Jon Gruden Transcript — Oct. 8

Here is the complete day-after press conference of Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden for Monday, Oct. 8, 2007:

Jon can you update Michael Pittman's injury?

He is getting evaluated at this point, but it looks like it will be a 6-to-8 week injury. We will update you when we get the results of the MRI. But it is a pretty good sprain, we do believe, and a tough blow for us.

Did the X-rays show any broken bones at all?

We're getting those results right now.

Jon, what do you now with Michael out?

What do we do? Earnest Graham becomes the starting tailback and Ken Darby will be elevated. We'll look to see what possibilities are out there.

If it's 6-to-8 weeks with Pittman, do you put him on IR or do you try to see if he'll be able to come back and help you?

We'd like to have him back to be perfectly honest. Until we get these final medical analyses we can't really comment. At this point we'd like to keep him around here because he's a guy we desperately need and hopefully he can return.

How tough is it to be in the market for a running back, Jon, when everyone knows that you might need one and there are other teams looking for the same thing you are?

It's tough, man. The trade deadline is approaching, and in the last four or five years not a lot of trades have been made. But it's tough. We've lost Mike Alstott now, Michael Pittman and Cadillac Willliams. Those are three guys that have been the go-to ball handlers here the past few years.

Jon does the start you've had — 3-2 — demand going for it (a move for a running back)?

I think we're going to go for it. You have to have somebody that is a willing partner and sometimes that's easier said than done.

Jon you mentioned the fact that this game was a litmus test because you wanted to see where this team was. Where is it after a game like this (Indianapolis)?

We think we're a pretty good team. We realize the scoreboard and the statistics said a lot differently yesterday. But we think we're pretty good. We're not the first team to go into that dome and be beaten. I just want to remind people of that. There's a couple of plays that this quarterback (Peyton Manning) — it's like the guys that I know on the pro golfing tour where they get to play with Tiger Woods for the first time — that ain't fair. It's not fair what he does sometimes. On that surface, with that noise, his command, his expertise and his playmaking (is terrific). It was a 13-7 game and we had the ball with just outside two minutes left (in the first half). We had a chance, now, to make a couple of plays and maybe make it interesting. But I give them a lot of credit. They're very talented and the guy (Manning) took control of the football game and made some great plays.

Jon you've had the chance to coach Brett Favre and prepare for Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. What's the pecking order of those quarterbacks in this era as you see them?

I don't know how much I can say, positively, about Peyton Manning. I was lucky enough to be around Steve Young and Joe Montana, Favre and I think our guy (Jeff Garcia) is playing extremely well, too. This guy is at the line of scrimmage almost every snap. He takes the clock down to six or seven seconds before the 40-second clock expires. He announces the play, he changes the protection, the pattern and then he makes the plays. He's just a great performer and I'm tired of talking about him and I'm ready to talk about something else.

Coach is Darby ready to go if you need him?

We're going to have to find out. We think he's a good back. He's a good runner. We're going to find out.

When was the last time you coached in a game where one team only had 40 snaps?

It's been a long time. We had a couple of consecutive three and outs to start the game. But the six plays total in the first quarter. We had three plays total in the third quarter. That doesn't happen often. I think they had six possessions offensively where they had 10 plays or more. That's certainly a long day at the office for us.

With the injuries to Pittman and Williams, can you use Maurice Stovall and Michael Clayton on short pass routes to supplement the running game?

I don't believe we're going to throw the ball 50 times a game. It doesn't mean we won't. We'll see who's healthy on our football team and go from there. But I'm not going to say we're going to throw the ball 50 times per game.

Jon are there any other injuries?

We have a number of players that are nicked up and we'll get that to you on Wednesday. Many of our players are in there getting treatment right now, since we got in late last night. Brian Kelly aggravated his groin injury and was unable to complete the game. Ike Hilliard got banged up. We'll update you when we know the facts.

Jon I think the first four running plays had negative yardage attached to it. Did some of your guys struggle up front?

I think on the second play of the game we had no gain. We had a couple of ties up front and that neutralized us at the line of scrimmage. On the next possession, without a doubt, we had a mental breakdown on a wham play. It's totally inexcusable but it did happen. On the third run Jeff audibled and not everyone got it. The place was loud. I'm not making any excuses, but we were not on all cylinders on the third run of the game. We did manufacture a couple of pretty good drives, including a run, but as I said we didn't have the ball a lot and we got behind.

Jon can you imagine a team in the NFL that is better than Indianapolis right now?

I have a great imagination.

Can you talk about the improvement of the Tennessee Titans? They seem to be really coming together on defense right now?

There's no question they're together on defense. There's the emergence of this (Cortland) Finnegan, their cornerback. (There's) the return of Albert Haynesworth. His status is certainly important to Tennessee. (Kyle) Vanden Bosch and (Antwan) Odom give them two very good defensive ends. I'm really impressed with (Keith) Bulluck. He keeps getting better year in and year out. They've had great continuity there with coach (Jeff) Fisher. The films I saw this morning, there wasn't a lot there for taking for the Falcons yesterday. They do a helluva job on defense. They're hard to run against. I think they yield about 55-60 yards per game and a lot of that is garbage yardage at the end of the game.

How tough is the AFC South right now?

It's a tough division. I think all the divisions are tough. I think our division is tough, though the win-loss records probably say otherwise. But there are very good football teams in the AFC South. Jacksonville looks pretty good, Tennessee is outstanding. That young quarterback (Vince Young) is going to make a lot of plays. Houston had a big win yesterday. It's a tough division, top to bottom, and we certainly saw a great team yesterday (in Indianapolis).

