* (How confident are you that Justin Harrell will hold up during camp and make it through the season?)*
Obviously he has a little bit of history of nagging history of injuries that have kind of held him back, but so far, so good. We thought he played a little bit better in the first game than he did in the second, but we are working through it. That's training camp, that's preseason.
(Is it going to be a constant battle with his back?)
I don't know. We'll see. Sometimes you have things like this that crop up and all of a sudden it goes away. Sometimes you can't get past it.
(Where did you find Frank Zombo and what do you like about him?)
He was a good player in college. He plays hard. He has done OK here. He has been pretty durable. He had one little nick that kept him out, but other than that he seems like the game is not too big for him. He plays hard. He has done OK so far.
(Coaches and players talk about his effort, but is that a slight to his athleticism?)
Yeah, I think he has got enough qualities in that regard, sure. I was a high-effort guy.
(Have all of the injuries given you a better look at some of the younger guys?)
That's kind of the breaks of the game when you get into training camp. Sometimes you can get stuck behind some guys that practice all of the time and don't have any injuries. Sometimes you get fortunate and get the chance to be able to play a little bit more. Again, you would like to evaluate everybody on a level playing field where they all get the exact same amount of reps against the same type of competition so you can fairly evaluate them and rate them amongst themselves, but it doesn't usually work that way.
(How are you feeling at running back with the injuries kind of piling up there?)
We would rather not have the injuries, but again, it's like another couple of positions where it is just the way it has worked out.
(Do you feel like you could use more depth there or are you OK with the number of backs you have?)
The number of backs that we came in with I don't think has ever changed. It's always been a fairly constant number. It's been a disappointment that James hasn't been able to go the whole time. We were certainly counting on him to be able to take some of those reps, but that is just the way it has worked out.
(What are your options with Starks? Could he start the year on the PUP list?)
He would be eligible for that, yeah.
(How long do you wait on a guy like that? Do you think he could be ready for the regular season?)
I don't know that. I don't know where we are there. I went and watched all of the guys going through the rehab yesterday, but I'm no expert on it. I just wanted to watch them and see what the process was.
(Do you remain hopeful for him?)
Sure, I remain hopeful for all of them, yeah. I'm a hopeful kind of guy.
(When you are watching the games on the field, what are you looking for?)
I think I have said this before; I am more comfortable down there. I think it is probably from having been on the sideline as a player. You get the flow of the game and you see the intensity and the competitiveness and you see that everything is all right with the world. When you are separated by a couple of hundred yards way up high in a box, you don't have that connection. But I do think it is a valuable tool for me. Now whether it is for anybody else, I don't know. I like to watch the guys go in and out of the game, see how they are reacting, the young guys especially, the ones that haven't been here, to see quite frankly how they assimilate themselves into the game. If they are wide-eyed, that is OK, but you have to at some point realize that you belong and get a comfort feeling. I think it helps me to be able to watch those guys.
(Would you ever consider going down on the field in the regular season?)
Probably not. There are rules in the NFL about you have to have a purpose down there in order to me. They limit the number of people you can put down there as it is, and I'm not sure I could sell the NFL that I have a purpose down there. But I would like to, except when it is really cold maybe.
(When you have roster decisions, do you bring the coaches in right away or do you meet with your staff first?)
We do it several different combinations all along during training camp. Certainly at least once a week, post-scrimmage, post-Cleveland game, that sort of thing. I meet with the coaches and their report is basically the individuals that played, how they played, number of plays, where they see them and that sort of thing. Then I have some private meetings with Mike, some meetings with our coordinators. I meet with Reggie and his staff, so it is sort of an ongoing, continual thing. There is not one big, giant 'this is what we are going to do,' because nobody knows what we are going to do.
(You have a couple of undrafted guys that have a shot to make the team. What do you look for with guys like that? Is it the same as how you evaluate drafted players?)
