OK, basically, going into this game from a health standpoint, the only two players I see not participating at this time will be Jerame Tuman and Wayne Gandy. Everyone else should be able to go to some degree for the game."> BILL COWHER

OK, basically, going into this game from a health standpoint, the only two players I see not participating at this time will be Jerame Tuman and Wayne Gandy. Everyone else should be able to go to some degree for the game.">

Cowher Press Conference Transcript

<p class="MsoNormal"><font face="Arial" size="2"><b><span style="mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt">BILL COWHER</span></b> <p class="MsoNormal"><font face="Arial" size="2"><span style="mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt">OK, basically, going into this game from a health standpoint, the only two players I see not participating at this time will be Jerame Tuman and Wayne Gandy. Everyone else should be able to go to some degree for the game.

As far as the quarterbacks rotation, we'll start Kordell (Stewart) and we'll see into the first half and we'll kind of go from there, get a feel for how the game's going. And then the next quarterback to come in will be Charlie Batch and then Tee Martin. Tommy (Maddox) would be there more or less I think in this game as an emergency quarterback if one of those guys were pulled, so that's the plan going in, a little more extended time than last week but again we'll see how the game unfolds.

Q: Bill, how has Rodney Bailey changed from last year to this year?

A: Well, he probably surprised a lot of people last year. I don't know if anyone really expected him to perform the way he did. He came on very strong late in training camp last year. Kimo (von Oelhoffen) went down and he came in and played very well. This year he's come in and I guess, like anything, he set a level of expectation that we expect him to play well and he's performed well. He's a very solid guy, can run, he's done a good job in the dime defense. He can play both end spots, and really is our first  backup defensive end at this point. If anything happened to Aaron (Smith) or Kimo he'd be the first guy to go in. He's made great progress. I think he's a lot more confident. He's bigger. He's put on some strength now and some weight. He's a major contributor for us. A lot of times we'll go into a game with five defensive linemen and he's our swing defensive end.


Q: What's he weigh now?

A: He's over 300.


Q: Is this game about player evaluation or how the team performs by specific units?

A: Both. You're looking at how we're performing, areas we want to make sure we're getting better at and people are working together. The expectation level is certainly going to be higher for the first unit than it is for the next unit. At the same time, you're still evaluating players so you can make the right decisions. Both these things are what these games are about. It's watching units work together and in the process evaluate the players.


Q: Bill, you said the other day the passing game was ahead of the running game and that kind of surprised you a little bit. Why has that happened?

A: Well, I think the familiarity we've had with the system. I think the rapport that's now been developed, particularly through the course of last year with Plax (Burress) and Hines (Ward) and Kordell. I think that they developed a good relationship, a good rapport on the field. I think that's carried over with the understanding within the offense, and so the repetitiveness at this time has created a rapport that exists between both those guys. And some of that's getting developed at this camp with Antwaan Randle El. That's an ongoing process.


Q: How will you use Randle El in this game?

A: Like we did last time. I don't see it being much different. They'll be in there on third down to start and he'll get a chance to play quite a bit when the other two guys come out. We'll see him returning some kicks.


Q: Will you run him out there with the first 3-wide sets?

A: It depends on what the group is that we put out. I don't forsee that being any different than it was a week ago at this point.


Q: Will you still put Troy (Edwards) on the outside and Hines on the inside?

A: In the four-wide situation, will go with that, yes.


Q: What about three wides?

A: It depends on which group. We have a couple of different groups of three wides. We have three wides with the tight ends; we have three wides with two backs and that could deploy different people.


Q: Will your starters play most of the first half?

A: Yeah, I would anticipate that. Again, I think it's a feel thing to see how they're doing. We still have some evaluation to do so we'll see how they're playing and we'll go from there.


Q: Given how much they throw the ball, did you pay special attention to that?

A: We've looked at it certainly. We haven't game-planned per se, but we're preparing for this football game. We're not going in unaware of the things that they're doing, which is a little bit different than what you're used to seeing. So we've made sure that we've tried to show our players a little bit of some of the things they're doing, so they're aware. They've watched some video on them as well. Yeah, we're preparing for the game but not necessarily game-planning.


