(How did you guys look after the week off?)
Our football team is healthier. It was good to get outside today and practice in pads. We were able to do a number of fundamental drills, had some individual work with the offense and defense. We had a chance to walk through some things on special teams. Our focus was on normal down-and-distance for the Minnesota Vikings, so it was great to get back at it and we're healthier. There is nothing like practicing outside; it was a beautiful day.
(Can you talk about the move of Tauscher to injured reserve?)
Mark Tauscher to IR is clearly a medical decision. Obviously Mark suffered a significant injury I don't recall exactly which week. We went through a week or so of opinions. He made a lot of progress week to week, pretty much practicing with the harness. Without getting into the intricacies, we were trying to do more and more each week. It just got to a point where it was in Mark's best interests to have the surgery, and then from a big-picture standpoint, the opportunity to bring back Spencer Havner was the personnel decision we made. I don't think we would have been able to get Mark to the point where he would have been able to play with the harness with the things involved, the way he does play and the fact that it is his right shoulder as opposed to his left shoulder. But he made a lot of progress. You give Mark a ton of credit for trying to play with the injury. Some people are not able to do that. He gave it a go. He is also going to still be a big part of our football team. We have asked him to stay a part of it in the meetings and travel with the team and so forth. That is not always the case with individuals that are on IR or PUP. Everybody is a little different, but Mark Tauscher is still a big part of our football team.
(So he had the surgery?)
I think he is scheduled for tomorrow. That hasn't been finalized yet.
(Did he think he could play with it?)
This was clearly a medical decision. Obviously Dr. McKenzie and Mark have a long history together, Ted Thompson. This was a conversation that goes on weekly. Like I have stated, he made progress, but we just felt to the point that No. 1, it was in Mark's best interest to have the surgery and then with our specific situation as far as moving forward with the roster.
(Do you lose anything not having a guy like him or Al Harris on the 53 in terms of their experience?)
It's part of the game. I had an opportunity to talk to Al today. Al Harris has played over a 100-plus games. Mark has had a tremendous career here. They bring so much experience, both to the field and to the locker room. Yes, that's part of it, but it's also the path of our season. Injuries do occur, decisions are made, and we're always going to operate and do what is in the best interests of the Green Bay Packers from the chairs that we sit in. But Al Harris and Mark Tauscher have been excellent Packers and we appreciate that, but at some point careers do come to an end and you move on and you appreciate what they have done. Mark will continue to do so and be a part of our football team.
(Did you seek Al out or call him today?)
Just as far as the communication, we did not have a chance to talk to each other, but I had a chance to talk last week. I don't want to get into all of the personal part of it, but Al is doing fine and I know they are excited about having him in Miami. Like I said last week, I wish Al nothing but the best.
(Is Driver one of those guys that is still questionable coming off of the bye?)
Donald was absent today on a personal matter. He will be either back in town late tonight or tomorrow. He was excused for a personal matter.
(Do you have an update on him?)
I do not have an update on Donald as far as him medically. We'll have all of that information for you Wednesday.
(You guys have been pretty good (3-1) coming out of the bye. What is the biggest challenge there?)
We may be 3-1, but there is no secret to it. Every year is different, and this year has definitely been a different challenge for us. We needed this bye. We do want to pick up where we left off as far as winning. That's the most important thing, don't get me wrong, I'm stating the obvious here. But more importantly, we need to improve. So the opportunity to practice in pads today, the opportunity to practice the right way, to have a pretty healthy football team to me has always been the focus coming out of the bye. It's about winning games, it's about improving. You've got to play your best football in November and December. That's always been our plan, which I am sure is everybody's plan, but that's the way we'll structure our practices.
(Are Quarless and Pat Lee full-go?)
Not quite, but Pat looked good today. He practiced today and Andrew, we're just being smart with him.
(During the time off, as coaches do you spend a lot of time experimenting with new things and is there a challenge not to do too much of that?)
I think it is very important to be extremely critical of yourself, and we have done that. We have gone through the first nine games. You'll see some adjustments as we move forward. You may notice them, you may not. We have been very much in tune with the personnel groups we are using, how we are using people, how we can better use them as we go down the stretch. It's a challenge when you have a healthy team to get your inactive list in order, and that will be a challenge this week going from 53 to 45. Those are the challenges you want, but we're just going to make sure we are using everybody the best that we can, whether it is certain individuals in different personnel groups where we haven't used them before and so forth. This time was very good for us coaches.
(Generally speaking, what were you most critical of yourself in?)
Just more scheme things. I read our profile to the team today, what we look like to the rest of the league as far as where we rank statistically, but more importantly, how we can improve in those areas. Statistics to me are excellent barometers to look at a certain area and break it down and apply it appropriately. You can overreact to statistics. It's not that we don't look at them. We look at all of that stuff weekly, but we just had a little more time to break down the film and really apply it to our game-planning. Just more schematic adjustments I would say.
(When the Jets had their bye, they game-planned against themselves. Do you go to that extreme?)
I think I've already said that. We do a profile. We have a profile of our offense, of our defense, of our special teams. To answer your question, yes.