I think it just how you have them rated from college and where you think they can contribute. We take a lot of pride in working the free-agent groups after the draft, and we have had some success. It's a credit to these guys because the odds are stacked against them. But we've got some guys doing OK so far.
(What do you think about Sam Shields?)
He's doing OK so far.
(What is, 'OK so far'?)
He's doing OK. He's had a couple of gaffes on special teams and that sort of thing. Again, like some of the other fellas we talked about, the game doesn't look too big for him. He seems to be comfortable in his own skin out there.
(A player like that who has made some mistakes on special teams, do you look at the upside a player has and how he can develop?)
Well, sure, that's a factor. The most important factor is what can a person do for this team now. Can they help and come in and win games. That's the most important thing, but yeah, you look toward the future as well. But our focus in this time of the year when we're getting ready to establish our 53 is what can you do for me.
(It has been a few years now, but what do you remember about Donald Driver in 1999?)
I remember he was a really good gunner on the punt team. He'd run down on kickoffs, do anything he could. He was a seventh-round pick, he wasn't a free agent. But he caught your eye. He was out there every day, never missed a practice.
(Down the road, what are you going to remember about him?)
Donald? He's very competitive, which you have to be to do the things he's done. He's extraordinarily competitive. Very confident in his ability to compete and to play against NFL-caliber people. I think he was that way when he got here. He's certainly proven that over time, but I think he always had that. And maybe there was a little bit of a chip on his shoulder because he was a seventh-round pick and maybe he thought he should have been rated higher than that. But regardless, he's a perfect example of regardless of how you start out, the NFL will give you the opportunity if you have the will to seize that opportunity. I think his career is remarkable.
(During that first camp, did you think he could become a good receiver?)
Quite frankly, I don't remember my thoughts there. But obviously he was good enough to make a pretty good team at that time.
(Are you surprised by all of the injuries during camp and do you assess all of that?)
Yeah, we do. Pepper and Pat and that staff, they keep records of all that sort of stuff and compare them from year to year. Quite frankly, sometimes there's a little deviation, but the numbers stay pretty static. Fortunately we haven't had any real bad injuries, but we have had enough nagging stuff that it causes you to be thin at certain positions. Like I've said before, it's sort of a wheel that keeps rolling around. If you get thin at a spot, then you put more pressure on the guys that you do have playing and they have to play more reps. But I don't know, I haven't gone back and looked at it yet, we'll do that at the conclusion, but I don't know if it's any more than in the past. It seems like this time of year you have a lot of this.
(Wasn't camp a lot more rigorous in your playing days?)
There were more two-a-days, which, this is my own personal opinion, I think two-a-days are a thing of the past. But I haven't convinced all the coaches around the NFL that's the way it should be. We had contact but we didn't wear pants. We wore shoulder pads and shorts. Bum Phillips, he didn't believe in wearing pants for practice because he felt like then you'd get on the ground too much. I can't say, well, we were tougher back in the old days and it was harder back in the old days. These are better, bigger, faster people now than it was in my day. I can't explain it, and I don't know for a fact that it was better or we were more durable than the fellas now. There were guys that got hurt. I couldn't afford to, because they would cut me if I got hurt.
(Was there rookie hazing when you played?)
No. In those days they had 17 rounds and then just an unbelievable number of rookie free agents, and I was one of the rookie free agents, so I wasn't one of those guys that people would grab because nobody knew who I was anyway. If you were a draft choice, you'd have to sing your school song or something. Nothing violent or anything like that.
(So you weren't taped to the goal post or anything?)
No, no. Again, I was a non-descript guy.
(So you had the mentality that you had to be out there every day if you wanted to make the team?)
Well, I was trying to make a team and these were grown men I was competing against. I remember once when I was a rookie, our training camp was in Huntsville, Texas, at Sam Houston University, and it was thundering and lightning and raining at like 2 o'clock and the practice was at 3:30 or 4 and I was hoping and hoping that the weather would clear up because if it didn't clear up then that would be one less chance I would have to show the coaches I could play. I was really wanting to make the team.