Coach's Corner - Mike Shanahan 12/6/06

Mike Shanahan met with the local media today, discussing such topics as Al Wilson's return to the lineup, what it's like coaching against Marty Schottenheimer and how to keeps the team's spirits up after three consecutive losses - Read all about it in today's Coach's Corner.

Mike Shanahan

On if he has found anything remotely close to a weakness in San Diego
"They have been pretty strong in all areas. If you take a look at rushing offense, passing offense, turnover ratio, and then defensively the same thing. Rushing defense, passing defense and then you take a look at their special teams and they have been very consistent. (That is) one of the reasons why they are one of the top teams in the AFC. So to answer your question, no."

On the advantages/disadvantages of playing San Diego for the second time in less than a month
"I think any time you play someone within a few weeks, I think you are a little bit more familiar with them than playing five, six, seven teams in between. So it gives you a little bit better reference point even though you play each other two times a year. So I think for both teams, obviously it is an advantage to them."

On how much Chargers LB Shawne Merriman changes his approach to the game on Sunday
"When you take a look at (Shawne) Merriman and (LB Shaun) Phillips and with Merriman missing four games and he is still tied in the league and second in the NFL with his teammate on the other side (Phillips) for sacks - that is pretty impressive. You have got two guys who are tied in the league for sacks-per-play and you don't see that very often especially when a guy misses four games. He is very talented, he plays extremely hard and is one of the reasons their defense has been so successful."

On if he has to give special attention to San Diego LB Merriman with Denver's gameplan
"Well people that don't are obviously going to be hurt. Even if you double team you are not guaranteed that he is going to stay out of the backfield but yes, you have to account for him on every play."

On if LB Al Wilson will be able to practice today
"He will be able to practice today and then just kind of play things by ear. We will see how he feels and if there are any setbacks and just approach it day by day."

On if LB Wilson's tingling in his shoulders is gone
"Yes. He couldn't practice today if his tingling wasn't gone, so it is gone and he can get a few days of reps and be ready to go."

On the status of TE Chad Mustard
"He will be able to practice today."

On why nobody has been able to stop San Diego RB LaDainian Tomlinson so far this season
"Well that is what good teams do. They run a balanced running attack, a balanced passing attack. LT (Tomlinson), I believe is averaging 5.2 (yards) a carry and his backup (RB Michael Turner) is averaging 6.4 (yards per carry) so they are having a little success. Both guys are doing very well. Two excellent running backs and when one guy goes out the other guy can make plays as well so there is a reason why they are very successful and they are doing a great job."

On how he keeps the team's spirits up after losing three consecutive games
"There are a lot of different ways to approach it. You have to go out there and practice and obviously address things like you normally do. When I had dinner with (Steelers Head Coach) Bill Cowher, he was basically telling me the same situation. He was like. ‘hey we had a three-game losing streak and people don't believe that we are 7-and-5 and had a three-game losing streak.' It is almost déjà vu with different things that happen like that. There are so many things that happen in the National Football League, and I have been in here a long time as an assistant coach and a head coach and you can't look back. You are what you are and you can do something about the opponent you are going to face the following week and if you start worrying about what happened in the past and you're feeling sorry for yourself you got a bad season. If you look at it as an opportunity and how we are going to play and then look to December and the month of January then you can do something about it. But I can tell you that a number of teams that played pretty well in that 6-5, 7-5 area going into this month."

On if having RB Tatum Bell back healthy has helped open things up downfield in the passing game
"Well it is good to have Tatum (Bell) back. Obviously healthy people - the more people you have healthy, the better off you are going to be. Obviously it is good to have Tatum back, and he is feeling pretty good so that is a plus."

On if he feels that rookie QB Jay Cutler will be a little more at ease going into this weeks game compared to his NFL debut last week
"I think it is just like you. You are no different than he is in your job and his job. The first day on the job you were a little bit nervous and then more relaxed every time you went to work. No difference at the quarterback position but obviously a few more eyes watching. You have got a few eyes yourself."

