Coaches Corner - Mike Shanahan

Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan addresses the media on the eve of Training Camp 2006.

Updates on the signees
"I think we got everyone signed here except for Jay (Cutler). I haven't talked to Ted (Sundquist-Broncos General Manager) in the last hour but we have the lines of communication open and hopefully we can get that done tonight."

Differences in player participation during Super Bowl years (1997-1998)
"Probably just the opposite, we didn't have anywhere near close to 100 percent participation in our Super Bowl years. But this has been the best year we have had (97 percent). It just keeps getting better every year. People understand what it takes to make a commitment and play at this level, and with the salaries the way they are and the offseason programs and the demands on these athletes, it's in their best interest to show up. In a lot of these contracts, they have great incentives as well. So, we're at 97 percent and it keeps getting better every year, at least the last three years. So that's a good sign."

On whether you correlate player attendance with preventing injury
"Well, a little bit is luck, and a lot of it has to do with being in condition. If you do get injured and you're in good condition, recovering is three times faster. If you don't do anything in the offseason and when you are away and you do get hurt, it takes a while to get back in shape. For us to do the things we would like to do in the season, the first goal is to have a great offseason program and we have been able to accomplish that."

On why he believes attendance has increased in offseason training activities and training camp "I think number one, Denver is a great place to go and people want to be there with their family. I think that's a big factor. There are a lot of incentives, and salaries are pretty good nowadays. So, if you want to be on the team you better show commitment to the organization otherwise you won't be with the team."

On what position he foresees being the biggest battle between a starter and a reserve
"I think the obvious positions are the people that can start from the year before. So when you take a look at it, its always got to be the running back, obviously the quarterback position, the offensive line, even though there's always a battle and people are competing. And you take a look at the wide receiver position I think we've paid enough attention to that thus far were everybody is on top of that. Fullback we've have both Cecil (Sapp) and Kyle (Johnson) that's a very close battle at that position. Defensive line I think you talk about (Darrent) Williams and (Domonique) Foxworth, two guys who played very well last year. Safety positions, obviously they've played well and we feel like we've got some depth at that position. Defensive tackles I think are pretty well set. Now the depth at those tackles we're not really sure. Losing a guy like Trevor (Pryce), who are the main guys at the defensive end positions.?

On the latest on disgruntled WR Ashley Lelie
I'm just going to wait and see if he reports to camp. And if he doesn't report I'm just going to treat him like he sprained his ankle. I'm not going to worry about somebody who's not at our camp. He's got a contract and he's obligated to be here. We're holding all the cards, obviously some healthy fines. I talk to him on the phone a couple days ago and I'm not sure what direction he's going."

More on Lelie
"I really don't know how much interest there has been. Obviously there's interest anytime there's a starter on your team. A guy like Ashley who led the league in yards per catch last year there's always some interest, but not a big enough interest to have a fair trade. What I mean is maybe a draft choice or a guy we consider a comparable talent.

More on Lelie
"First of all I'm not going to relay the conversation we had. I can tell you that he didn't say a whole lot. Peter did most of the talking.

On if it is strange with former Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak now departed to Houston
"I think it would be a lot different if I didn't have a guy like Mike Heimerdinger come in, and a guy like Pat McPherson who's been here and a guy like Rick Dennison who's an assistant, but as a player when I was coach. So we've got a lot of guys that I've worked with for a lot of years. It's always tough losing great coaches but what an opportunity for Gary to be in the position he's in. It's an opportunity for (former Assistant general Manager) Rick Smith...guys that have worked extremely hard to earn the position they have right now. You just feel good for them. I just talked to Gary a few minutes ago and wished him well. He said Rick is doing a great job and Dale is strong now that he's got a chance to run their pro personelle and possibly their collegiate personnel in the next years to come. And you know you are just happy for the guy who gets the opportunity to show people what he can do."

On how much QB Jay Cutler will be held back if he potentially holds out of Training Camp
"I don't really think he'll hold out. Jay is a pretty smart guy, I think his agent is a very fair guy and we've always been fair. This is not mental gymnastics. These contracts, I mean it's a basic percentage and there's little give and take and we've always found a way to deal with these things that's always being fair. But to answer your question, that if he did sit out, with all the experience that he got in his OTA (organized team activities) days, he's further ahead than most quarterbacks would be because of what he's been able to do in the offseason."

