Q: It doesn't seem that long ago that we were all worried whether Kevin (Boss) could replace Jeremy (Shockey). Now, we have to worry about who's going to replace Kevin.
A: That seems so long ago now, I can't even recall. Thankfully you forget some of those things. But this is a part of the NFL. There's change. The rules approve it. The salary cap approves it. It's just something you have to live with. We train these guys and they move on then you bring the next group in and train them. That's what John Mara and the Tisch family pay us for.
Q: Do you have somebody in camp right now that can do all the things Kevin can do?
A: I don't know the answer for that just yet. We need to get them in the games. Playing against people that you know pretty well you doesn't get the same amount of physical activity and so forth that you're going to get in the game. I think it's going to take us a couple of games before we can answer that question.
Q: A couple of preseason games or regular season?
A: Hopefully preseason.
Q: Can Travis Beckum play tight end the way you would like?
A: He's disadvantaged because he weighs about 235 pounds. Most all of the guys that he's going to block at that position – his effort is going to be there, he's going to try, but the laws of science come into play. The bigger mass generally over the period of a three-hour game is going to win. He would wear down. It isn't our plan to use him like that on a regular basis like we might use a regular tight end. We will have to involve him there. We can't put a flag up that every time he runs in the game it's going to be a pass. He's done that for us. He did that last year for us. He blocked probably a little bit more from a space position which is where he played in college. His size – there's wide receivers in this game almost his size. We have to be smart in the way that we employ him. We can't ask him to do things that he can't physically do. He can try as hard as he can, but if he's getting overpowered by a much bigger man, then we'll try as best we can to keep him out of those situations.
Q: What's the alternative?
A: You use him in the slot. You use him to hold off the back side. You use him as a lead blocker. You use him as a pass receiver out in the back field. We'll have ways. They just can't determine that it's obviously going to be a pass. He blocked very well last year from that slot position in our running game. We were pretty well balanced. We kept a very close chart last year on how many times he was in the game and how many times we passed the ball and how many times we ran the ball. He did a very good job for us in those run situations. Then he was flawless when we threw the ball to him. He didn't drop a pass the whole time that we threw the ball to him.
Q: How are the other guys doing – Ballard and Bear?A: Still a little bit early to tell. I think they're trying. They're trying to develop this technique that we teach here, but it doesn't happen overnight. What we have to be able to do at our position – this is not new knowledge – is go 40 yards on a screen pass one play and you have to block a Julius Peppers type player the next, or a Ware or Spencer or somebody. The thing they have to be able to do is develop a technique that will work for them when they get all different sized players to block. Some guys are very, very quick. They have to develop a technique that will give them a chance there. Some of them just try to overpower. That technique is a little bit unique and it's going to take awhile for them to be good at that. I think it could be well into the preseason before we know if either one is going to be good at doing that or good enough to do that that we can maintain the majority of our offense from the past.
Q: How were you planning to use Ben Patrick?
A: I have no idea. He was here one day and gone, so I have no idea what we would have done with him. I never really saw enough. He didn't know enough of our offense to determine what positions he could play and what we could ask him to do.
Q: Is it conceivable that your starting tight end is in somebody else's camp now?
A: I don't know that. The salary cap now determines… Any veteran that you get that's been out there for awhile is going to be expensive. Can you afford to do that or not? In a perfect world you'd like to be able to do that. I'm not up to date enough on where the salary cap change has made. Should I be looking at other players that might be? Not yet. It could happen, but I don't think there's a design right now for it to happen. Something would have to occur that would be irregular. Somebody just had too many guys and let someone go or whatever.
Q: How tough was taking Kevin's call?
A: It was difficult. Some players just because of the human beings they are you get a little bit more attached to. It doesn't mean that you don't have good feelings about the other guys. You coach them all the same. You push them all the same. He came from Philomath, Oregon. Not disrespectful to the people in Oregon, but you can't even find his town without four modes of transportation. Come from there to where he ends up right now, you've got to be proud of him and happy for him in that aspect. He really did make himself into a player and he made himself into a valuable player to us and to other teams. That's the part of free agency that's difficult for us to swallow as coaches. But, it's happened. We'll stay in touch as best we can along the way. I think we'll always have a good bond like I have had with Jeremy and with Ben Coates and all those guys going all the way back, Bavaro, all of them. You stay in touch with them, but with the time and space that's involved with getting your team ready for next week you're not pen pals.