Gildon, Ward speak about Porter

<b> PITTSBURGH - </b> Jason Gildon and Hines Ward addressed the media Monday in regards to the shooting of teammate Joey Porter Sunday morning. Here is a transcript of that press conference: <br><br> <b> Q: Have you guys talked to Joey at all? How's he doing, what's he saying?</b>

Jason Gildon: I haven't had a chance to talk to him personally. My agent's based in Denver and he briefly told me what happened.

Q: Has anyone on the team talked to him?

JG: Not that I know of.

Hines Ward: I know he's supposed to be back in town today, so there's a lot of guys who will get to talk to him for the first time since the incident.

Q: Has Bill addressed the team?

JG: Yeah, he talked to us this morning about it. Of course this is a tragic incident. Our prayers go out to Joey, his family, all those that were involved. He addressed us briefly this morning, we'll just handle it as it comes. Hopefully, we'll get a better understanding of what happened when Joey gets back today.

Q: Jason, there was a lot of enthusiasm for the season coming up, what kind of damper does this put on that situation?

JG: Being that it happened close to the season opener, what can you say? It's definitely one of those incidents you hate to see happen to anyone. Just from a team standpoint, there are a lot of questions. People want to know what happened and how he's doing personally. But we have a game on Sunday. I know Joey's going to want us to go out there this week and get ready to play and that's what we're going to do.

Q: Will it be important to have him on the sidelines?

JG: I think the most important thing is having him back here with his family. If he comes to the game, I think that is an added benefit. But I think he's going to be there with us anyway.

Q: How's this affect the defense?

JG: Guys are going to have to step up. Clark Haggans is going to be starting at his position in the Okie. James Farrior will take his place in the dime. We have to go out there and prepare accordingly.

Q: Hines, is it possible guys will be distracted this week?

HW: No doubt. It's a tragic situation. But as far as being distracted, we're such a close-knit team that when we see adversity, we seem to rise. Clark's going to get his opportunity. I know he's hungry to get a chance to play and go out there and perform well. Losing a guy like Joey Porter is a huge blow to our defense, but I think the defense is going to rally around him. They're going to step up their play. Like JG said, guys are going to have to step up their performance to another level. I think Clark is going to do a great job. But losing a guy like Joey Porter, one of the leaders of the team, it's a tragic incident. But the season has to go on. We have to go out there and perform, rally around it. Hopefully, we don't go out there and lose a step on the defensive side.

Q: Does this cause you to reflect on going out in public in social settings?

HW: Yeah, it's a matter of him being at the wrong place at the wrong time. His case he was just going to a sports bar, going back to Colorado to watch his alma mater play and an unfortunate incident happens. As a teammate and a person you reflect. That can happen to anyone. It's rare. Coach Cowher in his meeting wanted us to dedicate ourselves for five months to this season and really be careful when you go out into the nightlife because anything can happen. He was talking about consequences. When you go out, you've got to be prepared for anything. So you put it upon yourself to make sure you take care of yourself.

Q: How do you do that?

HW: First thing we like to go out in groups. You never want to go out by yourself. Anything can happen. People get robbed and there are shootings all the time. We can't be stuck in our houses all day, we like to go out as groups. We're a close-knit team. Everybody knows each other's families. Usually when we go out, we like to go out as a group.

Q: Do you have any plans to go to, say, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, and have those plans changed at all because of this?

HW: I don't know. Joey was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm not going to deter my plans from anything. That can happen when you drive off this facility, something bad can happen. It was just an unfortunate incident. Like I said, our thoughts and prayers go out to Joey's family, but if I want to go out watch my alma mater play a big rival game, I'm not going to deter. I'm not going to be scared from going to see my alma mater play.

Q: Jason, You were here when Rod Woodson got hurt. It was the beginning of the year and he was your best defensive player, are there any similar feelings here?

JG: I think it's similar from a standpoint that one of your key guys is out for a period of time and one of the next guys definitely has to come in and step up for a period of time. That year, we were fortunate enough to have a guy come in and play well in Rod's absence. I think this is a very similar situation in that a guy is going to be asked to the same thing. Going into the season opener, this is the last thing you'd expect you have to be handling, but the season's going to go on and guys like Clark and James are going to have to come up and play accordingly. We're expecting big things from this defense this year and we can't let this be a step back for us. We have to take it in stride.

Q: What has Clark shown you to lead you believe he can do it?

JG: He's been here in the system for a while now. He knows how the defense works. He's definitely had a great camp this year and this is his opportunity to go out and play the position. He's part of our linebacking group and we take this very personally when we go out on the field that when we're called upon to go out and play, that's what we're going to do.

Q: Joey expressed desire to come back if not for the first game, then at some point this season. Have you gotten any indication that he'll be back at some point?

JG: We haven't gotten any information for sure how long he's going to be out. As long as he's better and his family are my main concern. We'll have to deal with this.

Q: How do you expect him to respond?

JG: I know he was disappointed that this happened. He was ready to get the season going. It's just one of those deals that he's going to be even hungrier now since he's had to sit and wait. We're just going to have to make sure he doesn't rush himself to get back. We're going to hold it down until he gets back and we'll be ready for him when he does get back.

Q: Joey was one of the emotional leaders of this team. Who replaces him?

JG: It's going to be a group effort. He was definitely a guy who got us going before the game and after the game. Like Hines said, we're a family. We're short a man and we're going to have to step up across the board.

Q: Jason, do you have to do more?

JG: Not personally. I think it's going to be more a collective effort.

Everyone has to know what's at stake here, from me, to Hines. If you were thinking about going out and having a good season, now you have to turn that up a notch. Everyone has to deal with this. We are down a key man and it's like we have no room for error.

HW: We have to play above and beyond expectations, even offensively. We have to put this on our shoulders. Let's keep their offense off the field. Let our offense control the clock. If we can go out there and control the time of possession, we've done our job, we've helped the defense out somewhat. Our key starters, they're going to be asked to go out and make plays that they haven't made. The cornerbacks are going to have to play better or cover a little longer. Clark had a tremendous year last year. When somebody goes out and his backup goes in, we don't expect to lose any production. We can't replace a Joey Porter, of course, but Clark can still go out there and be a productive linebacker who we have confidence in.

Q: Did this hit you personally?

HW: I was shocked when I heard. One of my teammates called me. Our whole concern was his health. Was he alive? Because all we heard was that he was shot. We didn't know how severe the injury was. But knowing he's OK and that there's a chance he can still play early this season, that was our main concern. As far as the season's concerned, we're going to miss him in the home opener. He had worked so hard in training camp and for an injury like this to come, I know he's disappointed because he wants to be out there with his teammates, fighting. But the season has to go on. We lose a good leader in Joey, but our other leaders have to step up and get everybody up to play Baltimore.

Q: The expectations were so high, do you think achieving those expectations will be harder to do?

HW: I don't think so. Nobody expects us to do anything. We're not favorites. This is another blow to us, but JG and Kendrell Bell, those guys, it's put on their shoulders. They're going to have to do more since we're a man down. Clark's going to do a good job. I don't know how many sacks he had last year, but he was up there. You can't replace a Joey Porter, but I think Clark's going to do a good job filling his shoes.

Dale Lolley
SteelCitySports.com

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