Transcripts: Sparano, Taylor and Pennington

Coach Tony Sparano, QB Chad Pennington and LB Jason Taylor talk about Sunday's game in San Diego. Sparano reveals which Dolphins players have "hot hands,"; Pennington talks about his 4-0 record against the Chargers; and Taylor tries to figure out the name of Nick Hardwick's backup.

Coach Tony Sparano

(On the first time the offense has faced a 3 – 4 defense and what opportunities will that present) – "It prevents a few different opportunities. One, it can get your tackles in more space. We have had some success with the ball in the perimeter and that is something that defense doesn't allow. Really doesn't allow. They do some different things in that front where they reduce down into a four man front. They play, id say doing the course of the game, a good portion of the four man line. Not sure exactly what we will get that way percentage wise. On the positive side of it, it is something we see every day for an awful long time. The recall in a short week, when you have to put a game plan together, is a positive."

(On how much on film has he seen them play a four man line) – Well I would say that at different points and time during the course of the game, I couldn't put a number snap on it, but I would say probably 15 snaps a game in their base personnel, about 15 snaps. Now when they get in the nickel and that stuff, they are playing with a little more 3 man stuff. There playing with [Shawne Merriman] standing up sometimes, doing some different things that way [with] different spots. That is what they do in nickel, but base personnel 15 snaps or thereabouts."

(On how he thought Jake Long played on Monday night) –

"I thought Jake played very well Monday Night. I thought his first two reps in the game on Monday were not great reps, didn't get his feet underneath him on those reps. His set was good. He got out there in good position, did some of the things we practiced during the week with him. I thought once those two snaps were over, he really settled down in the game. Did a good job of, we talked about it during the week, taking up the air on the rep. Really kind of getting out there and fronting him up a little bit quicker. I thought he countered [Dwight Freeney's] spin move a number of times to the point where we seen less and less spin move."

(On when Vernon Carey's knee issue surfaced and if he is concerned about it) – "He practiced the whole practice today. We got it checked out yesterday, practiced the whole practice today so really it kind of surfaced yesterday. He went out and practiced a little bit during yesterday's practice."

OLB Joey Porter
Jeffrey M. Moan/AP
(On if Joey Porter practiced at all today) – "No, he was limited today."

(On what kept Joey Porter out of practice) – "Little hamstring tweak."

(On if sometimes one big play can spark an offense or an individual player for the season) – "I would say no, that is not necessarily what it takes. I don't think one play all of a sudden you burst out and you got it going. Though I do think that can happen in a game. I do think one play, sometimes, can get one player going. I do think that is the case. If that was the way Greg [Camarillo] was saying it, it may be true. That one big play during a game could get a guy going. I don't necessarily know one big play gets a guy going for the season. I think the guys on the other side have a little bit to do with that too."

(On if he sees anything different in Greg Camarillo this year compared to last) – "One of the things that has happened out there is that [Brian] Hartline is taking some reps. Last year at this time, Greg wasn't really splitting time with anybody. Right now Hartline is in the mix, he is getting some good reps. The plan last week was to get Hartline involved on both sides. He is a guy that can play both positions. The game goes along, the more the game goes, the longer those guys run. [Ted Ginn] took something like 60 something plays last week during the course of the game. The plan was to get them on both sides. Teddy had a little bit of a hot hand going so we left him out there a little longer. I think at the end of that, I may be wrong, but I think Hartline played about 35 plays, thereabouts."

(On how valuable it is to have a quarterback like Chad Pennington with the aggressive cornerbacks that San Diego has) – "I think it means an awful lot. When you have a guy that protects a ball like Chad does, I think it is important to our offense. I think it is important to our team. The guy understands the value of taking care of the football. Last week you put a big emphasis on taking care of the football and he can kind of set the tone with that stuff. Thought he did a great job during the week with it and it carried over to the ballgame. Chad understands those things beat you. He understands the magnitude of even one [turnover] during the course of the game. I think it helps your team when you have a guy like that [who] understands and has been there before."

