Post-game quotebook

<b>BILL COWHER:</b> I thought it was a good effort coming off the short week. There was some sturdy play in the first half. There were some good things and I thought they played hard in the second half.

Q: How's Kendrell Bell?
A: It's not serious. It's a mild MCL sprain. It could be a bone bruise. He'll know more (Friday) but I don't think it's serious at all.

Q: Would that threaten the season opener?
A: I don't think so.

Q: Coach, how do you see the right tackle competition?
A: I couldn't even start. I wasn't watching that particular match-up.

Q: How was Tommy Maddox?
A: I thought Tommy was very sharp. I thought his balls were accurate, his reads were good, the receivers did a good job making plays for him. I'm hopeful we're getting all of these (bad calls) out of the way in preseason and maybe it'll even up in the regular season. But I thought Tommy was very sharp.

Q: Do you have any idea how long you'll use the first team at Carolina?

A: No.

Q: Is that as hard as you've seen Jerome Bettis play in a preseason game?
A: Our football team played hard. We've played pretty well. I know the first group didn't at Detroit. Against Philadelphia we exchanged jabs with the first groups in there. Tonight again we came out of there with a tie at halftime. We've played hard. We've had some situations come up, some plays taken away. And we haven't been sharp. We haven't been totally on top. Tonight I thought we still took a step forward. I'd have liked to have seen Jeff (Reed) make that field goal. That was something I'd like to see him hit it right down the middle. I thought the kicking game was pretty solid again tonight.

Q: Did you consider kicking the extra point?
A: The extra point was never really a consideration.

Q: Coach, were you pleased with your first-team defense?
A: Yeah. Kind of. The one drive we had some third downs we had a chance to get off the field. Quincy Carter scrambled around and made a play. And I'd like to see us hold them to field goals. We're allowing teams down there and they're finishing with touchdowns. Teams are going to drive in this league. You can't stop people from making first downs. I just don't like the fact people are driving right now and they're scoring touchdowns. We've got to hold them to field goals in the red zone.

Q: What about takeaways?
A: Nah. Maybe they'll start coming too. We had our hands on a couple balls tonight, a fumble called back last week. I'm looking at that like some of these replays and some of these penalties we're having against us. Hopefully we'll get some of these things to start bouncing our way once the regular season starts.

Q: Was that helmet-to-helmet on Khori Ivy?
A: I thought it was. It certainly sounded like it. That was a pretty good hit.

Q: Why so many punt returners?

A: We had Hank (Poteat) in there but Hank twisted his ab. That's why he did not go back out there. We had Deshea (Townsend) in there awhile because I wanted to see him catch some. Then it got late and we put Jason (Armstead) in there.

Q: Has Deshea ever returned punts?
A: In college he did it. Actually his first two years in college. He said he averaged about 16, which means he probably averaged about 11. He's got excellent hands. That's the one thing: You know you'll get the ball caught.

Q: Are you back on schedule yet?
A: I don't know. I mean I like where we are. I like the focus of our team. They really understand what we have in front of us, the challenge in front of us, and the sense of urgency we need to get there. Like I said I thought we took a step forward tonight. It will be important to finish this off with a good performance in Carolina.

Q: Is Josh Miller hurting?
A: No.

Q: Why did you take a whack at the one punt that bounced out of bounds?
A: I didn't think he should be hitting me. I wasn't that far up the field.

Q: How did Brian St. Pierre look?
A: He looked good. Before he went in I told him 'Look, that's the best offensive line you've had this camp.' He had the second group in there so I think he finally had a little bit of time to throw. I thought he did a good job. I liked his presence, his decision-making. I thought he did a good job, really, when he came into the game.

Q: Did you find another kick returner?
A: Ike (Taylor), yeah. Ike's done that. He's got good speed. He's pretty good back there as a kickoff guy, yeah.

Q: Did you think you made that field goal?
A: It was over the top. Any questionable call I want to swing my way. It could've gone either way. At the same time, I've got to hit it down the middle.

Q: Will kick returning be your niche this year?

A: I'm hoping.

Q: How experienced are you at it?
A: I did it all my college years, sir. Hopefully that can be my foundation with the team and take it from there.

Q: Tell me about the return. What was the key?
A: Blocking. Everybody did their assignments. I had a couple of holes to pick.

Q: Did you run angry tonight?

A: No. I ran with a purpose. I wanted to get out there and run hard, run physically, and I think I did that.

Q: Anybody in particular you were trying to send a message to?
A: No. I'm trying to do what I do best. I'm healthy and I want to show that. It's not something I want to show off on somebody. I just want to work hard, show everybody I'm healthy and I'm ready to rock.

Q: Can you get ready with three carries?

A: You have to. Three carries in the game is not where you get ready. You get ready in training camp and in practice every day. I don't think the game is where you really hone in. It's every day in practice.

Q: Are you where you need to be?

A: I'm still working to get better.

Q: Where are you this week as opposed to the last two?

A: I felt a lot better. I feel I've been getting better each week. As long as I continue to improve and work on the things I need to, I'll be fine.

Q: Why are you smiling?

A: This is my first win in the NFL. My first win.

Q: Did the team look better?
A: We did. I know me, and the other rookies, we're starting to get it right now. Our defense is very complex and we're finally starting to click.