On practice repetitions
What we do is we give the third and fourth teamers the same amount of reps that we give the first and second teamers so he's got the same amount of reps as our starters. So he's had a chance to learn by actually practicing. There is a lot of teams that don't do it that way you know your first quarterback and your second quarterback gets the majority of the reps the third team guys gets mostly a 3rd probably a quarter. And he's been able to get at least 50 percent of the reps which is very good for him.

More on practice repetitions
All of our guys are able to carry the whole load. You just have to evaluate what you think is most effective for your team and anytime a guy averages 5.3 yards per carry and right at 1,000 yards you know he's capable of having some big-time ability. And you have to decide if he's capable of carrying the ball 25 times a game. Or is it better to have another guy that you think a lot of taking half the reps or taking the majority of the reps, you kind of have to feel that as the preseason goes on. I can't tell you right now where we're at because usually at the running back position and the safety position you have to see a guy play. It is very similar to what happened with us with Terrell Davis, where he had a chance to show what he could do in a game against Jacksonville in preseason. People were asking if he was going to make the team, is he going to be one of your top guys and after that game I think everyone knew he was going to be a player. So that's what you're hoping to do just evaluate these guys in preseason and see what they can do.

On running back competition
"Yeah, it's wide open. That doesn't mean I'm trying to take away anything from what Tatum Bell's done or what Ron Dayne has done or a guy like Cedric Cobbs. All I'm saying is where there's not an established guy there from the year before, I'm mean wasn't a starter, I'm kind of wide open at that position."

On Gerard Warren
"I was very happy with Gerard that's why we signed him to a big-time contract. Not only the way he played but because the way he led. We don't make those commitments unless we feel pretty good about the guy. And I think he just keeps on getting better and better the more he's in our system and the more comfortable he feels with the team."

On Javon Walker as an addition to the wide receiving corps
"Well not just Javon. It's not just Javon because obviously we think he's a top player. He brings a lot to our running game and he's a very physical guy, he's a very tough guy and I think that mindset helps an offense. Obviously Rod Smith, we know what he's done and what he's able to do. I think a guy like Tony Scheffler, we watched him during preseason with the speed and the size and the great hands he has we're looking for him to step up and help us in a certain way. Very similar to what Jeb (Putzier) did a year ago. We think that Tony might have a better upside in the running game."

On Javon Walker compared to past receivers
"It's hard to say until somebody does it. I hate to compare guys to teams that have won Super Bowls or guys that have receptions of over 100 yards and over 1,000 yards. If I think top to bottom this could be the deepest set of receivers we've had."

On how he plans to practice the veteran guys
"On defense, Ebenezer Ekuban we will keep him at one-a-day. Courtney Brown and John Lynch will be one a day, Champ Bailey will be one-a-day. Those are the only guys I believe that we have down for sure. Guys like Al Wilson, Ian Gold, Gerard Warren, you know those guys I may give a day off every three or four days, not to over work a veteran player that is proven. On offense Tom Nalen will go one-a-day Matt Lepsis will be twice-a-day but every once in a while we will give him a day off. Stephen Alexander will be one-a-day. What I usually do is, the guys that have done a great job in the offseason and I know they are in great shape, guys that are proven players that I don't want to over work, but still get a good workout in the weight room and still evaluate the guys behind them so they can get some more reps in practice. What we've been able to do the last 17 practices that we've had in OTA we've thrown a lot at them. What we've done in the last 17 days is like training camp. Now what's new is basically three weeks for training camp. I have a chance to get these guys in top shape and still have a chance to evaluate some of the younger guys when these guys are on one a days. "

On Todd Sauerbrun
"He's going to miss the first four games, It's a big concern, very disappointing. Especially ephedrine, it's a weight loss drug and obviously it's a banned substance and if you take it you get suspended. That's what happened to him, but I'll let him address you at a later time. After his four games he will be eligible. I told him I was very disappointed in him, we took a chance on him and of all the things to take ephedrine, makes you lose weight. He's the only guy on the team that I don't care if he's fat. I don't care if he's 30 pounds overweight, all he has to do is punt the ball and kick it in the end zone. So obviously I was disappointed."