(On NFL teams and majority of college teams practicing by ‘thudding' rather than tackling during the week) – "I have never seen it. If [University of Illinois Head Coach] Ron Zook is doing it, I would like to watch it at practice. I mean I really would. I have just never seen it. Especially in this league with 53 players, hard to do. You wouldn't feel too good about it if on Wednesday you took Ronnie Brown down in practice and he was out of the game. I would have a lot of explaining to Mr. Ross and Bill Parcells at that point. I wouldn't want that conversation. I haven't seen it done, to be honest with you. I was a head coach at a D-II school and we did not do it. I just have not seen it done. Paul [Pasqualoni] is right, a lot of those D-I schools – [assistant special teams coach] Darren Rizzi who just came to my staff from Rutgers – it is a hard thing to look at. It is a fine line. You try to get as much work done as you can in individual [portion of practice]. You try to coach it as much you can from a drill standpoint. All those things, but you have to use the games from a tackling standpoint. It has to be something you see on film when you are evaluating these players and drafting them. Is this guy a good tackler or is he not a good tackler? We got about our business that way. It is something we look at."

(On John Denney making three tackles in the season opener, an unusual high number for a long snapper) - "John is usually one of the first people down the field, he really is. He is usually one of the first people down the field so he has the most space to protect so that is why I think it is difficult for [long snappers] to make those kind of tackles. Not only are you in charge of snapping the football, having to protect, but he does get the field usually first. There is just a lot of space. Until the rest of the punt team gets down the field, we are all basically retreating. Until they get down the field and start to shrink the space, he is kind of stuck there by himself, so sometimes he can get down the field and make the returner make a decision so that when the rest of the group gets down there, the [returner] isn't running up the field. Sometimes he can make the tackle and he has three right now. That is good. He gets three more this week and we are good."

RB Darren Sproles
Denis Poroy/AP
(On if he does anything different in kickoff coverage this week with Darren Sproles as the return man) – "He has done a lot. I just think that we have to do a few different things with our plan this week. That is easier said than done in that phrase. We will try to do a couple of different things with him. I don't think you can just lay the ball out there to him and let him go. But at the end of this whole thing, the guys that have to make tackles are charged with making tackles and the worst thing with Sproles is to get out of your lane. To get out of your lane with him, he is not only a returner, he is a back. He can find those things. He can get up in it and out of it really fast. So we have to be pretty disciple from a coverage standpoint and when somebody gets down there first, you have to be able to get your arms around him and make a tackle. He makes one or two guys miss, you're going to have a problem."

(On if Sean Smith has the hot hand right now between him and Vontae Davis, even though the plan is to split the snaps) – "That didn't happen last week. We went into the game trying to do the same thing, but kind of felt Sean was comfortable in the game. We didn't play a lot of plays on that side of the ball, so I think the play count was 30 to 12 or something like that where Vontae got in there for about 12. I know one of the series that Vontae was in there happened to be a 3 and out. I just felt Sean was a little more comfortable in there with [Reggie] Wayne at the time. We will try to watch that week to week, but we are still developing two young corners while you have Will [Allen] on the other side. The only way we are going to develop them is if we play them, kind of like [Phillip] Merling, [Kendall] Lankford, those group of people. I don't want to be sitting here a year from now wondering if a guy can play. I would like to have those answers with some good game tape and I think that is part of the plan, but if we feel like one of them has a pretty good handle on one of those receivers, we will let him go a little longer."

(On what the fans and public would be most surprised to hear about what goes in week to week for game preparation) – "I would say the amount of time they spend in the classroom. The amount of time they spend in the classroom is far greater than the amount of time they spend in the weight room or the field. I would say that is what the public doesn't understand. I still think some people think that…. I use to have an aunt who asked me ‘what do you do in the offseason when there are no games? What is your job? Do you do something else?' I think sometimes the public might think that these guys go out there, they get paid this money, they go out there, they go to practice and they go home. They work two hours and go home. When in reality there day starts at 6:30 in the morning. They lift in the morning at 7:00 AM; they leave at 5:00 if they walk right out of the building. Chad Pennington [and] his group, some of these football heads, Will Allen, some of these guys that like studying it, messing around with it, they will be in this building to 7:30, 8:00. I have seen Akin Ayodele leave this building at 9:00, 9:30 at night sometimes. These guys are in here a while and the amount of time they spend studying it. In a normal day, you have a meeting that starts at 8:00 and they are in the meeting till we go out to the practice field, 20 minutes before. Now they are back in meetings after they meet [with the media]. I would say in a normal day they are in the classroom for 3.5, four hours and whatever they put in extra."

