Cowher's Weekly Press Conference

Here is the weekly transcript for Bill Cowher's most recent press conference. Cowher provides the latest news on Joey Porter and looks ahead to the big game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Cowher: Before we get started, I will give you my Joey Porter update. Last night, Dr. Jim Bradley was able to take the bullet out of Joey (Porter). At this point, I really can't get into details for legal reasons. But, more tests have been taken. There have been no setbacks to this point. Obviously, the next couple days will have a lot to do with his status. To give you a very vague time frame, which I would like to do because I know there is so much speculation taking place out there in regards to Joey (Porter), it can be anywhere from two weeks to him back playing or up to six to eight weeks. I know it is very vague, but I think given where we are from a time frame standpoint; we have to make sure that everything is being done properly, as it is. His health is certainly first and foremost. I just wanted to give you guys a time frame so that you would have something to refer to as opposed to all of the speculation that has taken place out there. Given that, he is obviously out this week.

With the other players, we have five players that are probable. Chris Doering with an ankle. Todd Fordham with an ankle. Oliver Ross with an ankle. Jeff Hartings with his knee and Jerame Tuman with a groin. As far as the right tackle position is concerned, Todd Fordham is going to start. I think he has earned that right. Oliver (Ross) gives us a very quality back up. At this point, that is how we are going to start this season. Both players have been informed of that. Obviously, we are looking forward to Sunday. It is the first time in three years and the first time at Heinz Field that we have the opening game played at home. We are looking forward to it. In the last six years, it is the third time that we opened against Baltimore. We are looking forward to that. I think it will be a big challenge for us. Certainly, it will be a big challenge for us. But, certainly there is a lot of excitement about the season and certainly this first game.

Q: Can you eliminate injured reserve as a possibility for Joey Porter?

C: I have eliminated that from the beginning, yes.

Q: Joey (Porter) is described as an emotional leader. Can you describe the conversation between you and Joey (Porter)?

C: I talked to him and had a chance to see him last night. I think right now we are just trying to concentrate on making sure he comes back healthy. There are so many things that have taken place and he has not had a lot of sleep. It seems that every time he turns around, there is another test being taken, and he was traveling. It has really been kind of a rush the last two or three days for him. Our conversations have been short. They have been positive and optimistic about getting back. He will be back, but at what point, right now it is way too early to speculate. I think it would be unfair for anyone to try to do that right now.

Q: Will he be involved with future investigations in Denver?

C: I really can't answer that right now. I know that he has talked with the police out there. I can't imagine what more would need to be done based on the information that I have. But, at this point, I am unaware of it.

Q: Do you expect him to play this year?

C: I think I already answered that. I can't expand any more than that. I said two weeks or anything up to six to eight weeks. Maybe it will change. I can't tell you. If it changes, I will tell you. At this point, I obviously plan on him playing.

Q: Does six to eight weeks involve his rehabilitation?

C: It is all involved with rehab. I think a lot of it again is based on how we get through this, infection free. A lot of things can pop up. I don't have a great history of dealing with an injury like this to refer to. But, his health is first and foremost. We have to make sure that we do everything according to the book. I just wanted to kind of give you a vague time frame to work from. Certainly, when I say up to six to eight weeks, every intention there is on him playing this year. If that were to change, then I would say there was a chance he would not play this year. That is all I can tell you at this point. It is very vague. I know I am giving you vague answers, but that is all the information that we have at this time. We just can't answer any quicker than his body is going to deal with it.

Q: Did they need the bullet as part of the investigation or did they determine that it was better to get it out?

C: The latter.

Q: Was there any nerve damage?

C: Again, I don't want to get into specifics. I can't get into specifics. I am not trying to be evasive. But, there is a rule that is out there that says I am not allowed to discuss this issue as it relates to an individual's health. I am not trying to be evasive to you. I wish there were more rules out there that would allow me to be evasive. But, I can't talk about his health in detail because of that. I am a little bit limited. Hopefully, I haven't crossed the line already.

Q: Will he be on the sideline on Sunday?

C: Hopefully, he will be here this week at some point. I think he will hopefully be up and around. He may be up and walking around as we speak and starting a little bit of his rehab. We are hopeful to have him here some time this week.

Q: Is that a better overall prognosis than you might have originally thought?

C: Without a doubt.

Q: Tell us something about the Ravens.

