Q: Why was there such a sudden urge to sign tight end Jim Kleinsasser before free agency? It must show that he means an awful lot to the way the offense was set up.
A: His strength is his blocking. He's such a good blocker. As far as the versatility that he brings to the club from your H-back to your tight end to your fullback, he can basically do it all. He's learned the system. He doesn't have the system down to a T yet because he made some crucial mistakes during certain games last year, but he brings more of a total package from a back or a tight end. He's so versatile. It's like an offensive lineman or defensive lineman that can play all five positions on offense or four positions as a defensive player — you become more valuable that way. It did surprise me that they signed him for five years, but then you look at the total picture and he just brings too many things to the table.
Q: Do they need anything more on the offensive line? They got Lewis Kelly to work up and down the line, but they might need a little depth there.
A: Their offensive line is really, really good. I don't think Michael Bennett got into true form last year, which is understandable with what happened to him. With Onterrio Smith at running back, you're pretty much set there. This will probably be David Dixon's last year. They are trying to groom Kelly to come in there. They are trying to give him every opportunity, but he really hasn't bounced back from that tragic situation that happened (with the death of his wife and unborn child). You just don't see it in him, but this could be his year. They could use a guard. They haven't offered Everett Lindsay yet, and he could play all four. Cory Withrow could start on some other teams, but he's more of a center. I think they've got a great offense, and the stats back me up the last two years with the running game No. 1 in the NFL. I hope Kelly comes back. He's really a nice kid, and I can't imagine what he has gone through or is going through.
Q: What about Bennett and Smith. If you're the coach there making the decision, who is going to enter training camp as the No. 1 back?
A: It's a no-brainer with Michael Bennett because of his tremendous speed and his experience, although Smith came on really strong. That running back, picking up blitzing linebackers to corners to safeties, now you can see how confusing that is on offense because your backs have got so much to learn on when to stay in there (and protect). I think Michael's got the experience and if his foot is OK, he's going with him all day long. No longer was he running to a hole, he was looking for a seam, and Smith started out looking for hole rather than a seam and he picked up on it a little bit. In the college ranks, you see those big holes. In the pros, you see the seams. So Michael Bennett is the slam dunk.
Q: What about Randy Moss and those trade rumors?
A: Randy Moss is so good, people don't know how good he is. You watch him so many times and the ball is just on the top of his helmet coming over his shoulder and his hands aren't even up yet. The defensive player has no idea where the ball is. All the sudden Randy's hands come up and you go, ‘How did he do that?' He's the best I've seen, he's so good. He's growing up a lot and I'm getting a kick out of him now. I wouldn't have said that a couple, three years ago.
Q: Do you give any credence to those trade rumors?
A: Yeah. A lot of times you go to a combine and everybody's talking about, ‘What will it take? What will it take to get Peyton Manning?' They are always talking, and if all the sudden some guys comes up with three or four number ones, a defensive end, a corner, a fullback, you've got to say, ‘Wait a minute, maybe this is worth it.' So, yes, there was talk about it, maybe casual talk. I think Chris Hovan's name was up, Michael Bennett's name was up, but I think they just wanted to get a feel for the market because when you go into free agency you've got to know Terrell Owens, what's the market for him? Was it a second-round draft choice or was he worth more than that? If you would have got him to complement Moss, would you have given a first and a player? Who knows? They have to get a feel for what the other clubs are thinking and who's spending the money and who's looking for what. Yeah, it probably did come up, but there was no hard-core what they're talking about.
Q: Would you have endorsed the Vikings going after Owens, with two really controversial figures in Moss and Owens at wide receiver?
A: I think if you went after Owens there could have been a fight for the ball. If Owens had a Jerry Rice attitude, I would go after him. Would I go after Keyshawn Johnson? No, because they want to be the team. Their egos are too big. You have to play to an ego, and I don't even like that word. I call it personal pride because you want to do something. Once personal pride and ego turn into just ego, then I really have no interest. In the locker room they're just terrible, they are disruptive, they're whiners. I'm a firm believer that negative attitudes are contagious just as positive attitudes are. He'd be just too disruptive in the locker room.
Q: What do you think Tice has learned in his two years as head coach? Where has he gotten better?
A: Tice has gotten better from the standpoint that he knows his players better than ever. I think his work ethic and his intelligence as a player far exceeded the majority of players in the National Football League. To a degree, he assumed when he was talking and communicating with his players that he could bring them up to that level that he had as a player. It doesn't work that way. Some people have been natural athletes their whole life and they've never had to study. Now he knows which ones he can talk to or give them more book-learning than you can other players. Sometimes you give a guy too much book-learning and all of the sudden he's not as aggressive and he's thinking too much. You really hurt the player. He's learning to handle the players like that. He's knows some of the studs that they had, and they did have some studs over there, but they were terrible. They could run the 40 in 4.2 or whatever, but they couldn't play a lick. They looked good in the locker room. When you draft, don't get too tricky. These scouts will say, ‘He doesn't do this, he doesn't do that.' Hey, all he does is make tackles. Too much on the combine. Dino Cicarelli, when he was scoring 50 goals a year, they said, ‘Yeah, but they're all garbage goals.' Hello? Too much on the combine. See what he does on the film because there is God-given talent on that film, how your instincts work out or how your hands work.
Q: Tice has said he had a three-year plan and this is the third year. Is it realistic to expect Super Bowl?
A: If he gets anything with that defense at all, yes, you can expect a tremendous shot at the Super Bowl. I think Mike knows that, and he can handle the heat.
Lurtsema's Reaction: Offense
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