On if there is something he can do to help make QB Cutler more relaxed for this week's game
"No he wasn't tight. I don't think he was tight. It is the process you go through. I thought that he handled himself very well, very well. It's tough, he made a bad play trying to make a play and there are not many guys that could have gotten away from that defensive end- that is pretty impressive. The rest you deal with as time goes on. A couple of touchdowns your first game, that's not too bad. I have seen players play worse than that."

On how he keeps QB Cutler's confidence up
"Any time you have been a four-year starter on the major college level, you have been through some ups and downs and you understand what it takes to be a leader and play at a certain level. He has been through this before. He has played with some good competition, he understands the pressure of the job, the nature of the job and like all great ones they understand that you have to find a way to win and if you don't you are going to be second guessed and it is just the nature of the game, and he is tough enough to handle it."

On if he feels that lining up in the shotgun formation gives the quarterback an advantage at seeing how the defense is lining up
"Oh yeah, shotgun gives you a little extra time. I think that he (QB Cutler) did that a lot at Vanderbilt, he is very comfortable with that and I think a lot like John (Elway) and John felt very comfortable with it. When I was at San Francisco, we tried it with Steve Young and Joe Montana and they would fumble the snaps on purpose. They didn't want to be in it because they felt very comfortable under the center with the 5-7 step drops and everybody is a little different, that is what you have got to get used to but he (Cutler) will do a great job in shotgun over the years. When you are in the shotgun, obviously you are telling people that you are throwing the football but there is nothing wrong with that in passing situations and I think it will be a strong part of his game as time goes on."

On if K Jason Elam will kick this week
"We are planning on him kicking. I don't care about practice. This guy has been around forever. I'm talking for games. A lot of times Jason hasn't kicked during the week. He has a tweak here a tweak there, he knows his body he is a pro but I will be shocked if he is not ready for gameday."

On if he has any plays designed with K Elam at running back for this week
"I will tell you what is really funny is that we worked on this thing (fake from last week's game) and he said coach, ‘This is there. It is 100 percent,' and I said, ‘My only reservation is you pulling a hamstring or a groin.' I referred to the story of Jeff Gossett, you know Jeff Gossett was a punter for the Oakland Raiders. I'm not sure how many years he was in the league, 13 or 14, and they had a fake punt and that ended his career. So in the back of your mind you are always scared to do something like that with a veteran player but I thought it was a situation where he would take a dive if there was somebody there and he did take a dive. Unfortunately he pulled his hamstring as well."

On how RB Cecil Sapp is doing after his surgery on his broken left leg
"I called him yesterday after his surgery. I didn't get a chance to talk to him but I did talk to his recorder, but according to Greek (Head Athletic Trainer Steve Antonopulos) his surgery went well and it is three months healing time. He is such a tough guy mentally, he just walked off the field like it was no big deal and his leg was broken."

On if coaching against San Diego Head Coach Marty Schottenheimer is different these days
"Marty has always done a great job of knowing his personnel and finding ways to win. I know Marty from the Cleveland days, and they were throwing the heck out of the football and also in different spots where they were more run-oriented and they didn't want to turn the football over but he always finds a way to win. What separates him from the Hall of Fame is just winning that big game and when he does he will be in the Hall of Fame."

On if it feels like he is facing a different guy on the sideline in Schottenheimer
"No not really. He is a football coach and he is going to do what he thinks will give him the best chance to win. People give stereotypes sometimes because they don't have that so-called quarterback or running back but they had a couple high draft picks and they get a guy like LT and (QB Philip) Rivers and obviously they are doing a lot of things the right way for that to happen and they are playing well."

On the reason behind putting a few more starters in the special teams unit
"Well we have had a few guys banged up so there is no choice. Any time you lose some guys like (S) Nick Ferguson or (S) Sam Brandon or even (DE) Courtney Brown or a guy like (RB) Cecil Sapp, you get a few guys banged up who can't practice and can't play because of an injury you don't have a choice. These guys know it and these guys step up - a guy like (CB) Champ Bailey was the first to say put me in there and you have a lot of guys like that and (LB) Ian Gold as well. You have a lot of guys that want to help your football team win and they understand what it takes. Only 45 dress on game day, and everybody has a roll."

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