C: It is a good football team. It is a team that I know (some of the players from) the Super Bowl year have been moved, but at the same time, you still look at some of the players and they got a healthy Ray Lewis back. Many people have picked them to win our division. They have got to be one of the favorites and tops in our division.

So, you look at them offensively, Jamal Lewis is back now, a year removed from his knee injury. He looks like he is running as well as he ever has. Travis Taylor is now starting to become a veteran. He is able to utilize and he understands the speed of the game. Todd Heap is one of the top tight ends in the game. You couple that with a big offensive line and picking up Orlando Brown and put him on the other side of Jonathan Ogden, those are two massive tackles.

The quarterback has been impressive to watch. He is making good decisions. He is throwing the ball accurately. The one thing that he can do is keep mobile, he scrambles around. If he keeps the chains moving, and I like his decision-making. I have been impressed by what he has done in this preseason.

On the other side of the ball, obviously getting Ray Lewis back, he is pretty much an inspirational leader for that football team. They picked up Corey Fuller from Cleveland, and that gives them two very solid corners in Fuller and (Chris) McAllister. They were able to move (Gary) Baxter back to safety and put him back there with Ed Reed that they picked up in the first round, that is a good secondary and a very good group of linebackers Darius Thomas and (Pete) Boulware are two very good outside linebackers. (Ed) Hartwell and Ray inside, it is a good defense. As they stated, they are going to ride their defense and their good running game.

They have some receivers that can make some big plays. It is a solid football team and like I said, a lot of people have picked them to win this division.

Q: Do you expect them to strip down their offense because they are starting a rookie?

C: I don't think they will. I think they are still going to want to run the ball, but I think also, that if they are going to throw it, I don't think they want to put him in must-throw situations. I can see them coming out and trying to spread it out and probably throwing the ball in early downs so they don't get involved in putting him in a situation where you can tee off and you know he has to throw. I think they have done a good job in this preseason. While they kept it simple, they have been able to throw their offense at him. He has some good weapons and I think he is making good decisions. Certainly, having Jamal Lewis running the ball and a little bit of the play action with Heap and trying to get him matched up outside and getting good matchups there will be a big part of their offense. But how much they pare it down, I don't know. It seems like when they play us, they have a package of offense that they pretty much refer to. I can't see them being much different just because of the young quarterback.

Q: As a general rule facing a kid making his first start, would you try to disguise things more than you would against a veteran quarterback?

C: Yes, we certainly need to create some indecision with him and disguising and mixing it up is a part of it, and presenting him with maybe some things that he has not seen yet on video will be a part of it. We have to create some indecision; we have to be able to stop Jamal Lewis. We know that Heap and Taylor are the two guys in the passing game that you have to take away. So, they have some weapons around him. But, certainly we need to create some indecision in him for us to be effective.

Q: Do guys in athlete positions have to insulate themselves? Is there any disappointment with the decision Joey (Porter) made?

C: I have no disappointment in the decision that Joey made. I certainly would not ask anyone to live their life in a shell and be afraid to do things. You just have to be aware that when you are in high profile situations, that there are people, unfortunately, in our society that will try to exploit that. You see that not only in talking about what happened with Joey, but when you look at all the situations that have come up with high-profile players, and some of the situations that they put themselves into. But, you have to understand that is part of it. It is part of the responsibility that you have. Unfortunately, that is part of the life that you have to live. But at the same time, you just have to be aware.

They are all individuals. As I sit in there and talk to 53 guys, I have guys that are married, I have guys that are single, you have guys in their mid 30s, you have guys in their early 20s. I think it is just an awareness that they have to have, a responsibility that they have to be ready to accept and recognize that you are accountable. As I said to them, the one thing that you have to be aware of is that the longer you stay out at night, the more risk you put yourself into in terms of things happening. Peoples' courage becomes greater as the night goes on. That is the truth. You have to be very, very careful where you are, who you are with, and what kind of situation you put yourself into, particularly as the night grows older. I think if you understand that, and just use good judgment and just try to be very thoughtful about where you are and when you're there, you can still live a very somewhat normal life based on who you are.

This is a football town. Everyone knows it. As I tell them, this is a big little town. It is a big town atmosphere, but it is little because wherever you go, I am going to hear about it because everyone knows. We talk about it every year for the young guys and it is a talk that some of the old guys need to hear every year as a reminder because it is just amazing that when football season comes around, the excitement builds and the notoriety becomes greater. That is the nature of this business and they have to be aware of that.

