Coach Cowher Press Conference Transcript

<b>BILL COWHER</b> <br><br> Let me start off by giving you an injury update for our team. We have one player that is doubtful, and this really occurred over the weekend. Chris Hoke, who got a staph infection. He is on some IV antibiotics as we speak. He probably won't practice this week. He is listed as doubtful.

Questionable is Kendrell Bell (groin), who is doing better. He is much better than he was last week. We will monitor him day to day. He is questionable at this time for the game. Two players are probable: Alan Faneca with a finger and Chad Scott with a groin.

Last week's win was a good win. We had a chance to look at it yesterday. Hopefully, we can learn from a lot of the situations that took place in areas that we need to get better. I am looking forward to a big challenge going down to Baltimore. They are a team that obviously a lot of people have picked not to just win our division, but to represent the AFC, and they had a tough game last week in Cleveland. But I think opening day, for any road team, is a big challenge. Now we are going down and opening up their stadium this year. There is going to be a lot of electricity in that stadium. It is going to be loud. I know that Baltimore is going to look at this as a very, very important game as we are, but more so because of last week's results. We have a big challenge ahead of us and we are looking forward to it.

What do you think about playing them so early?
It seems like we always play them early. It seems like we always play them early and late. So, I don't look at that as good, bad, or any different. The schedule is as it is. We knew it when it came out. Like I said, we know it is a big challenge and that is what we have in front of us.

Did Larry Foote's play give you a comfort zone, not having to rush Kendrell Bell back?
Yes, and I think Larry has played very well this whole year. Even last year, he came in and had dropped a little bit of weight from the previous year. He is a lot quicker and faster. He is a very smart player. Obviously, we feel very comfortable with him out there. When we go into our third down package, whether Kendrell can play or not, Larry is going to be out there. He played a very, very good game the other day. But, I will say that it has been very consistent with what we have seen from him from every game he played since this season started.

How different does Kyle Boller look?
He is obviously much more comfortable. I think he has run the offense very well. They did not put up a lot of points last week, but you can just tell in his second year that he understands it. He knows where to go with the ball. I think he is a very good athlete that can move around. He has a strong arm. He will do nothing but get better.

Because Kordell Stewart is behind him, do you have to put any preparation time into the possibility of him getting in?
No, I don't think so. I don't think they are going to do anything much differently. I think it is an awareness you have with his mobility. But Kyle Boller is a pretty good athlete, too. He can move around pretty well. It is more of an awareness that you have of who the quarterback is. But I don't think you have to do anything special.

Was Jonathan Ogden's absence noticeable against the Browns?
Yes, I don't think there is any question. It is hard to say that you are not going to miss arguably one of the best offensive linemen in the game today. Getting him back this week, which I understand they will have, will be a big lift to them and to Jamal (Lewis) and that running game. That was certainly below the standards that they have set for themselves. But getting him back will definitely be a big lift for them.

Was it Ogden's absence or did Cleveland play significantly better defensively?
Probably both. Cleveland played well, you can't take anything away from them. They did what they had to do. They stopped them and really minimized any big runs. They obviously got the lead and that took a little bit of the running game from that standpoint. But it was a pretty close game, most of the game. They did a very good job of containing Jamal Lewis.

Did Cleveland's 4-4 defense limit Jamal Lewis?
I don't know. They did a good job playing their defense. They were very disciplined in what they did. I did not see guys not being blocked and anybody running loose. I think it was just a case of them being disciplined. They got a jump on the ball, and playing at home, the crowd was a factor. It is hard to tell from the video, but I thought they played well and they did a good job. Like I said before, you bring a Jonathan Ogden back onto to your field, it is going to help you a little bit in the running game, as well.

Is there anything you can take from what the Browns did to the Ravens?
Well we'll look at it. Just because we have our scheme doesn't mean we can't implement others. We'll look at it and see if it can work into what we want to do but certainly for the most part we'll stick with what we've done and try to play our defense and recognize it all starts with trying to stop him.

Does that win by Cleveland make you believe the division is stronger than people had thought?
I don't know. You've got to give it time. I think it's still too early to be drawing any conclusions. I really believe that. I think you've got to let this thing play out the next five, six weeks, until you start finding some similarities and start making assessments of teams, divisions. I think it's way too early to start seeing where that plays.

