Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 31

OK, I'll start with the four injuries from the game. Will Blackmon had an irritation to his original foot injury. Junius Coston had a calf strain. He may be a couple weeks. Jason Spitz had a quad strain. We're going to need more information on Jason as we go through the week. And Ryan Grant had the stinger. He's fine. I just saw Ryan. He was coming out of the weight room. With that I'll take your questions.

(With Coston questionable now, do you feel good about Spitz being ready for the playoff game?)

I'm hopeful. Like I've stated, we're going to probably need the week to get more information on his quad. I don't know if he'll be able to go Friday's practice, but that's the next time we'll re-convene with the medical staff. He'll be in all week for treatment.

(How much pressure is on Colledge now?)

Daryn played better in the game, so that's obviously a good start, and he's always prepared as the starter. It's important for him to step up and play well just like everybody up front.

(What did the doctors think about Blackmon being ready for the playoff game?)

Right now we're just going to take the week, go through treatment, and I'm hopeful that Will will be able to go Friday. That's the information Pat gave me.

(Did you see something different from Jackson compared to earlier in the year, or was it better line play?)

I think a combination of both. I think Brandon is more comfortable now with what he's been asked to do. You can just see it in his coursework, the confidence as far as breaking tackles. He broke a number of tackles. It wasn't like the blocking was just outstanding. He broke a lot of tackles during the course of his time in there. The thing I've been really impressed with Brandon is what you can really see in his pass protection. It's just all the fundamental things that he's really done a great job of working on during the course of the year, and you can see it's really showed up in his confidence too. He's an improved player, and the run blocking is better than it clearly was at the beginning of the year.

(With the run game overall, what's the biggest difference between September and now?)

The biggest difference you'd have to say is Ryan Grant. Clearly, he's a big part of our success running the football. But there's no mistake that the run-blocking unit is playing better. The secondary is blocking better. I think by the evidence of the second-level production that we're getting in our run game, and the big runs Ryan has been able to break, you could see the big block yesterday with Ruvell Martin to secure the long touchdown run. We're playing better from a fundamental standpoint.

(What are you coaches doing this week to make best use of this time?)

We're working on the potential playoff opponent. We've just finished our prep for Seattle, and now we're working on Tampa Bay, and then by the end of the week we'll start working on the Giants and Washington. We're more focused on the Giants. Everybody understands how the playoff system works. So we're just doing all the prep work, and we'll be ready to go. We'll sit here Saturday just like everybody else and watch the game. We're just prepared for all those teams, and any unusual things that we feel we need to work on schematically, we'll build that into our practice structure Friday and Saturday, with the other focus being on fundamentals, and some of the things we feel will be important down the stretch schematically.

(Do you prepare for all those teams equally?)

Like I've stated, we've completed the Seahawks and then we'll complete Tampa Bay. That's the order we worked on. Seattle, Tampa Bay, New York Giants. So we will be completely ready for the Seahawks and Tampa by the end of the week.

(If you don't have Coston or Spitz, then you go with Colledge and who?)

If I had to do it today, probably Tony Moll. Tony went in there and played right guard yesterday and did some good things in there. Also, Barbre would be another option, playing him at left and moving Daryn over to right. Those are the kind of conversations that we had today.

(Do you have to go in with a contingency plan for practice if those guys aren't available?)

It's really no different than you do every week, especially with some of the situations we have. For instance, Chad Clifton doesn't practice on Wednesdays. Those are all situations that we have experience with. As far as Friday's and Saturday's practice, probably I'd say 40 percent of it is going to be competitive drills. The offense versus the defense. I'm more interested in the fundamentals, the speed, and the competition in these two practices just to make sure we stay sharp.

(Are you going in pads those days?)

Correct, yes.

(From your past experience in the playoffs, is there anything you learned from those you can use now?)

I think it's important not to try to do too much. Do not get away from who you really are. It's important for us to take this time over the next couple of days, we do self-scout every week, but just to make sure our house is clean, stay true to the aspects of the game that we feel are important. That's why we're going to focus on fundamentals Friday and Saturday, and just make sure that we're ready to go. We're not going to put in a new offense or a new defense or anything like that.

