Q&A with Mike Shanahan

Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan addressed the media on Monday, discussing the teams' 31-3 victory over the Oakland Raiders.

Injury report
"[CB] Lenny Walls had a shoulder dislocation but Greek [trainer Steve Antonopulos] thought it looked pretty good. It's still quite sore, and I don't think we'll know a lot until we practice on Wednesday. But Greek at this time thinks there's a chance he'll be ready. [G] Dan Neil has an abdominal strain. He's getting treatment and it's nothing serious. [WR Triandos] Luke had a little thigh bruise treatment. [C Tom] Nalen— finger. [WR] Rod Smith, a little arm bruise. [WR] Nate Jackson has a little heel bruise. Other than that, we're in pretty good shape. [CB Willie] Middlebrooks, with his hamstring, I don't think we'll know until he practices. He may try to practice either Wednesday or Thursday. [Patrick] Chukwurah, according to Greek, has a good chance to practice on Wednesday."

On if Willie Middlebrooks' injury healed quicker than expected
"It looks that way. That's what Greek says. It looks like he might be ready to go. I won't know for sure until he actually practices. I'm just kind of giving an idea."

On if he feels fortunate with the injury to Lenny Walls looking less serious
"Well, usually when it pops out, at least the second time it pops in a little bit quicker. So, Greek thought after the game that it would pop in and he feels better about it today."

On if he was surprised Walls' shoulder popped out even though he had a brace on it
"You don't know for sure. I've seen [former Broncos cornerback] Ray Crockett's shoulder came completely out of the joint, popped back in, played the whole game. Other guys, their shoulder will pop out and won't go back in as quickly and they're sore for a week or two. The good thing about it is Greek felt like there was a good chance. At least it was positive today. It was the soreness there that we anticipated. We'll know a lot more on Wednesday."

On when he expects LB Patrick Chukwurah to return
"Like I said, it's just a guess right now. Any time you got a guy that didn't go last week in Chukwurah, Any time you have a quad injury or a hamstring, you never know for sure. The other injuries I don't think anybody should be held out except for Lenny [Walls]. He's a question mark. Just some minor problems, nothing major or severe."

On if he expected the defense to gel this well so early in the season
"You're always working for it to gel. You never know for sure. But like I said, it's still pretty early. Hopefully, we can be ranked No. 1 at the end of the season, not just after the sixth game. But we've been playing hard, we've been playing together, and hopefully we can keep it going."

On the progress of standout rookie linebacker D.J. Williams
"We've talked about it before. Even though he's young, he's very mature and very athletic. I like his maturity - the way he handles his preparation and the way he plays the game. He's very talented, so hopefully he keeps playing at that level and keeps having a great year."

On if he thinks the team chemistry is better this year than last year at this time
"Every year, you're working on playing together. You really don't know until you actually go out there and play. But every team is trying to fit together and if you fit together defensively and offensively, you've got a chance for good things to happen. Thus far, we're ranked No. 1, so we're playing pretty good. Hopefully we can keep playing at that level. With the type of character that we do have and the way that they prepare, I'd be surprised if we don't keep playing at a high level. But we've got to do the little things the right way and hopefully our guys keep on improving."

On if playing the fullback position has helped Reuben Droughns succeed at tailback
"Reuben has always had some excellent running skills. One of the reasons he played fullback is we try and get the best 11 guys on the field. With Clinton Portis at running back, we tried to get Reuben out there and play. He did play and played very effectively. He's a very powerful guy. Even though he's 220 pounds, he can isolate on linebackers, he did a good job catching the ball and he can make things happen in the open field. So, once he got his opportunity to play at the tailback position, he took full advantage of it."

On if he thinks Reuben Droughns has been more successful than Quentin Griffin because of the change in running style
"First of all, we played some pretty good teams. You can't lose perspective on some of the teams we played. But he has played extremely well. He's very powerful, and he's played two excellent games back-to-back. He loves carrying the ball. Anytime you carry 38 times and you look fresh on the 38th carry, that means you're enjoying what you're doing. And I think that's what he's doing, he's enjoying the game. The game's not too big for him, and hopefully he'll keep it going."

