(what did you accomplish over the course of mini-camp?)
"I think it was a good beginning. Obviously the rookies were added, draft picks and undrafted rookies were able to join us. We started last week. We got three good days with the veterans in passing camp and then brought the linemen and all the rookies and practiced football. So we got five good practices in the last three days. We talk about it all the time but we really do concentrate on the fundamentals of what we believe in as a staff - offense, defense, special teams. That's what we're really focusing on right now, trying to indoctrinate our rookies into our system, our way of doing things."
(how are the rookies doing?)
"They're doing well. The draft class, they showed up and the guys that we saw certain qualities in, Mike Walker with strong hands, we saw that out here. (Justin) Durant with the speed, you saw the closing speed. You just saw things. Reggie Nelson, he has a nose for the ball. He comes up with a couple interceptions. So it's nice when you confirm what you saw on tape and what you selected in the draft. It's nice to have that confirmed over the weekend."
(does the OTA schedule now offer a different tempo to the offseason compared to 5 or 10 years ago?)
"Our 19 OTAs are going to take place over a five-week period of time. One of the things we want to do is get out of here and give the players a little bit longer break than we had last year prior to camp, and by design we're just looking to do everything we can to put our best product forward in September. Right now it's obviously very important to get a lot of the fundamentals in about how you do things with each specific position and also within your scheme in how you want to approach things."
(how you happy with how Greg Jones is coming along?)
"Oh yeah. Greg is doing well. It's great to have him back. He's a good football player, a strong, tough guy. He'll be great this year."
(is Jones ahead of where most people would be with an ACL?)
"No, I don't think so. I think it depends on how it does. I think his has done well and he's rehabbing very well. I think each individual person is different in how they respond but he's been through it before. He understands what he needs to do and his rehab has gone without any problems."
(how is the offense adapting to Dirk Koetter?)
"I think it's a great start. Clearly the guys are excited about the direction, about Dirk's approach, about the detail that the staff is putting forth on presentation of it. Where I see immediate improvement is in the attention to detail with a simple thing like stem on a route to receiver. The quarterback and the receiver having an absolute black and white picture of how it should look and now we go work on it, and it'll take time. It's not going to be perfect overnight. But I think we have really, as a staff, gone through with a fine tooth comb our passing game much like we did with our running game last year, and we feel that attention to detail is going to allow us to flourish."
(do you think it's possible to have the kind of improvement in the passing game this year as you did with the running game last year?)
"It's possible. Right now we're in the 'let's get to work' stage. I don't think proclamations are necessary. I think what's most important is that if we approach it the way we did this weekend, then we'll have a shot of being a real good football team. I think the commitment this weekend was outstanding. I know the guys are excited about it. They're working hard at it, and that's what we're going to have to do. I think it's about being consistent and it's about making plays. I think right now I would classify it as a good start with a lot of work ahead of us."
(can a player who is not here for mini-camp or OTAs make up the time missed?)
"You make up what you have to make up. The first choice is to be there and partake in all of it. Certainly, guys have been able to overcome less than optimal factors in terms of end result. We'll get to the end result at some point in the future. Right now we're trying to work everybody within our scheme with what we believe in and what we do as much as we can reasonably. There is always a fine line in trying to find that balance as a coach, but obviously I believe in it or we wouldn't be out here doing it."
(did any player stand out to you this weekend?)
"There were a couple guys that stood out. From the guys returning from last year, I thought Greg Estandia had a real strong camp. I thought Charles Sharon had a real strong camp. They're just guys that if you were out here watching practice they're getting in and out of their cuts, they're catching the ball, they're showing up and making plays. So obviously both of their positions are stacked with talent so they've got to come on but they're working at it right."
(are there any conditioning issues?)
"No. We only had one guy who's not here and we knew that in advance that he would not be here. The guys are working hard. You don't expect your football team to be in September condition in May. We're in good shape for May. We have a good start on what we need to get done but certainly we're not in game shape right now and we shouldn't be because if you're in game shape now, you're going to be burned out when the season gets here, so these guys are approaching it right."
(did Byron Leftwich look sharp to you this weekend?)
"I thought Byron had a real good weekend. I know the emphasis, the drill work is being put in with Coach Shula and Coach Koetter. You see some of the results already. I think he's embracing it and he's working hard. We think if every person on this team approaches it that way, it is going to improve. In our job, we take pride in being able to help a guy be a little bit better. That's what a coach does and certainly Byron has embraced that, he's working hard at it and I think he's poised to have a big year but we're early in the process. Right now there is so much work to be done. We're eight practices into it. We have 19 OTAs total and that's before we even go to camp, so quite a bit of work to be done yet but I'm pleased with the approach. Guys are coming at it with a lot of energy and a commitment to being good."
