Have you always had such good speed running down and covering kicks and returning punts?
"I'll defer that to another day. No, it's just fun. I love what I do. I love getting out there and getting in the middle of everything. It's just kind of how I coach."
You're obviously a high-energy coach, you're head coach is a high-energy coach. Was that part of the mutual attraction there that there's a similar style?
"Yeah. I love watching [head coach Jim Tomsula] Jimmy T. I've been watching him for years. He's done a great job as a position coach. He's one of the best in the league at what he does. He's a unique individual. He's fun to be around and the energy is infectious that's for sure."
Take us back, how did you first meet him?
"We worked together in NFL Europe in 2002 in Scotland."
Obviously, that started something. He hired you for his staff?
"Yeah, that was the relationship. We've known each other for that amount of time and it's one of those deals where we would talk to each other every year at the combine and I know his kids and his wife. It was just a relationship that we've kept up over the years and we've always had a mutual respect for each other, how we handle ourselves and handle our business, it just kind of worked out."
"Same guy. He's not changed."
What kind of impression did you have about what kind of coach he was in NFL Europe?
"Very detailed. Extremely enthusiastic. The players loved him. He cared, he's a caring person. He's a person that's genuine. What you see is what you get and he is a workaholic. He's one of those guys that, we used to be up until one or two o'clock in the morning, just watching tape and you look at your watch and go, ‘Oh crap. We have to work tomorrow.' So, it's just kind of, it's just one of those deals where it felt like you wasn't working and just had so much fun talking football and being able to just learn, just watching tape and just kind of absorb the game and get absorbed in your work."
Have you guys had any, pulled any all-nighters so far in camp?
"Not so far. We're in here a good amount at night, but as far as the all-nighters no, not yet. I'm sure we'll get to those eventually."
On the punt returns, RB Reggie Bush hasn't been able to do much and WR Bruce Ellington's dealing with an injury again. What have you seen out of the other guys that are working at that position, RB Jarryd Hayne and WR DeAndrew White?
"They're doing a good job. I mean, they really are. They're working at it. It's just fun to watch these young guys mature. The game's new to Jarryd and DeAndrew, he's had experience doing it before in the past, so it's just young, [WR] Mario Hull, some of these other guys, it's young, it's fun to watch these young guys work and get better. It'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out."
With Jarryd, a lot of that concern with him as a running back was running up too high, but as a return guy, I mean, he's still reactionary and it's the natural abilities. What do you see in him as a returner that would work?
"Just natural open field run skills. All you got to do is just got to his YouTube highlight tape and you see it. He can stick his foot in the ground, he can make people miss. He's an excellent fielder of the ball, works extremely hard, very conscientious and he's a tough kid."
Do you see him making it on the 53-man squad or is he still a work in progress?
"You never know. He's no different than any other guy. I think he has the ability to do it. He just has to go do it."
Special teams is such a, the difference maker for the close roster spots, deciding between a couple of guys. Do you feel like guys understand that and are eager to, "ok, I'll be on kickoff team, I'll be on kick return team," or punt side as well, field goal protection, any of that. Do you feel like guys understand the gravity of special teams and importance?
"Yeah. In this room they do because we make sure that they know at the end of the day if it's close, it's going to be teams value over anything else. Because you have to build your roster from the top down and the bottom up in order to maximize it. So, they understand that part of it. They know that what they do in the drills is being evaluated in practice. They know that if it's close, it's going to be the guy who has the teams value, that's just the way it is."
So, what do you need to see then? What makes a great special teams player? I know that's a simple question, but outside of the specialists, what do the other guys need to show you?
"You've got to be physical. You've got to be willing to play in space and be able to negotiate space. You have to be tough. You have to be able to midstream adjust. You have to be able to learn a bunch of different positions, because you have to play in all four phases plus whatever you have to learn on offense and defense. So, those are just some of the traits that you have to have. But, you definitely have to be a disciplined guy and a guy that's dependable. At the end of the day, we want guys that we can trust."
We've seen P Bradley Pinion kick the ball out of the back of the end zone a few times already. Is that the goal for a kickoff guy or is the goal to put enough air under it, put it as far back into the end zone that you can get it even inside the 20. What are you looking for from your kickoff specialist?
"It just depends. Obviously you want a guy that can bang it out of the back of the end zone if you want to just kind of go right into it, just bang it, obviously that's what you want to do. But, there will be some times when you want to hang the ball up and he has the ability to do that. Just try and go down there and tackle them inside the 20-yard line."
Is that something that he's in the running to have that job?
"He and [K] Phil [Dawson], they're going to compete for the kickoff job. And those two guys know that. There's nothing new under the sun. They're both very talented. Phil's done it for a long time. Bradley has a great, young leg and we'll see how it shakes out."