QB Chad Pennington

(On the differences between the San Diego defense and the Indianapolis defense) – "Number one, it's a different scheme. They play a 3-4 scheme, linebackers do a lot of moving around and penetrating gaps, and are very active in the linebacking corps. Their secondary's very active. I think they're very athletic in the secondary with their two corners, and you got to be very aware of where these guys are. We got to make sure that we don't allow the linebackers to control the front with their penetration, and moving around, and things like that. Anytime you face a 3-4 defense, you got to account for all four linebackers – who's rushing, who's not, who's in coverage, so we got a big challenge."

(On if it helps that he worked against his own 3-4 defense throughout training camp) – "I think it's not an advantage, but it does give you a little bit more confidence that you've seen a 3-4. Anytime you're on a team that has a 4-3, I think the adjustment to the 3-4 is much more difficult, but it's still about execution and seeing what their style is, what their schemes are, what they like to do. That's a big matchup for us."

QB Chad Pennington
Wilfredo Lee/AP
(On having a 4-0 record against Sand Diego as a quarterback and what his key to success against them is) – "I really don't know. I think some of it is coincidence, matchups on the team besides me. I don't think there's a lot that goes into that as far as your record versus a team, it's just that's the way that it's happened, including last year. I always know that when I do face the Chargers, especially on the road, that I've got to really be in tune with my protections and all the different things that we do because they give you a bunch of different looks and they're going to test you and do those things, and you're playing against a team that also has an explosive offense. I got to make sure that I can't give them opportunities, and give them a short field too, by turning the ball over."

(On if this game is a must-win) – "I viewed last week as a must win. I view this week as a must win. I view every week as a must win because in our league, it's like last year, if we win the Houston game, we may have home field advantage. Now who would have thought at that point in time that the Houston game would have been that critical? I view every game that way and so it's very important that we do everything we can to win this week. I don't want to go down that road. I want to get back on track and play good solid team football, and stop the bleeding, and do everything we can to give ourselves the best chance to win. I think that probably the most important thing for our team is not to focus on the result, it's to focus on the process and understand what the process is that gets your team to winning those football games. Don't forget how we win football games, and don't forget that how we face that and how we approach that is most important, and that that other stuff takes care of itself. If we just totally focus on a win, when that happens is when something goes bad, you're deflated in a game and you can't do that because there's going to be things that don't go your way in every game win or lose, and you got to be able to respond accordingly. I want us to come out and focus on playing good team football and if the defense is struggling at the time, our offense has got to pick it up. If our offense is struggling at times, our defense has got to make a play, special teams got to do something to change field position. Miami Dolphins, we are a full team, and we got to win as a team in all phases."

(On if 0-2 this year feels different from last year due to the higher expectations) – "I think it may feel different on the outside with our fans and things like that because of the expectations, but on the inside, 0-2 is horrible regardless of what the expectations are. Because I think as professionals, we have our own expectations and we took a lot of pride in last year doing everything we can to try to win a game and not be in this position, and it didn't work out, and we started 0-2, and the same thing this year. It stinks. Losing stinks because all the hard work and all the effort – a lot of people didn't realize all the things that go into one week of practice and preparation just for one game. And that's why after every game if it doesn't go your way, you're deflated for a while and then you try to pick it back up on Tuesday afternoon and start preparing and start getting ready on Wednesday."

(On how this season feels different coming off a strong offensive performance in week two as opposed to being blown out in Arizona the second week of last season) – "It's the outcome that matters the most, so it still bothers you regardless of how you played because you still know even though we played well as an offense, we left some plays out there. We could have been the heroes of the game and we weren't, and that's why it's such a team game, and that's why our guys take pride in - I think regardless of the situation, regardless of how well we played, what could we have done better and fix it, because that taste of winning is so much sweeter than the taste of losing. Even when you play well and you lose, it's horrible. You feel like you played bad because you lost."