(Will Rodgers be able to do everything on Friday?)

I'm hopeful. We're going to test him Wednesday, so I'll have more information about Aaron on Friday. We'll test him on Wednesday and see how he feels on Thursday.

(Do you want guys working out every day during their time off?)

There's a set program that we laid out as far as the schedule, stay on top of your cardiovascular. They'll get one workout on Thursday and Friday, and then we'll have another team workout on Monday, and then we'll be in a normal week as far as our strength and conditioning. Part of our practice structure Friday and Saturday, the conditioning is built into that.

(Are guys due back on Thursday?)

Thursday. We're here Friday 7:30.

(On the onside kick, it looked like a couple guys had a crack at it. What happened there?)

We were not coordinated as well as we would have liked there. Brandon Jackson was one of the players involved. That's probably his first onside kick in his life. But we had two really good opportunities to get that football, because it went more than 15 yards. It's unfortunate. It was there, but we didn't execute it very well. Excellent kick by Mason, I might add.

(With the time off, do you want the players to get out of here and really take a vacation or do you still want their thoughts on football?)

I really leave that up to the players. It's really their choice. It's important to get away. Some guys, coming in getting the treatment and getting a workout in and going home at noon is getting away. A number of players will travel back to their home state or home city. The thing I'm most concerned about is really just the four days of health. Just get away from it, and from the experience we've had already twice now, because this is the third opportunity we've come back from a couple days off, the energy will really show up in Friday's practice. I have no problem if they stay here or go home. Really, the reason I gave them four days is so they'd have the opportunity to go home, because of the travel time over the holiday.

(Are you or the coaches taking any time off this week?)

We're going to work today. Coaches are off tomorrow, and then we'll have some segmented things Wednesday, and we'll be in here Thursday.

(Except with Spitz and Coston, did everything play out as you had hoped yesterday?)

Absolutely. I don't think it could have played out much better outside of the injuries that you've already stated. We wanted to win the football game. We wanted to improve fundamentally just on some of the mistakes we made the week before. We accomplished that. The momentum, playing at home. The environment yesterday was incredible. It was a lot like a playoff game. I thought our fans were outstanding as always, and it was an excellent finish to the regular season. We accomplished everything from that standpoint that we were looking to accomplish.

(How's Jennings' ankle?)

He's fine. He could have played in the game.

(Do you like the idea of playing the Saturday game?)

Yeah, I like it. I think Saturday, especially coming off the bye week, I think Saturday is an excellent option because you'd like to play sooner than later. I know that's how I always felt. You're going to sit here next week watching the games and you're going to feel like you don't know what to do because you still have football in front of you. And it gives you an extra day on the back end too. It gives you eight days to get ready for the NFC Championship.

(Will the players be off Sunday then after practices on Friday and Saturday?)

They'll be off in some form or fashion because we're going to want to watch the game, to see who we're going to be playing.

(Will you do that together?)

As a football team? It's a good idea. I don't think we're going to do it, though.

(How big of an advantage is it to have this extra week off?)

You could push that either way in my opinion. I think it's an advantage just because it gives you a chance to get healthy and work on some fundamental aspects of the game that you don't really take the time during the course of a normal workweek. So that's a positive. But you could also make the case that they're fresh off of a game too. But I like the position we're in. We have a bye week, we have a chance to step away and get everybody healthy as best we can, because I think health, based off of what I did this past week against Detroit, I think health has been the priority as far as our focus into the playoffs.

(In your experience, have you seen teams focus on health and then not play well in the finale and it carries over to the playoffs?)

It's happened both ways. There's evidence to support playing your players the full game in Week 17, the 16th game, and not playing them. We just felt this was the best course for our football team.

(What players at linebacker and in the secondary helped themselves with their playing time yesterday?)

