(How serious was Blackmon’s knee injury that you felt like you couldn’t keep him?)
He is feeling better now. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to compete at the level he normally competes at because of that. But I talked to him yesterday and he is feeling better. It’s a tough thing to come back from all of the way.
(What did Dr. McKenzie tell you guys that made you decide he wasn’t worth waiting for?)
That’s not the point. The point was that we to get down to the 53-man roster and we base that on what we see. We felt like that was kind of holding him back.
(So he couldn’t have played the first week?)
We didn’t think so.
(When is the earliest he could return to you guys and are you open to that possibility?)
Yeah, it kind of depends on the whole thing. There are rules set up on injury settlements and things like that. It is a certain number of weeks after however much the settlement is.
(So if it is six weeks after the injury settlement time runs out, when would you be able to get him back?)
That would have something to do with the injury settlement. I am not going to get into specifics about the injury settlement.
(What is the plan going forward for your return game?)
Well, we’ll use the guys that we have got. We have a number of guys on the team that have done the returns before and we’ll try to get ready and beat Philadelphia.
(Are you making any changes to the 53 or are you claiming anyone?)
We did not claim anyone.
(Could you still make some changes?)
I can’t promise that we won’t at some point.
(Did you put any claims in and not get anyone?)
I don’t think that is your business. I am not sure that I ever comment on things…
(You commented last year. Did you claim anyone?)
I did? OK, we didn’t put any claims in. You guys could be lying to me, though. I’ll have to go back and check.
(Do you think the return game will be good enough without your most experienced guy in Blackmon?)
Yeah, I understand that. Again, we have a number of fellas that have done returns and done it pretty well. I think our special teams has been a focus all offseason. I know there were times during the preseason games where it didn’t look like we were performing well, but we think we have got a good 53-man roster and we think that leads to having pretty good special teams, so that is what we believe in.
(How did you arrive at decision to go with three fullbacks and four tight ends?)
We just felt like those fellas had earned a spot on the team. It came down to that. We like the different groups that we can put out there during the course of a game. We think being able to substitute the way we do, we think that gives us something of an edge.
(What role will
The same role that he has played. He is a very physical, dynamic lead blocker. You get in games in November and December and you want to keep the ball or get first downs or whatever, I think he is a very valuable player. I thought he played very well this preseason.
(Why was Havner the one to let go there?)
It was a very tough call, as it was with all of our guys. Spencer has played well for us. I think it is more a reflection of the play of the other four fellas that we have. We think they played very, very well and you have to get down to 53. Not an easy call at all.
(It is has been hard to see with the cast on, but can you talk about Crabtree’s receiving skills?)
He is better when he doesn’t have the cast, I will say that. Tom has come in and worked incredibly hard, competed very, very hard, even through injury. He is very well thought of on the special teams, and he is one of those guys that we felt like at the end of the day, he had earned a spot on the team.
(You said that the four tight ends you kept played very well. It looked like Quarless was up and down; did you keep him more because of potential?)
No, potential is overrated. We want to win. We want to win now. I think he struggled early in training camp. He struggled through some leg injuries, little pulls and things like that. I thought the last couple weeks of the preseason games I thought was where he started to show what he can be. We think he is a legitimate player in our league and has the potential to be a legitimate player in our league.
(You do weigh potential though against what a guy can bring right away?)
Well, you are always factoring in a lot of different things, but we think he can help us now.
(But in general, a guy like
Well sure. We want all of our players to be better two years from now.
(At some level though you have to keep guys based on potential?)
It doesn’t factor in as much as you might think.
(It looked like at least four of your guys get claimed. How hard did you try to swing some trades?)
I can’t comment specifically about what may or may not have happened with transactions today because we can’t talk about that publicly until it comes out from the league office. But we had extensive conversations ongoing for the last month with selected teams and with all teams. That’s just the way it goes. Sometimes teams just sit there and wait and sometimes you’re able to do a deal. I am uncomfortable trading players prior to the conclusion of the fourth preseason game, because what you think you might have might change based on injuries or something happening. So I’m not one of those that’s very comfortable risking this team or the success of this team just to try to get a pick by trading a player when there might be risk down the road.
(Is that a drawback after the fourth preseason game because teams think they can just wait it out?)
Right. It could be. Maybe something else has happened. All teams are in the same position. They’re trying to get down to 53 at the same time. We’ve been on that other boat. A few years ago I think we cut down to 50, knowing we were going to claim some players. But our roster was pretty good I think.
