: He is a big and physical corner that can play and cover.
Q: What is the biggest thing a rookie can miss during the first week of camp?A: The speed of the pro game and just how good the quarterbacks are. They can put the ball away from your leverage so he will miss that and the communication. Our language is different than the Nebraska Husker language. The Giants language is so much different and that's the biggest change for those guys. Learning our language and learning our terminology and learning the nuances of the program like the illegal contact rule. When can you get your hands on and when can you get your hands off, that will be a big adjustment for him.
Q: What role can you see Aaron Ross in?A: You can't have enough good corners in this league. If that allows us to play dime, we will play dime. We will do whatever our personnel allows. Perry did a great job using three safeties last year because of Deon coming up and making a couple great plays in the first game. You want to get playmakers on the field and we want to put the best eleven guys on the field and if that is four corners and three safeties then it will be that way.
Q: Having those safeties last year was the reason why you played so much with three safeties?A: Yes, Deon Grant was making a lot of plays for us. Coach Fewell is going to put the best eleven players we have on the football field. Sometimes we will have three or four defensive ends on the field and take the tackles out to try to match up with the offensive personnel. We are going to put our best football players on the field.
Q: How do you feel about Terrell Thomas this year?A: Terrell has done a great job. He is the ultimate professional. He is in here working hard all the time. He was in here yesterday on his day off for quite a few hours. He has worked his tail off to become a very good football player. He is a complete corner. He will run support as well as cover. He led the team in tackles and interceptions two years in a row. He was on the all Joe team last year. People around the league are starting to recognize him because he can do so many good things, as far as coverage and he can blitz. He can play run support and he can tackle well. All those things make him a complete football player and that's what people like about him.
Q: Have you ever coached a corner who has led his team in tackles?A: No. Just these two years in a row now. Usually it is the linebackers or safeties that led the team in tackles but he has done such a great job for us. He has played the nickel spot where he is kind of like a linebacker but in the corner spot, when we ask him to run support, he has done a great job of run support. He runs all over the field and hustles all over the field and he makes plays for us.
Q: What is the next step in order for him to make the Pro Bowl?A: I think if he continues being consistent and continues to make plays on the ball. It is a big thing to do and play the ball in the air. How many interceptions do you have? If you are one of the tops in the league in interceptions when the voting goes out, you have a great chance of making the Pro Bowl. When you get on Sportscenter, you get the votes from the people. If you don't show up on Sportscenter and the other guys are scoring touchdowns, that is huge. You gain notoriety that way and that's what you have to do, making big plays.
Q: Are there other things?A: When the players vote, it's the guys that they can't get away from the jam on. The guys the have trouble at the line of scrimmage with. When you are like that then all the receivers will vote for you because they will say, I don't want to play against him. They're voting for you and the fans will vote for you when you are making plays. When the players vote, they vote because they say, 'Man, he is kicking my tail at the line of scrimmage.'
Q: How is Terrell on that?A: He is tremendous. He does a great job of getting his hands on people. He is a big, physical corner and all our guys are big and physical, which we like. They all have long arms, they can get their hands on people.
Q: How have things changed without having OTA's?A: It is a blessing that coach Fewell stayed here because it is the same system and all the guys that have been here. It will take a little bit of time to recall what we had last year but those guys are doing a great job studying. We tried to give them stuff in the offseason. We may not be here with you next season but here is some stuff to take home and study and most of them did a great job of studying and came back in great shape. So the learning curve won't be that drastic and we are all in the same boat. Everybody is coming in the same way.
**WR Coach Sean Ryan
Q: Do you think there's a battle for the job?**
A: Yeah, I think to be honest with you there's a battle for every job right now. That's why you're in training camp. Obviously Mario and Hakeem have done a great job and proven to be big play guys. You're looking to continue with that. Domenik Hixon, in terms of what he brings to the table, he can play all four spots at wide out. He's a good ball runner on the outside. He understands the slot stuff. I think he's certainly a strong contender for that three spot. Without putting any limits on it, everybody's competing for every job right now.
Q: Does Domenik look like he did prior to the injury?
A: Absolutely. I think Domenik looks good. I've been impressed with his route running. He's 13-14 months out of surgery and I don't think it shows right now. His cuts and breaks are clean and crisp. He's getting out of those things and playing well.
Q: Steve Smith is good on the inside. Who's your best inside receiver right now?
