Coach Bill Cowher Week 5 News Conference

<b>BILL COWHER</b> OK, let me give you an update on our injury report. First of all, Marvel Smith will be out this week. We were hopeful Marvel last week would be able to play. We held him out of the hitting and basically it's a little bit of a pinched nerve.

It keeps re-occurring. All the tests were negative that were done last week, but he did it the second play of the game, so we're holding him out this week and again we'll do some further tests and hopefully by the bye week, with the week off, we're hopeful to have him back following that. It will be week-to-week at this point based on the information we have with him. This week he is out. Jay Riemersma is questionable with a shoulder. Again, barring any setback we're hopeful he'll play. He was close by game time but just was not able to function. He'll do some things tomorrow and we'll possibly upgrade him by the end of the week. Two players are probable: Chris Hope (groin) and Clint Kriewaldt (knee). Basically, outside of Marvel we're pretty healthy and we recognize the stiff challenge going up to Denver this week with them coming off a tough loss in Kansas City. They're a good football team. They played very well in that game. They won everything but the score. It'll be a big challenge for us.

Question: On Marvel, did it just go numb on him?
Cowher: Yeah. He was playing with it for a couple weeks then it just got to the point one day out there on the practice field he couldn't get through it anymore. Again, we're getting all the tests done and we don't want to put him out there if he's not able to protect himself. We're hopeful that in two weeks he'll be able to get all of his strength back and a lot of it will subside. I think it's more of an inflammation of a nerve right now and he probably just needs some time off.

Question: Is Mathias Nkwenti now pushing for time at tackle?
Cowher: Well, yeah. I mean certainly we're looking at all our options right now. That's the most important thing for us to do. We'll go into this game and play the best two guys we have out of the three we have left.

Question: What's held him back so far?
Cowher: I don't know if anything's held him back. I mean, again, everyone just needs an opportunity. I don't know if anything's really held him back. It's just being able to do things on a consistent basis and developing the trust of the coaches to be able to put him in there. A lot of times you can only base that on what you see and the amount of repetitions they get. When one player goes down, though, that can create a golden opportunity for another player.

Question: Which side now?
Cowher: He would be just on the left side. That's where we've kept him. That's where he's worked since he's been here.

Question: Will Oliver Ross start at left tackle?
Cowher: Yes. At this time, yeah.

Question: Will Todd Fordham start at right tackle?
Cowher: At this time yes.

Question: Are you making any lineup changes?
Cowher: Not at this time.

Question: This week or Tuesday?
Cowher: This time is this time today. Anything can change. Sometimes injury creates possibilities as well.

Question: So, Amos Zereoue will start at running back?
Cowher: At this time I don't plan any lineup changes. (Pause). I answered you.

Question: Are they doing anything different with Jake Plummer?
Cowher: I don't know how he played at Arizona. I think Mike [Shanahan] has taken a player with his ability and I think it looks a little bit like he used to do with John [Elway], and probably more. He's rolling him out a lot more than John ever did, or maybe early in his career. But I think he's played really, really well. I think if you take out the Cincinnati game, his first of the season, I think this guy has been one of the top quarterbacks in the National Football League. They do a good job of getting him on the corner and utilizing his running skills. He's throwing the ball accurately. They've got a very good running game with [Clinton] Portis and that sets up a lot of the play-action game. You look at Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie, who's come into his own. Those two are big-play receivers, and Shannon Sharpe still fits in very well with that offense and he's a very productive receiver. They've got a lot of weapons.

It's not like we've played Denver on a regular basis. We probably haven't played them in a couple years. From what they did last year with [Brian] Griese, I know they were play-action, run the ball. I think they're utilizing Jake's skills a little bit more by getting him on the corner because he is a guy that can throw on the move and he's very good out of the pocket. Again, I think he's taken a quarterback and is trying to utilize the skills he has with that quarterback. I wouldn't say that he just kind of got a quarterback and plugged him into that system, he's taken this quarterback and allowed him to do what he does best. And like I said, he's got a very good group of players surrounding him right now that's allowed him to be a very productive quarterback.

Question: What was your reaction to the players' meeting yesterday?
Cowher: I don't have much reaction to those things. A football team's like a family and sometimes you go through tough times and sometimes you say things out of frustration. I think it happens with everybody. You've got to recognize it and understand it and maybe sit back and have a chance to reflect a little bit afterwards. It's always good to get a lot of things out in the air, make sure you're not misunderstood. I was not in the meeting so I can't really comment on what was said, and even if I was I wouldn't comment anyways because I think those things are best left handled in-house. It's a very emotional game we play. You see games that unfold differently every week and it can become very frustrating at times and the last two weeks have been very frustrating for us as a football team, so I think it's very understandable and you've just got to try and deal with it.