(On what would surprise fans the most about the week-to-week preparation for a game) – "The attention to detail to every facet of the game. What's going on, on first and second down. What's the plan on third down, what's the plan in the redzone. What's your plan for four minute, what's you plan for backed up, playing for two minute. And those are just six or seven things there. What's you plan versus their pressures. Versus their pressures on first and second down compared to a third down play. Their base pressures versus their nickel pressures. It goes on and on and on, and I think probably the volume of information that has to be retained, as well as not retaining that volume, but then applying it on the field on Sunday and making it work to where it makes it look easy to the outside crowd. But you don't realize how much preparation goes in to make those plays look easy."

(On if he senses frustration from the tight ends and wide receivers and how he can help calm them down) – "Win. Wining cures a lot of different things. We work extremely hard in practice, and when you lose, it makes that practice a little bit harder and it weighs on you a little bit more. When you win, it's still hard, but you've won and you feel good, and you're just ready to take on the world. Losing tests your courage, and your fortitude, and your resolve – can you fight through it. Because anybody can do it and anybody can be excited when things are going well. But can you get better and can you push through and try to change things when things aren't going well when everybody's on you, and criticizing you, and talking about you and things like that. That's where you really prove to yourself, as well as your team, and prove yourself as a team, what you're really made of. I'm glad we're frustrated. We should be frustrated. If we don't have guys right now that aren't frustrated, that aren't a little bit edgy and aren't a little bit ticked off, we've got problems. But we've got guys who care, and guys who want to get if fixed and know what it takes, and were just trying to find every way to get that done."

(On if facing a 3-4 invites more passes to the tight ends) – "Typically in a 3-4 defense you're going to have a ‘Sam' linebacker over the tight end, so his releases are very important in trying to get jams right off the ball. Where as in a 4-3, he has a lot of free releases because the linebacker's not over top of him, so the 3-4 crates a lot of different moving parts for an offense and you've got to be on the same page in making sure who the linebackers are pressuring and who aren't. And then as route runners, you've got to have a plan. How do I get off the press. How is this guy going to jam me. What do I need to do to get vertical in the defense as fast as I can while I got somebody pushing and tugging on me and trying to do that. There's challenges across the board when you face a 3-4."

(On what rookie quarterbacks lose by starting right away and not sitting behind a veteran player their first few years) – "I think you lose a little bit of what it takes to be a true professional. And being able to take a step back without being beat up, without taking your licks physically on the field, you're able to sit back and watch somebody else do it to where you can take your notes, soak it all in, see what you would do that would be similar to the guy in front of you. What you would do a bit different because we're all different. I think it saves you a little bit. Some guys will be ruined forever if it doesn't go well and never can get rid of that felling that they had, they're shell-shocked. Whereas if you have some time to take it all in and really study, what would I do on the field that's really good that the starter's doing? What do I need to do off the field that's making him successful? What can I take from that and put in my game? I think that's really important, and it's really a great opportunity. It helped me to watch Vinnie [Testaverde] and see what he was doing, and how he would work in the weight room, and how he would take care of himself off the field. And how he handled interviews and things like that, and then on the field, the decisions made on the field as well."

(On what difference it makes travelling for a west coast game a day earlier than usual) – "I love it because it really actually gives me a chance to get acclimated to the time change, but then also get a little extra rest. Especially with the guys who have families and things, now you have that Friday where you can go to bed [laughter]. You can get a full night of rest instead of playing another football game Friday evening, which I have to do in the toy room. So, I like it because it gives you a chance to unwind, and then on a short week like this, now I've got some really good time by myself to prepare on this long plane ride, look at some things, so I'm ready to go."

LB Jason Taylor

(On how travelling to the West Coast effects him with the team sitting at 0-2) – "It doesn't make the game anymore important. Every game is so important, you try your darndest to win them all. We are not going to put extra pressure or focus on this game. It is going to get the same amount it deserves and it always would. Traveling cross-country is not too bad. We have big planes and good meals and whatever else and go a day early and have a chance to relax a little bit."

LB Jason Taylor
(On the Chargers loss of C Nick Hardwick) – "He is an established veteran and a guy who has done it for a long time. The center kind of dictates how the whole line goes, makes the calls and the checks and calls the protections out, so not having him in may hurt them. Not sure how good their backup is, but he is an NFL player so I am sure that he is pretty darn good. They will adjust just fine, they have plenty of players out there a good quarterback and a good running back and receivers so they will be just fine."

