Dungy: Better Practice, Better Play

Tony Dungy talked with the media Thursday after practice. He talked about special teams strategy, the importance of limiting turnovers, what he's seeing from San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. The coach also mentioned injuries and talked about the upcoming decision on the health of guard Ryan Lilja. Get the scoop from Dungy inside!

On OG-Ryan Lilja:

"We have to make a decision (by Tuesday) whether to put him on the active roster or leave him on PUP at that point. He seems to be progressing pretty well, so we'll see what happens. So far, he's doing well."

On if the players that missed practice Wednesday will be able to play Sunday at San Diego:

"We have a few guys who have missed just because that's their normal routine, (DB) Tim Jennings, (DE) Robert Mathis, (LB) Gary Brackett. (DB) Bob (Sanders) and (DB) Kelvin (Hayden), we'll have to see on. They've gone through all the walk throughs, and we'll see how they do as the week progresses. But, they would probably be the only two guys we're really looking at right now."

On WR-Reggie Wayne:

"Reggie did fine. He practiced and did well. He actually did better than last week."

On if he will know before Sunday if Sanders will play:

"My sense is if he makes the trip, he'll play, so we'll gauge how the next two days go."

On if he does anything in particular to keep turnovers down:

"One thing we do is we have our defense constantly, in practice, trying to get after it, strip the balls out, stay after the football and practice that way. It makes the ball carriers more aware of hanging on to it. And, you talk about situations and emphasize it and really talk about it and give it that emphasis. But, other than trying to get them on defense and being a little bit more physical, maybe, than some people would practice, I think that helps the offense, too. It's just that sense of, ‘Hey, I always have to protect the football.'"

On the having lost only one fumble this season:

"(RB Coach) Gene Huey does a good job with the backs emphasizing it, and they work on it. Of course, we're trying to strip it from them all the time in practice and having fun, joking around, trying to get it out, and they just concentrate on it. We've had guys that aren't really big fumblers. But, you have to be fortunate, too. I think we've lost one this year (WR-Marvin Harrison vs. Chicago 9/7). We've gone a long time without a running back losing one. We haven't had the quarterback-sack fumbles that are so big, too. Part of that is the protection and your quarterback knowing where people are. The quarterback and the running backs have it most of the time, and if they hang on to it, you have a great chance."

On if he can remember the last C-QB exchange fumble:

"I really can't. We've been fortunate. We've had (C) Jeff (Saturday) and (QB) Peyton (Manning) for years. The last one we might have had was when Tupe (Peko) was playing center. We dropped one and we got it back, but I can't remember one since then. Even with Jamey (Richard playing center), we didn't have a problem early on."

On if there is a number of turnovers that the offense tries to make less than in a season:

"(Zero) is what you're shooting for. Really, if you're having one per game, if you have 16 turnovers, you're probably going to be way up in the plus (in turnover margin) and you're going to win most of your games. You like to think that's going to be an interception and not a fumble. So, if your quarterback can keep it to less than one interception a game, you're really in good shape. That's kind of what we shoot for. We say, ‘Zero is the target, you can live with one. More than one, you're probably going to lose.'"

O not turning the ball over the last three games:

"It's not easy to do. If you have zero, there's a high, high percentage you're going to win the game."

On what he learned from last year's game at San Diego:

"What you learn is the lesson probably for your team all the time, that you have to do what you're supposed to do. It doesn't really matter who's in the game, who's not in the game, what the score is or any of those things. We gave up two returns for touchdowns. We turned the ball over six times. We did a lot of the things that you can't do, but in the second half when we settled down and didn't do anything spectacular, we just played, you still had a chance to win the game and that's the bottom line. So, then you look back and say, ‘In spite of all the guys that didn't play, in spite of the return touchdowns and those kinds of things, if we don't turn it over in the red zone, if we just make our field goals, we're still going to win the game.' That's just, probably, a lesson in the obvious that football is not that hard to explain or to do. It's difficult to execute, but the idea's not that hard."

On if practice has been better this week than last week:

"It has. We've had more guys working, especially on offense, so hopefully we'll be a little bit sharper. Defensively, I hope to have some of those guys working (Thursday). Again, it's not a surprise that the more you practice and the better you practice, the better you play."

On P-Hunter Smith:

"He's doing well. He's had a very good year for us. He's given us very good hang time. We're covering our kicks better. He's just kind of being unnoticed doing his job and doing it pretty well."

On if punting stats are better across the NFL than they were 10 years ago:

"They are. They're actually kicking real balls now, so I'd have to think that these guys are doing way better. They're not kicking two-year-old balls that have been inflated, deflated, reinflated, heated up and all the things they used to do with the balls. The numbers that these guys are putting up are better than they were 10 years ago, and those were really inflated numbers 10 years ago, so I think it's much better punting."

On why kickers would want to kick old balls:

"It's like a pitcher wants to pitch old balls, and it's the same thing with the kickers. Anything that's been broken in is much easier. They snuck a lot of really older balls and different things. That was where the whole ‘K' ball idea came from, just to make it consistent that both sides kick the same ball. The numbers went way down for a couple of years. The kickers have adjusted, and I think we have better kickers, and the guys are kicking the ball better."

On if more planning goes into special teams now:

"Yes. When I was playing on special teams, you practiced one day a week. There just wasn't that much that went into it. Then, people started getting special teams coaches and looking at it and kicking directionally, kicking for hang time, kicking away from different people, (setting up) different returns. It's really much better coached now than it was 20 years ago, and people are winning and losing games on special teams."

On if DE-Dwight Freeney is ahead of the curve in his return from last year's foot injury:

"He's still coming. I think you can see a difference from week one until now. Where it accelerated along that way, I'm not really sure, but certainly if you look at the Chicago game and look at last week (vs. Houston), you see a difference. It's a little more of just natural. I don't know if that's physical or just being out there more and getting back in the groove, but you certainly do see a difference."

On if San Diego's new Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera calls games differently than former Defensive Coordinator Ted Cottrell:

"It's funny, I was just looking at that. I looked at their last two games to try to see, and there is a little bit more Cover 2 now with Ron. For the most part, not a whole lot different. They're doing the same things."

On if Rivera is calling games like he did in Chicago:

"No. I think they're still building off what they've done there and the personnel that they have in San Diego."

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