A: We're looking for that right now, I'll be honest with you. Dom's played in there. Obviously, Mario Manningham has that type of speed and quickness to be that guy. I think Jerrel Jernigan is obviously a guy that we went out and looked at. He played at Troy. He played the slot. He's going to be real comfortable in that. It's open auditions right now. Darius Reynaud, there's all types of guys that we're going to put in there. We're going to see who's going to play the best inside. Ramses Barden, when he gets back, he's going to be another guy we're going to look at. He's played in there, inside and outside. Right now, we're going through all these guys. That's what this whole process is about, really being able to find somebody and see where they fit.
Q: Even if you do bring Steve back, what can you expect from him based on the fact that he's coming off of surgery?
A: If there's one person I'm never going to doubt or put a ceiling on, Steve Smith would be one of those guys. He's a competitor. He's a very good football player. Physically, yeah, it's going to take a little bit of time for him to get back. I wouldn't put anything out of the question for Steve in terms of what he can do and what he can accomplish.
Q: Excited to have Clayton back?A: Yeah, I am actually. I am excited. He's one of the most physical guys you're going to find on the outside. He will get after people in the run game. By the end of last year, when he was with us towards the end of the year, his route running on the outside, I thought, improved. His knowledge of the offense is going to be better than it was a year ago. I'm very excited to have him back.
Q: You have two guys, him and Thomas, that are physical players and also had limited time last year. Where are they right now in terms of where they sit on the depth chart?A: Devin is working at a few different positions. I've been impressed with his quickness and his route running. He had the hamstring last year. He looks faster and quicker to me. He looks better coming in and out of breaks. I've been impressed with Devin. Mike gets here today so I can't really put him anywhere yet.
Q: Jernigan, without the benefit of the spring, is he behind?
A: No. That's one of the things I'd say about him. I've been impressed with that. He missed rookie mini-camp, OTAs, mandatory mini-camps. In terms of football knowledge, he's pretty good for a young guy. He picks things up. He picks up concepts. He works at it, too. He studies. He takes notes. He's trying to learn. I've been impressed with that he's done and the steps he's taken in a short amount of time.
Re: last season and injuries at the receiver position
A: It had its challenges. Obviously, we had the injury bug. That happens. That's part of it. I wouldn't say it was more difficult than what anybody else had. You plug your guys in. You teach them the offense. They work at it and we play with whoever we've got on Sundays. That's just part of it.
Q: Hakeem had a very good year last year. What do you think he needs to do to take the next step?
A: I think we just have to hone in on the details of things and do the little things. I'm talking about body language, that the quarterback knows exactly where he's going to be. He's a big play guy. He's going to stretch the field. He's dynamic with the ball in his hands. We just have to keep getting him down and continue to hone his route running and precision in those areas. But, that's it. He's a talented, talented wide receiver.
Q: What do you think the two long touchdowns at the end of the year did to boost Mario's confidence?
A: Obviously it grows his confidence. He's a dangerous guy out there. He knows that now. He's proven it and he's proven it against good teams – Green Bay and at the end of the year Washington. He made some huge plays for us. It definitely helps his confidence. We're just looking to grow on that.
Q: Victor caught fire this time last year. How would you say he's playing now?
A: I think he's playing well. I think, obviously, he's a year now advanced in understanding the offense. He doesn't have to think as much. He can rely on his ability and just play. I think you see that. He looks faster. He looks quicker. I think it's because he has to do less thinking. I've been impressed with it so far in the first three days.
Q: How hard is it for you with no mini-camp, no OTAs to install the things you need to install and get these players on the line?A: You start with the foundation, regardless of when it is, and the base of the offense. Then you build on it. There's probably more going in than there would be. Time becomes an issue. Again, its building blocks. You start at the foundation and just keep going. It's been a normal progression for us – maybe a little bit more volume. But, in terms of that, a normal progression.
Q: You're not doing things now that are like boy, we did this on May 5 normally and now we have to play catch up?
A: I haven't really thought about it, to be honest with you. Not an issue anymore, we're going.
**S Coach Dave Merritt
Q: Last year we talked about not tackling in camp and needing to practice tackling before the season started. Now they're barely hitting, barely practicing, what does that mean?
A: Well you know what, you're still going to have to teach the fundamentals of how you're supposed to tackle whether you're in pads or you're not in pads. Really, it goes back to teaching these guys exactly the way I taught them last year. I would love to have more tackling but I played back when there were two-a-days and you tackled twice a day. Now, the game has changed with the new CBA and trying to protect the players and as a safety precaution going through each game you're going to try to cut back on a lot of the hits.
Q: Last year, the problem was wrapping guys up and getting them down, how do you even evaluate that?
A: It's hard. We have some drills that we're going to be able to do to evaluate the guys and see who can tackle and who can't. Guys like Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips, you know they can tackle but you want to get them better. So we have drills specifically tailored toward helping them get better at tackling.
