Bill Cowher Press Conference Transcript - Week 11

<b>BILL COWHER</b><br> First of all Marvel Smith is listed as doubtful this week. He is getting better. He's close to 100 percent but he's not 100 percent and so there would be a decrease in risk in him getting another stinger a week from now, but it does not rule him out completely to play in this game and that's how we're kind of leaving it. Questionable are Jerome Bettis with a shoulder and Oliver Ross with a lateral ankle sprain. Probable is Jay Riemersma with his knee.

Q: Is Jerome's shoulder bruised?

A: Yeah. He did it on the fumble, the shot he took. And then he came back and finished. It's sore. It's just an AC joint that he has. We'll see how he is by the end of the week.

Q: What's Marvel's injury?

A: It's an irritation of a nerve. That's what causes a pinched nerve. The irritation has gone down. All the tests have been positive. He got another test again. We talked to Dr. (Joe) Maroon and everything looks good. Again right now his shoulder strength is fine. His arm strength is good right now. The only place he's really lacking the same strength he had before the injury is in his chest. He's not 100 percent per se but he is very, very close, and as I said before we have to make sure we do the right thing. We've waited this long. I think it would be foolish to rush him even if something were to come up there may be a chance he'd be available. We'll see where he is at the end of the week; see where the rest of our team is at the end of the week and then make a decision accordingly.

Q: Is recent continuity in the line reflected in the play?

A: Yeah. I said before look at the last four weeks. I know we've only won one game but they've gotten a little bit better each game. We still can get better, there's no question.

Q: How much has the special teams provided and what kind of difference does that make?

A: Oh they've been huge. I said before since I've been here this may be the best collection of guys we've had. Antwaan Randle El in the last 11 games has three punt returns for touchdowns. Look at our kickoff return unit with Ike Taylor and what he's done this year, and even with Antwaan, we are a little bit discouraged when we don't get it past the 30. We look at that as a minus. Our punt group, I think Josh Miller comes up with critical punts at the right time. The only blemish I can think about was that block last week, but that group has been very, very solid with Chidi (Iwuoma) and Ike as the gunners and Troy (Polamalu) as a fullback that right now he's the first one down on punts. And then the best group I think has been that kickoff coverage group. It's a special bunch of guys and they get excited about it. Every time we were scoring, I was on the phone saying, 'Aw, man, I hate kicking to this guy because this (Josh) Scobey is like second in the NFL behind Dante Hall. And I tell you every time we kicked off there was just an energy that you could feel on the sideline. I don't know if I've seen our team get up to watch our team kickoff. That's the way it seems like it is right now. I think our special teams, and that's got to be a given. They can't just win a phase; they have to do something in that game whether it be a big hit, a big return, somewhere along the way they have to make a difference play. That's how we've got to approach it. I think there's a lot of confidence with the group, as there should be. We'll have a challenge this week but it's a good collection of guys who take a lot of pride in being out there.

Q: Is it a change in personnel over the first half of the season?

A: No. It's just guys stepping up. Lee Mays, his presence on that coverage team, Chidi and Clint Kriewaldt is having a great year from a coverage standpoint, Clark Haggans and Larry Foote, Ike, and Jeff (Reed) is kicking the ball well. He's giving them a chance. You can talk coverage all you want but the kicker has to give them a chance. We got away from directional kicking - something I've always done -- and we started letting this kid just kick away. Right now, we're allowing everybody, by kicking in the middle of the field, to be involved. You kick it to one side you kind of limit yourself. We've kicked it down the middle and say 'go cover it.' Certainly there's a lot more to it. There are read and returns. There's a discipline that has to go with it, and there's a coordination that has to go with it, but it starts with the kick. There's no question. Without a good kick with good hang time and good location, you're not going to be effective. But it is pretty much the same guys. They're just doing it a lot better.

Q: Did your offense and defense feed off your special teams at all?

A: I said last week if there's a phase that's been most consistent it's been our kicking game. And there are three phases to every game. Look what Kansas City has done to get where they are, and not to take away from their offense and defense, but their special teams have won some games for them. Have we won any games with it? I don't know. Nothing in the last minute or dramatically done, but we right now are playing with an energy and if it can be carried over to both sides of the ball I think it is. It really in my mind, returns are the first play of offense and the coverage teams are the first play of defense. That's right now how we're playing and we're winning that first down.

Q: Is a Monday night game exactly what you need?

A: Yeah. I'd love to have it at Heinz Field though. To have to travel across the country is going to be a big challenge for us. Monday night's always a great forum. Everyone in the league's watching. We're playing a team that's 4-5 and they don't have a margin for error. San Francisco's a storied franchise. And us, we're in the process of trying to do something that no one else in the league has done since they've gone to a 16-game schedule. It's not going to be easy. This is the next step along the way. It just happens to be on a Monday night and I know we will be looking forward to that.

Q: Bill, the visiting teams on Monday night are 8-2 this year. Is that a good omen?

A: That's nice to hear. I hope it continues.

Q: Bill, do you think they're being fair in sending you to Cleveland after that Monday night game?

A: Oh absolutely not. I don't see how there's any justification for that. But that's the hand we're dealt. I think Mr. (Dan) Rooney's too nice to them. I told Mr. Rooney that too.

Q: Don't they also have a history of sending you on the road on Monday night?

A: Recently it seems to be the case. You know what though, to play on Monday night is an honor. You pay the piper the next week, there's no question about it, but right now we're not in any position to be doing any complaining. Right now we're only worried about this game this week. That's the only focus we have.