On Jake Plummer's performance
"Jake looked very well in our OTA, he looked the best that he has since he's been here. I think he's very comfortable with the system, he's been here a couple years and things are automatic. He doesn't have to think, he understands his supporting cast and the players around him and he has handled himself very well and hopefully it translates into a good year."

On the possibility of trading Ashley Lelie
"We're always interested in good players but anytime you talk about good trades there are so many factors that go into them and I can't say that we would not be open to either one of those guys but at what price? There are so many factors, always trying to get the best competition that we can and I love competition. Those guys will be very competitive."

On practicing with other NFL teams
"To be honest with you, I tried to practice with Detroit and Tennessee. It didn't work out with the new coach coming in Detroit. I think Rod (Marinelli) would have done it at a different time. We just couldn't get something worked out with Tennessee which I was hoping we'd be able to do. I'm a little disappointed there but what can you do?"

On offseason surprises
"I think the guy that really stood out was Brandon Marshall, wide receiver. He stood out to our defensive backs. Here's a guy who's 6-3, 230, that showed explosiveness, speed, quickness and good hands and you hate to pat a guy on the back before you get started but I think our players could see his skill for a young guy."

On covering Tony Scheffler
"What they do is they come to me and they say, ‘Hey Coach, how can they run that route, what was wrong?' When they see some of his talent sometimes you listen to some of your veteran talent. They recognize talent. I think Tony was the same way. They could see Jay's (Cutler) arm strength. I feel very good about our rookies coming in and the response from our veterans. Until you get it done on game day and until you go through the grind of summer sessions you don't want to jump on the bandwagon because you never know until the lights go on."

On reporting to camp in July "I have a hard time getting away for that length of time and being away from these players because it doesn't take long to get out of shape and I think it really has worked well to have one of our mandatory mini camps right after the July 4 weekend because we're away for about 2 ½ weeks and they have something to do besides just running and doing the weight lifting program. No matter who you are, you get tired of just lifting weight and running like you're on the track team. So to come back here and do some football related drills and still have them stay in shape and be around them made me feel a lot more comfortable when you really don't get away as long as you have in the past."

Repetitions for wide receivers
"A lot depends on injuries. You would like as much depth as you can cause if you lose a few running backs or a fullback. You might have to start a game with four wide receivers or three and a tight end. My first year here, we went and played the Raiders and they were playing to go to a playoff game and we went in there with four wide receivers. We didn't have a running back. We were hurting a little bit. The more depth we have the better off we are. From an offensive perspective you can dictate the game plan. From a defensive perspective you can't dictate the game plan. You lose two or three defensive backs you may see four wide receivers the whole game from the opposition. You have a couple DB's go down and all of a sudden the offense dictates you may not have the personnel to match up."

More on Jay Cutler
"Last year we kept two quarterbacks because I felt Danny Kanell was right down the street and could be picked up. He knew our offense and I wanted to keep someone else who I thought would be here long term other than Danny. You always like three quarterbacks on your team especially when you can dress three quarterbacks. I think we've got four quarterbacks now that have been pretty impressive, so chances are we will keep three. Is that for sure, I can't tell you until after the preseason but most of the teams will keep three quarterbacks."

More on Jay Cutler
We try to even up the snaps except for your first team. The first team gets a little bit more than all the other guys that are competing. Pretty close to being divided evenly. I'm not saying that a fifth teamer but usually the second and third teamers will be pretty close in reps especially at quarterback position.

