By Rich Passan
Throughout the Browns' training camp in Berea, Bernie'sInsiders will focus on players' thoughts as they get ready for the 2005 National Football League season. Today, we talk with quarterback Trent Dilfer, linebacker Sherrod Coates and kicker Phil Dawson.
Q – You're a very confident person. Where does that come from?
A – I don't know. Any time you play this position, you have to be confident. You have to be confident in your ability, you have to be confident in the people around you and if you're not, you've got no chance.
Q – But in life, you're a confident person as well. Does one feed the other?
A – I don't know if I've thought about it that much. I try to live my life a certain way and maybe the attitude in which I approach life breeds confidence, but I'm not sure.
Q – But it helps you in what you do for a living.
A – You have to. You don't have a choice but to be confident. If you go into a football game and you don't have confidence in yourself, you've got no chance.
Q – What shakes that confidence?
A – At times, if you're not having success, if things aren't going well around you tests your confidence. But hopefully, it doesn't shake it.
Q – Are you tougher on yourself as a result?
A – Oh yeah, I'm much harder on myself than anybody else is.
Q – What do you want to get out of these last two exhibition games?
A – I look at them all the same. You want to keep getting better. We're a type of football team that has to get better each week and the preseason games are just the beginning of that. So we have to improve the things we haven't done as well and we've got to build on things we've done well. Just have to keep growing as an offense week in and week out and by the end of the season, you'll pretty darn good in winning games when you need to.
Q – Your predecessor (Jeff Garcia) complained last year that he didn't get enough reps. Do you need to get more reps to be better prepared for the regular season?
A – I trust RAC's (coach Romeo Crennel) assessment of how many more reps I need more than my own (assessment). I think he's a very good evaluator at what we need to accomplish each week. Whatever he feels I need to play I'm fine with.
Q – Are you the kind of quarterback who requires more reps?
A – No. I try to make the most of the each rep I get. If it's two in a day, I
want those to be perfect. If it's 22, I want them to be perfect.
Q – Is the 3-4 new to you?
A – Nah, I played it in college (at Western Kentucky).
Q – This makes it easier for you.
A – I feel real comfortable at the outside because I did a lot of rushing (in college).
Q – You've played the 4-3 here the last couple of years. How quickly did the 3-4 come back for you?
A – It took a little while because it's different coming from the outside than being at the Will (weakside) or Sam (strongside) on the inside where you've got different reads.
Q – How long did it take for you to say, "Hey, I know this."
A – The hardest part for me was learning the calls. Once you learn the calls, then you just play ball. Once you learn the calls, then it all just came back without a problem.
Q – Is it a little different at game speed?
A – I'll just be flowing when I'm out there.
Q – What are the coaches telling you as far as how you're doing?
A – I haven't heard anything. They just evaluate us. They know what's going on. I just play.
Q – There are going to be more linebackers kept this year because of the 3-4. That should enhance your chances of sticking around.
A – I hope so, but you never know. You never know what's going to happen. I just give them my best effort every day and if it's meant for me to be here this year, I will be. If not, then good luck.
Q – There has been all sorts of criticism after you missed those long field goals last Saturday in Detroit. How do you deal with that?
A – It's part of the job. You get labeled in this league. Every player gets labeled. For whatever reason, when I came into this league, I got labeled as a guy with a weak leg. I've been fighting that every year. First, it was I couldn't get any touchbacks and I had seven touchbacks one year. Then it was I couldn't make a 50-yard field goal and I'm four out of five in my career. Next year, it'll be something new. Specifically related to the last game, if you're saying I don't have a strong enough leg to make those kicks, you're assuming I hit those kicks perfectly well, which I didn't. I undercut both those balls and the 56-yarder was three inches short. If anything, that should show I do have the leg strength to make that. I'm rusty just like any other of these guys. Those were my first attempts of the whole preseason. New holder, the whole thing. So we're working through some things and I walk away from it frustrated that I didn't make them because it was an opportunity to show some leg strength, but at the same time encouraged that I was close and didn't even hit them well.
Q – It was an exhibition game. It wasn't meaningful.
A – We're trying to work out some kinks and some things and haven't kicked a field in a game in seven months and that's a heck of a way to start. I would have really enjoyed making them because those are kicks I should make and kicks I know I can make.
Q – How long does it stay up (in your head) and then go?
A – It's gone. When you kick in Cleveland, you're going to miss kicks here and there. You've got to learn how to handle the adversity and bounce back. People are going to say what they want and they're going to write what they want, but I'm sticking to the plan and feel confident that opening day, I'm going to be ready to go.
Q – You kind of answered my next question: What do you say to the naysayers?
A – I'm sure next year it'll be I'm not making 110% of my field goals. To the naysayers, if they'll pay attention on game day, our opponents the whole season last year had three kickoffs into the end zone. The notion that guys are coming in here and just bombing the ball deep in the end zone . . . there were three kickoffs in the end zone last year against the Cleveland Browns. We had 12. So I think I stand up pretty well. If you're going to compare me to someone kicking in a warm-weather climate over the course of a season, I'm not going to match up because I deal with different conditions. But if you're going to compare me on a game-to-game basis when the guys are playing in the same conditions on the same day, I feel I more than hold my own.
Q – Matt Bahr was a great directional kicker. He angled the ball, which made it tougher for the opposition to return.
A – That's all we do. We go right and left all the time. Last year, I think we had three kickoffs where we kicked down the middle. It goes back to eighth-grade geometry. When you're kicking from the middle of the field to the corner – I've done the math – you add four yards to the kick. So if I'm consistently kicking the ball to the two-yard line in the right corner, that would be two yards deep if I were kicking right down the middle. So once again, the scheme in which I play isn't necessarily conducive to what the uneducated fan about kicking wants to see. They want to see the ball in the end zone. But I would encourage them to pay attention to the other guys who come in. I try to hang the ball deep, hang the ball high and get it wide so our guys can get down there. We've been extremely effective in covering kickoffs over the past four years.
Q – Cleveland's a tough town.
A – It is a tough town. That's part of the job and I understood that when I decided to resign. This is an environment where your opportunities are going to be limited in terms of really banging the ball deep. Come November, it gets pretty rough. If we were playing down south, where it was warm and had a nice field and all that, you can lay your ears back and try to hit 'em pretty hard. But up here, you've got to place the ball and hang it up for the guys. We've been really good. We've held opponents' average kickoff return under 20 yards I think three of the last four years and that's something to hang your hat on.