Q: Has anything changed for you over the years?

C: I always go out after a win. If we lose, we eat at home. It is just the nature of the position. The longer you are in it and the more noticed you become, with that you have to apply greater scrutiny. I will not miss a basketball game. I will not miss a function with my kids as a result of it. I missed one game last year because it was the day after our last game and I had to meet with the players. Your life is a little bit different. You are living in a glass house. You just have to understand that. There is a lot of good that comes with this job. It is not all bad. There are a lot of things that come very well. We are compensated very well. There are a lot of good things about this. But, you have to understand the other side and the responsibility that goes with it.

Q: Aside from injury, what would be your biggest concern going into the season?

C: I don't know if there are concerns. I think it is excitement. You can't go into a season worried. I think you go into a season excited about the opportunity and you look forward to the challenges because there are going to be challenges. I told the team when we found about Sam Mills on Thursday night. We did a prayer afterwards. Sam was a teammate of mine. That was devastating. A 44-year-old young man struck down with cancer that could be fatal. It puts a lot of things in perspective. We said then there will probably be other obstacles along the way. But, nothing that you can't endure, nothing that you can't overcome, nothing that you can't grow from. There is going to be more, we just did not realize it was going to come two days later with Joey (Porter). There will be others along the way as the season comes. We are going to face it, we are going to have to deal with it, and we are going to have grow from it. So, I am excited about this season. The players should be excited about the season. I am excited about opening up at home. This is great. For the first time in three years, with a home opener, it is exciting. It is a long year. So, you don't get caught up in the preseason hype and all the speculation that people have because it is going to play out now. All the talking is done. It is time now to speak with your actions. We are going to have an opportunity to do that Sunday and I think it is exciting for our football team.

Q: Is Jamal Lewis back to where he was before he injured his knee in 2001?

C: I think so. I just watched last year's game, and he looked pretty good in that week 17 game. He ran over us pretty good. They moved the ball well. He looked good in the preseason, particularly against the Giants when he had a couple of good runs.

Q: You've talked about finishing strong. Is it important to start fast, and why?

C: Start fast, finish strong. That's really what we've talked about the past couple of weeks. There's no guarantee with how you start, as to how it's going to be at the end. It certainly can give you a path that allows for a margin of error somewhere in the middle. Starting fast is always important. Some years we have and the past couple of years we have not. It's a situation where you'd like to be able to get off to a good start, so you can create a certain margin for error for yourself. But when you get off to a slow start, you find yourself fighting an uphill battle every week. That doesn't mean a slow start will determine your fate, but it can affect the path you have to take to get where you want to go. Starting fast is important, but finishing strong is imperative.

Q: Why did you pick Todd Fordham to start at right tackle over Oliver Ross?

C: Oliver did not play well in the first game, but I thought he got better after that. I like the way he responded, and I told him that. The one thing Todd has done since the time he came here is he's been very consistent, very solid and certainly played very, very well the other night, on the road in Carolina against a good football player in Julius Peppers. I'm comfortable with where Oliver is; in terms of he hasn't leveled off but gotten better with each game. But I think Todd has earned the opportunity. I feel comfortable with having Oliver there as an experienced guy to back him up or go to the left side, as he's done before. That's how we're starting, not to say we won't make a change if we feel it's necessary somewhere down the road.

Q: Is the team as ready as you're going to be heading into a season opener?

C: I think so. We have had some setbacks, obviously with Joey. I like where we are. I like how we played in Carolina. I had a good feel for what we were able to do on offense, a good feel for where we were defensively. Outside of Joey's injury, I like where we are health-wise. This is where we are, and I think we're ready to play.

Q: Will Kendall Simmons need an occasional breather throughout the game?

C: I think he's fine. He played the whole first half in Carolina, and there was no indication. We haven't even talked about his condition in the past week. I think he's getting himself back, and he'll be fine.

Q: Do you have any interest in Lawyer Milloy?

C: Not at this point.

Q: Is it too late in the process for that?

C: I'd be interested in him, but I don't think it would work out. I don't think it's too late, but we may have some of the same issues New England had, which is why he's out there. I love Lawyer Milloy as a football player, but sometimes there's more to it than that. They love him, too.