(On his craving for that first big play) – "We all look forward to making more plays for this team and I am no different. Whatever it is that we can do to help this team win a ball game or turn the tide in our favor is what we are trying to get done here, so were working at it and we'll get it."

(On if it is just a matter of time until the defense makes a big play) – "You got to keep playing, you got to keep chipping away. You can't start pressing and go outside the scheme of the defense and lose your technique and try to make a play. They're going to happen when you play hard, and you work hard, and you're in the right place, things will happen. They're like wolves, they travel in packs, big plays travel in packs, and when they come, they come in bunches."

(On Sunday's game being a must win) – "I totally disagree, there's no more sense of urgency than there ever was. It's not like we were chilling the first game, relaxed, and now we're going to pick it up a little bit for the Indy game, no, it's always been pedal to the metal. The sense of urgency has not picked up at all. It's the same team, our defense is going to stay the same, our offense is going to stay the same. We need to execute them better and not make mistakes, and finish games. I don't want to start that whole ‘now we're pressing and we're up against the wall now because were 0-2.' We got to keep doing what we do and do it better, and in turn, you'll win games."

(On what the team needs to turn things around) – "Winning cures all ills, everything. When you win, you didn't play as bad as you did the week before, it makes everything feel better. It is a slippery slope. I think sometimes the problem when you lose a couple is people start to press, people start to try to re-invent the wheel and try to do too much. So you got to relax, know that the system works. We've proven that the system works and you keep chipping away at it. It will work, it will happen."

(On not tackling during practice) – "That's kind of the way the league is now. Paul [Pasqualoni] talked about the old days when they were full-speed tackling and all that stuff. Yeah, they didn't have OTA's and mini-camps either. You just showed up for training camp, you smoked cigarettes at halftime, a lot of things were different back then [laughter]. So, we don't do all that now. We don't tackle, but we don't smoke at halftime either."

(On other teams being in full pads at practice) – "Full pads and wearing shoulder pads and shorts is the same thing. I bet you 75% of the guys in this locker room don't wear knee pads and thigh pads, so it's the same thing, you just don't have your tights on. That whole thing, it's all one in the same. You got to get in front of guys in practice, even if we are in full pads, you're not going to tackle a guy, you're going to ‘thud him up' [stop him without tackling him to the ground]. Do the same thudding when you're in shoulder pads and shorts, so you just need to get in front of guys, thud them up, work on getting your body in the right positions. You can never simulate what it's going to be like in a game because there's nothing else on the planet like an NFL football game. It's quick, fast, it's in a hurry, it's violent, and you can't simulate that during the week or else you'll have no one to play on Sunday."

(On if this week of practice was any different from the week before from a tackling standpoint) – "I think because the emphasis has been talked about, and the problems we've had the last couple weeks, I think guys will pay a little more attention to the fundamental techniques out there on the field. Our practice schedule is the same. We're going to practice the way we do, and we need to practice doing it better, and doing it more consistently, and part of that is tackling. Getting guys on the ground, covering, rushing the passer, controlling the ball on offense, scoring points, all those things are the same. Football, when it comes down to it, is a very simple game. The offense puts the ball in the endzone, the defense keeps the other team from putting it in the endzone. It's all the stuff that happens in between that makes it difficult."

(On facing TE Antonio Gates) – "We've had a tough stretch here with the tight ends the last few weeks. Gates may be the best of that group, and that's saying a lot because Tony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark are pretty dang good. But we understand what we put on film the last few weeks and they're going to see that and I'm sure game plan accordingly. It's our job to get those things corrected, and it's happened two weeks in a row, we've given up some big plays defensively and it can't happen anymore. It's as simple as that. We have to make plays and get guys on the ground. The other team's going to make plays, they're going to catch balls, they've got a great quarterback out there, and they have a great tight end, great running game, great receivers, so they're going to make some plays. We have to support and get some guys on the ground and give us a chance to play another down."

(On what makes RB Darren Sproles such an elusive runner) – "He's little, and he's quick, and he's fast. You talk about a guy who can kill you on one play. We saw last week with the swing pass there, took it to the house. He's a talent. Returning kicks, punts and kicks, he's one of those guys that you kind of hold your breath when he gets the ball in his hands."

(On if there is one player the team is focusing on in practice) – "Well I'm not going to discuss what we do on the practice field."

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