On the injuries, we think Patrick Chukwurah has a chance to return this week, he did practice last week. There is a chance he will be available. Sabby Piscitelli has a fracture in his foot. How much time this is going to take we will have to find out later today. Those are the two injuries to note. Brian Kelly started and played most of the game. I think he felt pretty good, which is a good sign. I'll answer any questions that I can.
On the chance of using a running back by committee
We will talk about that this week; we will start to look at Carolina. Carnell [Williams] is our feature back. We will try to do much better than we have done against Carolina in the past running the ball. If we don't run the ball any better we are not going to the run the ball at all, we might have to throw it a lot. To answer your question Cadillac will be the starting tailback. We will do everything we can to incorporate Earnest [Graham] and [Michael] Pittman as well.
On RB Earnest Graham
Well, we have the 2005 Rookie of the Year, Cadillac Williams, who played extremely well in the '05 season. He was the Rookie of the Year going into the '06 season, he was our feature back. Earnest has been a key member of our special teams; he plays 18 to 20 snaps a game there. To be honest with you he hasn't been given the opportunity to go out there and play from scrimmage very much, until yesterday. He has had some isolated shots here and there. Yesterday he did a good job. He did have a fumble in Seattle earlier in the year, as you know. He did capitalize yesterday and take advantage of his opportunity.
On Cadillac Williams' ribs
I'm not going to speak for him; I'm not going to speak for him on his ribs. I assure you he doesn't feel 100 percent. He made some nice runs; he scored three touchdowns, did some good things. He averaged 3.5 yards per carry yesterday, so did Steven Jackson. It's hard to run for yards in the NFL as it is, especially early in the game. I am just very confident that he will pick it up and good things are on the horizon.
On struggles running the ball early in the game
I think that we are doing okay. I am not going to sit here and say that all of our first down runs were good. I will say this, we are pretty darn good in the second half. Sometimes you're not going to make six yards a pop when you start a football game, that's understandable. I think it goes true across the league. If we keep pounding the rock, as they say around here, sometimes the rock will break and you will start to get some good looks, and wear somebody down in the second half. Carnell, certainly we need to get more out of him, because he is capable of delivering some home runs, some big hits for us. We are going to keep giving him the ball and hopefully those runs are in our near future.
He played pretty well yesterday. He had a fumble, he had the touchdown. He had two, or three, or four, very nice runs to start the second half, on our opening drive for the touchdown. I am not going to defend him any more then I have to. I think he is a hell of a back. Obviously, he has put the ball on the ground; he's had some issues with his ribs. We expect a lot more because of what we have seen him do in the past. That's all I will say about it, I want him to get going obviously quick, because we need him.
On S Jermaine Phillips
He has done a great job through the first three weeks. He had an interception yesterday; he shows impressive burst and close on the football. He's made some big hits inside. He's done an excellent job honestly. He's also a contributor on special teams. We are getting a lot out of Jermaine as a playmaker. He has been a leader, a veteran presence back there with Tanard Jackson.
I have seen some good open-field tackling. I have also seen some really good gang- tackling. Guys getting off blocks, we are getting two, and three, and four, hats on the ball carrier. That is what you are going to have to do on Steven Jackson. We are going to have to do that again this week. They have two talented runners in Carolina. We are getting more people involved on the tackle, and that is one of the reasons why we have done a better job. It is a whole new ball game, a whole new group of guys out there playing. Barrett Ruud is a new middle linebacker, opening day starter. Cato June is new, Kevin Carter is new. There are a lot of new guys. A credit to Monte [Kiffin], certainly a credit to Raheem Morris and Gus Bradley, our staff [and] Larry Coyer. We made an emphasis; I think we have a lot of pride [and] a lot of character. We have gone back to, I think, what this defense is a lot about, and that is getting to the football.
On DE Gaines Adams
He made a couple of nice plays yesterday. He has a really good pass rush. I think the result was a sack, and there was a penalty flag thrown on the play for a false start. He did some flashy things yesterday. He showed tremendous pursuit and a lot of little stuff.
On LB Barrett Ruud seizing his opportunity
He's played good, he really has. He's stepping up in there as a physical football player on the inside run. He's playing with great range in coverage; making an unbelievable interception, really away from his body to end of the game. He's just been outstanding. His conditioning is superb, making all the calls. I believe he is playing at a very high level.
On stopping big plays
We're getting better. We have better players out there playing, too. I think Monte has done a great job with the coaches adjusting our scheme a little bit; maybe we're not as predictable as we've been. We added some things like we always do, we're just better, our personnel is better. With that combination we've gotten pretty good.
On QB Jeff Garcia managing the game
He did a great job. The two-minute drill right before the half he was outstanding. There were a couple of great plays, Pro Bowl plays, in that drive. He was victimized a couple times by dropped passes; I think Ike dropped one, Mike [Clayton] dropped one. But he kept his poise and converted a couple third-and-tens, one on his own. He pulled a Houdini act to get a first down. Opening the third quarter, he was very good. He made some real good moves in the running game yesterday to help us out, with audibles, things of that nature. He's playing really good.
