Transcript: Bill Cowher Talks Contract and Camp

<b>BILL COWHER</b> <br><br> Let me start by addressing the contract situation. I'm very appreciative of the Rooney family support. We have a young team and I think our staff is looking forward to developing this team into a championship caliber team and at the same time recognizing that it's a performance-now- based business that we're in, so we're looking to do that in a very quick manner.

I think when you look at our football team, the only player that right now, in talking to (trainer) John Norwig, that won't be ready to start that we're aware of is Clark Haggans. Clark, about a week ago, broke his fingers and had two pins put in his right hand. He did it lifting weights. He will be out for four weeks, so we're looking at a timetable of about Aug. 19 after the second exhibition game. I think right now we're shooting for the third exhibition game for him to be ready to go. Everything has gone well with the surgery and he currently now has a couple pins in his finger. We'll deal with that, hopefully it will be sooner, but that's the early prognosis. And then certainly as we start camp on Friday I think the fact the fields have been done, the fields are great contrary to what they were a year ago. We were up in the cornfields. So we're looking forward to that.

It's going to be an important camp. We're looking forward to the challenges that go with it, the competitive situations that exist at a number of positions, and we're looking forward to getting underway. At this time, everybody is under contract as of Ben (Roethlisberger). And it's still Monday. He's the only player that is not under contract. Hopefully that'll get done in time, and if not shortly thereafter, but he is the only player right now who we know won't be there as of today, as of right now. I know they're talking. Hopefully we'll get something done.

Q: Are you done?
A: Yeah.

Q: Does the extension give you an opportunity to build this team more slowly?
A: I have been doing this and it is a young team. And I never could imagine myself coaching another football team and I still love coaching. And I've been blessed to be a part of a class organization. When I came into this business [13] years ago, I'm in this to win championships. I recognize we are young, but at the same time that's not an excuse. It's an opportunity for our staff to take this team and develop this team and put it together. That was some of the decisions that had to be made at the end of the season, and I've always tried to look long term, but there's a commitment made to this team and I take it year-by-year. And I'm in it to win a championship. It's been a void that's been there and every year presents a new opportunity. Certainly there are different challenges every year. There's 31 other teams going in with probably the same thoughts and ideas. We still have a good nucleus here. It's a young team but there's a nucleus of veterans here as well. That's what I kind of like about it. There's a mix. Now getting that mix to come together, stay healthy and have big years will have a lot to do with where we go with it. I think getting a good training camp, establishing a foundation. We do have some new coaches on both sides of the ball creating that understanding. That's why I liked the off-season program. It was very good. When we left here, I think a lot of people had a very clear understanding, some more clear than others, of what we're trying to get done, so when we start training camp we'll continue that process.

Q: What's the advantage to staying in one place?
A: I don't know. I guess sometimes people think you get stale. I think in today's system - you can go back three or four years - there's turnover every year on the team. I don't know what it is. Like I said, I feel blessed to be able to work in this organization. The opportunity and the support that I've received, that this coaching staff has received, I couldn't think of a better job. It's not, to me, about market, about money, it's about - I was fortunate to get into this at a young age - but right now for me it's about winning, and it's about doing something that I was brought here 12 years ago to do for, to me, one of the classiest owners, if not THE classiest owner, in the league that I have failed to do. That's what drives me and will continue to drive me. That's why I'm in this business.

Q: Have you changed your approach with so many young players?
A: You change every year because your makeup changes every year. Your philosophies won't. The way you approach things won't. You're still going to be yourself. You're looking to see how this team unfolds, you know, what people are able to step up, how they come to camp, how they start to evolve in camp. Like I said, there are different people playing with one another maybe this year. You've got to go prove yourself every year. The guys who had decent years last year can't just assume they'll be decent this year. That is something you can never take anything for granted. How you approach a team and how you deal with a team going in, you have to be flexible and deal with things as they come.

Q: What positions will provide the keenest competition at camp?
A: Well, I think just looking at the offensive line, just being able to get some continuity there. Last year we really never were able to develop anything. Jeff (Hartings) missed a lot of the training camp. Kendall (Simmons) was out most of it. Right tackle was a little bit in flux because of some of the other positions. You start the season with Todd Fordham and he had to play guard because Kendall was out. We never really were able to develop any continuity there. You look at the running back position with Duce (Staley) coming in and Verron Haynes and with Jerome (Bettis) and how that unfolds. And certainly I think the secondary will be the one. We've got a lot of young guys - Chris Hope, Troy (Polamalu) - starting at new positions. Deshea (Townsend) is going into a training camp the first time as a starter. Really, three of the four are new back there. I think that's the one, to me, we're going to have to make sure those guys are feeling comfortable by their first game.

Q: Will the injury to Haggans hurt continuity?
A: I know Clark's very disappointed. He was looking forward to his first camp stepping in as the starting left outside linebacker. The one thing I will say, Clark has been in this system, understands this system, has played well when he's had to as he did a year ago when Joey (Porter) went down. I thought he did a very good job. He'll be back and two weeks should give him enough time to get his timing back. And he'll be able to run. That's the other thing. I know it's just a hand, but he'll be able to do a lot of things, conditioning-wise, that should allow him to not have to worry about that element of it. And I think it's a golden opportunity for Alonzo Jackson, for (Nathaniel) Adibi. Those guys can step in. They're going to get a lot of reps. Maybe it's going to accentuate their progress one way or another. It's going to expedite it. They're going to be forced to get a lot of repetition. We're going to throw them in there and I think in the long run hopefully it will help us.

