Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 3

(How's Clifton recovering from the hamstring?)

Chad Clifton practiced today in a limited fashion, and we'll probably take the week. I'm not sure if Chad will go this week.

(You've talked a lot about the shifting around and getting some continuity. Would it be a setback if you didn't have him, or with Lang do you feel better about that situation?)

We've had some opportunity to play a number of different players on the offensive line, and we'll continue to work our way through it. I definitely feel that T.J. Lang has had an opportunity to play more at the left tackle, so that will definitely help him, with him taking the reps over there today. The unfortunate is you still have injuries, and you have to fight through them. But the reality is we've had an opportunity to work a bunch of different combinations, so I think that will definitely help us as we move forward.

(How did you feel practice went? Did the guys seem fresh from the time off?)

It was a good Wednesday structure, practice. I know today is Thursday but it's a Wednesday on our clock. I thought the practice was a good solid practice. It will probably look better on film than some of the segments that we had to re-do on the practice field. It was more getting the proper blitz look from the opponent group, and making sure we're giving our defense the proper look from the offensive standpoint. They do a number of different things personnel-wise with unbalanced formations, so as we work through the week, it's opponent for both sides of the ball to get the proper looks.

(Have you found this year it's easier to scout against a 3-4 team because you run a similar system?)

I think it's two-fold. Playing a 3-4 this year is number one, we've done a lot more of it, whether practicing against our defense and also the number of opponents this year that we've played that run the 3-4. This is the most 3-4 that I Think I've ever competed against in one season, so with that we feel we're definitely more rehearsed in the number of things that change with a 3-4 defense. But I'll say this about the 3-4 defense - it's no different than a four-man line defense - everybody does it a little differently. Baltimore is their own animal as far as the way the 3-4 is played. To have an opportunity to look at Baltimore starting in the offseason, that was one of the teams I evaluated when I made the change to the 3-4. They're distinctly different than Cleveland and some of the 3-4 teams we've played here in the past.

(What are some of those differences?)

Just how they call the game, how they utilize their players.

(What kind of weapon is Rice?)

I think he's a very explosive player. His quickness, his ability to accelerate the crease in the run game and be very productive on the second level, whether he's running it or catching the football, that's something that jumps off the film at you.

(Is he a hard guy to bring down?)

I think his body type dictates that definitely. He breaks tackles and that's probably what I'm referring to as far as his explosiveness, when he hits the crease and gets to the second level.

(Do you think the Ravens defense is still an elite defense, and what makes it such?)

I definitely think they're definitely one of the top defenses. We talked about their statistics this morning and how we'll approach playing against them. You definitely have a lot of respect. It was built the way I look at offense. I think it was built very strong down the middle, starting up front with their defensive line, through their linebackers and up through their safeties. They have a number of premiere players. There's a lot of experience on that defense. You watch the way Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and the guys that have been in that system, the comfort level that they have, the ability to jump concepts, whether it's pattern reading or the run concepts that you see. It's very important for us to be detailed.

(Do you think you'll have Green available this week?)

Ahman practiced in a full-participation mode. He's definitely competing to be up on the 45.

(When you signed him, were injuries a concern for you?)

Well, anytime you look at an older player and you bring him into your program, there's always a concern potentially for injuries. But we feel we had a very strong history with Ahman Green and the relationship that he has with our training staff. I'm very comfortable with where he's at from a conditioning standpoint. He had a setback with the groin injury.

(How do you think Jackson has played?)

I think Brandon Jackson has improved steadily since he came back from the ankle injury in training camp. I think Brandon is doing a lot of positive things. I think his special teams play has picked up. He's always been very consistent on third down, particularly in pass protection for us. He's doing a good job on the check-downs and some of the screens, and he's had a number of big third-down conversions and has done a good job in the four-minute offense. So I'm pleased with the way Brandon has been playing.

(What are your impressions of Ray Lewis? Is he still one of the best linebackers out there?)

Without a doubt. If you look at the way he plays the game, it's hard not to notice his leadership ability. But the things I always look for when you're competing against, particularly linebackers and safeties, are their instincts and the anticipation. You can tell he's a very well-studied player. He looks like he puts a lot of time in as far as his recognition of plays and anticipating plays, anticipating the backs cutting back, recognizing blocking schemes. You may get a step on him the first time, but the repeated plays, and you see that a lot in your great, veteran players, and I think he's definitely in that category.

(The NFL has set up new guidelines for returning to action after a concussion. What are your thoughts on that?)

I think player safety, anytime you improve the ability to make the competitive environment better for the players, I'm all for that. Anytime we can do positive things from a policy standpoint or a facilities standpoint, I think it's a positive for player safety.

(How hard is it to diagnose something like that during a game and know that the player is being honest with you?)

