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Q&A with Todd Haley - 8/9

Posted Aug 9, 2010

Highlights

OPENING REMARKS: “Good afternoon everyone. It’s good to see you all. First I’ll take a second to thank everyone who came out for Family Fun Day Saturday. It made for a terrific atmosphere and that’s good for our team to be put in that situation with the noise, energy level and everything that went along with that and I thought it made it a pretty good place to have a pretty good competitive practice. The players got a little time off, which was much needed I’m sure, and the coaches for that matter did too. We were back at it last night going through that tape and meeting for today. We had the practice this morning and you all know by now that we’re moving the afternoon practice to 6:00 PM. What I’m finding out about this area and our trainers did a lot of research going into this year is that the hottest part of the day is late afternoon as opposed to some places I’ve been where it’s mid-afternoon or early afternoon. We were able to get that done, which I’m grateful for, which took some coordination on a lot of different peoples’ part. Hopefully that will allow us to have two productive practices on two-a-days.”

 

Q: The passing game was struggling today. Was there any reason for that or was it just one of those days?

HALEY: “I think anytime you have a day off, in general I saw a little bit of it, they sat around for a day and like I said hopefully they took care of their bodies, hydrated and did all those things. Now all of a sudden you’re throwing them back out in the mix and I wouldn’t say lethargic, but at times we were having to push them a little more than we’ve had to push them. There were some good things about practice on both sides of the ball. Concentration level in some areas didn’t appear at the level that it’s been. We’ll have a chance to meet with them here in the afternoon and then we’ll be back at it at 6:00 PM and hopefully we’ll be able to get everybody going again and get back to operating efficiently.”

Q: We’re almost halfway through camp, have any of the quarterbacks stuck out to you as trying to separate themselves from the pack?

HALEY: “I think they’ve all made progress. I think all three of the guys have made progress at different stages of this camp and for that reason then I feel positive about what we’re doing with them and that they are getting better.”

Q: All progress aside, is there a single quarterback that looks better than the rest?

HALEY: “I guess I’m not looking at it that way Nick. First and foremost I was real interested to see how QB Matt Cassel took this next step from a very good off-season into this training camp and I feel good about the things Matt’s doing. I thought Saturday, some of the things he did, though offensively in general I wouldn’t say we practiced at a level that we had been in some of the other practices but he’s working really hard, he’s doing what we’re telling him what to do. He’s improved in a lot different areas and now he’s got more work to do, there’s no doubt about it. I feel good about the direction he’s going. I think QB Brodie Croyle has made clear strides in a number of different areas that are areas we targeted as ones where he’s got to improve and I think that’s showing up. I think QB Tyler (Palko), after a little bit of a slow start, has started to get things going in the right direction as he’s become more comfortable with everything going on around him. He’s the biggest adjuster at this point because he’s surrounded by a lot of guys he doesn’t know. I feel good about what those guys are doing and what are coaches are doing with them.”

Q: Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was saying that recognizing QB Matt Cassel’s strengths and flaws from last year and maybe the year before was his top priority to try and see how to make Cassel better. What have you seen from Charlie working so hands on with Matt so far and what other dividends have you seen so far?

HALEY: “First of all, every one of our coaches, that’s what we’re doing all the time. They’re finding their particular position group as position coaches and as coordinators trying to pinpoint what the areas of weakness or the areas that have to improve. That’s what we’re all doing. On the specific question, we’re seeing progress in those areas. Without getting into specifics, I think I feel good about the direction that position is going.”

Q: You’ve said that all spots are up for grabs and don’t pay attention to first team, second team, etc. That’s different at quarterback, right? Barring an injury or something unforeseen, is it accurate to say that Matt Cassel will be your quarterback?

HALEY: “Yeah, I would say right now Matt is our quarterback and he’s who we’re number one, counting on to continue to improve all areas of his game in order to help him and ultimately us play at a high level. I think Matt has had to continue to have to earn that through last year, through the off-season, that’s part of the process. That’s kind of what I touched on a little bit the other day when I was talking about the tail end of that practice where we put some of the younger, developing guys in there. I feel like we’re establishing a group of players on both sides of the ball, plus special teams that are establishing themselves as the kind of guys we think give us a chance. Last year everything was so new and there was so much unknown about a lot of guys, we would have been limited if we had a period like that. Who would we sit out? There would be a couple of guys that we would set to the side and then everybody else would be scrimmaging. That’s one of the things where I feel like things are moving in the right direction. It doesn’t necessarily say what our ability as a team will be right now but I do think things are going the way that they should be going and we’re making progress. That’s the most important thing.”