Q: What about the new players, can you tell?
A: Not yet. Not just yet. Like I said there are going to be drills that are specifically tailored toward helping them learn how to tackle and then you're going to see them in the preseason games.
Q: Last year Kenny was kind of handled delicately to get him through the season. Is he out of the box now?
A: Last year Kenny was coming off of the knee injury so we were trying to go slow with Kenny as far as his progression coming back and we did. We kept him back in the post and the half-field coverage. Really, with him, coming into this year we are trying to get him down a little more and hopefully we'll be able to get he and Antrel down quite the same.
*Q: You kept the chains on him as a rookie. He comes back and plays two really good games. Then you keep the chains on him again last year. Are you excited to see more than two games with him at his full potential? *
A: I am and that's what I've told Kenny. I'm really looking forward to seeing his movement, his progression because he is going into his fourth year but as we all know he's really only going into his second year as a starter. So now we're all interested to have Kenny come out and do the things that we drafted him to do and I know that he was held back a little bit last year but at the same time now he's fully healthy and so we're looking forward to see him come out of those chains.
Q: Those were two good games when he was healthy.
A: Yes. Yes sir.
Q: What kind of things does he bring to the field?
A: Remember his rookie year versus Pittsburgh, the explosive hit along the sideline. Kenny is very explosive so with that comes along with a lot of responsibility making sure he can do a couple of things that are going to be able to help us out in our defense. Be a disguise, getting in the box and playing deep. We're just looking forward to seeing his athletic ability come out. Kenny has done a great job, I will say this already this year, of controlling the coverages. He has made the calls and he has been accurate with his calls. It's not just making a call and just whatever call you make let everybody play. He's making the proper calls. That part I'm happy to see that his growth has been well schooled over this offseason
Q: His athleticism and his range were two really good things about him. He looks a whole lot thicker this year. How much of a problem is that going to be?
A: It's not going to be a problem. He's going to be fine.
Q: You don't worry about it?
A: No. I don't worry about it at all.
Q: Can he lose the weight in time for the season?
A: In my opinion right now Kenny is at a good size and so when we start to see him in the games and then we start to evaluate we might say ok, you need to drop four or five pounds, but right now that's not a problem.
Q: We saw so much of the three safeties last year. Was that because of personnel and now you'll go back to more of a traditional safety role or do you like that and will we see more of that?
A: I loved it and that was primarily because of some of the personnel groupings where they bring out two tight ends so therefore we were able to put a third safety on the field. You guys remember Indianapolis is where we first started putting the three safeties on the field. Then after they developed in that package we just continued on with it. Really this year we're looking for that third safety.
Q: So did you run it because you had the third starter in Deon Grant or because you actually liked it?
A: No, we actually developed that package so we could get our best personnel matchups. Deon understood last year when he was in there that he was a backup. Add in the fact that he has played a lot of football and therefore we started increasing that package to different personnel groupings so then we started playing it against everything. We may not or may be able to do it this year, depends on if we can find that third guy. Terrell Thomas can go inside as we've all seen before and he can play that Bison or that third safety spot and all the mental gymnastics that come along with that spot.
Q: You mentioned Deon and you also mentioned Kenny's increased awareness. Do you think Deon helped that last year?
A: Big time. Plus this offseason, one of the things that Kenny and I did was, I made a DVD for him that allows him to be able to watch some of the plays with my voice overlays and therefore he has a better understanding of where we would like for him to be in the middle of the field, where we would like for him to read in the middle of the field versus the half. So with him watching the film and with him going and actually applying it physically, then he's coming out here and he's doing it.
Q: You only did that for Kenny?
A: No. Antrel had the same thing. So basically, the end of the season evaluations were able to help them out a little bit.
*Q: Was that your way around the lockout and not being able to talk to them? *
A: No this happened way before the lockout. So these guys had an opportunity to hear my voice on tape and hopefully that's paying off now.
Q: You mentioned Terrell, is anyone else catching your eye?
A: Right now Terrell Thomas is the one. I'm not going to give too much credit to the rookies right now. There are some rookies that we're looking at and hopefully they can step up, be it at the linebacker position or at the safety position with Sash but right now it's Terrell Thomas that we see fitting and helping us with those particular packages.
Q: Then would you have Aaron Ross in there too?
A: That's Coach Fewell's decision but at the same time hopefully we can get all of our DB's on the field. We still have the Prince that's out there. If you guys see him, make sure you tell him to call us. We'd love to see him here.
Q: I guess I'm saying instead of having that third safety now that Deon's not here, could you put a CB there.