Wouldn't it be big to go up two games on the defending division champ?
Yeah, it would be big. It's a big game. Every division game is a big game. You're playing them on the road. This is their home opener. It's going to be a very hostile crowd. It will be very loud. It's going to be a big challenge for us. We're going to have to deal with the noise factor and an inspired team coming off a tough loss. All those factors play into it. It's going to be a big challenge for us, there's no question about it. It would be a big win.

Are you aware of your history of success there?
I think it's pretty well documented.

Will you use Jerome Bettis the same way?
We'll see.

Were those two long touchdown passes physical mistakes and are they correctable?
Oh, they better be correctable. Yes, they're correctable. We were out of position. The one thing that I said that I was impressed with our football team the other day, there were a couple things. We didn't have a lot of mental errors. The focus was very good. In the second half, we did not have a penalty called against us. We were out of position at times. There was no question about it. I looked at Troy (Polamalu)'s, and as I talked to him this morning, I don't want him to quit jumping routes. He's just got to learn from that and you've got to play a receiver like a corner plays a receiver in that situation. You can't be just looking at the quarterback, and he'll learn from that. I've been around too long to watch safeties sit back there and play half the field and be afraid to jump things. I can go back there and play half the field. I want players to be special. I want them to study film, as he's done. But you learn from that, and he'll learn from that. Mike (Logan)'s situation is just being aware of where he was on the field. And Mike came up and had some very, very good tackles. He caused a fumble with one of them. While we were out of position at times, they're very correctable. But they played hard, we were focused and we overcame it. So yes we have to get better and we have to have more of an awareness of where we are on the field of some of the little things, but like I said I like the demeanor that they had, the presence we had on the sideline - there was never a sense of panic - and we did what we had to do when we had to do it.

What happened on their two-point conversion?
We had a breakdown in communication, without getting into specifics.

Do you put any significance on the fact the Raiders out gained you?
I don't want to get into the stats when you get into a game. This past game came down really to this: Special-teams wise, we did a good job in the kickoff phase, both sides. We made a game-winning field goal. We've got to be able to down punts. The only punt we downed, I told them, was with 18 seconds left in the half. Oh, that's great. You know. They just ran out the clock. We've got to pin people down there. Offensively, we had two opportunities to put that game away. Fourteen-nothing, we get an interception by Deshea (Townsend), first and 10 at the plus 38, and we go three passes incomplete and we punt the ball. You've got to score. You've got to be able to put points on the board there. Then with 13 minutes to go in the game, James Farrior intercepts a ball and we take it down, get a 16-yard run by Duce (Staley), first and 10 at the plus 38, and two plays later we fumble the ball. You've got to put it away. It's 21-10. You score at least a (field goal) and it's two touchdowns. Otherwise, as it turned out, a field goal, a touchdown and a two-point play. And defensively, the touchdown at the end of the first half, on fourth and 12, you've got to get off the field there. So really, to me, that's what it comes down to. The stats, six of seven on third down on offense; on third down defensively, for most of the first half, they were one of five. But you come off that field after the first half, I mean, you feel you've dominated the game but you look up at the scoreboard, it's 14-7, and you could just feel a team like that they're hanging around. And they came out in the second half a little more inspired and it was a dogfight the rest of the way. I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage. I thought we played hard. Four takeaways and three other fumbles on the ground we could've had. We played hard but at times we didn't play very aware and that's the thing we've got to improve on.

Are you concerned about your strong safety covering Todd Heap?
No, that's why Troy's here. That's his strength. He's a good coverage guy. I told him he's here for Heap and (Kellen) Winslow. Those are two guys right now in our division who are pretty good tight ends. And at times they're going to put Todd out there and we'll have corners lined up on him. He is without a doubt a premier tight end and he is a go-to guy for them. Kevin Johnson's a good receiver, no question about it. Again it starts with stopping Jamal Lewis but Todd Heap is a premier tight end and we've got to be very much aware of where he is because they move him around a lot.

Why is there an emphasis on tight ends in the league now?
I don't know if it's changing. It's become more wide-open football. People are looking for the guys who can spread the field, stretch the field. You know, the field has only been so big for so long and so now you've got to try to get a guy to utilize the middle part of it. Obviously with a good tight end you don't have to maybe hold the ball as long because they're running routes that are quicker and closer to the quarterback. There are a lot of good ones. Certainly there are two good ones in our division.

What did you learn about your team Sunday?
There's a lot left to be defined. I don't learn a whole lot after one game. I like the poise we demonstrated. I think it's a close team. I will say it's a very unselfish team. I liked the discipline and the focus they played with, like I said, in that second half of that game when it was 85, 90 degrees on that field. We still have a lot of growing to do, and in the process of that happening you find out about people. As I told them, guys who had good games last week, good football teams can't rely on the same guy every week. It's going to take everybody on this football team to go into a game thinking it could be them that's going to have to make the play that could be the difference in the game. And you never know when that play is going to present itself.