Question: You said you'd re-examine everything. What have you concluded?
Cowher: It's an ongoing process. I haven't really come to any conclusions. I mean, the conclusions you come to are the obvious facts that exist out there: You're turning the football over for returns; we're not scoring touchdowns; we're not coming up with plays at times in a game when momentum is there to be had and we're not seizing that opportunity. In the three losses we have, we've already documented five returns for touchdowns. And I don't know if we win those games if you don't have those returns, but at least you have a chance. If you look at the three losses, we really haven't put ourselves in an opportunity to win those games. Like I said, I don't know if we win those games but you have to give yourself an opportunity to do that. We're just not doing that at this point.

Question: Coach, at one point opponents completed 31 of 33 passes. What does that say?
Cowher: It's a stat. Certainly you can sit back and if you look around the league at teams that are playing zone, they're going to complete those. Certainly those are still high numbers but I don't think you can conclude a whole lot from that. I don't like to look into stats from that standpoint, I really don't. The bottom line is wins and losses. That's probably the most important stat to look at.

Question: Bill, how disgusted are you when you see interceptions returned? And do you have confidence in Tommy?
Cowher: How disgusted am I? I mean I don't know how to answer that question to be honest with you Alby. I certainly don't like it. And Tommy's going through some growing pains right now. He knows it after the fact when he does it, and we talk about it going out. And I understand that. He's just got to continue to fight through that mental block and be able to hopefully, at some point, it becomes the response that you just don't throw it or you throw it away or you hold the ball. That's still going to take place. He's still, I think, a relatively young quarterback when it comes to experience. Here's a guy from a starting standpoint is coming off a full season about right now. So a lot of these things he's going through right now he's experiencing for the first time. He's growing in many respects as a first-year or young quarterback would from an experience standpoint.

Question: Are you worried at all about him keeping his head up?
Cowher: You've certainly got to be concerned about that and hopefully he won't, but until people go through it you don't really know. It's something to talk about it. It's one thing to make sure that people understand that if you stay in this business long enough you experience everything. A lot of it isn't the experience but how you deal with it. Time will tell, but certainly you are concerned from a confidence standpoint, just from the ability to come back. I was watching that game last night and, to be honest with you, I was ready to turn it off because I was a tired man. And Payton Manning throws an interception with about four minutes to go and they go up by 21 points. The only reason I didn't turn it off was I wanted to see how this quarterback comes back after throwing an interception for a return. I've been seeing those myself. I said, ‘You know, this might be a great lesson to see how he handles this.' And it's the only reason I kept it on, and the ensuing kickoff goes 90 yards. Then I saw one of the great endings to one of the great football games I've seen since I've been in this game. He just kept playing. To me, the bottom line is you never quit. Just keep playing, and he kept playing. It was a very, very impressive performance. You looked at a field where everyone was drained but the one player that probably wasn't was him. He just kept playing. There's a lot to be said for that. There's a lot to be said for watching games around the league. I try to watch as much as I can because you never quit learning. You never quit seeing things that sometimes amaze you and you can learn as an individual. I think players can learn as individuals, watching how other guys handle circumstances that sometimes you never know you might find yourself in. That was a great game last night.

Question: What was the deal on the call for leaping on the field goal?
Cowher: I guess, if you read it by the book, where if you leap and come down on one of your players, it's a foul. But I thought both feet landed on the ground. Just his hands touched him. How do you interpret landing on one of your players? I've got a feeling there's going to be a more definitive rule this off-season. I think it will be one of those plays that'll get talked about. There were a lot of plays in that game that were very interesting. That was an interesting call. The kicking game has created a lot of interesting calls I've seen around the league.

It was a safety issue when it was first put in. The players were jumping up into the air to block a kick and offensive players would go to hit them and they'd come down in very awkward positions. It was more of a safety issue to try to stop players from doing that. You can jump in the air but you have to come down on the ground. My thought was on your own two feet. You can't come down on top of your teammate. I guess in theory, when he came down, did his hand hit the back of somebody before his feet landed? It may have been the right call, but is that the intent of the rule? Sometimes that gets a little bit lost in there.

Question: Why did Townsend get more time in the nickel?
Cowher: He's been playing well. Again, it's who we're playing and what the match-up is, so a lot of it is based on match-ups. But he's been playing very well.

Question: Coach, how do you keep the boys' spirits up?
Cowher: We've got to do more. We've got to do more in practice, not less. Each guy has to take it upon himself. As I said to them, right now this is not about individuals it's about our football team and finding a way to get out of this way we're playing. That's going to take more from everybody and not to be worrying about anybody but yourself. There's still a lot of football left to be played. The most important thing isn't to look at the big picture right now. It's that we've got to start playing better than the week before and it's got to start this week in Denver.