Q: You're feeling more comfortable?
A: Oh yes. I still have a long way to go but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can see it, so it's getting better.

Q: Are you the sack man?
A: Nah, I wouldn't call myself the sack man. I was able to get around there twice and help us win. Not the sack man. Not yet.

Q: Aren't you happy about two sacks?
A: Oh yeah. The first sack was big, but this last sack, to seal the victory, to gut the defense off the field, that was big. I felt great after that because I knew I helped my teammates.

Q: Now why didn't you recover the fumbles?
A: Hah. Why didn't you ask me about the sack I missed? But we won't talk about that.

Q: You dropped into coverage and popped a receiver. That's something isn't it?
A: Yeah. Like I said, I'm getting it more and more. Coach (Tim) Lewis is staying on me; Coach (Keith) Butler is staying on me; Joey (Porter) and Jason (Gildon) have really helped me out a lot. I'm getting it. I'm getting it. Like Coach Lewis told me: 'Forty-four, you're getting it a little bit.' I haven't earned my name yet. I'm still 44. But he told me, 'Forty-four, you're getting it a little bit. You still have a long way to go.' And I do.

Q: Does that make you feel all warm and fuzzy?
A: At least he gave me that. At least he called me 44. It wasn't 'Hey, rook.'

Q: Did the win mean something?
A: Yeah it did. Anytime I go into a game, I play to win and this was my first victory. I love to win and it's my first victory, even though it is preseason. In about a week and a half it's not even going to count. Just winning, man, you gotta love it. You gotta love to win.

Q: What's the most difficult part of this experience?
A: Getting adjusted to the offensive linemen and the quick passing that offenses do, like the Eagles did last week. And in college, I could throw my best move - I could half throw it, not even throw it that well - and I could come clean. But here, if I throw it perfect, I still might get blocked. If I don't get blocked I might squeak by. But I can do it halfway in college and still come clean. The offensive linemen are so much better in this league.

Q: Are they better at holding, too?
A: Yeah they do. They do. They don't call it so I ain't talking about holding. They don't call it.

Q: Do you have to make a great play to get Timmy to call you by your name? Do you have to force fumbles?
A: That too. And you have to be reliable, and right now I have three or four or five good plays, and then one play you lose contain or one play I won't get all the way down to my gap. And then I'll have five or six more plays, then another play I don't do so well. I won't drop back far enough or something like that, then he'll get on me for that. He doesn't see the first six. He only sees No. 7, but that's the way it is.

Q: Did any of the other linebackers say anything to you when you got to the sideline?
A: Oh yeah, Joey and them were all over me. Then they quickly, quickly, told me about the sack I missed on the screen play.

Q: Was this a breakout game of sorts for you?
A: Yes it was. After each game, you looked at it as a stepping stone. Those two-a-days at Latrobe were big, those practices, those meetings, Coach Butler hollering at me all the time, Coach Lewis staying in my ear. I mean, those are things that were helping me and I'm able to see the light at the end of the tunnel now. The fog is clearing.

Q: Were you just taking a blind swipe at the ball?
A: No. I see the ball; I see the quarterback. I was reaching for the quarterback's shoulder to snap him down or something. If I reach for his shoulder and can't get his shoulder, I get his arm. If I can't get his arm, I get the ball, the thigh, the foot, the shoelaces. Anything. I'm trying to get something. It just so happened I got the ball twice.

Q: How is the learning process?
A: It was rough at minicamp. And then when Joey and Jason came in, they took me under their wing a little bit, Clark (Haggans), too. And you know the coaches are going to stay on your back all the time, so I'm just getting better every week.

Q: Was it discouraging initially to play behind Joey and Jason?
A: I thought about that. I said, 'Didn't those guys make the Pro Bowl?' That's what I thought, but coming in they've really helped me out a lot. I'll be able to get on the field a little bit, maybe in the nickel, dime, base, special teams. Any way I can get on the field would be great.

Q: Ever throw a scoring play to a guy the size of an offensive tackle?

A: It's hard to miss him. Dallas probably thought he was a pulling guard or something. Wes (Ours) has been playing really well for us and they left him open. It was a great call by Coach (Mike) Mularkey and it was a perfectly run play and it was a big play.

Q: Did you need a good game like this?
A: Yeah. I mean, the situations I've been coming into have been kind of tough. We've been playing catch-up. Teams knew we had to pass and they were teeing off. That's a tough way to learn as a quarterback but it was a good experience for me to learn from, get my feet wet in an NFL game. I was very excited about the opportunity when Coach Cowher said I was going into the game, down seven with a chance to win the game down the stretch.

Q: Someone asked Cowher this week if they should keep only two quarterbacks. People were getting down on you. Were you feeling that?
A: No, I wasn't feeling that at all. Whatever people's opinions are, that's what it is. No, I'm just trying to get better every day in practice. I feel I've had a good camp and I've learned. I feel I played well tonight and I'll just try to build from that.

Q: How difficult was the playbook initially and how far have you come along?
A: I ran a pro offense in college so that gave me an advantage coming in. But there are a lot of differences as well. I feel pretty good about it. I feel I get better every day and that's the way I'm trying to gauge myself. That's all you can do. You get very limited reps in practice.

Q: How did you get that game ball?
A: I just brought it in from the game. I didn't know who to give it to. It was just at my locker so I just picked it up.

Jim Wexell

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