(Going the other direction, did you have any conversations about trading for a guy?)
Oh yeah. The conversations are always back and forth, depending on whether you’re trying to move a player or whether the other team is trying to move players. Normally, the conversations start out with player-for-player discussions and then you get into conversations about maybe draft picks and things like that.
(What did you think of Zombo’s camp and how do you think he can help you?)
I was very impressed with Frank. I think he competed very, very well. He had a very serious ankle injury after a few days of the start of the camp. He finished that practiced, they cut his tape off and the ankle obviously just blew up on him. I think he was back out there in a couple of days knowing that when you’re a rookie like that you can’t miss a lot of time. I was very impressed with him in that regard. He was hurting and still practicing, and that’s very admirable. But the reason he made our team is because he showed that he can play at a high level at that position. I think a lot of credit has got to go to Kevin. I think he’s done a good job and always has done a good job with his fellas. When Frank had to play a lot of the preseason games, a high percentage of plays, and we felt like he consistently made plays and hustled and showed athletic ability. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to play in a three-point stance almost your entire college career, and all of a sudden you’re playing in a two-point stance and dropping into coverage and things like that. But I think he proved that he could do that. We’re counting on him helping this team this year.
(You only kept eight linebackers; are you concerned about being a little thin there?)
There’s a trade-off. There’s always a certain number that you need at a position to make it through. Sometimes you go heavier or lighter. It’s sort of, you’re kind of robbing Peter to pay Paul. If you go a little heavier here, then you have to sacrifice here. Obviously as we’re getting down through the cut-downs, you rate the players at their positions, and then you have to rate them crossways, across positional lines. So that’s just the way it worked out.
(Did Masthay make the punting decision a little bit easier with the way he came on at the end of camp?)
He did a very good job. That was another difficult decision that we had to make. I always say it’s good that you have difficult decisions. It’s good until you have to make those difficult decisions. I thought both of those guys competed. We got an extensive, long-term look at them. We felt like Tim was ready to go, and it’s not a knock on Chris.
(Can you use one of your eight practice-squad spots on a punter?)
We’re going to be making the announcements on the practice squad, by the way, first thing tomorrow morning, because there’s things up in the air. But that’s certainly an option.
(At the shareholders meeting, you talked about having the youngest team four years running. You may have another shot this year; is that just the way it worked out?)
Quite frankly, I hadn’t even thought of it. I haven’t even figured out if we’re younger or older or what. We did have three undrafted rookies make our team, and that’s a little bit unusual. Although I was going through some stuff with Eliot Wolf upstairs, and there are some teams with more, there are some teams with less. It’s not out of the norm, really. But that skews it a little bit.
(You also said at the shareholders meeting…?)
I’ve got to quit commenting on things at the shareholders’ meeting if you guys are going to throw it back in my face.
(You said you take responsibility for the off-the-field transgressions. Did the Havner decision have anything to do with that?)
(What went into the decision to keep just two running backs?)
Again, it was kind of a numbers thing in terms of that’s just the way it worked out getting down to the 53. Again, we’ve said this before, we consider
(Did Starks’ potential availability in six weeks factor in?)
No, that didn’t factor into our 53 considerations, no.
(Are you seriously considering putting Starks on the active roster at that time considering he hasn’t been hit and played in a game in a year and a half?)
We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. That’s a fact. That’s just the way it is. It’s the darndest thing. We’re very frustrated and I know James was frustrated that he couldn’t get out there. That was the option that was available, so that’s what we took. We’ll see where we go once we get to that point.
(Are you comfortable with what you have on the defensive line? What did you see from Justin and Mike?)
Well, yeah I think the numbers are pretty close. We’re usually, in a 3-4 scheme, I think we’re at six or seven. Again, the numbers because of other positions dictated it to be six, and we feel pretty good about the guys that we have. You’re never completely comfortable, especially at positions where big people are involved because they’re hard to find. But that’s just kind of the way it worked out.
(What do you like about your linebacker group?)
I like a lot of things about them. I think they’re an athletic group. I think they play hard. I think there’s really good depth, guys that we can put in the game and continue to play. Again, the NFL is a hard business and you have attrition from time to time, and guys will miss a game and things like that. I think we can continue to play, and we have the quality of players I think that we can use the different packages that Dom likes to do. So I think it’s a pretty good group.