Q & A with Mike Shanahan

Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan speaks to the media regarding his team's 16-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Injury report "The only injury that we have is Quentin Griffin. He sprained his ankle on the last play, and I'm not sure how bad it is right now. We'll find out Wednesday. The only other minor injury was (Ben) Hamilton. He has a little thumb sprain, and he should be alright.

On injury to RB Quentin Griffin
"He was walking normal today, so I don't think it is real severe. We will evaluate him on Wednesday. He could walk normal today, and there was not a lot of swelling in the ankle, which is a good sign. It is not something that is a big question of whether he will play, I think he will play. With those ankles you never really know for sure."

On performance of Griffin
"He played pretty good. That was a tough defense and he played pretty good in the fourth quarter. He got things going a little bit, and we were able to control the clock and the game. I was pleased."

On giving a game ball to Griffin
"I just gave him the game ball because I thought he deserved to get a game ball. The way he played, he played hard. That is a great defense. He got some tough yards during the game."

On holding the ball for 13:20 in the fourth quarter
"We have had a few (good quarters). We have had a few through the years. Anytime you can get the ball back with seven mintues plus, and give (the Buccaneers) the ball back with three seconds on the clock, you feel like you did what you needed to do to win the football game."

On performance of CB Willie Middlebrooks
"Willie played well. He's been playing very consistently. Ever since Lenny (Walls) went down he has had the opportunity to play in the nickel (defense). He's always been excellent on special teams, but he has stepped up (on defense) and played well."

On when CB Lenny Walls will return to the line-up
"We looked at him last week, but we didn't feel like he was ready to play. When he is ready to play we are going to try and dress our top 45 guys, and when he is ready, Lenny will be one of our top 45 guys. We will evaluate during the week who will play in the nickel and who will play in the dime. The people who we think give us the best chance to win; we will start at that position."

On selecting rookie WR Triandos Luke to return punts instead of WR Rod Smith
"Number one, Triandos has not been activated this year. I wanted to go with Triandos if we had the chance. Obviously when he is not suited up (the officials) get mad at you when you throw him out there for punt returns (smiling). It all depends on the situation during the week. You are never sure who you are going to activate. You only have 45 guys that you can dress and you are looking at special teams, offense and defense. You are looking at injuries on both sides of the football, so this was the first week I felt we could afford to have Luke up, and I thought he did a great job.

"It always is (week-to-week). You really don't know if you go with four wide receivers or five; do you go with three tight ends; (do) you go with five running backs, linebackers and defensive line. A lot has to do with injuries and special teams."

On performance of DT Ellis Johnson
"He played around 20 plays, and he played well."

On using FB/KR/RB Reuben Droughns
"I like him a lot. He has a lot of skills and is very similar to Mike Anderson. (Droughns) might be a little faster than Mike. Mike is very powerful, and I think we know what he did for us when he was fully healthy. I think Reuben has a lot of the same attributes. "They are different. Reuben is a little bit faster, and Mike is a little bit more of a power-runner, even though Reuben has the ability to do that to.

"Since we lost Tatum Bell for a while, we lost Garison Hearst for a while, and we lost Mike Anderson, (Droughns) is basically the only guy left. We still like what he can do, we have always liked what he can do at the tailback position, and we just had a lot of depth there before. If you have injuries you have to move people around, and we always thought Reuben had some good running skills. One of the reasons we have him in our Zebra set – two wide (receivers), a tight end, and a running back – he always did a good job when forced into that position. We will continue to work him in at tailback and at fullback. He helps us on special teams and a lot of different positions on offense as well."

On how he felt his players responded in the heat and humidity in Tampa
"We knew it was going to be hot and we knew it was something we had not practiced in. We had a cool week here. To go there in that type of heat and step up the way we did in the fourth quarter, it says a lot about our guys and what type of shape they're in and the type of mindset they had going into the fourth quarter."

On the progress of tight end Jeb Putzier
"He's got some big time potential. Jeb can make some plays. He had two big catches in there but also had two drops. So he's going to continue to work to get better. He does have some speed and quickness and is learning the position. He's getting better each week."

On the improvement of Putzier's blocking
"It has improved drastically. If it hadn't improved, we would've kept those other guys we had here during the summer. He's made some strides in that area, and I think each game he'll get better."

On his thoughts on the New England Patriots tying the record for most consecutive wins
"Well, you have to win a lot of close games. You've got to find a way to win. You know a lot about the character of that team when you win that many games in a row. They've got something going. They've got a lot of talent. They've got, obviously, some excellent veteran leadership on that football team to have that type of streak. And, obviously, the coaching staff as well."

On if the record means anything to him
"No, not really. Now, if we would had the record, it would've meant something. Five teams are tied at 18. Unless you have the record, I don't think it means a whole lot. It's sure nice to win those 18 in a row though. I'd take that right about now."

On the play of defensive tackle Luther Elliss
"I liked the way Luther played when he was healthy. I know the scenario that had happened in Detroit when he was banged up a little bit. We brought him here in the offseason and worked him out, and we were hoping we could get the Luther Elliss that was healthy. He's come in here and done a good job for us. He's a natural leader. Being drafted in the first round, I think everybody knows what talent level he's at. He's very mature, very team oriented, and he's been a big plus for our football team. We're not trying to overuse him, but we're just putting him in situations where we don't wear him down. But, progressively, he's getting in better shape and we're pleased with his play."

On how the defensive line has stepped up without injured defensive end Trevor Pryce
"We talked about Willie Middlebrooks stepping up when Lenny (Walls) went out. It's the same thing on the defensive line with Trevor going out, and Marco Coleman coming in and playing at a very high level. Raylee Johnson and Reggie Hayward are playing great as well; our three defensive ends we have rotating. We've been mixing it up inside. Patrick Chukwurah opened us up outside in some pass rush situations. So, I think we've some good things. It's nice when a defense can lose a couple starters and still play at a high level."

On how he feels about the recent games being closer and having less offense and more defense than in the past
"Sometimes we have (had games like that). You kind of forget about the tougher teams we go against. People forget some of the playoff games we had. Take a look at Kansas City (1997). It was a dog fight, throwing 16 or 18 times in a game. Having 25 yards in the Super Bowl going into the third quarter against Green Bay and their No. 1 defense. You have to understand that some of these teams play defense very well, especially on the road. You've got to do what you can do to win. You try and open it up sometimes, but then you open yourself up to turnovers. You've got to do what you think you need to do to win."

On what he does to try and beat the tougher defenses
"You never know, it all depends on how good people are and what you think your strength and weaknesses are. You've got to do what you need to do to win. That's the bottom line. What you try to do is have a balanced offense and defense. Try to do as good as you can do on defense and as good as you can do on offense. Combine those two with special teams and try to make some plays. I think if you have all of those areas working together, you've got a chance to do something special."

On if he feels "lucky" to have such an efficient field goal kicker in Jason Elam
"I don't feel like we're lucky because we know how good he is. That's why we kept him and signed him to a long-term contract and a very lucrative contract. But it doesn't surprise me at all. The only thing I regret after that game is that I didn't give him a game ball. He became a dad last week. He was staying up quite a bit at night, obviously, with the baby and his wife. For him to come in under those circumstances and have a couple clutch kicks is really a credit to him. He's a winner. I love the way he handles himself and the way he works. Obviously, he'd be the special teams player of the game."

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