A: Yes and that's what we'd do with Terrell Thomas.
Q: So Antrel would stay as the blitzer?
A: It depends. Not to give away all of our secrets, it depends.
Q: So he may not even play that same roll he may go back to cover?
A: Exactly. That is on Coach Fewell but just know that Antrel will be down and back deep jus as well as Kenny. Not having that third safety that we can depend on such as Deon, because we had a lot of things for him last year, we have to develop that next guy and who is that next guy?
Q: Since Prince is not here and he has missed so much time and those packages involve so many different factors, how much can you expect to get from him?
A: You really can't expect him to do much more than just line up outside possibly as a corner and say hey we're playing third, we're playing man-to-man and so with Prince not being here yeah, the learning curve is going to be crisp and fast for him when he gets back in here. How much can you expect? You can't expect too much from him because once he gets here we'll start to bring him along just like all the other guys because we haven't see any of those guys. You all know that. With the lockout, missing OTA's, missing all the minicamps; all these guys are in the same boat. The veterans that showed up here last year such as Antrel, now all of a sudden he's going into his second year, all the coaching that we could've developed in the offseason, we didn't have that time. So now he's coming in here and he's having to pick right up from where we left off at the end of the season.
Q: How much of what Prince did at Nebraska will translate to what you might want him to do?
A: It does and Coach Pete might be able to answer that a little bit more in detail but the kid is a very athletic young man and once he fell to us at that position we said wow this is a surprise. So getting him is going to be a big help.
Q: What percentage would you say does Antrel play back as a normal safety and how much do you guys use him up front?
A: Antrel, as we all know, came out of college as a cornerback and then they transitioned that kid to go from cornerback to safety. So Antrel, for us when he came here, he probably played down 60 or 70 percent of the time. I'd say roughly around 60 percent and so with his transition to come down and learn the linebacker skills as far as reading, he had to learn all that. Not necessarily on the fly but I had to teach him the gap schemes, had to teach him the zone schemes and he picked it up rather quickly so I was excited to see that he was able to pick it up.
Q: Do you think that percentage will be lower this year?
A: I really don't know. We're still trying to gel and find out who we're going to put where. So right now these guys have multiple roles and they're down and they're back.
Q: Why do you like that so much? What do the three safeties enable you to do?
A: It enables you to be able to matchup on tight ends that are really athletic. The Indianapolis tight ends are a group where they just flex out the tight end and all of a sudden he's like a wide-out. So it's nice to be able to put a safety down there so he can cover.
Q: At some positions it's extremely hard for a player to come in and contribute right away. Can a cornerback come in and go a lot on talent?
A: No, and to really answer that question fairly, when you stop and you think about the positions that are created in the NFL, for a young man one of the easier positions would be for him to come in as a corner. You can just tell him that he's playing a third or he's playing a half. That is a little easier than a safety coming in here that you're depending on to make all the checks and adjustments. So the corner position is a little easier.
Q: Is it the easiest on the field?
A: No, I wouldn't say that and to be honest with you, I'm going to not answer that question.
Q: You don't want to get in trouble?
A: No, because the cornerback has to learn so much as far as their techniques. How do I play this particular technique versus this formation and set? Their angling out and their particular angles are hard to learn and unless you go through a training camp, you're not learning that. So, every position is difficult but it's a little easier to have a corner come in and say ok, here we go, play man-to-man outside leverage.
Q: You didn't have minicamps. You didn't have OTA's. You guys are all at a disadvantage this year but the ones that you think might have the greatest ease-in is probably corner?
A: It's probably corner.
Q: Even more than wide-out?
A: Even more than wide-out. The playbook that we have on defense is thick and there's a lot of information that he has to learn at that position but on the offense, I can't speak for what they do over there but the routes, sight adjustments, it's different. Corner may be a little easier to learn than a wide receiver.
Q: Are you a little frustrated or annoyed that Prince is not here?
A: No, I'm not getting annoyed I'm just ready to get him in here so he can go through the learning curve of all the techniques which is the problem that I see if you miss all of camp. You need to get in here and get the fundamentals down how we do things here.
Q: So when they put the pads on tonight what are you looking for?
A: I'm looking to see some guys fly around and hit. I'm looking for physicality tonight. Let's get some physical play.
Q: As a coach, with the new practice times, what's the biggest challenge with this new schedule?
A: For us the challenge is mentally keeping the guys into it when you're in that meeting room. Because as a former player, sitting in those meetings is tough. Although you're in the AC and it feels nice but mentally trying to keep the guys focused for a two hour meeting, you've got to make sure you do a good job of changing it up. So that's the biggest challenge is keeping them focused.