When a team loses a quarterback, the team has to make adjustments to the new guy. Is the same true when you put a new running back in?

You have to adjust. Cadillac was a guy who was featured on first and second down, and Pittman was the guy that was featured on third down. Now we've lost both of them. We adjusted to a new left tackle yesterday (Donald Penn). We've had to make numerous adjustments. That's one thing we've gotten good at here recently, changing of personnel. We'll have to makes some adjustments, I'm sure.

Jon how would you assess Donald Penn's performance after looking at the film?

I was pleased. I thought he did some good things, some really good things. There weren't a lot of snaps to evaluate. But he did a good job. He played well. It was his first start in the NFL, and against Dwight Freeney and in that atmosphere I was pleased with his performance, I really was.

Coach, what you do like about Vince Young?

I think it's his capabilities. He's capable of throwing it. He's capable of running it. He's capable of making something great happen out of nothing. He is really tremendous when all hell breaks loose and he has to create. He's a tremendous athlete. I think he has great potential on every play.

Coach you game-planned for Michael Vick for several years. Does that experience aid in preparing for a guy like Young, who has similar capabilities?

Maybe so. But the Titans utilize him a little differently. He's right-handed, too. I think there are mobility issues that you have to account for. There are perimeter problems that he can create. He finds scramble opportunities and certain coverages can make you vulnerable there. But I think the background that we have had playing a guy like Vick might help us against a guy like Vince, although I think Vince is a lot different than people portray him to be.

How would you characterize the market out there for running backs, Jon? Are there people out there?

I don't know. I'm not on the phone. We have people that are working to see who is available. I think people realize that we've had a couple of injuries. We're going to be confident with Earnest Graham. We're going to get Ken Darby ready to go. We'll see who's available and who's willing to possibly work something out. But we have to eliminate any speculation. I have to be honest it's a hard situation.

Could that include talking to retired players and talking them out of retirement? Is everything on the table?

We have a guy on our team that has brother that I think was a pretty good back. He's on the "Today" show now, if he's listening. Maybe Mrs. Barber might be able to talk to him for us. I have Barry Sanders' number in my pocket. As I said earlier, I do have one heck of an imagination.

Is it hard to integrate a guy like a running back into the lineup?

Yes, it is hard to come in and teach a guy the offense. You can teach him phases of the offense. That's why you have mini-camps and OTAs and training camp. It's a tall order if we do acquire another back. A couple of years ago we brought in Tim Rattay at the bye week. The last two seasons we've had changes at quarterback due to injuries. We will show the ability to adjust and we'll see what happens.

In your career have you seen this many injuries at running back?

Not that I can recall to this extent. We've had it at other positions. We have Ken Darby, we have Earnest Graham and B.J. Askew is here. We hope Michael Pittman's injury isn't season ending.

There's more than just skill level involved here, right, in this search? You have a pretty good room in there in terms of chemistry.

Yeah, that factors in.

So if Ricky Williams returns you call?

I'm not going to get involved in speculation. I'll say that we're very disappointed to have lost Pittman for a while, and Carnell Williams and Luke Petitgout and Mike Alstott and some other guys that we expected to contribute.

Did the speed of the Colts defense surprise you?

No it didn't surprise us. It's rare. I think Freeney and Robert Mathis came out of their respective colleges with the reputation of being very fast. They are just extremely fast and different than any of the defensive end combinations you see. It's a credit to them and to (Colts defensive line coach) John Teerlink, who does a great job coaching them.

>I know injuries are part of the game but is there any kind of a "Groundhogish Day" feeling to this in that you're up here talking about losing another running back?

You're right. Sometimes it's like hitting two good shots and you're on the green eight feet away from the cup and you four-putt. It just drives you nuts. That's the way it goes. You have to go to the next hole. We're going to complete the 18 holes. We have enough good players to line up. If there's somebody out there that can help us we'll do all we can to get them in here so they can help us.

Overall, are you pleased to be 3-2 at this point?

I'm really proud of our team. They're playing hard. We've had a tough schedule I believe — at Carolina, at Indianapolis, at Seattle. We faced the defending NFC South champions to open at home. I am proud of our football team. We feel like we're getting some momentum. Certainly yesterday was not the most pleasurable experience I've had here, but I think it will be a great learning experience for some of our young players. Like I said, our left tackle and the left guard (Arron Sears) are rookies, really. I was proud of the way that they played. We have to rally now, behind somebody besides Earnest Graham and B.J. Askew at the running back position and we'll find a way to do that.

Jon you have three home games in the next four. Winning on the road is difficult, but you have to protect your turf at home, too, right?

We have to find a way to win and Tennessee is going to have something to say about that. Tennessee played very well (on Sunday) and they're on a roll right now. They turned it over, I think, five times yesterday, and they still won. When you can win a game turning it over five times that tells you that your defense is playing extremely well. That's all I know. When you pick up the tape and you see the Titans walk in here, you're going to see a big, physical football team that can be a handful. We're looking forward to this one.

With all you know, are there times when a running back comes in and just lights up a team? A guy that comes in at midseason and does that?

I can remember some guys, yeah.

For instance?

You guys can do the research. You'll think of somebody.

But it can happen?

It can happen, you bet.

Bucs Blitz Top Stories