Q: Is what they do similar to what the Rams do?

A: No. It's very different. The Rams are hitting a lot of guys on the run. No one's ever stopping. These guys are a little different. They'll have a couple guys stop with one on top of another guy, and sometimes it doesn't look real orthodox. I don't think their receivers a lot of times are running full speed. They're kind of going to spots on the field. When you see the Rams, I think you see that most of the time their receivers are going full speed and they're always moving. These guys, it's a little different. It's a little bit of a different style. I'm impressed with it, intrigued by it a little bit. It's a lot of audiblizing. You'll see the quarterback up at the line of scrimmage 50 percent of the game making calls and checks based on what the defenses are. We've got to disguise it a little bit and play that little bit of game with them. So, it will be a neat game.


Q: Based on their first exhibition game, where maybe they'd run up the score, have you ever come out of a game feeling like someone had done that?

A: I will admit a few years ago I took offense to Sam Wyche running a fake punt in the preseason against us. True story is I had Myron Bell on the sideline and we called timeout and I told him the next play I want you to go right for the quarterback. And the next play they ran a bootleg. Myron went for the fake. The quarterback came out and threw the pass. If he'd have went for the quarterback he would've had the sack. I probably shouldn't have said what I said, but if he would've done what I would've said -- . He didn't even do that. He went for the fake. But that's the only time. And I watched the game. I didn't feel like in that game that was the case. I thought Steve was running his offense with his players, trying to evaluate the quarterbacks. The only way you're going to get to know your offense is to apply it for four quarters. I mean, certainly you don't like to have people throwing for touchdowns when the game's in hand, but hey that's part of the game.


Q: Is this fun to go up and coach against this offense?

A: It is. It's a little bit of a chess game. Again, we haven't really looked at it as a game plan sort of thing, but it's a unique challenge.


Q: Is it a great opportunity to evaluate personnel in the secondary?

A: It's a great time to evaluate everybody. It's not like they won't run the football. If you start dropping people too far back, like I said, a lot of this is an audible system that if you do not put that many people in the box they're going to run the ball and they still have some pretty good runners. It will check our discipline and ability to play the game with them so to speak. But still, you want to still evaluate football players, not their ability to adjust or to try to do things, give them too much from a game-plan standpoint. We'll be pretty basic but we have to understand their approach so we can have some success as well.


Q: Will you start Kendall Simmons at right guard and Oliver Ross at left tackle?

A: Yes.

Q: Who's your next guard?

A: Keydrick Vincent.


Q: What are your thoughts on Spurrier going from the college game to the pro game, and what are your thoughts on the contract he got?

A: I'm happy for him for the contract. I'd be foolish not to say that. But I think a guy like that is good for the league. I think it says a lot for the National Football League. You took a guy who some people said had the best job in college football. He was set down there, winning at Florida, the school basically recruited itself. Yet, he was intrigued by the National Football League. He wanted to take the next challenge. To me, it's been a great endorsement for the National Football League that people recognize that this is the highest level. I think it's great for the National Football League that he would come in and accept the challenge to see if he could be as successful here as he was in college. He was an awfully, awfully successful coach at the college level, so I think it's a great endorsement for the National Football League.


Q: When did you think Randle El could make the transition from college quarterback to pro receiver?

A: No. 1, when you watched him play as quarterback, he was a guy that people were more scared of what he could do with the ball in his hands, not what he could do throwing it. With the ball in his hands, not many people were able to defend him on a regular basis. The biggest thing, you talk about the transition, but at the Senior Bowl, an arena where you have the best college players from all over the country coming down to play, and he goes into that situation and through the course of a week and the game he's named the MVP, proves that he could run one-on-one routes and I don't think you saw him being intimidated at all. He's got excellent hands. He wanted to be a receiver, not that he still doesn't want to be a quarterback, but he is a receiver. I think he's an intriguing young man. He's got that kind of charisma about him.


Q: Did you have butterflies late in the second round when there were probably 20 guys on the draft board who you could see have played the position for four to eight years, who you knew could make your team, and here you are taking a flier on a guy who never played the position. Did you gulp twice before making the pick?