Q: G Brian Waters was back at practice today. He says he doesn’t know if he’s going to be ready to go on Friday. Seeing him today, did you get any gauge if he’s at where you expect him to be?

HALEY: “I’m just happy to have him back. He’s another guy that really put a lot of work into this off-season and being a big part of this team. I know he’s been chomping at the bit to get back and he got through this morning without incident and we’ll just see how the afternoon goes.”

Q: Are these preseason games as important for the veteran guys or is it more important to you to have him healthy for game one rather than preseason game one?

HALEY: “It’s a difficult question. I would never word that these preseason aren’t important for a young, developing team. For some individuals that have a lot of experience, it may be not so important from the gaining experience standpoint. For me as the head coach and for our overall development as a team, playing together as a team, learning how to do things as a team and react to situations, they’re very important. As far as the preseason goes, at least for the time being, it’s going to be very important for me that everybody that can play is playing and working with their teammates to make progress.”

Q: You made both of the coordinators available today. Is that going to happen on a weekly basis?

HALEY: “(Jack) Harry, you weren’t in here when I said I want to get through the first week. It was very important with a lot of new guys and I wanted to give you all an opportunity to talk to them. From here on out, on two-a-days the afternoon practice, one-a-days, obviously the one practice we’re just going to alternate sides of the ball. Defense after tomorrow’s practice plus special teams coach (Steve) Hoffman. Hoff will always be with the defense. Until our returners score a couple touchdowns, then we might move Hoff to offense. Defense offense, defense offense. Kind of like the guidelines with players, we’ll give everyone the opportunity to grab them. The other thing I said though, the schedule is tight and I said if the guys are running one day or whatever, they’ve got to handle their business.”

Q: You’ve been stressing the mental part of the game every practice so when you see those mental mistakes on the field Saturday during the scrimmage like delay of game on the field goal, penalties in the Red Zone, sacks in the Red Zone. Do you just have to keep drilling it in their heads or how do you get that turned around?

HALEY: “That’s all you can do and every opportunity you have to coach it you have to coach it. That’s easier said than done because you have to be relentless. I agree with you Bob. I think three were some excellent teaching situations from that scrimmage that will continue all the way through training camp and even into the beginning part of the season to try to put the guys in as many situations as you can without being able to control everything. This afternoon you’ll see a little competitive situation that should be an interesting one for them to react. These are things that us as a coaching staff, we probably over-meet but we enjoy talking about, thinking about, trying to think outside of the box as much as we can, which I’ve really been trying to push and promote with all our coaches – let’s think outside the box and not necessarily do things one way just because that’s the way we’ve always done them. That’s why I’m excited about the staff. We’ve got a lot of good brains, football minds that have a lot of good ideas.”

Q: How much do you want QB Matt Cassel to play Friday night if all goes well?

HALEY: “We’re not even close to that point yet. I appreciate the question but it’s hard for me to even believe there’s a game coming just because of the stage we’re at and we’re just trying to take it one day at a time, one practice at a time. We’ll get to that but it’ll be at the back end of the week.”

Q: You’ve talked about not just the team growing, but you growing as a coach from the first year to the second year and last year was intimidation a part of your coaching style and is that a necessary part or was it not and is it now?

HALEY: “No, I would never say it was in my thought process. You know, I was just trying to coach the best way that I know, the way I’ve been taught, the way I believe and I know that, without going back into the past. I knew that last year was going to be a very difficult year. Any time that you’re trying to take a large group of people and make them see the way or try to convince them to see the way that you’re seeing things. It’s not going to be fun and that was part of it – there’s going to be some unpleasantness, there’s going to be some painfulness, there’s going to be some uncomfortable times for everybody. But I think the key thing is to not let any of those speed bumps, painfulness or distractions offset what you believe, what your staff believes and your organization believes is the right way to go about things. Because really when you break coaching down it’s about trying to get somebody to do something that they really don’t want to do in their human nature. Say for instance, (Maurice) Carthon, who played the position as good as anybody played it, fullback. Ok, as a running back coach you’re trying to convince a 230 pound guy to go full speed and hit someone, sometimes a 300 pounder, sometimes a 240 pounder, but in practice you’ve got to convince them that they’ve got to go full speed and knock the crap out of someone that’s trying to knock the crap out of them. So, really that’s coaching. You’re trying to convince somebody to do something that they may not necessarily want to do at that particular time. You knew there was going to be some of that. What I feel good about right now is not that the pain and suffering is over but that the foundation – there is a foundation that you can see , you can feel it, that a lot more guys get it right now. Throw myself and the coaches in that group too. It was a learning year and the key is to learn from it and make progress and that’s where I feel we are right now. We are just over a quarter of the way through a very critical training camp for us as a team.”

