Did you avoid a crummy practice on the first day back?"Actually, the first day was a lot better than I expected. Because we had extra time, what it allowed me to do was have a walk-through prior to practice that I normally don't have time to do. We were only on the practice field for a couple of hours. You are really hustling and bustling to try and get everything done. The time restraints were down this week, so it allowed us to get out there and spend an extra 15 minutes before practice doing things that wouldn't have probably been so hot if we'd have done them for the first time when we got to practice. For the first day, it was actually a little bit better than I was expecting."
Is it tough to keep the players mentally sharp after a bye week?"I think the guys are getting antsy to play a game. We have everything in earlier than we normally do, so we don't go through a normal preparation because what we did was put in the first and second down last week. So we put third down in a day earlier. We put in red zone and goal line and two minute a day earlier. In their minds, this is like Thursday. They are ready to go to the pep rally tomorrow and play the game the next day. It seems like they've been waiting a long time to get out there and go. So what I will do tomorrow is cut down about a half hour of what I normally wouldn't, so I can have a sharp crisp practice where it doesn't feel like they're out there pulling teeth."
Why is it difficult for quarterbacks to take what the defense gives them?"Because quarterbacks by nature are selfish and they want to throw the ball down the field. Everyone wants to throw 50-yard bombs for touchdowns, everyone does. There's not one good one that doesn't want to sling it down the field, so to have the patience to throw the ball where the coverage designs for the ball to go or where the play is designed to go. I'll give you an example: You have a different number of guys involved in protection. Sometimes you send everybody out and you have five guys protecting. Other times you have six guys protecting. Other times you have seven guys protecting. Other times you have eight guys protecting. So obviously, the more protection you have, the more time you have to throw; but simultaneous, less options you have to throw to. When a quarterback has less protection; that means they have to be ready to throw the ball quickly. In the fans' eyes, you might see a guy running down the middle of the field wide open. But the first read was to get the ball out quick because they can get to you because you are only blocking with five or six. It's kind of comical sometimes to say he was wide open and he missed him. No, that's not who he was supposed to look at first. The guy he was supposed to look at first was open so he through it to him."
Do you think defenses get frustrated with the short passing game and can you see this frustration happening?"Absolutely, now there are teams that preach that's how they are going to play the whole time. There are teams who say, we'll give you that, we'll give you that, we'll give you that, but sometimes it's the players and sometimes it's the play-caller. Sometimes the play-caller gets frustrated because all of a sudden you have them pinned back and now the ball is in plus territory. So they change their mode from bend- but-don't-break. Notoriously there are a lot of bend-but-don't-break defenses that start bringing the heat when you start getting right around the fringe area because now they want to knock you out of the scoring zone. Usually statistically that shows up. You usually have a pretty good idea that's happening."
Can a quarterback do what he has to do on game day if he can't talk?"That's interesting and I follow what's going on there too. I think at the line of scrimmage if you have a center that is sharp, you can get by at the line of scrimmage with the center handling those thing. He's the only person you could get by doing it though. The center could identify the fronts. The center could handle silent snap count or actually call a count. A center is capable of doing it. We've done it before. We've done it with a silent snap count when you go when the center is ready, not the quarterback. I think the biggest problem would be just calling the play in the huddle. I would be interested to see how that pans out more than calling it at the line of scrimmage. You would have to do like in the olden days, run a play in and that person would have to come in and call what the play is. So I'll be interested to watch how that happens. But at the line of scrimmage you can do that without the quarterback calling it."
In your undergraduate days, did you attend basketball games like you did the football games?"Oh absolutely, I didn't dress like these people do now (laughing, but I was at all the games. There were some great games. Right after I decided to go to Notre Dame, I didn't go to the game, I was a senior in high school, when they broke that winning streak of UCLA when Dwight Clay hits the jumper from the corner. You're watching and that's going to be your school. That's the one you're going to and saying, that's pretty wild. There were some great basketball games with UCLA while I was here. Digger seemed to have their number pretty well, especially here at our place."
What is the status of the injured and banged-up players?"We look like we are the healthiest we have been in a long time. Even Paul Duncan, who was sick, is back now. It looks to me like we are ready to go. This is probably the healthiest we are going to be the rest of the way because now it is six weeks in a row with no byes. Its go, go, go, go. We look right now that we are as physically ready as we are going to be. Everyone's ready to go. I would tell you if there was a question mark, but I don't think there is anyone not ready to go."
You mentioned that you had an eight-play package for James Aldridge. How has he perked up in practice?"All of a sudden when you start getting into the mix a little bit more, Darius is our lead dog, and we all know that, but what I do is group plays for Munir and I group plays for James. And they're not necessarily the same plays. There are things that Munir does the best and there are things that James does the best. So rather than trying to give them the responsibility of everything that Darius has, they each have parts of what Darius has."
How stressful has it been for your family with all the traffic past your house and the picture-taking and how difficult is it for you to go out to a restaurant or to a movie?"The pros were a little bit different. In the pros nobody really cared about the coaches. It's really all about the players. If I was at a restaurant and Tommy Brady was at the restaurant, trust me nobody would care if I was there. Not one person. Not one person would say, there's Charlie; so what, there's Tommy Brady. But that's not exactly the way it is here because those guys don't have the opportunity to be out like I would as a husband going out with my wife or as a dad going out with my kids. It's a little more frustrating for them than it is for me. We like going to the movies but we very seldom go anymore because you sit there with a Sharpie the whole time. And then my wife gets mad at me, and I'm not in the business of trying to get my wife mad at me."