More on Ashley Lelie
"No he's not a starter because he hasn't been here for the offseason program. Just like anything, I only play the best player. I have nothing against Ashley. Ashley made a business decision to do what he felt was right for him and his future but now he's under contract to come here and compete. If Ashley comes in here and shows at practice that he deserves to be the top guy he's going to be the top guy. I will play the players that give me the best chance to win. I've always been that way. We've signed guys with big contracts as free agents and I'll be the first one to admit that you know that the other guy that we've got that we didn't pay a signing bonus is a better player. I can't lose the respect of the team by playing the guy we give money to, so we'll have a free agent play instead of the guy who wasn't drafted. So the best players will play and all you can do is come in here and compete. First of all, he signed a contract and once you sign a contract you make a commitment to somebody. There are a lot of people out here and the reason why you're working is because you're under contract. Maybe a year from now you will have the ability to go somewhere else but if you're under contract you're under contract and that's what I talked about with Ashley. The best thing for him to do is to come in here and have one heck of a year and a year from now he's going to have a chance to possibly go somewhere else and make a big salary. But if you don't have the leverage to be a starter then why not come in here and compete that's what I don't understand. I promise you after today we will not talk about this, I know I've lied to you a couple times. Do you think everyone wants to be on a certain team? I don't want to name any names but a guy is having a heck of a year going into the last year of his contract he sure would like to have a big contract with another team but the best thing for him to do is to go that team and compete and have a heck of a year so when he is a free agent he has some leverage. That's what you wanna do. This is not very complicated. I take a look at it and say I have to do the best thing for me, got to work out, let's get back to work. Nothing surprises me anymore. If he did come back let's go out, play our best players, let's go out and have some fun."

On Lelie's teammates
"I know how the guys feel. Guys want players. They want guys who are going to come in here and work, who want to be part of the team and work hard to be a part of the team. If you don't want to be part of the team then don't be part of the team just keep on doing what you're doing and hold out. Our guys aren't going to worry about someone that doesn't want to be here because they know that guys not going to win you a championship. The guy wants to be here, then get your rear end into camp and let's go have some fun and compete. I think it would take five minutes. He would say, ‘Guys, I think I did the best thing for me and it didn't work out. I'm ready to go, lets get after it. I don't care if I'm the thirteenth guy or the first-team guy. I'm going to show you at the end of camp I deserve to be number one.' I think that's the way men do it, its my opinion."

On his outlook for the Broncos this season
"I've got a good feel about this team. One of the reasons I have a good feel is because our defense is the tops its ever been in points given up since I've been here. You give up 258 points, we were tied with Pittsburgh for the fewest points given up and you're 28th in the red zone, that's pretty good, you have a chance to win championships when your defense plays at that level. But I have a good feeling about this football team. When you're plus-20 in turnover ratio, that's pretty good. Scoring points seventh, scoring defense third, turnover ratios second, now that was last year, we'll see what we can do this year."

On the AFC Championship game
"We knew that we had to play one of our better games against Pittsburgh. We knew we could beat Pittsburgh. We didn't give them the credit. They had a good package on third downs. They outplayed us and out coached us. So you look at it and say, ‘Hey, that's over." You're mad because you had an opportunity to be world champs and you didn't take advantage of it, and now you get ready for the next go round. I can go back to all of the losses and playoffs and they're all tough. Anytime you got one in your backyard like we did against Jacksonville, with home-field advantage and a game against Pittsburgh in your own back yard and you don't take advantage of that opportunity, it stays with you for a long time and it should because all of the work you put into it. But what you do is go back to it, dissect it and understand the things you did right and the things you did wrong and present it with the same opportunity again hoping you prepared your team well enough that you win those games and that will be our goal."

On the tight end position
"One of the reason why we let Jeb (Putzier) go is because we felt like Nate Jackson looked very good, we were very impressed with him. Obviously with Wesley Duke coming out we didn't know he was going to get hurt but we thought we had some depth there at that position and with the drafting of Tony Scheffler we feel very good about him and that's one of the reasons we used a second round draft choice on him and with Stephen Alexander having the experience we felt good about that position, were fit at that position so hopefully we don't lose anybody.

On Nate Jackson's speed
"Without a question, He can run, Tony can, and we got a couple guys there that can really run."

On Tatum Bell and Rod Smith
"I feel very good about Tatum. He had some great 17 days of OTA's, you can tell there's a sense of urgency about him, you can tell that he has matured, not that he was immature, but you can tell by just they way they go about their daily business. I've been impressed with Tatum. Rod Smith, the same thing. He's been very good with the OTA's he went from about 250 to 240. Like I said 97 percent in the off-season is pretty good."



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