Green seeing red

With the Arizona Cardinals off to a 0-3 start, coach Dennis Green says, "Nobody's more frustrated than me." Here, Green talks Cardinals and 49ers and discusses several issues regarding Sunday night's game between the two teams at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.

Q: How are you feeling after three weeks into the season?

Green:
I'm sure I feel like (Green Bay coach) Mike Sherman feels right now. I'm still optimistic, but very disappointed. Clearly, we had to play a lot better to go in to New York and win. I don't think that will be an easy place to win for anybody. We had a chance last week at Seattle. Early in the season I think the schedule has been more difficult than our ability to handle it. Hopefully we'll catch up to it.

Q: How do you balance this upcoming game as a coach?

Green:
It's better than going into San Francisco and playing. I spent a lot of time on the West Coast and I understand San Francisco's home-field advantage and how strong that is. The league asked us if we'd do it, because they wanted to have an international game. California, Arizona and Texas are the only three states that border Mexico. I think it's natural and adventurous in the game, so we said yes sir we'll go and do it. The good thing is that it is a nationally-televised game and it's been a long time since the Arizona Cardinals have been on a nationally-televised Sunday or Monday night game. We're going to do the best we can.

Q: Did it take any convincing on your part?

Green
It's not up to me. I'm just a football coach. Our organization down here in Arizona is very close to the border and we have a lot of fans down in the country of Mexico. We're going to have the Super Bowl here in a couple of years; we have a new stadium coming and a lot of things to be positive about. I think we're a natural choice. If you're going to go into Mexico City to play a game, the largest city in the world with 27 million, I think we'd probably be the natural team. It would be us or the Dallas Cowboys and I don't think there's any way Dallas would have given up a home game. They sell out their games and we do not sell out our games. It was easier for us to make that sacrifice and we made it.

Q: Are you allowing the players to do things that they wouldn't normally do?

Green:
Heck no. I told them I better not see a camera. I don't even want to see a camera phone. This is a football game and it's a division game. It's an NFC conference game. It's an important game for us. We're 0-3 right now and San Francisco is 1-2. And everybody saw the game last week. That was a game that was right there for the taking. They're a much-improved football team, so we're not going in there for anything other than to play a much better football game with an optimistic approach.

Q: Are you worried about the altitude at all?

Green:
You have to deal with it. It's like going to Mile High Stadium except it's higher. You can go in Monday and it would make a difference. All the discussions with Denver always include these questions: When do you go to Denver? Do you go in early or late? Do you go in Friday with everybody? The only difference is with Denver they're accustomed to altitude and the team they're playing is not. Both of us are going into a high altitude situation. We had training camp this past year in Prescott, Arizona. That elevation was about 5,500. We didn't have a problem with that. In years past we had training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona. It's over 7,000 feet in altitude. I think both teams will have to deal with that and play a lot of players. It will be considerably cooler. We're hitting 105 degrees virtually every day. It will be at least 30 degrees cooler there. That's something we look forward to, because we've had a rough time with the heat.

Q: What are the safety concerns with this trip?

Green:
The National Football League has had a lot of trips down there and we have a great security staff. Every city in America is good as far as security. This will be the first regular-season game in Mexico City. We have an excellent detail with the guys who work with us. We have a full-time security director. We have a big security meeting tomorrow. This is not a sight-seeing deal for us. We'll get in late Friday. We'll have a little practice on Saturday morning. We'll have some meetings and then we need some rest time. We've been practicing in a 103-degree weather, so our bodies might not be where they would be as far as freshness once this weather breaks. In the security aspect we should handle it by staying in a very nice international hotel, then we should get ready to play the game on Sunday.

Q: Do you expect quarterback Josh McCown to be ready for the game?

Green:
I hope so. We need to win those games. I think it's all about winning. I think Josh is very competitive by nature. He's been around here a long time and he wants to see us turn this program around and start winning. Like most backup guys, you're ready to go once you get your chance. Now is his chance.

Q: How long do you see Kurt Warner being out?

Green:
We couldn't say that, because groin injuries like high ankle sprains could be one week or more than that. You have to have that healing process. I think it's coming along pretty well. There is a certain pain factor and then there is whether or not you can play the position that you're required to play using the fundamental techniques. That's where the injury can slow you down a little bit. We did sign a third quarterback (Rohan Davey). We didn't think it made a lot sense to play one or two games and take the risk of having only two quarterbacks.

