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Safeties Coach David Merritt

Q: How do things change or not change with Kenny [Phillips, Safety] on hold for a little while?

A: They haven't changed. Right now we're just waiting for him to come back and hopefully whenever he comes back he's going to be full speed but everything is still the same as we expected so his progress is exactly where we wanted it to be and so when he gets out there and runs around then we'll be able to see a little more.

Q: You open up camp with two new safeties, either of whom could start, that's pretty rare…

A: Yeah it is but you know the thing is that having Deon Grant here, which is a tremendous veteran for us to have in the locker room as well as on the field, that is huge, because he's played a lot of football and I know that he's going to bring a lot to the table, and of course Antrelle Rolle is very athletic, as we all know, and just going into the position, he's a former cornerback and now he's playing safety for his third year, I think, coming up so to have two new safeties, you're right, it is rare, but I'm excited about the fact that we have two veterans that can really go in and they've played a lot of football. Both of them have played in the Super Bowl. Deon played in one with Seattle and, of course, Rolle played one with Arizona so that speaks a lot.

Q: How much are you looking to these guys to be leaders? They're new to the team obviously, but…

A: They actually started out in the spring and really when Deon came into my office the first day I sat him down and I asked him, I said, "Deon, I need you to be the leader that we need in the locker room first." Because I knew he was going to be a leader on the field but in the locker room is where you need it because that's where coaches don't really go into. That's their private space. I remember as a former player I rarely saw Buddy Ryan and Don Shula in the locker room shaking hands or really sitting down and talking to players so I asked Deon to be that coach for us in the locker room, so his leadership started back in the spring.

Q: What about Antrel [Rolle, Saftey]

A: Same thing, same thing. I had the same conversation.

Q: Both those guys are talkers, do you already know them?

A: Oh ,the energy that they bring to the table is just uncanny. Just the fact that they're always smiling and, just like you said, Antrelle is from Miami and so a lot of those guys talk a lot but that's the swagger that we need and he's bringing that to the table, which is much needed so they're definitely talking.

Q: With losing Antonio Pierce and that presence on the defense – the personality, the leadership – do you think that Antrell [Rolle] might fall into that a little bit?

A: I do, I do. He and Deon [Grant] together. Again, we have two veteran safeties that are guys that have played a lot of football and at the same time they're going to demand respect by their play as well as vocally. Antonio Pierce did the same thing before, but now, in order to have a championship, in my opinion – when we won it in '07, you had Michael Strahan on the defensive line. He controlled that room. Antonio Pierce was right there with the linebackers. He controlled that room. And then on the back end you had the Sam Madisons and the James Butlers that controlled the DBs. Well I think we're back to that now. Bringing in Bulluck here, I mean that was a big signing for us in my opinion. And then you have the Deon Grant and Antrell Rolle on the back end and then up front, you know, we're putting a lot on Tuck's and Canty's shoulders and those guys to be leaders and I think it's going to help us tremendously.

Q: Are they kind of playing for a starting spot?

A: By all means. One thing that these guys will tell you, one thing that I've always said to all my guys is that you're all starters, so I don't want anybody to think that, well I'm a second team or third team guy. You have to prepare as a starter. Again, I go back to the past and just referring to when I had two rookies that played for me in a game down in Philly and I told them all year long, you have to be ready when your name is called and you have to study like a starter. So, as far as Deon playing for a starting spot, they're all starters, and really Deon right now, he is a starter. Kenny Phillips, when he comes back, he's got to think the same way. But the competition is what we have here that we've never had before at the safety position and losing Chad Jones was a tremendous blow, of course, but the competition and the competitiveness that we're bringing to the table is huge, but they're all starters.

Q: Given the limitations that Kenny Phillips has early on, how realistic is it to expect that a month or so into the season he'll start being the Kenny Phillips that we remember or might it take longer than that? Do you even know?

A: I really don't know. I couldn't answer that. Dr. Barnes and those guys would be able to answer that. As a football player I have to see him on the field and that's the one thing that I'm waiting on. Once I see him on the field then I can evaluate him but right now everyone is just anxious to see him move and then hopefully he can be the Kenny Phillips that we wanted him to be a year ago. But, from the medical staff, they all are stating that he will be ready to go.

Q: He was so geared up to get back and start training camp, how is he reacting to this?

A: You know what, I just saw him for the first time today at the conditioning test, when he was standing over there, so really I haven't had any conversations with him, or none of my guys in fact, so I just saw them all today at the conditioning test, so I'm just looking forward to all these guys coming back.

Q: Is there a timetable for that?

A: You know what, the medical staff would have to answer that but I really don't know. I would love for him to be on the field tomorrow but I don't think he's going to be ready for practice this afternoon or tomorrow but at the same time when he's coming back, I don't know that they have stated that it will be training camp.

Q: You must be dying just to get them on the field…

A: I am, I am, you know, I love all my guys and I'm just excited to see all those guys just to go into practice today because they have so much energy, like I said, they're bringing a lot to the field for everybody, and not just for the defensive backs group, but for everyone. Their communication is really nice.

Q: What about John Busing?

A: Love him. We had him here in the spring and John, he's a veteran, and to get John back in here, he's going to compete for a spot. Mark my words on that. He is a guy that is a special teams player and he knows his role. And when you have players who know their role and know that, okay, this is why I'm here, I'm going to be the best at that, then the sky is the limit for what we can do, because it's not like you're having to try to please everybody. He understands his role. There are some guys that you have to try to cater to and make sure you keep them mentally into it, but a guy like John Busing, he understands his role and I am very excited to have him back.

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