Sparano Soundbites

Coach Tony Sparano touched on a variety of topics when he met with the media following Friday morning's practice, and they included Patrick Cobbs' versatility and work ethic, Donald Thomas' status for Monday night's preseason opener and the transition faced by former CFL players. Here is the team-released transcript of Sparano's press conference.

On if he thinks QB Pat White is becoming more comfortable on the field: "Yeah, I mean, Pat's been getting better and better, and I think he's been doing some really nice things. You know, last night when, you know, we were talking about this as a staff just a little bit. He threw some nice balls the last couple days. I think he's starting to become a little bit more familiar with what it is we are asking him to do, and just a little bit more comfortable. You know, I think one of the things with him that he's really done a nice job of in third down situations is managing, you know, the down and distance, and you know, not having a problem if he has to, to create yards on his own in some of those situations. But, still trust what's happening with the receivers, and get the ball to those people."

On if TE Ernest Wilford is the go-to guy in the red zone: "Ernest did a nice job down there today in the red zone, so it was good to see him get his hands on the football. You know, those tight ends, they ain't messing around out there. They do a lot of banging and get rewarded every once in a while. That's an area that we hope Ernest, and [WR Patrick] Turner, and some of these guys can start to show up, you know, London, some of the bigger receivers, is down in the red area. We've done a lot of work down there, and quite honestly haven't scored a lot of points down there in some of these scrimmage situations. That's really not how you measure efficiency down there, you know. I mean, to me, second-and-seven when you come up third-and-three down there, that's a pretty efficient play."

On if there is a different approach to competing in the preseason games this year as compared to last: "Well, no. I think that every time that they keep score, and every time that we get a chance to compete out there, we want to win and that's all a part of changing the culture. And we're not there yet, and we certainly know that, I mean, regardless of what happened a year ago, we're not where we want to be form a full cultural change here, so we got some things that we still need to get done, and every time we take the field we want to win the game. Now, we're not going to sacrifice what we need to do from an evaluation standpoint in some of these preseason games just to go out, in other words, I'm not going to leave people in the game just to leave them in the game so that we can have a chance to win the game. That isn't what I'm going to do. So we're counting on these younger players to know what they're doing out there and to be able to go out there and play in those kinds of situations and have a chance to win the game, no different than we would veteran players. But we want to win."

On how RB Patrick Cobbs can serve as a role model to the guys at the bottom of the roster: "Patrick Cobbs, the best way he can do that is usually the way he does it, which is: he keeps his mouth closed most of the time, doesn't have to say a whole lot and does it with his actions. And that's a heck of a compliment. Now, I mean, it's the best I can do because, I think that you can go out here and you find some guys that are ‘rah-rah' and, you know, try to grab a guy and talk to him and hoot and holler at him, and all those things, but this kid just does it by example. If there's a guy to watch, you should watch him. You know, and Patrick is that guy, I think, you know younger people watching practice, and watching what he's done to make this football team and really to earn the confidence of this coaching staff is pretty impressive."

On if Cobbs is his favorite player: "I don't have favorite players. They're all my favorite. But, I kind of like these kinds of guys that are productive in games and what you see is what you get. You know, I don't like those guys with a million different personalities. So, I like the guys that what you see is what you get. Same thing they give you at practice, they give you at the game and he's one of those guys."

On how long it took Cobbs to reach this level of confidence with the coaches: "Oh, I mean, it took a little bit of time last year for that to happen. You know, because I really, you know, I had experience with him only in the fact that he went to school in Texas, and I knew, again, he was a legend down there for god's sakes. But, you know, I knew what he did in college and when he came here. You know, you have Ronnie [Brown], you have Ricky [Williams], you are not sure where this guy fits in. And, slow and steady he shows you everyday out here that he warrants having a role, and little by little, you start to give him more crumbs every single day, and you figure out he can handle a little bit more of this, a little bit more of that, you know, before you know it, you got a big old pie out there."

On if he thinks Cobbs can be an elite NFL running back: "Oh, I don't know. I'm not sure about that. You know, we hadn't really gotten Patrick to the point where we test him, you know, with 25 carries during the course of a game and over and over again, you know. But I know one thing: he'll have a career in this league for a long time because of what he does."

On S Yeremiah Bell and S Gibril Wilson and how they complement each other and communicate with one-another: "Yeah, they've done a nice job back there. I think since the day Gibril has walked in, he's fit in nicely with that group of players back there. Not only Yeremiah, but [S Tyrone] Culver, Courtney Bryan, and that whole group of people from the back end has really made it a point to make sure that they understand completely what's going on back there. So, yeah, I think that's important. And we lost football games last year for a lot of reasons last year but one of the reasons was communication in different areas. You know, one of those areas was the back end so we needed to make sure that that got better. You know, that group of people really does a nice job communicating. I mean, they spend a lot of time, they ask the good questions, and they're not afraid to ask questions. So, I mean, a guy like Gibril who's been in the league for several years or Yeremiah who's been in the league for several years, they're not afraid to raise their hand and ask the question in the meeting room, and I think that's important."