(I'd never heard that term before – profile …)
We self-scouted ourselves. It's our profile. How we would assume people would look at us.
(With Havner back and the linebackers you added a couple of weeks ago, are your special teams as good as they've been in a while?)
Our profile on special teams is we've been up and down, and the biggest challenge that we've had as a football team because of the number of personnel changes has directly hit on special teams. The thing we're going to fight for is consistency in our special teams units. That's the first thing we need to improve, because there's times where our kickoff coverage is excellent, and that's reflected by how many times we've stopped them inside the 20. But then we've also had I think four kicks come out crossing the minus-40. The consistency is really the No. 1 focus for special teams.
(From a health perspective, were there any guys that have been playing the whole time but have been playing hurt and really benefited from the bye, maybe Woodson?)
I think you could say that for a lot of your players. I know we have an injury report that's very important, and you put it out there. But they've all got bumps and bruises. To have gone through a season and having a bye week at Week 9, in hindsight, that's a challenge. To play nine straight games before having a bye, I think any team that plays that long without a bye would be beat up, and we definitely fell in that category. So our whole football team benefited from it
(You had it pretty early last year, right?)
(If you had your druthers, what's the optimal time for a bye?)
I'd say six games. I think six games into it. Six or seven.
(So then you'd have to play nine in a row to end the season and then playoffs?)
Yeah, but there's nothing like November and December football. I think this is what it's all about. This is what you come together in March and prepare for. Everything we want to accomplish is right in front of us. We have to win our division games. The ones on the road are always the toughest, and that will be the case in Minnesota on Sunday.
(So it's tough to wait that long for a bye, but maybe there's some value in getting through it?)
Yeah, I feel a lot better than I did here last week. I would say there's value in that, yes.
(Where does Ryan Pickett stand this week?)
Hopeful to practice on Thursday. That's the early plan for Ryan.
(How can Starks help you?)
He's a talented young man, there's no question, if you've had a chance to watch him the last three weeks. He had the No. 28 jersey on, and he looked dang good in it today. He's a big, physical, athletic runner. He's got a lot to learn. He needs the details of the little work, the little things that you get into in the team periods. I think we had 24 plays of the opponent team, and he may have ran the ball on 18 of them, and that's exactly what he needs, because that's what he missed. He missed a big part of the spring, he missed all of training camp. He's missed a lot of football.
(Because of all that time he missed, is it important to get a look at him now?)
His look's over. He's on the 53. He's competing to play. I'm not looking at him. He's one of our 53. He needs to get ready to play, and that's what all 53 players look for, an opportunity to compete during the week. We do it in our Tuesday meetings normally in a normal week, we stack the board, how you get from 53 to 45, this player is competing against that player. Special teams is usually the tiebreaker. He needs to compete to get up on the field on Sundays.
(How's Matthews' health?)
He's about the same. He's about the same. You're not going to wait until Wednesday for that report I guess, huh?
(Is Charlie creating one of those good problems to have as a coach at safety? It doesn't look like he's going to give up his spot to Atari without a fight.)
I agree with your opinion. Charlie has played the best football Charlie Peprah has played as a Green Bay Packer, and that's exciting. He's done a very good job. He's an excellent communicator. He's done a very good job down around the box. He's tackling better than I've seen him tackle. He's had a chance to get healthy. He was banged up in the beginning of the season. He's played very well for us the last three or four weeks.
(You're going to be in domes the next two weeks. Why practice outside?)
My goodness, practice inside I should be outside. Now I go outside, I should be inside. You sound like the players. We're going to be in domes actually three out of the next four weeks, if you want to get technical. But there's nothing like fresh air, there's nothing like playing on grass. We'll be inside plenty this week. We'll practice at least twice inside. I don't ever question that. I'm more concerned about, not the surface, the crowd noise inside. When you work the crowd noise in the Hutson Center as opposed to outside, it's significantly different. But we'll make sure we have plenty of periods to get that done.
(So does an NFL head coach watch NFL games on Sunday when he's got the bye or does he spend time with his family?)
Well, I watched one game this Sunday, yeah.
(You'll get the film obviously, but you watch it somewhat closely?)
Yeah, there's things you can pick up off of TV. The film didn't get here until late last night, and I watched it again this morning. But I did watch the Chicago-Minnesota game, and anytime there's a Sunday night game or a Monday night game that you have an upcoming opponent on, I'm sure to watch that.
(Did the Vikings look a lot different than they did a month ago when you played them here?)
Well, they look … they're a different team in my opinion on grass than they are on turf. I think playing up in the dome is a really big advantage for them with the crowd noise. I thought schematically how they're playing, they're doing a lot of similar things.
(You put a lot of value in your halfbacks pass-blocking. How is Starks at pass-blocking, and can you even know until a game situation?)
Well, you do the best you can in your practice structure. But I agree with the point you're trying to make. There's a significant difference between practice and games. But he doesn't lack for anything physically. I'll say that about him. And Edgar Bennett is an excellent teacher, and we'll continue to work with him before and after practice to get him ready.