Q: Do you think the lack of two-a-days will impact the season?
A: You know what, it's uncharted territory so really I could sit up here and tell you I think it's going to be injuries or I can say it's going to be this, I don't know. I really don't know. We're all going to find out.
Q: Do you think that Tyler Sash could play a role in helping the defense out?
A: I do and I know that Sash is a physical kid and so getting him in the round that we selected him, I had Tyler pretty high on my list and I was excited that we were able to pull the trigger and get him here. He's a physical young man and I'm just looking to see Tyler continue to improve on his angles out of the post because he didn't play much of that. He played quarters at Iowa. I'm just looking to see him playing back deep and then be able to drive off the quarterback at the proper angle. I know he can come down and play in the box and hit. I've seen that. Not necessarily on this level but I'm looking to see him more so in the pass skill position and his drive angle to the ball.
Q: He came up from that spot the other night on a run play and you guys were all excited. Is that the kind of stuff that you're looking for?
A: That's the kind of stuff that you're looking for and hopefully more of that will be flashing as we go forth. Look for that same play about three and a half quarters into the first game. As a rookie you know his tongue is going to be out.
**LB Zak DeOssie
Q: Is there a reason why August 4th was thrown out there as the date?
A: You have a free agent market and it was fairly narrow this year, so that gives enough time for teams to figure out who they have and what needs they have coming into training camp. It was a good window for everyone to get situated, for free agents to get settled, but also for us to have some time to get this deal right.
Q: If this isn't agreed upon and signed by tomorrow, will players come to work on Friday?
A: Yes, because the free agents will remain on the sidelines, remain at all of the meetings, just as it is now, but I can't see it going any further than a couple of days. But this is all speculation and again it's a deadline, albeit a soft deadline, but both sides have a vested interest in getting this deal done as soon as possible and it looks great.
Q: What was your level of involvement with the talks?
A: I was the third string rep as you would look at it. Shaun O'Hara took the reins as our rep for the New York Giants. And then there was Kareem McKenzie. But Shaun and I were down there for the annual meetings in [Florida]. This is my first year as a rep, but a good year to come in and get thrown into the fire. I learned a lot about the business side that I never knew about. It was a good experience.
Q: Has there been any hiccups up until this point in the last year?
A: No. We're negotiating, that's all. Everything we negotiated is a hiccup. We're just trying to meet in the middle somewhere and get this deal done. Again, everyone has their vested interest and everyone's best interest at heart. We look forward to tonight.
Q: Who is the rep now?
A: Kareem [McKenzie] is the official rep now that Shaun [O'Hara] is gone and I am a second stringer. We'll re-vote and there's one rep and the alternate, that's how it works. Hopefully I'm still voted as one of the reps.
Q: What were you working on in this CBA?
A: I don't have enough time to sit here and tell you, I have to go eat lunch. There's a couple of things that we're working on and basically the major hiccup is just working on the benefits and making sure we meet in the middle somewhere there. We've always had great benefits. Obviously, inherently we would like more. You guys want the best benefits you can get and we're there. We're almost there.
Q: Re: HGH
A: It is what it is. I don't think that's a hiccup at all. It's going to come into play, in who knows when, but I don't think that's what's stalling this right now.
Q: How do the players vote?
A: The rep for each team.
Q: It's just the rep there, making the vote?
A: Exactly. We'll collect the information from what they say in the deal and we'll vote. We have our guys down there working for us and they tell us when it's a good deal or not a good deal and make sure they give us all of the points and then we move forward and make a phone call.
Q: Re: Osi Umenyiora
A: I think it's a matter of circumstances. I don't think you'll see that in years to come. It's just how everything panned out this year and he has his motives. We wish the best of him. It is what it is. It's just where it stands this year. It's an awkward year with free agency and that's how it panned out.
Q: Do your teammates vote?
A: We do. We take an essential poll. It's a yes or no. We go through all of the points and if anyone has any questions we hash it out and move on.
Q: Are you surprised that contracts not being guaranteed wasn't more of an issue during the CBA negotiations?
A: We try and work our leverage with every new CBA deal on how contracts work out and we are where we are and we get the best deal we can leverage. The fact of the matter is that we choose to play this game and choose to sign on the dotted line. Whether you wait for free agency or sign for peace of mind, whatever your reasons might be, you signed the deal. But again, if you play well enough that you deserve more money, you have all the right to do whatever it is you feel the need to do to get that money. When push comes to shove, we're in the highest earning potential of our lives, most of us, and you have to make the most of it. It's completely justified.