Question: Is this a must-win, coach?
Cowher: There's no musts. I mean, it's an important game. The only thing that are musts are when you're telling me there's a chance we can be eliminated from post-season play. That's what makes a thing a must game.

Question: Is it a very important game, coach?
Cowher: I said it was a very important game. I said that. Yes.

Question: Does it help being an underdog?
Cowher: We're not looking at what's good or bad. We know it's an important game for us. We have to go out and play better than we have the last two weeks. That's the bottom line. It's really that simple. If we do that, we're going to give ourselves, and put ourselves in a chance to win a football game. That's all you want to do is put yourself in an opportunity where you have a chance to win. When you put yourself in that situation anything can happen. We have just not really done that in our three losses. We've not given ourselves a chance to win a football game. We've been somewhat self-destructive and have taken away any of those opportunities.

Question: How much does altitude affect players out there and what can be done?
Cowher: I don't think you do anything. I know we tried in Cleveland. We went out there and practiced in Albuquerque for a week to try to get acclimated to it and we were still sucking air in the fourth quarter. I don't think there's anything you can do. I think a lot of it is what people make of it. A lot of it's a mindset I think. That's what I've always sensed. Even with Kansas City, going out there was never that big of an issue.

Question: Won't they have oxygen for you?
Cowher: Well, they have it there. Just breathe deeper.

Question: Is there a logical explanation for Tommy's interceptions being returned for touchdowns?
Cowher: I've seen my fair share and I don't know if there's any logical explanation. You look at games every year, like the game last night. I think that's what makes our game great. Anything and everything can happen each and every game, every week. I don't even try to explain it, just try to deal with our football team and any trends we're getting into, good and bad.

Question: Coach, could you tell us about Denver's defense?
Cowher: Well they have three linebackers that are as good as any in the National Football League, collectively. Al Wilson in the middle, Ian Gold and John Mobley, those guys are excellent athletes that can run. They go from side to side. Trevor Pryce is playing very well, Pro Bowl player. Gardener hasn't even gotten on the field yet. He may be back this week. Holland inside. Bertrand Berry I think leads the league in sacks, so I mean it's a pretty formidable front seven. Deltha O'Neal is one of the corners, two young safeties. They run around. They've got great team speed. They're a very, very physical bunch. You can just see what they did to Kansas City last week. I know they hit a couple plays against them but it wasn't many. They're playing very well.

Question: Lee Flowers was let go by them. Do you think he'll resurface?
Cowher: He probably will. Yeah. I wish him nothing but the best. Actually I talked to him yesterday. He called me. I didn't know if he talked to you guys or not. He called me and actually gave me the news that he was released. It was tough on him and not really being in that position before, so I just wish him nothing but the best.

Question: Considering the opposing pass rush, is it important to re-emphasize the running game and/or shorten the routes a little bit?
Cowher: Yeah, I mean, I think again, you look at some of the sacks we had, some of the pressures, were off play-action and we did get beat a couple times, but we put ourselves last week in some pretty good situations. We were in third and one-to-four five times and we couldn't convert. So, yeah, we've got to be able to have some balance. We can't let these guys just tee off. We've got to be able to establish the running game. Hopefully we can keep it in third-and-short so we don't have to run routes further up the field to make first downs. Keeping third down to a minimum will be very, very important so we don't have to hold the ball that long.

Question: Any way to explain the lack of sacks?
Cowher: I think we've been behind a lot of these games. When you're playing behind a lot you end up putting yourself in a situation where you're in a guessing mode and they're trying to run out the clock. So there haven't been a lot of passes, I think, that have been thrown against us. Question: Porter was miked and said ‘Take the shackles off'. Were the shackles on?
Cowher: I can't comment on that. I don't know. I didn't hear anything.

Question: Are you not blitzing your secondary as much in order to help your corners?
Cowher: We've been bringing them. We blitzed a couple times the other day. A lot of times it's just based on circumstances. It goes week to week.

Question: You're moving Kendrell Bell around a little more. Will we see more of that?
Cowher: Yeah. Third down, we've got a few packages again with him, more outside than inside. Again, he's getting involved with some of the nickel packages and sometimes with that we're bringing linebackers because there are more linebackers on the field. Again, it depends on the package and what you have on the field. We have a lot of different looks that does move him and Joey around.

Question: Do you expect more push from your front people?
Cowher: You want to get pressure with a four-man rush and you're constantly attempting to do that. There's a fine line with pressure with a four man and getting pressure with a blitz. We've got to continue to mix it up and try to disrupt offenses, so it's going to be an ongoing thing. Again, you've got to get off the field on third down. That's been a big part of our success, defensively, has been being able to do that. We weren't very good in the first half last week in doing that. They were four of six on third down and that led to a lot of the points they had. We had third-and-11 and we tip a ball and they catch one the other night. We were ready to hit the quarterback. It's a game sometimes of inches.

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