Is that unselfishness exemplified by Duce and Jerome?
It's a great example of it. We have some quality receivers that I'm sure want to touch the ball more. But for the betterment of this team, they're blocking, running routes. It may not be the same number of catches but they're big catches. And we'll open it up. You've got to be patient. It's going to take time. We're re-establishing things here. Defensively, maybe you want to blitz more, or you want different calls to be made, but we're still in a process with Coach (Dick) LeBeau, and him with this defense. We're getting a feel for it, and not just with players but with coaches. Even with Ken ( Whisenhunt ). He's up there and growing with every game. He just went through his first game and we're all kind of coming together. We had a number of changes with coaches, a number of changes with players, so when you ask what did I find out about this team, I think we're still kind of coming together as a team. Every game and every week is a new experience.

What made you decide to use Jerome as your goal-line back?
Nothing really. We just kind of talked about it and that's how we decided to go into this game. That's not to say it won't change but that's just the way it kind of materialized.

Did you do it to keep Jerome involved?
I think it's important to keep everybody involved. You've been around me enough to know. It's not just with backs, it's with receivers, it's with defensive players. I think it's good to keep people involved, because when all of the sudden you go from not playing at all and all of the sudden somebody goes down and they have to go in and play and they're not even in the game, I think that's hard to do. I think as long as players are trying to stay involved, whether it be one or two plays like in the kicking game, and all of the sudden their role becomes increased, it isn't like they're not prepared for that. So does that make it right? I don't know. That's just my belief in how you deal with players. And I've been up front with them. There's no pre-set plan every week going in. I don't want to mislead anyone. I'm just saying be ready to go. When your number's called, you answer.

Is it important to keep a guy like that involved because of his stature?
I don't worry about that. Those things take care of themselves. Jerome Bettis is a quality individual. He's a quality back like a lot of people we have on this team, and he's a very unselfish player. Would he like to play more? Sure he would. Would other players like to play more? I'm sure they would, too. But you know what? He exemplifies what it's all about, same thing with Duce Staley and a lot of guys. When you've got a lot of good football players, sometimes you can't put all 22 on the field at the same time. That's why I've asked them all to even if they don't necessarily like the role they have, but to accept that role and to be as good as they can at that role, and embrace it. And at the same time roles can change week to week. You've got to stay ready to go. That's what the National Football League's all about. You're not just going to be tested by your starting group. You're going to be tested by how deep you are and how prepared your football team is to be able to seize whatever challenge is presented week in and week out.

What is Ike Taylor's role?
Ike is, again, a guy who's going to keep working in practice and if something comes down he may have to play a significant amount. That doesn't mean that won't change week to week. He's got to keep working on his skills. He's a big kid, great feet, has all the things you're looking for. Right now though we feel comfortable with where we're going, but he's got to stay ready to go because his role may expand any week due to injury or due to other factors.

Will Alan Faneca need a big club on his hand to protect his broken finger?
I don't think so. I haven't seen it. I probably won't know until I see him in practice tomorrow. I haven't really inquired about it, but I was told it shouldn't be too limiting. But you aren't allowed to hold anyway.

Did the play clock expire before Alvis Whitted's touchdown?
I don't know. I couldn't see it. I was told that but there's nothing on film that would verify that.

Is it a little bit like second base on a double play?
I would hope not. I mean if the clock expires, it expires. But second base? I don't even know if that's a good analogy.