Q: What does J.J. Arrington have to do to be a starting running back in this league again?

Green:
He needs some blocking. Everybody is familiar with the kind of years that he has had. Everybody is familiar with how J.J played and what role he had. A back has to have holes to run through. He has exceptional speed and he has tremendous ambition and he wants to do well. He's frustrated, but nobody's more frustrated than me.

Q: How hard have the injuries on the offensive line been for you?

Green:
We had a vision of how we were going to rebuild this O-line. It hasn't work that way, because of injuries. We only really had two games and two weeks of practice where we had Alex Stepanovich, who was our starting center last year. He played every single play as a rookie, which is very unusual. He was a solid player for us. (Offensive tackle) Oliver Ross who we signed as an unrestricted free agent out of Pittsburgh is a very good run blocker. He was one of the key links in that 15-1 regular season that they had last year. Oliver hurt his knee in training camp. He missed about three weeks of training camp and he had only been back three weeks including training camp. Now he has fractured his hand. He is in the out category. We've had to adjust on the fly. The injuries have been much more than you can anticipate. It's probably had more effect on us.

Q: When you take a head coaching job, how long does it take you to get the roster the way you want it to look?

Green:
It's hard to say. We work real fast here. As I know many people are probably saying, ‘You mean to tell me Denny Green is still coaching?' I worked with the 49ers back in 1979. You have to move fast. We've really worked hard at moving fast and that's where the disappointment is. We have been aggressive in unrestricted free agency. That's where defensive end Bertrand Berry comes from. We have defensive end Chike Okeafor and he plays opposite side of Berry. Both of them are good, hard-nosed players. We brought Kurt Warner in with some hopes and high expectations. We've worked hard at it, its just not turning as fast as I'm accustomed to.

Q: How much do you remember the last two games against the 49ers last year?

Green:
As a coach you could ask me the last two games last year, the game in ‘95 or the last game in the ‘94 season. A coach remembers about every game. We won the game in ‘94. Steve Young didn't play so that helps. We lost the game in ‘95. I think Jerry Rice had his single-most reception game. Last year we lost two games that went into overtime. As a coach you remember every game. Most of them when you win you feel fairly good about it. All of the ones when you don't win you don't feel good about it.

Q: Do you feel like you're a playoff team if you would've won those games against the 49ers?

Green:
Everybody had a shot. You don't really look that way. We didn't play well enough to be a playoff team last year. We lost four games by a field goal. The San Francisco game was two of them. We've already lost two games a lot worse than that already. We're going to have to pick our pace up to get going in that category where you have to be 9-7 or 10-6 to be a playoff team. St. Louis and Seattle are at a 2-1 start.

Q: What does Tim Rattay bring to the table when he's healthy?

Green:
He has a quick release, so it's very hard to get to him. He can see the field. He can spread the ball around. He can go to the tight end. He can throw it a long way. I think he's very competitive and active on his feet. One of the things that Bill Walsh loved is when he sees a beautiful athlete who can bounce, move and throw. Tim Rattay can do that.

Q: Is wide receiver Brandon Lloyd emerging into a threat?

Green:
When you have the kind of games that he's had, that's the old bombs away and exceptional speed. He has a lot of pictures in the building that he can emulate. The 49ers have had some great receivers. Brandon Lloyd wants to be one. He has a guy like Johnnie Morton if he needs some tips from a veteran. Brandon is emerging very quickly.

Q: The 49ers secondary is vulnerable, so are you getting them at a good time?

Green:
We don't look at it that way. We know Mike Adams is a good player. Shawntae Spencer and Larry Fitzgerald went up against each other last year just like they did with each other at practice in Pittsburgh. It was a draw I guess you'd say. Tony Parrish is blasting away. He's a big time hitter who controls the middle. We look at this secondary as being a good secondary and a very physical secondary. Julian Peterson pulled back after an unfortunate injury in our game last year. Bryant Young and Julian make two of the best in the game. Anybody would love to have those guys defensively. I think defensively the 49ers are a good defense.


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