* (How was the tempo today?)*
Outstanding, done 15 minutes early today. I thought the tempo was excellent. We came down and got the work done that we needed to. I was pleased with the way the practice looked. We'll see how it is on film, but I thought the tempo was excellent.
(Are you getting into a regular-season mode?)
We're on a regular-season schedule. It is still a little disjointed, just to be honest with you from trying to work on a couple of different things. But regularity for our football team, I think our players have done a good job with it in the past. I'm not as concerned with getting into that mode next week. From a time-frame standpoint, we are in an in-season schedule.
(Did the offense have a better day today?)
Maybe statistically. I thought we were sharp. I thought the pass protection was good, the pickups were good. The crowd noise work was excellent; you can't do enough of that, especially going into a loud stadium, which we'll see in Philadelphia. Arrowhead is exceptionally loud. I don't know how it is going to be for the preseason game. I have never played there during the preseason. I thought all of those components working today was good for the offense.
(How convinced are you that Justin Harrell will be able to hold up?)
I just go off the information that I am given from the medical staff. I think he is getting better as far as his strength levels through training camp. I think this is very normal for someone that has had a lower back injury. He looks to be getting stronger, and now that we have been in one-a-day practices and been off the training camp schedule, I think it has really helped him.
(Do you normally have five defensive linemen active on gameday?)
Without picking the team today, if you are looking to keep score, I would say that is accurate.
(How important is that fifth guy?)
They are all important. If you are on the 45-man roster, it's very important. Whether you are playing base or sub, and it's relatively 50-50 just from a general standpoint when you are talking about snaps, but also the special-teams flexibility that you have with some of your defensive linemen having the ability to play some of our D-linemen on kickoff return, and then obviously field goals and field-goal block. Your special-teams responsibilities are important, especially when you get down to D-linemen No. 4 and 5 or the fourth and fifth receiver. All of those positions are very important to go from 53 to 45.
(How important is Thursday's game for the battle at nickel?)
Very important for that nickel group, and it's very important for a lot of players on our team. We have a number of players that are fighting to get on our 53, and it's something that we talked about today in the team meeting. Also, there are going to be a number of those players in our room that are going to be fighting for jobs on other teams. We had a very competitive roster coming into training camp and feel the same way today. Thursday night is a big night for a number of players. It is our responsibility as coaches to make sure we give them the opportunities to show what they can do.
(How do you feel the management has been for guys coming off knee surgeries like Barnett and Swain and Blackmon?)
From a planning (standpoint) and with the medical staff and how they treated each one, the individual players coming off of injury, I think they did an excellent job. We have been very patient, very cautious with those players. We don't feel we have forced any of them into a situation where they had to go too soon or too fast. We go through each individual case; it probably hasn't gone as well as everybody would like and that's just the nature of you have a major injury to a joint, particularly a knee. You take all of the precautions that you can. Every player that has had those injuries, I though their rehab through the spring and summer, they have done the best that they can. But it's been more this year it seems than the past, Pepper will have the numbers for me at the end of training camp, but we had more players on a one-a-day schedule than we have in the past and we have had more practice time missed than in the past, and that's tough when you are getting your team ready for the season because we were operating with 62 to 65 number of players sometimes for practice. That gets to be difficult.
(Are you happy with the protection Rodgers has been given?)
In the three games, I am very pleased with the performance in the protection, and we have had a good week of practice. It is good when we go competitive against our defense. It is good also when we run the cards for our defense. You just get so many quality reps from an offensive protection unit versus our defense, and working on Philadelphia, some of the things that we anticipate that they may come after us with. It's been a good week's work, but the first three games we have done a good job.
(Are you pleased with how Mike Neal has played?)