With the competition committee on replay, why can't the clock be reviewable?
The clock issue is something if you had visual evidence of that, I would think that would be reviewable. Replay's good. People want to bash it because it takes so long and I understand it, but at the same time, you know what, get it right. Down by contact, if they blow a whistle, they blow a whistle. There's nothing you can do to change that, the play's over. All we've ever asked the officials to do is just make sure - it's what I've asked them to do, and they usually don't do it, that's why you don't ask - just be a little hesitant before you blow a whistle dead. If you see something and you're sure he's down, then blow it. Because once you blow it, the play's over. Players stop, everyone stops and who's to say who gets the ball after the guy's blown the ball dead. You can never change that one. There's nothing wrong with replay. I mean, you don't want the whole gamut of everything. You can't have them go back and call holding or not call holding. What we have in the envelope of plays that are to be reviewed is good for the game. Like I said the other day, I think they touched it, everyone on that field thought they'd touched it, but all I can ever ask the guy to do is go back, and whatever shot they had, if he did not think the ball touched his foot, what more can I ask? At least he went back and looked. That's all I asked him to do. If they don't have the shot, if it's not that clearly visible, then you know what? Fine, go with the call that's on the field. That's all they're asked to do. It's the obvious, big blown call that's obvious to everybody that you're looking at right now to have changed and we have the mechanism to do that. It's like if you want more from it then you have faults with it. But it'll take that one play, a guy clearly runs out of bounds and came back in and caught a touchdown pass and they win the championship game and go to the Super Bowl. Is that right that that happened? And that's what it's in there for. I am all for instant replay the way it is, let's just not tinker with it too much. I know it's frustrating at times that you have to wait and they do take a long time. I don't know what the time - I don't know the process right now, it does seem like it takes forever, I don't think it should be that long. But they're getting it right. They're trying to get it right.

After they overturned themselves twice, were you more hesitant to challenge?
No, I don't think I have the greatest percentage of winning those. But it will not stop me. I still think the ball touched the guy's foot. I saw it and the guys all around out there saw it. I saw the angle the one guy was looking at, the shot, and I can see even when you watch it on tape, you're not sure. So I mean it's amazing how different angles can give you different viewpoints.

You just dropped the flag in front of the guy.
I had to do something. I asked him to challenge it so I had to drop it.

Is that new this year that when you're out of challenges, they take your flag away?
Yeah. He has a buzzer. I just use the flag. I don't use a buzzer. I don't think those things work half the time.

If you're right both times, would you like to have a couple more rather than one?
Yeah, I think as long as you're right, you should have the right to challenge. Why should you be penalized for being right? You go back to the AFC championship game we had against New England. I was right on both of them and we were out of challenges with about 13 minutes to go in the third quarter. That's what I remember in that game, if something else would have come up, how fair would that have been to not be able to challenge something because you were right on the first two. So I think if you're right on the first three, the first four, you just keep going until you're wrong.

Is it more fun throwing the flag than buzzing?
I tried to buzz it one time in a preseason game against the Washington Redskins when Steve Spurrier was there in an exhibition game and it didn't work and I never used it since.

It has to be more fun to throw a flag on them, no?
Yeah, but they can penalize you for that too. I got a penalty against the New England Patriots for throwing it at them.

Do you have a backup flag?
We have two flags, just in case it gets lost or stuck in the pocket or you forget which pocket it's in. This press conference has really gone far. We're talking about red flags and pockets.

If you throw the flag at the official you get a penalty?
Yeah, I got a penalty against New England in a Monday night game two years ago. They said I threw the flag at them. I threw it because they had their back to me. I was not sure if they would see it. It was right before the extra point.

Do you think the referees should consider the impact of their calls, even if it is not pretty clear?
We are still tinkering. This year for the first time, we have the replay officials who were up in the booth, are now with the crews. This is different than it was last year. They are a traveling crew as opposed to in the past, we have had people come in and they were in the replay box up there and they were going to different games. They were not staying with their crew. Now they have been made accountable with the crew. They are going to be part of the grading system too. They understand the importance of it. I think with every play being challenged, I don't think they view one as being more important than the other because you just never know when any one play can have that much of an impact. I think they view them all as being very important. They want to get it right, too.

What kind of impact did Deion Sanders have on the game last week?
He did not play a whole lot. I think when you saw him come in, he still has a lot of quickness and speed and burst that you remember. With (Chris) McAlister and (Gary) Baxter, and now having Deion as the third corner, I think is a big plus. What he brings to your football team in terms of experience and in terms of just his presence is something that they feel good about having in their locker room. We will see what kind of an impact he has as the season goes on. But he looked fine in the limited amount of plays he had last week.

Does Baltimore pay special attention to Plaxico Burress? Might Deion match up with him?
They have put McAlister pretty much matched up against Plaxico. Sometime they have matched up, and at other times, they have not. It will be interesting to see. I am not sure how they will do it in this game. They did a pretty good job against us. We did not score a touchdown down there last December. I think we only scored three points with our offense. They did a very good job against us the last time we played.

Did you make the league aware of the hit on Plaxico last Sunday?
We turned it in.

Did you think it was helmet-to-helmet?
I thought in the game it was. We will see how they interpret it in the film. The guy did not have his head down. He was going over to hit him and he hit him. My sense in the game was that it was. We will see.

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