Q: What’s the biggest thing you’ve accomplished up here?
HALEY: “Well, I think again, training camp is training camp. All things aside, it’s a chance for the team to kind of come together and start really to become a team because each year is a new group of guys and there are always changes. It’s never the same. This is a new group of guys and when you’re in this training camp mode where you’re away from family, friends, home, your own room and some of those things. I think it really has a lot to do with kind of shaping your team early on. This year it’s probably more important than ever with some of the offseason missed, you know. We’ve got some team building that still needs to go on, but training camp does that as much as anything else in my opinion.”
Q: How important is the team building?
HALEY: “In my opinion and our team, I think that’s critical to success – being a team and being a family and kind of behaving in that manner. One of the things yesterday during practice – you might have seen me get upset – I thought that we weren’t doing it the way we need to do it as far as taking care of each other. It’s a fine line. You have to compete, guys are fighting for jobs, but we had a couple of deals there where I thought we were crossing the line a little bit, and that, as much as anything, guys just caring about one another as much as you do your family. That’s what we’re trying to become. If you do and you become a close tight knit group that sticks together through thick and thin, you have a chance to succeed and overcome obstacles.”
Q: Explain how this training camp was different from a scheduling aspect.
HALEY: “That’s a great question. I think it’s pretty radically different, in my opinion, for a lot of us coaches that have been doing it for a while and even more radical for guys like Romeo (Crennel), Bill Muir, (Maurice Carthon) and Jim (Zorn). We’ve got some old guys. They’ve spent significantly more years than me and I know it was radical for myself. It’s changed. As I’ve said around here a bunch, change is difficult. It’s not always easy, but I do feel like we’ve been fairly efficient in adjusting to different variables and I really, like I said, I feel like we’re on schedule. We’re on our plan, staying with it and I think that, in my opinion, shows me that we are. We’ve shown the ability to adjust and kind of roll with the punches. It’s different. It’s far fewer real action-packed practices.”
Q: Where are you in regard to your expectations of where the team would be when you left camp?
HALEY: “I’d say we’re on schedule, nowhere close. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve made progress. There’s no doubt in my mind we made progress in the areas that were most important to us here in these first two-and-a-half, three weeks, most important to us. That’s what I felt like we had to get done. Some of those areas – No. 1 – are maybe a little less football specific oriented, but from the training, conditioning standpoint, that was No. 1 and will remain No. 1 here for a little while longer. But, as far as our football team, I think guys are… There are a lot more guys now that understand how we do things and want things done around here. It’s still a work in progress, but that’s important, too and part of that is how you practice. I believe good teams generally practice the right way regardless of the mode or tempo type of practice you’re in. They do it at a high level and the way that they’re supposed to do it and that changes each day, too. And this year, that’s going to become even more critical because you’re going to have to be able to switch gears. You can’t just throw the pads on and work out the kinks that way, necessarily. One of our difficulties, say in year one, sometimes was when we were in pads and then we went into what we call the shells or no pads, sometimes we struggled with how then we had to practice. The guys, the core guys here learned so much the last couple of years and now we have a new group of guys, not necessarily young, and now I think they’re starting to get it. Those really are the two biggest things to me.”
Q: How much of staying injury-free is luck and how much of it is a dedication to the conditioning?
HALEY: “In my opinion, I think things can happen. Bad things can happen. Freak things, bad luck things can happen and that’s going to occur. But, I do believe that if you’re a team that is conditioned and trained the way it needs to be over an extended period of time, you can minimize a lot of the injuries. There’s going to be hurts, aches and pains and that, but you can minimize some of the things that will really set your team back. I think that a big part of injuries to me when you are practicing football or playing football is when guys are on different levels of fitness. So, you have a guy that’s in great condition and then there’s a guy that’s in poor condition who now gets out of control a little bit or in bad position, and then trips somebody or falls into somebody that’s in good condition, you know, and then you start hurting each other. That’s why it’s so important to me. Again, I think some of those are just going to happen and you can contribute it to whatever you want, misfortune. I think if you’re doing it real well from a conditioning standpoint, I think you can minimize it.”
Q: What has changed about
HALEY: “I think he’s light years from where he was. That’s a testament to him and his position coach and the guys around him and, I think, us getting more guys to understand how we do things around here. Dwayne is… He’s light years from where he was. I think with Dwayne, it’s a matter of… I do believe now he thinks he can be something special in this league. He’s not there yet, but he showed some good signs last year, and this year we talked about all last year as last year wound down and went in pre-lockout about how important this next year would be, (how to) handle some level of success and how you did that, how he does that and how some of the other guys handle it will tell you a lot about what they’re going to become. He’s doing a tremendous job. He’s showing these young guys how you’re supposed to do it and that’s going to make everybody better.”
