(How has Tory Humphrey performed so far?)
Tory looks good. He is feeling his way around some things. We talked about him last week in here and I am excited he is back. He has overcome a significant injury and had a very good training camp the year before and was excited about his spring last year. Unfortunately the injury happened at the beginning of training camp, so it's great to have him back. He's the body type that you're looking for as far as what we ask our tight end to do. He just has to stay available, but he's done a nice job.
(Does he have potential as a pass catcher and as a blocker?)
I think Tory and Donald (Lee) and Jermichael (Finley), you look at the body types of those three and they are all very similar. I think their strength is their athletic ability, the ability to play in space. When you have the 250-pound man as athletic as those three, it gives you the ability to do things from the backfield, out in space. It also carries over to special teams. I think all three of those guys are similar, but Tory is a good in-line blocker. Donald Lee has improved his in-line blocking, and it's something that Jermichael and the other guys are going to be taught to do.
(What are your overall impressions of the OTAs?)
Very pleased with the OTAs. This is our third time going through the OTAs. From year one to year two we had a significant improvement as far as participation and the production of what we were able to get done. I would say from year two to year three, we have progressed even more. I'm not trying to sit up here and throw flowers because it's the end and I think every coach probably feels good about what he has accomplished, but our participation has been outstanding. Our numbers are clearly way ahead of what they were last year. This is the vision of the offseason program that I had prior to coming here, so we feel good about that. I feel very good about the individuals that have taken advantage of the time prior to OTAs during the offseason program with the lifting and spending the individual time with their coaches. You can see it carry over into the OTAs because it really gives us the benefit as a coaching staff to be as aggressive with the amount of football that we put on our players, particularly our young players, our rookies. Every team goes through it. You are always looking for that point where the rookies catch up to the veterans and the quality of your practice improves and we are definitely at a higher rate compared to the last two years. I think today's practice illustrates that. You see the extra team period in there and just all of the different types of pressures that our defense is able to work on and how it challenges the offense and all of the different protections. We are a lot further ahead there, which is normal in year three but it is a very comfortable feeling coming out of your offseason program, basically having everything in. We have been able to accomplish that in our nine installs and the review days here over the 12 practices. I am very pleased with that and we can carry that forward into the mini-camp and even challenge them more with every situation that we can possibly get done in the three-day period. It's a credit to our coaching staff, it's a credit to our players, but I feel very good about what we have accomplished. With that being said, we have to clean up a lot of things and that is normal this time of year. Compared to the last two years, this is what the offseason program is supposed to look like, so I am very pleased with that.
(What will the main emphasis be next week at mini-camp?)
We are going to use it more as a cleanup. Really Joe (Philbin) being the offensive coordinator, we just basically have kept track of things that we need to go back and improve on that we have practiced the last four weeks. We have taken our practice schedule for next week and we're going to hit all of the different situations, all the different types of pressure packages that we anticipate seeing and so forth. We're going to put that in the practice plan and then the defense is also going to go back and clean the things up that they want to hit one more time before we release the players for the break before training camp. I'm really, really happy with the scheduling and how we were able to do that, and I think it will be a very competitive three days of work and we'll leave here on a positive note. We've just got to keep everybody healthy.
(Have you seen an increased maturity level in Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn in their second season?)
Definitely, and you could really say it for the most part for that whole rookie class. That is something that was very, very obvious last year and it is something that we've emphasized to this year's rookie class from the day we brought them in. We brought them in, the first- and second-year players back March 17 compared to the other veterans on the 31st. That is part of our program. That is what I refer to as being a part of our program, taking advantage of the structure that is in place because it is very important, in my opinion and it is something that is emphasized to our players in the way that we do our daily schedules as a coaching staff, that the players need to make the biggest jump between year one and two. Those two guys have definitely fit into that role. I think Brandon and DeShawn, both in the weight room and what we are asking them to do on the football field, are significantly better than they were last year. That is what you are looking for from all of your rookies going from year one to year two.
(Would you like someone to emerge as a full-time right defensive end so Cullen Jenkins can move inside on a full-time basis?)
I really feel the same as the way I answered it a couple of weeks ago. Just the nature of our defensive line, it's a credit to their flexibility. It is the reason why we kept 11 last year. Cullen Jenkins has the ability to play across the line and gives you excellent flexibility in matchups, so if he is playing out there on first and second down and moves inside on third down, those are all things that are to your benefit. That is what you are looking for in game planning. Yes, you'd like to have all of your players be every-down players, but if one player is better than another in a certain situation, that's what we are looking for. I think Bob Sanders has done a very good job of utilizing different personnels, and I think that is something you'll see as we move forward into training camp and once we start our season. When the depth of your football team increases, it's our responsibility as coaches to make sure that we are creating ways to get those players on the field and try to take advantage of situations and matchups, and that's what everybody goes through.
(Do you anticipate having any of the injured guys back for mini-camp?)
No, I do not. That group, (Johnny) Jolly and Justin (Harrell), Will Blackmon, and probably Colin Cole, we anticipate those guys at some point in training camp being ready to go.
(What is Jermichael Finley's status?)
Possibly next week. Yeah, I don't see him in that group.
