Q: You talk about making progress each day and last night was a good night, but a week from tomorrow is the first preseason game…
HALEY: “Is it that soon? Friday the 13th, my daughter’s birthday. That’s a good luck thing hopefully.”
Q: Is there a lot more to cram in or are you on pace because you keep saying you like the progress?
HALEY: “You always want more time Karen, there’s no doubt about that – as a coach, you want more time. We’ll always be cramming a lot in because you’re trying to get as much accomplished as you can to have the players prepared. At the same time, we need to have them prepared for a game situation; especially some of these young guys, there are a lot of things to figure out or to work through so that everybody’s straight. That goes from how we’re traveling, what we’re wearing, what it’s like on the road in a hotel, how our pregame routine is going to go so there’s a lot of that peripheral stuff that is just as important as getting ready to play the game. We’re cramming all the time but again, I feel positive with the direction things are going, I feel positive about the progress a lot guys are making and I feel positive about the progress the team is making. We first have a Saturday scrimmage to get ready for and that will be another good test for them and we’ll be playing before we know it. It’s going fast. There’s no doubt about that.
Q: In your mind, was yesterday morning’s practice a practice or a walk-through?
HALEY: “As I said yesterday, it was a walk-through, Adam. There were no helmets involved. There were not even shells. Sometimes when we walk-through we’re in shells just to keep guys from punching. They wore their jerseys, t-shirts and I think most of them, tennis shoes. It was a walk-through. I try to give you guys the facts as best I know them and that’s the way I operate. It was meant to be a very, very positive thing for our team. As I’ve discussed in here, the weather’s been pretty extreme but at the same time I feel like our players and the team has worked extremely hard – we’ve not been perfect and there are mistakes being made. The real positive is when you’re working in difficult conditions and going through the grind of training camp and when you’ve got a group of 80 guys who are busting their butts and working hard all the way through, even to the point of having a little scuffle at the end of practice on a day when it’s 100 degrees. In my mind, I felt like they’ve worked hard but at the same time, as the head coach, it’s my job to take care of these guys in all areas, and their physical condition is one of those. I was really trying to throw them a bone, a surprise bone, so that they could feel like something good was happening. At the same time, we had a real good mental day, we were able to cover a lot of things yesterday inside in air conditioning where they weren’t having to exert themselves physically at all but yet get a lot of work done mentally in a lot of different areas. It was a walk-through and whatever anybody chooses to believe, that’s their prerogative. As I said, I try to report the facts as best I can that I feel at the same time gives our team the best chance to become a good team so everybody can have a little more fun and be a little happier.”
Q: We talked to guys yesterday that said it was just a regular practice like normal, it was just indoors. We were told different by players and I think that’s why we’re asking again today.
HALEY: “Nick, I can’t answer why anybody else answers the way they answer. I can only give you guys the facts and the answers as best I can that at the same time does not ever put us at a competitive disadvantage. Again, yesterday was about trying to throw the players a bone, at the same time feel like we were getting some mental work and knowing that we were going outside at night under the lights and everybody was going to have great access to what was going on in practice and while we got our work done, it let everybody have a pretty good look at any progress that we’re making. That’s what it was.”
Q: To follow up on something you said, is it a competitive disadvantage to have the media at practice?
HALEY: “Not talking about that specifically. I’m talking about in general when I’m in here; I try to give factual as best I can without ever putting our team at a competitive disadvantage. That was just a general statement about in here with you all. As far as a walk through yesterday, there wasn’t a helmet to be seen. I guess in my mind, I didn’t think there was going to be a lot to see. That’s the best I can answer it.”
Q: If there wasn’t anything that went on in practice that would be a competitive disadvantage, could you show us the practice tape?
HALEY: “I’d be happy to let you watch the hour and 20 minutes of walkthrough that is on tape. I think the majority of it we taped.”
Q: I would need to see all hour and 20 minutes of it.
HALEY: “Speaking as the head coach, you could watch that tape yesterday, as long as you don’t give it to the San Diego Chargers, the Raiders, the Broncos, the Browns, the 49ers, the Cardinals – don’t give it to the Cardinals.”
HALEY: “In the off-season, and this year it was very difficult to distinguish between the work the guys did because they worked so hard and the attendance was so great and I don’t know who I was talking to, but we don’t have a magic formula but we tried to recognize the guys we thought had the best off-season – whether that was strength gain, weight loss, weight gain, running gains, whatever it is. We tried to come up with a list of 10 to 12 guys that we thought really excelled and he was one of those guys.”
Q: That must have been pleasing to you considering there were many issues not only with this coaching staff but also the previous one?
HALEY: “The entire off-season was very pleasing to me Doug, it really was. I’ve said it a bunch of times, I wish they could spot us a few wins for the off-season but it’s not happening. With Derrick, I’ve had zero issues with Derrick Johnson and last year’s off-season he worked his butt off. It just so happened the second time around because of the way the majority of the group came back in much better condition and so far ahead of the game that we were able to really, as opposed to trying to get guys down to their weights and into some semblance of a condition to get ready for camp, we were able to make real gains. Our strength coaches, coach (Mike) Clark and coach (Brent) Salazar did a tremendous job and all the coaches did a tremendous job pushing the guys through. Derrick, from day one, I have had no issues with Derrick Johnson. He has worked hard and I think he’s had close to perfect attendance as far as I can recall in the off-season. He’s a guy that has a chance to really help us if he continues to push the way he’s pushing himself to get better.”