(assessing the team through mini-camp)
"I like the energy. I think the guys came in here to start our season and were focused. It's only May, so from a conditioning standpoint we still have a lot of work to do. We returned quite a few veterans, so system-wise we're probably ahead of where we've been in the past. I think offensively with the changes we made in the passing game, I think there is excitement over the direction that Dirk (Koetter) has brought in and right now it's just a matter of going to work and that's where we are. We have eight practices down and 19 OTAs so it's a good beginning, a good start but there is a lot of work to be done. I'm confident that we will sustain that type of commitment, energy level, commitment to detail and the way the guys approached all the drills and all the work we set out for them this weekend."
(what should the expectations be for Dirk Koetter's offense?)
"You guys had the opportunity to watch us over the weekend. I think maybe you can describe it. For me, it's been talked about that we're going to look for vertical opportunities, we're going to utilize the tight end. I think you saw the tight end catch the ball quite a bit. Everything we're doing with our offense is quarterback-friendly in terms of seeing the offense through the quarterback's eyes. It has to make sense to him. He has to have options and know exactly what they are. It's a good solid offensive strategy and I'm really excited about the direction that Dirk is bringing to our football team, for our offensive philosophy."
(are you saying you're trying to simply things for the quarterback?)
"What we are doing is making it as black and white on offense as it's always been for us defensively. I believe the most important thing that a coach does for his players is to make all the situations as black and white, in terms of your decision-making, make it as black and white as you can so the guys can go play and use their athletic ability. Any time you see fuzziness, uncertainty, that gray area, to me that makes you hesitant. I don't think you play at an optimal level doing that. That's the core of what I believe in as a football coach, is to eliminate the gray, make it black and white, be real certain of what you're expecting, make sure it's sound, do it fundamentally well, and then go out and execute."
(don't you think the black and white on defense comes from the continuity of having the same system for five years?)
"I would say that we made it black and white my first year in Carolina. I think we made it black and white my first year here in '03 on defense and I feel certain that the approach that I'm partaking in and witnessing with our offensive staff will provide that for us. That's what gives me the confidence. When you work at it that way, I believe good things will come from it."
(define the term 'gray')
"I guess we'd have to go through a specific play for me to give you an example of that, where this is your read and this is why, the whole progression. The receivers understand it. The quarterback understands it. It's not like it's revolutionary. It's just good, solid football. I believe in a process that we've enjoyed defensively where we challenge each other, always respectfully, but we challenge each other's ideas. We share ideas among the room but we challenge those ideas and if they can stand up to the scrutiny of that process then we have some good ideas, and then you go and sell them to your players and you get them to buy in because they've already withstood that scrutiny. So players see it and they're like, 'yeah, yeah, that's going to work when I do that well.' So now we go work on it, executing it, fundamentally sound. It's not a matter of trickery. It's a matter of execution."
(what was it about Dirk Koetter that caught your attention? Was it something in that visit back in '01 when the Ravens staff went out there?)
"Yeah, it started then. I met him through Marvin Lewis. I went out there and spent time. I've been tracking him since."
(what did you see from Byron Leftwich this weekend as far as his participation in the new offense? Did he look more comfortable with it?)
"I a convinced that all of our guys are energized by the direction and working hard towards making a special year and certainly Byron is a part of that equation."
(your reaction to Fred Taylor staying around for another week, maybe longer. How important is that?)
"We talked. Fred is one of the leaders on the team. He's taken care of his business and came in (here) in great shape and brings a veteran presence that we like to have, and I'm glad to hear he's going to be spending more time with us."
(is this a little bit of a leadership by example?)
"I think so. You'd have to ask Fred. I think clearly it's his choice to be here."
(when you said during the draft you don't 'coach scared,' does mean you don't make any short-term decisions?)
"No more than normal. I think I've said since I got here, I'm going to coach to win now and always have an eye to the future and it's what I believe in. My philosophy hasn't changed, my approach is not going to change. I believe in, I have conviction in the way we're approaching things here and we're going to stay the course."
(do you like David Garrard's attitude?)
"I think it's very healthy how he's approaching things. He's respectful of the decision that's been made. He's conducting himself like a real professional with preparation and he's going to come in and compete, which is what I want of all my players. That's what we want here. I don't know how you couldn't be pleased with that approach."
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