(What was the injury that he had?)
A bruise on the knee. He kind of fell awkwardly. I think it was the day that you guys were at the practice. I think he is going to be fine. It didn't look very good on film
(How about Junius Coston?)
Junius just missed today. They are looking at his lower back. He practiced yesterday and it was bothering him today, so we're taking a look at it actually right now.
(I assume with some of the veteran guys like Jenkins and Aaron Kampman not there today that some of those guys got the day off?)
Veterans, we gave a couple of guys some time off and we'll have everybody here next week for the mandatory mini-camp.
Do you view mini-camp differently from OTAs or is it just a continuation?)
Good question, and that is really the way we used it. We used it as a cleanup of the OTAs, and this is the first year that I have ever been a part of this schedule. I think it is something that we'll look at when it is done like we always do, but it's a schedule that I prefer because it gives you a chance to really get more out of the mini-camp because April, right after the draft, you are only three or four weeks, or at the most five or six weeks into your offseason program. I don't know if it's in the best interest of your team to get out there and try to get something done. You've got players coming off of injuries or surgeries, and you have a draft class that is just trying to find their way from the classroom to the practice field. Just the progression of having the rookie orientation, getting the rookies ready to go, bringing those guys back, putting them into an OTA format where they can come in and learn what is going to be done that day in practice. Have one practice and build up to a mini-camp format where you have two practices in one day. I just think it makes more sense from a progression standpoint of teaching, and that's why we went to this new format. It looks like it is going to work out just fine.
(Why were the attendance numbers higher this year at OTAs?)
It's emphasis. Winning probably had something to do with that, and it makes me feel good that they are here because I want them here. It's important, it's very important. I know the way it was in the past in Green Bay, I don't agree with that method. That is why we don't do it that way. It's a method that I have always been a part of. I go back to 1993, and I tell our players this all of the time, that was my first year of coaching and Joe Montana, flew in for all of the OTAs. Rich Gannon flew in. We always had full participation for OTAs, and it was the same structure in New Orleans. This was the first place that I had ever worked, in 1999, where that wasn't the case. I know it's cold but we pay the bills just like every other NFL team, so it's important for our players to be here. If it wasn't important for our players to be here, I wouldn't ask them to be here. It's important, and it's not the fact that they can't train somewhere else or that there is different types of training, we have incorporated more functional training because some of our players requested it. We have the resources and the ability to accommodate our players. I think we do it better than anybody in the league. I'm sure every NFL team feels the same, but we keep our players at the forefront of everything we do, in season and offseason, so we create an incredible culture for our players to develop, and it's important for us to do it together. That's why we have them come back, coaches love to coach, and it's been fun. We've got a lot of work done, and we need to, because we have talked about training camp schedule. We have a very different training camp schedule coming upon us where we are not going to be able to have the amount of padded work that we have had in the past. These sessions have been very important.
(How will Ryan Grant approach mini-camp?)
I don't think that is going to change. I don't anticipate it is going to change. I do not know what the timeframe is, but there has been nothing said to me that would indicate for his situation to change.
(How much is he missing out on?)
I think he has done the best that he possibly can, based on their approach, and that is really what I keep focused on. I think it would be hypocritical for me to say otherwise. You need to concentrate on things that you can control, in every aspect of this business, so I think he has done that and we've done that with him. It's a business matter, and he will stay the course and hopefully we'll get it resolved.
(Can you talk about the progress of Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn?)
Well, you were at practice today. I think you can just see two young quarterbacks finding a little bit of comfort out there. That is pleasing from a coach's viewpoint and also for their development. They pick it up very well. Brian has been exceptional. Matt has really turned it on. It's a lot of information to process in four weeks. You have four weeks, 12 practices, nine installations, and they have held up very, very well. I have been impressed with both of them, so that is the first part of it. The second part of it is now the footwork, the timing, and all of the other stuff and you can't have enough practices for them. We'll continue to work toward that, but I'm pleased with the progress they have made. We have a ton of work to do and I'm not ready to clear anything with that whole group. It's really a benefit to only have three quarterbacks because every rep is so valuable, and I think all three of our guys have taken advantage of it.
(You gave several young guys opportunities last year in the nickel role; do you anticipate that your approach will be the same this season?)
I think the approach will stay the same because you have already really answered the question. There is so much competition there. I think the whole secondary, as a whole, we're going to have to let go of some very good players. That's a group, both safety and corner, that has a lot of depth. That's why you see certain individuals being trained both at the safety and the corner, and in nickel or dime at the slot position. That is our approach and in training camp we'll sort that out.
(Do you still expect Harrell to be back for training camp?)
I am hopeful that he will be back 100 percent for training camp. That's the medical outlook.
(Does it concern you that he is missing these practices?)
I can't control it. Justin is in a medical situation. He's really picked it up the last three weeks as far as his workouts. Very positive reports from Rock Gullickson the last two weeks where he has been able to pretty much get after it full go now. That's really what my focus is. Injuries are part of our business; they are part of the game. Some players get them in bunches. I've said this before; Will Blackmon has kind of the same thing going on. I think they are both young players that have got very bright futures here.