I thought Desmond played very well, and Desmond continues to improve on special teams. I think Desmond is clearly an ascending player for us, and he may have an opportunity to contribute through the playoffs. Tramon Williams, I can't say enough. I think he's a perfect example of what you want to accomplish with your young players. What he's gained through the offseason, through training camp, no one even knew about him, and he makes your football team, and every opportunity he gets in the football game, he continues to improve. He clearly probably had one of the better performances. He will receive a game ball for his defensive performance in that game. Obviously, those two off the top of my head.

(How has the interior of the defensive line held up without Pickett, Jolly and Cole?)

We're doing fine there. Corey Williams has been very consistent really through the whole year. I think Corey is having a heck of a year. Cullen Jenkins has done a nice job when he's gone in there. Justin Harrell played better this week than he has all year. He showed his strength and power in segments of the game. Daniel Muir did some nice things yesterday. So we still have good depth there.

(Is Woodson's toe injury something that can completely heal during this time off, or is that going to take the offseason?)

That's something that's probably always going to be there through the remainder of the season. Just talking with Pat McKenzie about Charles, we probably will rest him Friday and Saturday, just because the pounding does not help him. He was in treatment around the clock as far as this past week, but I think that's something that we'll have to continue to treat throughout the playoffs.

{sportsad300}(You were on the Kansas City staff in 1995 and 1997 when the Chiefs lost their first playoff game after the bye. Is your schedule any different from then, or is there anything you learned?)

Actually, I didn't even go back and look at those schedules. I think it's a different football team. That was a veteran football team. The '95 team with Steve Bono at quarterback, we lost the Indianapolis game, and the type of game that we lost there was turnovers and things like that really factored in that game. As far as the preparation up until then, I haven't even gone back. That was more of a veteran team of my years in Kansas City. I think we're built differently, and I'm comfortable with the way we've gone about our scheduling. I'm not big into change. I think routine is important, and it's worked so far for us. Those were hard losses. I haven't thought about those in a while.

(Grant said you were going to let him get to 1,000 if he didn't get the stinger. Was that wishful thinking on his part?)

No. We would have taken a crack at it. We talked about it, really Joe Philbin and I talked about it, if he could break one early, I was going to give him a chance, and he did that. He would have had an excellent chance. But as soon as I saw him, he came off to the sideline hanging his arm, that's all I needed to see. He could have went back in, but we did the right thing.

(Those two difficult losses, were there any common threads in them?)

Indianapolis was a tough loss because of the opportunities we had in that game. We had a couple field goals that we missed, and we were running the ball very well if I remember the first half, and Harbaugh had the one long drive, he made a bunch of third downs really for their only score. And then Denver, Denver came in in '97 and eventually beat the Packers that year in the Super Bowl. We had beaten them, we'd won the division over Denver. That was a good football team, though. I felt that we were a better football team than Indianapolis. And the Denver game was really two good football teams. The way the Denver game ended was very disappointing. If I recall, I think we were on the 10-yard line with an opportunity to win the game right there at the end, and we didn't get that done. Two different types of losses, to answer your question.

(Those are pretty vivid memories for so long ago.)

It's part of working with quarterbacks. I could tell you the plays that were called all the way down the stretch. 378 casino was the last two calls, if you want to put that in your notes.

(Did you say on Friday and Saturday you're going to incorporate some things from Tampa and Seattle in practice?)

Correct. We have 30 minutes of jog-through in both those practices, so from an offensive standpoint, pressures, third-down pressures. From a defensive standpoint, formation variations that we may anticipate. Those types of things we'll work on Friday and Saturday.

(Are you all right with the pressure your defense has been putting on the opposition?)

I'm fine with it. I think the most important thing for us was to get the percentage up of pressures (per) attempt. That was something I wanted to pick up here the last 4-5 weeks, and I'm fine with that. Because it's important to have your pressure package game ready, and I think we've done a good job of doing that here in the last 3-4 weeks.

(Was it nice to see the screen game get going a little bit?)

Very nice, and we had an opportunity for another big one there. The one that Brandon had a chance to really come out. We work on it every day. It's really part of, I classify it as part of our base offense, and we'll continue to work it. It's been a little up and down this year, but it's been better of late.

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