Q: In fairness, it’s a testament to you as well, right?
HALEY: “I’m the head coach, so I’m not with him like Richie Anderson is.”
Q: Is it fair to say that he was a focal point of yours when you first got here?
HALEY: “I think coaching… That’s coaching, how you handle each guy different and how you think they’ll best respond. Maybe some guys get a little more public or verbal coaching going on, but that doesn’t mean that some other guys that you don’t hear aren’t getting coached in their own way by all of us. What I’m concerned with is trying to get each and every one of our players to fit into what we’re doing and then be able to perform to the best of their abilities that gives us a chance to be a great team. Dwayne is – like I said – he’s not there yet, but he’s got me excited.”
Q: Have you prepared differently knowing that teams typically take a step back after having a turnaround like you experienced last year?
HALEY: “I think that’s kind of been one of our core messages, if you will, to our team that each year is a new year. We’re not going to get anything because of what we did in the past, individually or as a team. Again, it’s… This is a new year. It’s going to present new challenges. It already has, and obstacles and distractions and all of those kinds of things that can set your team back. We’ve got to take all those challenges head on if we want to get to where we want to get to, which is to be a great team and a team that plays in bigger games than we played in last year and has a chance to play in them most years. Then, we have to handle everything thrown at us this year and keep getting better.”
Q: Does the game this Friday night carry more weight because the game last Friday night didn’t go so well?
HALEY: “No. I think, again, the Tampa game, from a score standpoint, you can say it didn’t go well and that’s the name of our game, but we feel like we made real good progress through that first game and now we feel like we’re making progress this week. Again, it is a game and it’s our first road game so there’s going to be a lot of coaching and teaching that goes on. Like last week, how we come out of the locker room, we had to kind of educate everybody. Now, it’s what do we wear on the plane, how do we get to the plane, how do we act in the hotel, when are the meetings, all those things. It’s a new challenge, but it’s another one of these days, and what are we down to? Twenty-five days until September 11? It’s another day that’s going to be just as critical as any other in this process.”
Q: Is it fair to say that you are farther behind in the process than you would like to be in a normal preseason?
HALEY: “I think you said it best, everybody is dealing with some of the same issues. Then again, every team is different, at a different stage. All I know is where we are. Would I have liked to have had an offseason? Yes. But, that’s… We can’t get that back. So, now it’s going to be how we handle the variables as they are. That’s really the bottom line. I think you have to stay focused that way if you want to have a chance.”
Q: Do you adjust your plans to what a player’s skill set is?
HALEY: “You know me. I’m a baseline philosophy. It’s not about schemes, plays, exotic blitzes or defense. It’s about the players. That’s the way I’ve been taught and believe with 100 percent that you better play to the players’ abilities and adjust if necessary. We’re not ever going to be fitting players into a scheme. When I talked about fit what we’re doing, it was more of a standard of how we do things, how we practice, how we handle ourselves, and as far as putting the team first and some of those things that you hear a lot of rhetoric and coaching rhetoric about. We have to… I try to get the best 11 on the field on both sides and special teams and then tailor our game to what they do best.”
Q: Do you still believe that completely given the short window you’ve had to work with?
HALEY: “I think it’s more so. I think that matchups are going to be even more important. It’s going to be more about matchups and less about players. If you’re doing what your guys can do and they’re good enough and they do it at a high level and everybody’s on the same page, you should be able to have a chance.”
Q: You said the other day that there was no right or wrong way to go about this process and that maybe you wouldn’t be ready for the start of the season. Do you feel better today about being ready?
HALEY: “Maybe hearing you say that, if I said it like that, that doesn’t sit well with me as far as not being ready. I think as coaches you’re never going to be content that you’re where you need to be and like I said, you’re not going to make up the offseason, so you’ve got to take what we have and get ready because they’re not going to cancel the games. We’re going to be playing September 11 and then the next week and each game is going to get bigger. We have to make sure that we’re playing our best game each and every Sunday, and if we do that, then we should be getting better and making some progress.”
Q: Have your guys talked about how the new kickoff rule may affect the roster?
HALEY: “Yeah, we’ve had discussions, and like I’ve said, I really want to get through a couple more of these and see if we can get some different variables involved and see how that changes it. Going back a couple of years, the wedge being taken out, the format wedge deal and things like that, that has affected it. You know, because it has. We went with less offensive linemen last year on a consistent basis probably than we ever have in years that I can remember. Part of it was that. You didn’t maybe need that extra big guy to be out there on kickoff returns and then that affects cover. I think you see the teams getting a little more compact and speedier for the most part I would think.”