Q: Yesterday you talked about CB
HALEY: “I’ll agree with you that last night I thought Brandon made some good plays but he allowed some plays that I know he’d like to have back. That’s a tough position we’re talking about because the spotlight is on you every snap and those guys have to have a short memory because if one play sticks in your head for the next play, then usually it’s going to be a problem. I think Brandon is a young, developing player and every time he’s out there and any time anything occurs, whether it’s good or bad, that’s part of the process for him at cornerback in the run and the pass and in special teams where he’s trying to continue to make stride to improve. I think all of them just need to keep working on the technique that they’re being coached to play and good things will follow.”
Q: Is there anyone who is more encouraging at the cornerback position?
HALEY: “I don’t know that I would put somebody out there right now. I think the secondary in general is a position that, much like a lot of positions, was not a position of strength last year for a lot of different reasons. We of course, as a defense, when teams are throwing the ball we have to create more pressure and help those guys out. When you are not creating pressure or putting the quarterback under any kind of duress, it puts them on more of an island than they are already on. I think that position through eight or nine practices has a chance to be a position of strength for us. If the guys continue to work, come together and decide to work, they can be a really good group. I think that would be good for us if that group can continue to grow, improve and help us as a defense.”
Q: Specifically at that position, young players like
HALEY: “Oh yeah. I think that is part of the short memory also. When a play is over, it has to be over and you have to move on to the next play. Like you said, you are getting shot at every other play, every other down and you need to be able to bounce back and your focus has to be on that next play because there are a lot of things happening. They have to worry about everyone else out on the field from a run-pass standpoint because they are asked to do a lot of different things. I think Otis (Smith) and coach (Emmitt) Thomas are working well together. I think those guys are getting some pretty good coaching on a full-time basis.”
Q: You have said you are excited about the improvements being made. Can you give us specific players you are excited about?
HALEY: “I thought there have been a handful of guys or more. That is the only thing I worry about when it comes to mention guys is forgetting some. I think it was pretty obvious that this young tight end,
Q: You mentioned WR Dexter McCluster with his speed, quickness and size. Are you worried about over using him and how do you control that?
HALEY: “I think he is a pretty strong, put together player. I do think that’s one of my jobs now that I am getting to be the head coach full-time is that I need to manage a guy like that. Not so much from that standpoint but he is playing multiple position and I have to decide what is too much, what is not enough. We have to get this guy ready to contribute and help us the best we think he can help us. The management comes more in that area. He is one of those versatile players that are doing multiple things and maybe returns and that mix also. I think that is where the management comes in.”
Q: What does it mean to you to have guys like TE Leonard Pope and WR
HALEY: “I think it is really important. That kind of falls under free-agency. When you are evaluating these guys that are available in the off-season and trying to figure out exactly, can they fit with our present group from an ability standpoint, a positional standpoint and a leadership standpoint? When you have guys that know you and know how you operate that have had some success with you as a coach or with some of our coaches, I think it is a positive. It is tough mid-year when you pick up some of these guys because they really are not part of the team right out of the gate but now, through an off-season, those guys are able to play and help you. That is what they are working on right now is competing and trying to find their way on to the team but I think there is some benefit there for assistant coaches and head coaches alike. As an assistant coach I worked hard many times to get guys that I thought got it, understood what we are trying to get done but at the same time, a guy you feel can come in right away and help your team.”
Q: Can you talk about CB Javier Arenas?
HALEY: “I think Javier is doing a good job. Again, this whole group, each and every one of them has continued to progress. You can’t put any of them in Canton but I have a positive outlook on the direction they are going. He has had his ups and downs but it doesn’t look too big for him. He is paying attention; he is studying his playbook all the time. He has some versatility too both defensively and special teams wise. You will see him in a bunch of different roles. He really is, in my mind, the mirror image of McCluster, he is just playing on the other side of the ball. They are both versatile players, not because they are both small, but they have to be managed and as the head coach that is my job, not to put too much on their plate but to make sure they are getting enough and let’s see how good they can be.”
Q: Last night RB
Q: Is it tough for players to get used to the new terminology and playbook that comes with new coordinators?
HALEY: “With the new guys it is different because it is their first year and we have a handful. For the guys that were here, I don’t think there was a great deal of difference. I think that was the important thing with last year and me making a difficult decision. It was the start of a job and that was so important to me was that we lay the foundation for these guys and we didn’t waste any time. The guys that were going to be here and be a part of this team, we were able to lay that base, knowledge, terminology and all of those things to give us a chance to progress this year. To get Charlie in here and somebody that I am very, very comfortable with and more comfortable each day that I am out there, it is hard to explain. When you are standing there on the field and something occurs. You think something and you see it being corrected right as it occurred, that is a reassuring feeling. In my mind it was our playbook going all the way back to the 90s and really that is what we did this off-season is playbooks and systems so to speak. We are not system guys and our terminology stays the same but over time they get watered down, tags change or words get added and we went through the part of getting back to the baseline of the system and the terminology as we knew it back with the Jets in the 90s. I would say the players that were here, they were able to continue climbing and not take steps backwards mentally and that is why I feel good about it.”