A: No. It was a situation that when everything was sitting there looking at us, we probably had him a little higher than a lot of people had because of the transition. We were in a situation going into the draft where we didn't have to pick that much by need. And so you were taking to a degree the best player who could still help your football player. Slot receiver was a situation that, having lost Bobby Shaw, we wanted to address. We felt he was a guy who would fit that need. Maybe not necessarily you look at that in the second round, but we liked this player. We liked this kid and we felt he could come in and contribute at least in a role initially while he develops into an every-down player. I think it was a little bit of a need but at the same time we really liked him as a player and just felt he would fit this football team. He had that little charisma about him and I think that was also a part of it.


Q: Was it good maybe that things didn't go well in the first game and that maybe they refocused a little bit?

A: No. Let me just say this about the first preseason game: I said to them, again, you're looking at expectation level, just be careful you don't get caught up in it. … It wasn't to the level that we want. But certainly I don't think it's something that after every play people should say, "Whoa, you can't run the ball," and "Whoa, you have special teams problems. These are the same things that showed up in the AFC Championship Game." I mean, come on. Really. Are we ready to run that conclusion? I look at the AFC Championship Game and you can say we couldn't run the ball. We still had more yards than New England did. They played well; we played well. We did have two special teams breakdowns that cost us the game. But there's a fine line in this business. I just want to make sure we don't overreact to that. I like the way they're working. I like the focus we have as a football team. I like the approach that they're taking. I like some of the things we're doing. We are throwing the football very well. We threw the football very well the other night. I like the development of the offensive line. I like the development of where we are with some of the linebackers and where we are with James Farrior. He's still learning a little bit of this system, and we're all going through the thing with the special teams right now because we're changing a lot of the things that we did. I say we're not concerned at this point because it is early. Certainly if things become repetitive, then, yeah, the concern will be there and we'll address it. But I'm not going to overreact as I think is going to happen. And I said before that I knew it was going to happen, the first sign that there would be this big over-analyzation that's going to take place. But that's what your guys' jobs are to do. I recognize that. But I'm making sure our team recognizes that. You don't overreact to situations, you respond to them. It is still early and I'm not concerned with this football team because I like the way they're working.


Q: Farrior's starting this week?

A: Correct.


Q: What are you seeing out of Jerome Bettis and Amos Zereoue this camp?

A: Progression. They're progressing. They're getting confidence. They're moving quicker, faster. I like their progression and I think that's the most important thing.


Q: Was last night the best they've looked?

A: There's been spurts. Amos is having to take a couple hits. Going through what he did … you know it's a lesion and you can't take the hit. Then you say, "you're OK now Amos." And then, "Well, it's easy for you to say." I think he's getting more comfortable. He's having to use this training camp to get in shape. Even with Jerome, it's getting back in. Here's a guy who missed the last six games and he's having to get himself back into game shape. That's why preseason games are good.


Q: Comment on longshots Nijrell Eason and James Harrison?

A: Nijrell keeps making plays. He's a big, strong corner with good hands, plays the ball well. Strong guy. You hear him showing up. He's got to show up some in the kicking game. We'll see how he does there in the next three games, but he's an interesting prospect, there's no question about it. And the other kid?

Q: Harrison, the mean kid. Is he mean to you?

A: No. He's doing great, he really is. It's not an easy defense to learn. He's making a transition, too. He's doing fine. I like his demeanor.


Q: Is Randle El making noises about playing QB?

A: No. He just wants to play. That's what's great about the kid.


Q: How are Batch and Martin doing?

A: Tee's probably had his best couple of practices the last couple days, so he's coming on. Charlie without question is getting more comfortable. He hit his hand the other day on a helmet and it's nothing significant. He without a doubt is getting more comfortable with this system. That's why we feel comfortable enough to put him in there after Kordell.


Q: Has Marvel (Smith) picked it up the last few days?

A: Marvel's had a pretty good camp. I wouldn't say he's been anything less before the last couple days. He's been pretty solid from day one. He's had a very good camp.


---Jim Wexell


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