On Gibril Wilson being more talkative than Yeremiah Bell: "Yes. When you get him going, he is a pretty talkative guy. The two of them are not – Yeremiah, I can have a lot of fun with Yeremiah out there… so he got a tremendous personality, but when you put Yeremiah between the lines, he is a little different bird."

On at which point in the preseason would he no longer consider Matt Roth an option to start Week 1 at Atlanta if he continues to miss practice time: "Well, I just don't know. I really don't. I don't have a timetable for it. And from my end – no different than any other injured player – I have to go on in preparation to kind of assume that player is not here. That is all I can do right now and when you get the player back - and he ends up coming back - then you make alternate plans. You do what every coach would do at that point but I don't have a timetable so I can't halt progress right now. I have Jason Taylor out there who has done a nice job and he has taken a lot of plays. Then I have these other two kids who taken an awful lot of plays in [Quentin] Moses and [Tearrius] George and that is what we need. We need to see those two players right now and whenever Matt comes back we will throw Matt into the mix there and I am sure we will get him ready. The one good thing, Matt had a tremendous spring and took a lot of plays in the spring so at that point you hope there is carryover."

On the biggest adjustment Cameron Wake and James Robinson had to make coming from the Canadian Football League to the National Football League: "I think probably the amount of volume that was thrown at them. The speed of the game…sure. It is a little different here particularly for Cameron who is dealing with NFL offensive lineman – you know Jake Long every single day out there. I think it is really the volume. The installs, the volume that you are throwing at them on a daily basis. That is probably the thing that both of them have had to deal with that is the biggest hurdle to get over."

On if the field dimensions being different in the CFL has any effect on their adjustment: "Nah, I don't think so. I really don't, I don't think so. Both of these players played on [100-yard fields] before. I don't think that is an issue. I think it is a volume."

On if he talked to them about the differences in practice schedules between the two leagues, where the CFL typically has more off days: "I really didn't get into all that with them but I am kind of familiar with the routine [in the CFL]. That's where I am getting the volume part of this. In some cases, what we put in [in one day of practice] some people might not put in [during] three days of installs – now this is happening everywhere in the league right now. Everyone is doing the same thing. But in our installs right now, in the first two weeks, you have to get it in so later on you can start pulling it out. Saying ‘nah we didn't like this, we didn't like this, we did like this.' And for these kids to handle that much volume, I think on a day to day basis, mentally it starts to grind on you a little bit."

On if there are any restrictions on Donald Thomas: "Right now… no. He took some reps in pass-rush-period today… has the last couple of days. He has taken pass reps out there. So we kind of brought him along the way we see fit. We just play it really day to day. Every evening [head athletic trainer] Kevin O'Neill will come up and we will have a long visit about our players from a physical standpoint – who might be nicked, who might be bumped - but always Donald Thomas and where Donald is. If I start to get the feeling that Donald is a little bit tired, or we are pushing this thing the wrong way, then we have to get off it. That is all we can do. Right now, all you have to do is go by what the player's feedback is and Donald's [feedback] is positive."

On if Donald Thomas will play Monday: "I am not sure, but I don't see any reason why I would hold him right now."

On if he has any thoughts about Michael Vick signing with the Eagles: "No … just good luck to Michael, I wish him all the luck in the world, but I have a team to worry about here."

On Paul Soliai's difference in professionalism and maturity from last year to this year: I think different in his approach. What I mean by this, a year ago I might– and I would be lying to you, I think Paul would know this – but a year ago I questioned a little bit about how important this whole thing was maybe to Paul. Where now… I don't see that. I see him doing the extra. I see him studying. I see him trying to get to where we need him to be in a hurry. I like what he has done in the weight room. So, I think he's starting to pass more and more hurdles right now. From a professional standpoint, I think this guy is starting to get it. He is starting to figure out that this isn't only a hobby; this is really what [he] wants to do. I think a lot of that – and I will give credit where credit belongs but I think a lot of that – has to do with guys like [Jason] Ferguson and guys in that group. He likes to –Ferguson likes him under his wing and he likes to be under Ferguson's wing which isn't a bad problem. I think he is starting to learn a little bit about what it takes. So I have been pleased with Paul. I am kind of…really excited to see him in some of these games."


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