Darrin Walls has been up and down. Why is that corner position so hard for young players?"I don't think he was up and down. I think he was on the rise; then they went after him in the Purdue game. So it was really that one period in that first half of the Purdue game when they went after him. I think with the exception of that one period when they went after him, he's made slow and steady progress every day. Remember now, when you are out there as a corner, sometimes you are out there on an island and sometimes you have coverage. In other words, coverage means the safety rolls over the top to back you up right there. In that game, the game wasn't designed to help out the corners. It was designed to take away 9 and 28; that means you are on an island more. A lot of times you guys ask your questions and I say pick your poison because what is it you want to try and stop. What are you going to try to shut down? What are the things you identify to do to win the game? There are a lot of times where we could keep a corner from being hung out to dry, where he's one-on-one the whole day. I think what he has shown is slow and steady progress the entire year. Corner is a tough position to play, but honestly I think the hardest position to play is offensive line. We have had an offensive lineman in there the whole time and that's a hard position as a relatively inexperienced guy no matter how big you are and no matter how tough you are and how athletic you are, there are a lot of guys that we would draft in the NFL that would we not count on them playing for three years."
Speaking of young guys, did any of them open your eyes this last week and a half?"There are some guys that I am hoping get some significant time as we kick it off here. Now it might not be this week, but there are guys I'm hoping are not five-plays-a-game guys. There are guys based off last week's practice that I would like to see get 20-30 snaps. You can't just go through a growing process and put them in there just to put them in there. You have to put them in there under the circumstance that will help the team grow and them to grow at the same time."
Without the bye week, would you have been able to get a look at these guys?"No, I think when you are limited to a 20-hour workweek with three hours being the game, that cuts it to 17 hours - let's say half of it is meeting time - it really doesn't leave you that much time out there to practice."
How does UCLA team speed compare to some of the other teams you have played?"Once again, they have two defensive ends with a bunch of sacks. They have two safeties that are two of their three leading tacklers on the team. They have corners that have played very well as well. Usually people talk about the interior guys, the linebackers and defensive tackles, where speed shows up as on the edges. That's where speed shows up. Speed doesn't usually show up when you are slugging it out in the middle. Speed shows up on the edges and that is what they have; they have edge speed."
Are you giving John Carlson a chance to get reps at fullback in practice?"Yes" (laughing)
Can you talk about the reports that you got calls from NFL teams recently?"Here's what happened. People start calling with what is called feelers. Every organization has feelers and people haven't figured it out yet. So let's see if we can get this done once and for all. When we redid my contract last year, it should have alleviated any doubt that I'm leaving Notre Dame. It's alleviated all doubt. Last year they called to see if you were interested because you hadn't done that contract yet. This year they are calling to see if the contract is real. They want to find out if what they hear you saying is actually what the truth is. How many times do I have to say the same thing? People still call, and they will continue to call."
Is this a good thing? Do you take it as a compliment?"It's a good thing because I always give the same answer. If I was giving you one answer and him a different answer, it would be a bad thing. It would cost me too much money to leave; money I do not have (laughing). I do not have it. It would cost me too much money to leave – millions of dollars for me to leave. And the last time I checked, I don't have it. It's flattering that they inquire, but the bottom line still is, that is why we did this last year. Everyone talks about whether, did they call or didn't they call. Yes, they called. They called last year and they'll call this year even after this conversation; and they'll call again. But the answer is always going to be the same. Which is good for all of us; I'm not sure if it's good for you (laughing). It's a consistent same answer every time. It won't be the last time because sometimes they just don't get it. But I keep on giving the same answer. In a follow-up to that, my son told me that on TV yesterday, I'm doing that to try and get more money. I said that's a pretty good idea, if that's what I'm trying to do (laughing). And I don't think they are planning on doing that, either. I don't think they plan on giving me anymore money."
What do you do to keep the edge on after a layoff?"What you do is take a normal week and cut it down each day. So you can get a higher tempo during each practice. That's the way you do it. Because you take advantage of the fact you had worked on the previous week. If you go and deliver it to the players the same monotonous week that they get every week, you have done nothing to change their schedule, therefore, you have done nothing to get their attention. I think we have their attention."
How was your bye week since you didn't have a game on Saturday?"Well, I went out of town for a day on Friday. I came back on Saturday morning and just did family stuff. I did watch that UCLA game twice, but basically I did family stuff and those are things you don't get to do. You don't get time to spend doing stuff with your family. Regardless of what everybody else did, I did what I was allowed to do. Whatever was on that checklist, that's what I did. I spent a lot of couch time. That couch has a dent in it in case you're wondering."
Did the bye week give you the opportunity to look at the areas that need improvement?"I think we identified a lot of areas that we can get better at in a hurry, and some areas that we couldn't get better at so we eliminated doing those things. One of the ways you get away from doing things that you don't think you do so well, you just take them out of the package altogether. Let's say it's a couple plays that I really like that we don't do too well, I just throw them out. I just don't do them anymore. And I do the ones we do better more often."
If you were in the media, wouldn't you ask some of the same questions that have been asked about your contract and the NFL?"Well, I think the fact that you guys know me so well and at this point most everyone here really knows what the deal is. There will continue to be feelers and feelers and everyone knows that I'm staying here until they fire me or I die. I'm here for life and that is what I said I'm going to do. So why would I not be a man of my word despite all the things that people can sit there and say with different character flaws that people have. One of my greatest strengths, which can also be perceived as a negative, is telling the truth. I've told you and everyone else that those things don't mean anything."
People think that you would go to the NFL for more money."That's exactly right. That's why we did it last year. That was no longer an issue. Unless I hit the lottery (laughing) for tens of millions of dollars, it's a moot point. So you'll know because I'll be resigning the next day (laughing)."