On if he thinks teams game plan differently for Reuben Droughns than they do for Quentin Griffin
"Teams have got to game plan your running game. This is the National Football League. They don't care who your tailback is. Whoever your tailback is, he must be pretty good and they'll do everything they can to stop them. One of the things that we've done, at least in the last game, is we're able to put the ball in the end zone once we got in the red zone. We probably played a little better against Carolina than we did the Raiders, but we were able to put the ball in the end zone against the Raiders and we weren't successful in the red zone against Carolina."

On if Reuben Droughns will be the starting tailback for the rest of the season
"Oh, I don't know. These guys are competing every day. Every time you go on that practice field, you're competing to keep your job. You're competing against somebody else. Reuben had an excellent game when he got the opportunity to start, and he took advantage of it. I sure have got a lot of confidence in Quentin (Griffin). I've got a lot of confidence in Tatum Bell and Garrison Hearst. Whoever is out there, we have a pretty good opportunity to succeed because all of them practice well. But you've got to start somebody. Reuben has earned the right to start and get some reps, and we'll go from there."

On how the bootleg has been so effective week after week
"Well, if you're running the football effectively, the guy who has containment also has to make a tackle on the running back. So, if everybody is converging on the running back, it opens quarterback keeps. Pretty simple."

On avoiding a mid-season slump
"First of all, you have to be a little lucky. You have to stay healthy. If you do have injuries, you are hoping that you have a little more depth at that position than you had a year ago. I think we have a little more depth this year than we had last year. You have to keep on playing to a high level. You have to have a sense of urgency in every game you play. If you start thinking that you're good in the National Football League and you don't prepare yourself, you will get embarrassed and embarrassed very quickly, and we have talked about that. Every one of these (NFL) teams, regardless of their record, has a chance to beat you very easily if, mentally, you're not ready to play. It's a combination of a lot of things.

"(As a team). you talk about this before the season starts, all the teams that started 4-0, 5-0, 5-1, 6-1, and you go through a bunch of scenarios of teams that didn't make the playoffs. Then you go through teams that have started out 1-3, 0-4, and people that have played in Championship games. First of all, you have to be a little bit lucky for a team to stay healthy. You have to have some depth at positions. When people go down, people pick up the slack. But also there has to be a mindset that you practice and prepare every week as if you were 0-0. If you have that type of mindset, and mature football teams do, then you have a chance to have success. If not, you'll be an average football team or possibly a good football team, but never able to get over the hump.

"Obviously things have been going pretty good. We have been able to (win) four weeks in a row. The question is, ‘What can we do over the long haul?' I've been pleased. We have had a couple guys go down on defense – a guy like [DT/DE] Trevor Pryce goes down and [DE] Marco Coleman steps up, and [DE] Raylee Johnson steps up, and [DE] Anton (Palepoi) comes in and get a sack and a half and does a good job; a guy like [CB] Lenny Walls goes down and guys step up, that's what you have to have. You have to have guys that step up and play extremely well. Fortunately, we've been able to have that. The same is true at the running back position with the injuries that we have had."

On status of DE/DT Trevor Pryce
"He is getting treatment every day, and working out extremely hard. It's four weeks right now. I really don't know if he'll start practicing in two weeks, a week, two-and-a-half weeks? It will probably take him a week of recovery time to get back in the swing of things. You don't want to throw him in there too quick. He said the Atlanta game was a target date, and I think that is a little optimistic, but we'll wait and see."

On the receiving ability of Denver's tight ends
"If your tight ends can't catch the ball, you don't have an offense. (A defense) can double team wide receivers all the time, and if you can't get the ball to your tight ends and (running) backs, you usually don't have much of an offense. If you're in the National Football League and your tight ends can't catch and your running backs can't catch, and (the defense) double teams those wide receivers, you're in for a long day. You have to have some balance, and the great offenses do."

On the blocking ability of TE Jeb Putzier
"[Putzier] was a wide receiver coming out (of college). Anytime you have a wide receiver, very similar to Shannon Sharpe, it takes a while to work them into the tight end position or the H-back position. Jeb has been that type of guy. It has taken him a while to get dirty and learn how to be a blocking tight end. He has some excellent receiving skills, and he's really stepped up his game blocking. He had a couple good blocks in (the Oakland) game and he made some big plays for us in the receiving game, and he continues to get better."

On TE Dwayne Carswell returning to the tackle position "[Carswell] can play both, that's one of the reasons why we moved him inside. We dress seven offensive linemen. We have one tackle that rotates and if something were to happen in the game, we feel like Dwayne could go and play the tackle position."

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