"Good evening fellas. I couldn't take it anymore. I was trying to drive home and I just couldn't take another minute of it. I had to call in early."
(what couldn't you take anymore?)
"You guys, babbling about the quarterback situation. There is a lot of stuff going on right now. You have to turn the page onto something that's newsworthy."
(you have to fill us in, what is the real status of the quarterback situation?)
"I've announced it. You already know."
(and that's it?)
(are you expecting a reaction from Byron Leftwich either publicly or to you personally?)
"No, I'm not expecting anything. I don't know why there's a watch. All across the league right now it's offseason, it's negotiating time, it's discussion time, it's find a role time, it's find a club that wants you time - there are all kinds of things going on this time of year. When we get into playing football, then that's when guys are expected to show up in great shape and compete hard and pull for the team to win. There is all kinds of talk on a lot of different subjects this time of year but it's all part of the offseason. Where we are right now is we're a few weeks out yet from beginning our offseason program; we'll start on March 26th. We're gearing up as a coaching staff. We were at the Combine. We're getting our free agency plan together and beginning to look at the draft prospects. It's an exciting time in terms of building personnel and looking forward to putting together a squad for 2007."
(how active will you be in free agency?)
"We'll just see how it plays out. We feel like we have a pretty good squad right now and we've been able to retain a lot of good players and get them signed up, and that's kind of been really the emphasis for us. We've been able to get Daryl Smith, Rashean Mathis, John Henderson, Vince Manuwai, George Wrighster - a bunch of guys we've identified as good players and have been able to go and get them done and not allow them to be free agents and get something done early that makes sense for them and for us. In doing so, we've been able to draft well and keep those guys and build a good solid team. Where we can find a match, where we can add some value of a player who can come in here and help be a part of this football team, help make us stronger, we'll look to do that, but I don't feel like we have a glaring spot where we have to go out and absolutely chase in the open market. When you do that, obviously you're going to pay a huge premium."
(for the money that is going to be spent, is the free agent class this year kind of weak?)
"I think when you look at it, you just have to recognize, if you look around the league ballclubs are doing a better job of protecting the guys they want to keep and you're seeing fewer and fewer of the so-called 'A' players making it to the market, and that's a result of teams having gone through this process and I think making an effort to sign their own guys more often."
(in the fans' mind, the quarterback is the number one issue. They want to know if Byron Leftwich is as committed to his position here as you are to him. Can you give the fans a statement that this is true?)
"There is no statement that is going to be made that is going to prove anything. Statements are statements. A guy's actions are a guy's actions. We have a team of close to 80 guys that we'll end up taking into camp, 87 guys this year we'll take into training camp. We'll start collecting free agents and draft picks and when we go into our mini-camps the beginning of May, we'll be pretty close to having the group together that we're going to take into training camp. We'll begin to work those guys. On March 26th we'll begin the offseason program. Anybody that's going to be a big part of our football team is going to take part in all that and going to contribute in all that and begin to build the team, and we'll begin that process shortly but it's not starting tomorrow, and so Byron and everybody else involved will know when those dates are and will know what's expected of them and we'll take it from there."
(does your draft philosophy remain best player available or are you at a point now with your roster where you can target positions?)
"I think just the opposite. I think best player available might carry itself a little deeper into the draft because of the fact that we really have a pretty solid roster, I think, that allows you to stick with that type of plan deeper into the draft. Obviously, when you get into the second day, you can go specifically for positions that you want to make sure you get, but certainly throughout the first day you want to be able to stay to that approach and feel good about taking the best guy off the board."
(do you remain committed to your young receivers - Reggie Williams, Matt Jones and Ernest Wilford? Do you still believe they are the quality that you thought they were when you drafted them?)
"I continue to believe that we have a good group that we've invested in with draft picks over our first four years here in town. If you look at it, I believe I've added it up; we have 10 guys taken in the first two rounds as a football team. Seven of them have been on the offensive side. We have tight ends, we have running backs, we have wide receivers, we have linemen. We've collected guys on the first day. Many of them have been offensive players and we do believe they are good talented players and that they will continue to improve. We're really excited about what we've done with the staff with Dirk Koetter, Mike Shula, Todd Monken - guys are meeting right now - Robert Prince. They're meeting right now with Mike Tice, Kennedy Pola and Andy Heck, and offensively we're really solidifying what we're going to do going forward, and so it's been a very thorough process. Much like we did in the running game last year, we're going through the passing game this year and taking a good detailed look at exactly what we're doing and how we're going to be able to utilize the players we have. And then of course it comes down to getting to work. We have a lot of work to do. We have to have a real productive offseason and so we're gearing up for that and know that a lot of work has to be put in."