On Garcia making physical plays
I worry about him. I've said that. If he has blood coming out of his mouth, blood coming anywhere else out of you, Jeff? You alright? He's unbelievable. I just wish you guys could see the look in his eyes on the field. I know he's taking that out to our huddle. I know he's putting those eyes on those guys in the huddle and I know it had something to do with the way they're playing. That's what this franchise needed. We needed a guy that has that kind of grit, that kind of determination and he has talent to go with it. You see the great competitor in him. He's never going to quit on a play and that's a credit to him. That's one of the reasons that we have a chance.
On G Arron Sears
I don't want to say he did a good job, he did a heck of a job pulling a couple times. He's doing a great job for us. He's having some problems at times with some pass sets, but overall, I think he's doing some great things for us. He's given us a load in that physical presence, a guy that loves it, and he can pull, he can redirect and he can operate on a second level. He's good in space and we're going to need a lot of Arron Sears this week because Carolina has some really big guys in there. We're really pleased with what he's done. Jeremy Trueblood has played very well the first three weeks so [Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach] Bill Muir and [Senior Assistant/Offensive Line] Aaron Kromer deserve a lot of credit with those guys.
On the run blocking
It was pretty good. In the second half yesterday, there were some great looks. There were a couple touchdown runs where guys don't get touched and that's hard to do in the NFL. There's some tremendous run blocking, playside, backside, and as I said yesterday, B.J. Askew is doing some really nice things for us. Every yard we make this week will be harder and we're going to have to double our efforts against North Carolina.
On the Carolina Panthers
It's the last game of the first quarter of the season. Both teams are 2-1 and both teams do have respect for one another. They understand the rivalry now, it's a big game between the players. I don't think they like us, I don't think we like them particularly, although there is mutual respect. It's going to be a fun game. They're a very talented team, well-coached and we'll see what happens.
On if winning on the road is the next challenge for the team
We have a lot of challenges ahead of us, and winning on the road is certainly a challenge that we need to address here and we need to accomplish that feat. We need to getit done.
On QB Bruce Gradkowski and the backup quarterback situation
In my opinion, [Bruce] has more experience and when the regular season starts, there's not a lot of reps to go around, there really isn't. I let Luke [McCown] be the backup quarterback for the opening game because he had the majority of the reps in training camp. As the reps continued to reduce for the backup quarterback during the week, I think Bruce's previous experience is the winning edge for him. Although you might see Luke be the backup this week. I'm trying to keep both of those guys into it. It's very close. I don't think one has clearly distinguished himself, so I'm trying to keep both of those guys really involved with the football team and I want to make sure they continue to compete and prepare themselves to play.
On the overall domination of the past two games
We played well in some areas. Our special teams kickoff coverage, since I've been here, I don't know if we've ever yielded only 12.5 yards per return. That's Dante Hall back there. We got down the field, we covered extremely well, as well as we've ever covered in a game yesterday. That's a credit to [Special Teams Coordinator Richard] Bisaccia and we've got some speed on our special teams. That's a fun play to watch right now. We've got a couple returns in Mark Jones. It's been a while since we've exploded up the field and made that kind of positive yardage in our return game. Offensively, I do think we're getting better. Defensively, I do think we're doing some really good things. We haven't put it all together yet, but we have played pretty well the past two weeks. That's a good sign, I think we've shown people what we're capable of doing and if we continue to get better and avoid the injuries, we have a chance to be a pretty good football team.
On his thoughts on Carolina QB David Carr
He's a talented guy. He was obviously the starting quarterback for an expansion team; that's tough. He took some licks there in Houston, it was well-documented, but he also had some great moments. He's a great competitor and he's a super kid. [He's an] athletic guy [that] can run. I was impressed with what he did yesterday, coming off the bench and making a couple of big plays in the passing game to help Carolina win. He's a smart guy, a heady guy that can play.
On WR Steve Smith
You need 12 when you play Steve Smith. You need to use 12 guys and we are going to try to do that. Try to play 12.
On establishing the offense
We want to be balanced to a degree. We've come out the first half of the last two games throwing the ball quite frequently. We had a lead, a 21-point lead, and we came out the second half against New Orleans and wanted to really run the ball and defeat the clock a little bit. Yesterday we had tremendous success running the ball. To start the second half, we tried to stay with it. When you're getting something done, you have to stay with the hot hand, so to speak. We do feel like we're a pretty balanced offensive team right now and hopefully that helps us.
On if he feels like he's looking in a mirror when he looks at Jeff Garcia
Not really. He doesn't have freckles. He looks a little older than I do.
On the biggest difference between this year's team and last year's team
I think the difference is we have a lot of new players. I look at the cutups of us playing Carolina last year and a lot of the guys playing in that game aren't here. And that's a good thing because we're a better football team now. We've got better players playing. The turnovers certainly [help]. We had seven or eight interceptions in the first three games; we've got zero right now. That's clearly the winning edge. And we've got new players playing, too. As I said, if you turn the ball over you're going to have a hard time playing and being successful. That goes for just about every team in the league that I'm aware of.