I sure am. We are very pleased with Mike Neal. Mike, I thought right away in the first preseason game, we were very happy with what he showed in base and I think he is getting even better in the sub packages. I think his inside pass rush has really picked up, and I really like the way Mike goes about his business. You are in there early in the morning and he is one of the first guys in there, eating breakfast. He brings a real blue-collar approach to work every day and you love to see that in our rookies. We have got a handful of rookies that have showed that already, so I am very pleased with that.
(How is Clifton's knee?)
Chad Clifton, it's doing better. He had some swelling yesterday but he's progressing.
(What is your concern level with Blackmon?)
Will's just going through a tough spot right now. He's coming off that knee surgery, and especially at his position, it's been tough. Will has put a lot of time into this. He had a very strong offseason, but it's probably not responding the way he would like right now.
(How is Underwood?)
Just talking with Brandon, and I also had a chance to talk with Dr. McKenzie, he's feeling better. Like I think I stated yesterday, there's history with the same shoulder, so there's a little bit of an unknown if it's existing or a new injury. We're just kind of watching him and see how he gets through the weekend.
(How about Brad Jones?)
Brad Jones, really just want to get him out here and practice, and I want to see how he feels tomorrow with the harness and everything that he's probably going to have to play with for a while. Really just looking to see what the medical report is on him in the morning.
(The Eagles took the same approach with Kevin Kolb as this team did with Rodgers. How beneficial is it for a quarterback to sit for a few years?)
It's the best way to go, in my opinion. I've had the opportunity to have the rookie play right away, and had an opportunity to train a young quarterback for three years before he's ready to play. And I've said it time and time again, I think anytime you play a young quarterback, it's not as much is he ready it's is the football team ready. You have to have components of your football team that you're able to perform at a high level of success. Because when you ask a young quarterback to go out and win week in and week out, that's very difficult to do. I think it's helped Aaron immensely. I felt that he was probably ready to play in his third year, after I think our second year here, I would say he probably would have been ready to play then. But being able to sit behind a longtime veteran, that definitely helps. It's the best way to go in my opinion if you can afford to do it.
(Are you ever sure that they can do it?)
You never know. I think that's the life of an NFL quarterback. Quarterback school is great, 7-on-7 is wonderful, team drills are good, preseason games are good. But until you have to go out and do it in the regular season and get up off the ground, week in and week out, and deal with the different schemes that defensive coordinators are going to throw at you, particularly when you're young and inexperienced, that's a huge hurdle that some guys don't get over. So you never really know until you go through a regular season.
(How important was the Dallas game in 2007 for Rodgers and the team?)
It was very important for our football team, because that was an important game. I can't recall exactly what our record was at that time, I think we were both about 10-1. But that was a game that had playoff implications on it and when I put Aaron in the game, if you recall, we didn't back off schematically. We stayed right on the call sheet, and I just told him, hey, we've got to go here, so I'm just going to keep spinning them right at him, and he did a heck of a job and gave us an opportunity almost to win the game. That was a very important day for our football team. Now for him, individually it was huge. It gave him a boost of confidence that I've been practicing, I've been preparing for an opportunity to go into a game in that climate at that point in time with a lot of things going on in the season, I thought it was huge for his confidence level.
(If you don't have Blackmon this week, will you give Chery some more opportunities?)
Yes, actually Chery will handle all kick responsibilities, both kickoff and punt in the game Thursday night. So we're going to give him a chance. You can't not be excited about his punt return in the Indianapolis game. The young man hasn't been given a whole lot of opportunity in the game, so we're going to find out.
(What have you seen from Chery?)
He can run. We saw that in his workout. We had him clocked anywhere from 4.29 to 4.32, the day he worked out for us. He has tremendous speed. There's no question about that. He plays with it in the return game, you can see that just in his time out here on the practice field and also in the game. But that's a tough situation to come into a multiple offensive scheme, come from somewhere where there's not a whole lot of carry-over terminology-wise. So it's been a tough transition for him from a playbook standpoint in the passing game and with our offense. But he's going to have a big opportunity here on special teams Thursday.