Q: What held back Alonzo last year?
A: I think it was just the numbers. You had Jason (Gildon) and Joey and then Clark, who is a special-teams demon, and then we had the inside guys. (Larry) Foote and (Clint) Kriewaldt backed up the two inside guys and they were special-teams guys. I didn't have the luxury of carrying eight linebackers. Basically that's what it came down to. Those guys stayed healthy. They were there every week. I just didn't have the ability to carry an eighth linebacker. He got better as the preseason went on and worked hard during the season. I know he was disappointed. He started the first couple of games but when Joey came back it really didn't allow us to continue to carry him. That's what really set him down because then he became the eighth guy.

Q: Is winning a championship an obsession now that you've come so close so often?
A: Yeah. It is a very driving force. It's a challenge. You go through the grind for six months. Sometimes you fall short in five and a half. You get so close, then you go through the disappointments that we went through last year but then you recognize there is a very fine line between the top teams and the bottom teams and good fortune and getting some good breaks and trying to get on a roll. We came out of camp a year ago winning two of our first three games then that next segment was two homes games and we lost them both. That shouldn't happen. It's ironic because you look at the schedule this year and it's the same. It's a home opener, it's on the road for two weeks, it's home for two weeks, it's on the road and then a bye week. So we've got kind of the same opportunity this year, and it is a driving force. Again, you're not going to get there by looking too far at the end. We've got to take this one step at a time. That's probably what keeps you coming back, and there is a void.

Q: Do you still feel you're the kind of team that will have to come from the back of the pack?
A: Oh there's no question. Baltimore has established themselves as the veteran team. They're the team that won this division a year ago and they own this division until we, somebody else, knocks them off the block. Cincinnati proved their vast improvement a year ago. They will have higher expectations and that will help their confidence. And Cleveland, two years ago they were in the playoffs. So I think this division has certainly taken on a much more competitive nature and we're a team again trying to rebound from a poor year. There's no question Baltimore is still the team to beat in our division.

Q: Were some of the problems last year directly attributable to some of the things that went wrong in Latrobe?
A: Oh, I don't know. I think we took each situation and dealt with it. You're going to overcome any obstacle that comes your way and deal with it and move on and not make a big deal about it. When Marvel got hurt after that third game it put a little stinger into our depth. And I think that's the thing that happens, the development of your depth. Some years you may not have to test it, but there will be sometimes when, at a certain position, your depth may be the telling story of how well you do. So you can't underestimate the importance of developing younger players. People talk about needing only two exhibition games. Well you need those four games to develop some of the players that are going to be asked to play roles if a guy goes down. That may indeed be the thing that determines and has a tremendous effect on your season, so you need those four games. With Clark Haggans going down, the ability of Alonzo Jackson and Adibi to get playing time, maybe somewhere through this season they may be asked to step in and perform at a level and not miss a beat. So, it's just nice though to be in a position where we're not taking shuttles up to the practice field, or getting in buses to go to a field, trying to say we're working on the yellow line and not the white line because the best field's in between the two. I mean, they've got crowns on them. Then again, how appropriate is it to have this press conference and it's raining outside? There'll be some challenges but it's a great set-up at St. Vincent. I love getting away. It's not for a very long period of time, less than four weeks, but it's a chance to build a big foundation. You come together and you find out a little bit about your team; you find out about each other. That's why I like the set-up up there. We're away; we're with each other 24/7. It's a good way to build a foundation.

Q: Have you had a chance to talk to your starting wide receivers about their situations?
A: Nope.

Q: You still haven't talked to Plax (Burress)?
A: No.

Q: Are you looking forward to talking to Plax?
A: Sure. Friday night.

Q: He's not in Asia is he?
A: Not that I'm aware of. Not today.

Q: Will you start fresh from day one with him?
A: Ah, we'll talk. At some point we'll talk. We've gotta talk. That's what I like about St. Vincent. There's nowhere to go. You have a lot of time to do a lot of talking.

Q: Is he in the 'house a little bit?
A: Like I said, we're starting Friday night. We'll have a good meeting and we'll have the run test Saturday and we're off and running. Hopefully everybody will be there. We don't have time to wallow in anything. We just need to keep moving forward.

Q: At the first practice, does he run out there with the first team?
A: Hey, we'll decide that on Sunday afternoon. We'll have everyone coming to our first practice and we'll have a nice big crowd there.

Q: Will you be looking for anything in particular from him?
A: No. You know what? Everyone has choices to make and there's consequences with each choice. And you move on. That's true in life. Be very clear-cut. Everything to me is based on performance. It's what you're getting paid to do as a professional. I have to deal with everything and I will let people know if I think things are a distraction or a disruption and deal with each situation very subjectively because everybody's different. I will deal with each situation as it arises, do what I think is in the best interest of our football team and its quest to develop into a championship-caliber team, and I will accept all the challenges that go along with that process. We'll take it one day at a time and go from there.

Q: Do you expect everyone who's signed to be there?
A: Sure do.

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