That's why we have a medical staff. I trust the people that work for the Green Bay Packers and the roles that they're in. It's all about communication and so forth. I trust the process that we have in place.

(It's December and you're going to play three physical teams. How confident are you your team is up to that physical challenge?)

We're up to the challenge to win football games. Obviously playing physical is a very important part of that. It's important for us to play great defense, particularly starting here at home with the Baltimore Ravens, and make sure that we score more points than they do. Now, physical football, December football, that's definitely part of it. Everybody wants to talk about the run game. Yeah, that's a pretty good indicator. But we're going to do whatever it takes from a football standpoint to win games in December, and I am very confident in our style of play and how we utilize our players.

(With these three games coming up, is it a test of the toughness of your football team to go up against teams that have won some playoff games?)

Definitely, if you want to talk about reputation, but every year is a new year. We're a football team that is 7-4. We're focused on winning games and we're focused on improving. So we want to be as physical as we possibly can and it's never physical enough as far as the way we train our players and the way they expect to play. We're looking forward to this one on Monday night.

{sportsad300}(You're 4-for-9 in the red zone the past two games and around 50 percent for the season. Are you satisfied with your red-zone offense?)

Red-zone offense is something that our ranking has not been where it has been. Those are really for post-season conversations. Yes, we want to score touchdowns every time we get down there. We feel we're fully capable of doing that, but we've scored a lot of points this year. Our ranking is I think No. 6 in the league. But statistics to me, and I've talked about this before, you have statistics that are barometers, I actually talked about it with the team today, and you've got statistics that are absolutes. The only important statistic right now is wins, how many wins do you have. Now, red zone, like you have stated with your statistic, yes, it throws a flag up and we look at it and we know why it happened and we'll continue to work on those types of things so we'll make sure we're doing a better job in the future.

(Woodson was named player of the month for a second time. How has he been able to step up his game at this stage of his career?)

No. 1, particularly players like Charles, once you get over that 10-year mark, I think it's a huge credit to the individual to take care of their bodies the way that they do. For him physically to still be able to go out and play corner and then jump in and play nickel, play dime, play safety, that says a lot about his experience and his intelligence and the uniqueness to be able to anticipate and play from different angles. No. 1, he does a great job of taking care of his body. We help him with the schedule. But he is playing at an extremely high level. I don't think I have ever been around a defensive player that has been as productive as he has been through the first 11 games of the season, and we'll definitely lean on him as we go down the stretch. But he is having a big-time season, without a doubt.

(Are you comfortable with Chillar being able to play?)

I think we are getting more and more comfortable as he is getting more comfortable. I don't know if you noticed that the cast is getting smaller. They are working different types of braces and things inside of the cast just to try to get him more comfortable and more confident with it. So as that goes; he wants to play more, there is no doubt about it. He was playing at a very high level before he was injured, but we are definitely working through that.

(As the weather gets colder, do special teams concern you with Kapinos' punting and Crosby being erratic?)

I think just our whole football team, the ball security is something we have done very well. Handling the football from a skill position, whether it's a punter, kicker, quarterback, wide receiver, is definitely something that you always increase the focus on when you get to this time of the year. I mean 20-25 degrees, we practiced outside today. I don't really consider that cold. I thought today was a beautiful day to play football, and from my understanding this will be very similar to what we play in Monday night. So I don't really think we have hit that point where I am as concerned about the ball. They live in it, we practice in it, so it should be a benefit to us.

(Do the Ravens' special teams reflect that their coach was a special teams coach?)

I think definitely the special teams is a positive of their football team. They play with excellent speed and tempo. We have compared them in some ways to the group we just played in the Dallas Cowboys. I thought there were some similarities in how they play and what they do. This will be an excellent challenge for our special teams group.

(Kampman has not been placed on IR. Is there some hope that he can come back if you make the playoffs?)

There are some procedural things that really I don't know if Ted would even comment on, but Aaron Kampman is going to have surgery this week. He will not be back this season.

(You wanted the run defense to improve with the 3-4, and it has. Can you point to two or three things that have clicked there to help you be so good against the run?)

Run defense, whether it's 3-4 or 4-3, there is carryover to it. We went to the 3-4 defense more to get more improvement in the run game. There was a personnel decision involved in that. It was a utilization of our players. It gave us more flexibility. You can see just in what we have done with Charles Woodson, particularly in our sub packages. Frankly the way we have been playing, we have been playing more sub than base this year anyways. Obviously our opponent dictates that. The run defense and the emphasis we have put on it, our players have responded very well. They are doing an excellent job of playing the techniques, particularly when we have a heavy run call, and winning the down on first down. I think we are first in the league in winning the down on first down. That's a big part of it, whether they are running it or throwing it. But I'm very pleased with the run defense at this point.

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