Q: Bill, it's been said the toughest thing about Monday night is sitting around all day Monday waiting to play the game. What do you do?

A: Sit around all day waiting to play the game. I guess when you're playing on the West Coast you're not sitting around all day, although I've never done it before, which is why we're going out on Sunday, not two days before. I just hate to sit in the hotel. We sat in the hotel in Seattle for two days and it seemed like a week. You go into a foreign city it's not like you're going sightseeing. You sit in your hotels, you have meetings, you're there to play a game.

Q: Does it matter to you which QB starts for them?

A: Just from an awareness. Jeff (Garcia) kind of runs around and can improvise a little more than Tim Rattay but the indications are that Tim Rattay may start. We're still going to get a heavy dose of Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow and somehow getting T.O. (Terrell Owens) the ball. He's such a good receiver. So we still have to defend their offense, but it's more of an awareness standpoint.

Q: Can you get in Terrell Owens' head and shake him a little bit?

A: I don't know if anybody can get into his head. He's got a great mindset. You love the way the guy plays the game. He's a tremendous competitor. He's a very productive receiver. He's strong, he's big, has excellent hands and runs after the catch. I know he's good print and makes good highlights, I just don't want to see whatever he decides to do this week if he scores. I just don't want to see any of it but it won't e out of a lack of respect we have for him. He's a good football player.

Q: Can you get into Plaxico Burress' head?

A: You've got to be careful you don't start pressing in those situations. Those were passes he knows he should've caught. He didn't and there's nothing you can do about it. The last thing you can do is let your confidence start to waver. I think the tough thing for him he didn't practice all week. Sometimes that's hard. And he just got his motion back with his arm the day of the game. He really didn't work at all Wednesday and Thursday and he worked very limited on Friday. Plax is a guy who needs to work all week, as a lot of players do, and just get back to catching the ball. I'm not so sure some of it wasn't relative to his lack of work last week in practice.

Q: How did Ike Taylor play?

A: He was good. The big one, the one third down, there was a miscommunication. I think they were trying to do a (stop) fade but he was in bump and run and he did well. I thought he played a very solid game. We don't anticipate making any changes now in any of our third-down packages.

Q: Did you expect them to go after him?

A: Maybe. I thought on third down they'd stay with what they're doing. I think most teams will. You watch him play. Now that you've seen him I don't think you're going to look at him as much of a weak link, but who's to say.

Q: Is Chris Doering becoming more involved?

A: He's just been one of those quiet guys who does his job and I think Tommy (Maddox) has a lot of confidence in him. He's been doing that. He made a couple nice plays the other day. I still think the best catch he's made all year was the one at the end of the first half against Tennessee. He went in there with three guys, right prior to Samari Rolle's interception. The play before that he came out and grabbed the ball, took it away from the defenders. He's just been a very solid contributor, even in the kicking game. He's a guy who can play all the positions. He's always where he needs to be. He comes down with the ball. He has excellent hands. He's a football player. I'm glad we have him.

Q: Does that make Lee Mays more valuable on special teams?

A: Lee's always been that. I think Lee's just picked ups his game on the kicking game. I'm sure he'd love to be out there on offense. We have no problems putting him out there but when you look at the four guys right now, if someone goes down it's nice to have a Lee Mays. And he really has picked up his game in the kicking game, particularly on the kickoff coverage team.

Q: Will Plaxico respond to the attention on Owens?

A: I don't think it would be relative to the opponent. I think it's all relative to one's own personal pride and Plax is a very proudful guy. He's got a lot of pride. He's his own worst critic. He works hard at it and takes a lot of pride.

Q: Jason Gildon has picked it up since Clark Haggans replaced him in spots a few weeks ago. Was that a message?

A: I'm going to play the best players and the players who are playing the best and you have to see what all your options are. I think everybody's picked it up and I don't know if it was anything I said or did, I mean, give the credit to Jason Gildon. He knows the sense of urgency. We've had very good leadership and leadership at times isn't so much what you say but what you do. That's what we've had around here is players who've spoken very loudly with the way they've prepared and the way they've played, maybe not so much what they've said. You talk about team meetings and people saying things but the greatest statements people make are more with your actions than your words.

Q: Do you have to be half coach and half psychologist?

A: Football's kind of the release. That's part of this game. I think so much of how you act is how you feel, and so much of how you feel is how you think. You have to make sure you're not influenced into what you're thinking about based on all the potential distractions around you. All coaches are trying to make sure he has a focused team. It's not always easy.

Q: Do the networks think you, at 3-6, are good entertainment?

A: I really don't care what the networks think.

Q: Why are the 49ers inconsistent?

A: I don't want to pass judgment on them because I'd hate to know what they're saying about us.

Q: Could you talk about their defense?

A: If they get Andre Carter back they get a premier sack guy, and Bryant Young, Julian Peterson, two No. 1 picks at corner. They're tied for third in takeaways. They've created a lot of turnovers. It's going to be a loud place. They've had a week off. They're going to be geared up to play in front of a crowd. We're going to have to be patient. We're going to have to be very patient on offense. We'll have to deal with the noise issue. At Seattle we took a third-and-4 and turned it into a third-and-9 because of a false start. That is a significant difference. We're going to have to deal with the noise, the crowd, a good football team coming off a bye. They're a good defense with playmakers.

Q: Does Bettis' fumbling concern you?

A: It's not been characteristic of him. Hopefully he's gotten them all out of the way for the rest of his career.

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