(are you putting in a new offensive system? How would you describe the transformation that is taking place with the offense?)
"Not completely new. We were very thorough with our running game last year and really looked at some of the things we did well and built on that and looked at some of the things that we wanted to do to be able to do better and put that in. We cleaned up some terminology and some assignments and really shortened up how much we were doing and got good at certain things. We feel like in the past that we've kind of done a little bit of everything, that we haven't really settled on what we want to be good at. I think the guys are doing a nice job right now working through the system, making sure the system makes sense, that it'll be able to flow from the coordinator to the quarterback into the huddle and the quarterback knows exactly where he needs to go with the ball. We feel good about that process and we're working at it right now."
(will you keep the terminology the same?)
"In most cases, in particular with the run game and the protections it's going to stay the same. In the pass game, we're looking at the concepts and the way we put together route combinations and we are looking at the best way that we can do it for 2007 going forward. There will be some change and there will be a little bit of a learning curve involved but nothing that won't make sense and that won't bear fruit in the end."
(Kyle Brady and Deon Grant will be free agents. Do you go into free agency hopeful that you will be able to give them an offer that fits your salary structure, or are you resigned to the fact they will be able to get more in the open market than you've decided that position merits?)
"I think that's always determined in the market. It's hard to predict how people are going to respond to players that are out there. Jeff (Lageman) and I both played. One of the things we both fought for when we were both player reps, we fought for the right to have the ability to go into the market as a free agent and have someone pay for your services. If you want to live in a certain location and that team wants you, then maybe you can strike a deal like that. If you're really determined to make every last dollar that you can and you don't care if the team is any good or not, you can look at that. You weigh all your options. And of course, when a player goes into the market, the team goes into the market as well and there is some give and take in free agency and everybody has their own approach and ultimately, it comes down you make a choice, the player will and the team will and then hopefully it marries up. One thing that we know is that there are good players out there and we like our guys and you're always hopeful that you can retain all your good players and add to that, so we'll just see how it plays out."
(as you head into the start of the offseason program, what news do you have of the health progress of players who were on IR like Reggie Hayward and Greg Jones , and what is the status of Fred Taylor's contract?)
"We have like 10 guys coming back that are really good football players - Reggie Hayward, Mike Peterson, Donovin Darius, Pat Thomas, Greg Jones - just to name a few. All of the signs that I'm getting from the doctors, from the medical staff, from Mike Ryan and the trainers is that the guys are doing well, that they're on track, that we should have them healthy for the 2007 season, so I'm very fired up about that. Obviously, you never want to concede anything during the season as a coach. You want to keep fighting with the guys that you have but certainly we limped along during the season and missed those guys and really welcome them back and look forward to adding to that in the draft and having a real competitive training camp and looking forward putting a heck of a product out there. So, Reggie and a lot of these guys are doing well and getting better and on the mend and we're excited about that."
(on Fred Taylor's contract)
"I remain optimistic that we'll get something done. I think we're real close to getting it finished up and I would be surprised if we don't hear something in the next day or so where we have it wrapped up."
(what do you think has to be done this offseason for you to be satisfied that this team can get to where you want to get next year?)
"I think the bottom line we have to have a roster full of guys who are committed, that buy into absolutely being as good as they can be physically, mentally, emotionally in terms of helping our football team be a winner. I had Marcus Stroud in the office today, talked about the need for him to have just a super offseason rehabbing and strengthening and training, and that's across the board. We need guys like Marcus to step up and be leaders for us and give the kind of commitment that's necessary to be special. I think from a talent standpoint we'll continue to add talent. I feel like we have a good strong team. We're going to coach them up, we're going to demand, we're going to drive them and we expect to be good."
Jaguar Transcript: Del Rio on JTW
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