Q: Is Tommy Maddox a young 32-year-old?

C: He's a young 32 from the standpoint that he has a lot of football left to be played. He hasn't played a lot. He hasn't had the hits that a 32-year-old quarterback has had in this league. I look at him as the same guy I saw last year at camp. Like anybody else, he had to develop some timing, but I like where he finished. I like his decision-making, I think he's an accurate thrower, I like where he finished, he's a very good leader, and sometimes he can be as mobile as he needs to be. There are a lot of good qualities about the guy, and I like where he is.

Q: Is there any danger of guys on the defense trying to do too much in Joey Porter's absence?

C: I don't think there is. Clark Haggans is a very good football player. If you look at our depth, and if we lost a guy and had to put somebody else in, that's one position I would classify as being as strong as any. You have a guy who has played, and right now he's a victim of being behind two Pro Bowl linebackers. You don't want to lose anybody, but if you do lose an outside linebacker, you have a Clark Haggans to put in there and our team realizes he's a pretty good football player. He shouldn't try to be Joey. I don't think it's a case where anybody has to do more, as much as it is everybody picking up his game from the standpoint of bringing the energy that Joey had brought. You can't try to do more than you're supposed to do, because that can get you into trouble.

Q: What is Alonzo Jackson's role?

C: Alonzo becomes the next backup. He's one step closer to having to play on a regular basis. Over the course of the preseason he became more comfortable in the first and second-down defense. In the third down defense, he feels most comfortable putting his hand down and rushing the quarterback. In the first-down defense he becomes a guy who makes a few mistakes, as you'd expect a rookie to do, but he's getting better with each game.

Q: Will he have to learn both sides?

C: We'll look at that, or keep James Harrison active.

Q: Will signing another linebacker be a possibility?

C: That will not take place this week.

Q: How would you evaluate your offensive line right now?

C: It's a lot better than at the beginning of the preseason, because we have Jeff Hartings and Kendall Simmons in there. Those are two good players. I think they're ready to go. Marvel's gotten better with each game; he's becoming more comfortable. Let's see what happens. I don't want to pass judgment on it based on preseason, one quarter here or a half there. This is the line we have; I feel good about it. To what level will they perform? That's why we play the games.

Q: There is one more receiver and one fewer running back on the roster than in the past. Does that reflect an offensive style?

C: No. We took a little bit of a chance with the roster. It was really nice to get Dante Brown on the practice squad, to get J.T. Wall back on the practice squad. Going into a game, we've gone in with four backs. To have these guys working with us, it's like having them with you but not having to use a roster spot to keep them. I don't think it'll be reflective. You have Dan Kreider, and then Verron Haynes spent a year as a backup fullback who also is a running back, and then you have Amos and Jerome. You really have everything you want in those four guys.

Q: Is Matt Cushing an official fullback-slash-tight end?

C: He's not a Slash. Slash refers to skill people. Maybe Slush. Don't take it personally. That's why he's No. 48. We really weren't sure what to do with the guy, but I'm glad he's on our football team. He is a versatile player, a consistent player, and he really had a good camp. He won a spot on this team based on what he did. He wasn't handed anything.

Q: Could you assess the AFC North, particularly Cleveland and Cincinnati?

C: Cleveland's going to be a team to be reckoned with. They have too good of an offense. They may be young with their linebackers, but look at what they did a year ago making the playoffs in this conference. I think they're going to be even better.

Cincinnati will be very good. I think Marvin Lewis will do a good job there, and they'll be competitive. They always seem to play their best football against us. We seem to bring out the best in a lot of teams. It's going to be a very challenging division.

Q: Who will be the holder?

C: It will be Tommy Maddox at this point. Unless something would happen, then Antwaan could do it, but Tommy is who Jeff Reed feels most comfortable with.

Q: Who will return kicks versus the Ravens?

C: Antwaan will do the punts, and we'll probably put Antwaan back there with either Ike Taylor or Lee Mays on kickoffs.

Q: Brian Billick believes the Ravens can win the division. Do you see that as a challenge to your team?

C: Yes. It was brought to our attention. I guess you'd expect him to feel no differently. I also consider them one of the top contenders for this division. I concur with him.

Q: Is there any thought to making Clark Haggans the rush end in the dime?

C: That's Kendrell (Bell) over there. That's how we're going in.


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