What would Phil's advantage be? I mean, like Sacramento Bee writer Matt Barrows said, Pinion looks like he has a far stronger leg on kickoffs. What could Dawson do to--?
"Phil can do everything. You're talking about a guy who kicked in Cleveland forever. Every kick you can possibly have in the bag, he's got it. So I mean, it becomes the young gun with power and the old veteran with all the tricks of the trade. So, I look forward to seeing both of those guys compete. They're two great men."
When we're out there watching Pinion punt, he can punt it far and a lot of hang time, but you are obviously more of an expert than we are. What stands out to you about him as a punter as a rookie at this point?
"Very, very mature for his age. Just turned 21. Very mature. Works at it, obviously, as a punter, just has tremendous upside. The hang-to-distance ratio with this kid is very, very good. Just got to get him consistent directionally, but the sky's the limit with this kid."
Does he have the ability to kind of spin the ball different ways? It looked like the other day, guys were struggling catching some of the balls. He had kind of a unique spin on them.
"Well, he has the ability to hit the Aussie punt which is an end-over-end punt. He did that all through college. I guess all you've got to do is go back and look at his numbers in college, they were off the charts. But, he's talented. He can do a lot of different things."
What kind of hang-time are you looking for and what has he been clocking at this camp?
"We want the hang to match the distance. So, if it's a 45-yard punt, we'd like to have a 4.5 hang. If it's a 46-yard punt, we'd like to have 4.6 hang and kind of as we move up the charts. But, he's been anywhere from 4.8 to 5.3, 5.2, 5.3. He's a talented guy."
Is that a generally accepted ratio?
"Yeah, it'll be accepted."
No, I mean, as far as, is that your thing or is that just kind of a known thing?
"It's not just, you ask any special teams coach, they'll take that all day long."
Was there any specific thing that Jarryd did on the field or something where you realized that he had something and that he could actually make the team?
"We haven't seen a whole lot yet. We've been in shorts. The game's not played in shorts, it's played in the pads. Yesterday, I saw some things that I liked from him. He'll stick his face in there and be physical, so that was encouraging to see. So, as we move forward, for him, every situation is a new situation, it's a learning situation. So, every situation moving forward is going to be new. So, I just got to see how he reacts to all of it I want to see him get hit in the face. I want to see him get knocked, get blindsided. I want to see those different things and how he reacts to it because you just never know until you see a guy play in pads."
Does it help that that's how he earned a living in Australia, getting hit in the face like that? They don't have helmets there though.
"But, therein lies the difference. When you don't see a guy coming from the side and you kind of get blindsided, and it's a helmet underneath your chin as opposed to just, you know, maybe a forearm or a blunt object, it's a little different. But, so far, so good."
What about coverage units? It seems like the best ones always have a few guys leading the way that are usually have unique personalities, to put it politely. Do you have candidates like that, guys that you can envision being leaders, rallying a covering unit?
"We have a ton of young guys that are very hungry, very conscientious and they're just chomping at the bit to kind of take that role. Hopefully, [LB] Nick Bellore is a kid that I've had in the past that we'll have. Nick is one of those quiet leaders. Looking for a guy like [LB] Nick Moody to step up and be one of those guys. Nick's another quiet guy, but he's a physical presence. He works extremely hard and I think those two moving forward. We'll see what happens, but it's a lot of guys that are kind of waiting to take that next step. [S] L.J. McCray, all those kind of guys are waiting, wanting to take that next step and to take their game to another level. It's exciting to watch."
Given that you kind of have a fresh perspective, how would you characterize how the training camp is going? Is Tomsula running it faster than you're used to? Is it slower than you're used to? How would you grade the pacing?
"I love it. I love the schedule. I love the way it's set up. I think the players have more than enough time to refresh and regenerate. I love the way we practice. Our practice tempo, it's really, really conducive to how we're going to play in the game. We always talk about at special teams group, we always talk about practicing fast and trying to be a physical, dominant unit. I think with the practice tempo that we have, it allows for us to do that."
Personality-wise, how has Jarryd fit in? Does he bring something different with his background? Does he kind of blend in?
"He's an Aussie. You know how Aussie's are. Great personality, always has a smile on his face. He's a funny guy. He's a good guy to be around. I think he'll be more of himself once he starts to get into a comfort zone and starts to make some plays. We probably haven't seen the real Jarryd Hayne yet. I'm sure he'll be here pretty soon and I can't wait to see him."
Can you understand his Australian accent?
"Yeah. I've coached many Australians. When I was with LSU, I had [former LSU P] Brad Wing and [former LSU P] Jamie Kheen. They're both from Melbourne, so I understand the dialect and it's kind of easy for me now."
What about vegemite? Do you like it?
"I've heard of it. Don't know if I like it."