Q: So how welcoming will be getting a chance to play a game this week be? Just a carrot, maybe guys tired of this routine and maybe those mistakes are being made. It’s got to be a pick-me-up to know that you’re going to play an exhibition game?

HALEY: “When I was signing autographs at the end (of the morning practice), a lot of the fans were talking about that and the response I kept saying was ‘don’t rush it.’ We need this practice this afternoon, we need tomorrow’s practice, we need those two practices on Wednesday and we need the walk through on Thursday. So, we need every practice, every meeting, and right now as a coach, I’m trying to slow down time and not speed it up. I’m sure there are some guys chomping at the bit to get out there and compete against somebody that is not their teammate but I’m just trying to slow it down so we can continue to get something done. And to be, ultimately, ready to go in and compete.”

Q: Going back to the heat thing, a huge heat wave this week. Just talk about what kind of precautions and is that always on your mind? Making sure the guys are safe in the heat? Was there a thought about maybe using the indoor facility instead of outside?

HALEY: “It is, especially with the year under my belt with the doctors I didn’t know coming into last year and we’ve had some turnover there also, but I feel really good about our group of doctors. I feel real good about our trainers, the lead dog being Dave Price, who a bunch of us were with in New York back in the 90s and we’re able to be reunited here. I feel real good about that relationship in both areas – they’re much better experts than I am in some of these things. Ultimately, I’ve got to make sure that I’m looking out for the welfare and the safety in all areas of these players. Because, again, they have families, friends and loved ones that are biting their nails every day and every game, so we’ve got to take care of them first. We’re thinking about it, trying to do the things necessary to make sure that is taking place. Whether it’s equipment-wise, whether it’s hydration, you don’t see some of this, but we’ve got more cold tubs than I’ve ever seen in training camp filled with ice everyday; some that are permanent cold tubs here that the university put together and we’re just making sure that these guys are doing everything possible to take care of their bodies.”

Q: Was it important for you to practice with the fans being able to see you, late afternoon, as opposed to going just indoors?

HALEY: “Oh no, I didn’t answer that part. The other nice thing is having that indoor facility, like the other day – the controversy day. It’s air conditioned, the turf is new, nice and soft, and to have that as an option is big. As we go forward here, that has already been discussed: the potential of when do we want to utilize it and when do we not? Obviously, moving the practice to 6:00 PM, first and foremost is the safety of the players. At the same time, as I’ve said in here a few times, this is training camp and part of that process of training camp is developing the physical and mental toughness and that’s been going on for a long time. We have to take care of these guys but we’re thinking about it and talking about it all the time.”

Q: On Saturday night, the Hall Of Fame induction, Dick LeBeau went in and went in as a player.

HALEY: “I missed it entirely by the way.”

Q: Probably taking a nap right?

HALEY: “No, I’ve run into the, ‘can’t sleep for some reason nights.’”

Q: Certainly his record as a coach affected that. Do you have any stories or moments that you bumped heads with the Steelers when you were in Arizona?”

Q: “I can think of one…”

Q: In the pantheon of coaches, where is Dick LeBeau?

HALEY: “Without disrespecting anybody else, I don’t know how there can be a coach that you wouldn’t look up to as much or more than that guy. Man, he’s really something else. It is reflected in how his teams respond to him or his defenses or wherever he’s been. He’s been a thorn in my side, Charlie’s side, Mo’s (Carthon) side, for a long time at a lot of different places. It seemed like when we were in New York all together, Charlie, Mo (Carthon) and I, and some of these guys that were playing that are now coaching, we had to deal with him at Cincinnati. He’s always had some wrinkle that is different and now all of a sudden, you’ve got to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what the heck’s going on. The guy, on top of that to me, as a young coach, has always been off the charts good to me for whatever reason and I’m always grateful for anyone like that. He’ll take phone calls, he’ll take anything, sit with you at the NFL Combine, visit, help you as a young coach, and those are the guys that make this league special. You just try to learn from them to at some point be able to contribute in some small way to somebody else.”

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