You obviously made the decision to go two practices instead of three, why?
“It’s tough for me to do that. I would rather practice every day. But, just trying to be smart. I’ve been a part of a lot of, many years of that last practice before you get a month off, before everyone goes on vacation, and then you come back for training camp. I just haven’t had a lot of, that practice hasn’t ever been very productive. Usually, and when it’s the last day of school, school’s not always that productive and that wouldn’t be that big of a deal if that was the only thing you were risking. But, you’re risking injuries and I have just always gotten worried. Most teams I’ve been on you always cut it short. You end up just trying to get off the field and not have an injury. So, even though I would much rather practice, I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do. I’d rather end the camp healthy. The guys have been working hard. I’m going to try to get the families up here, give guys’ wives and kids a chance to meet each other before just showing up to game day and meeting at the stadium. So, I think that’s important and I do think, as I always say, the main thing in OTAs and minicamp is to get out healthy. And, by stopping that last day it gives you the best chance to do that.”
What’s the plan then for Thursday?
“Thursday, we’re going to come in and meet. We’re going to work out hard with [head strength & conditioning coach] Ray Wright. They’ve got like two hours designated to Ray. When I told them that, they asked, they said they’d rather have practice. So, they have mixed feelings about having two hours with Ray, but it will be good for them. And, then we’re going to watch film, watch everything we’ve done. We have about two hours of meeting time. So, we’re going to get a good day’s work in. it’s just not going to be out on the practice field. Then we’re going to have all the families come up here, spend a couple hours, get some jumpy castles and stuff for the kids and just have a little barbeque.”
How do you deal with retention? You’ve got like a five week period before training camp starts. What is your advice, your instructions to players to keep all that in their heads?
“I think everyone is different. I think sometimes it’s good for guys to get away from it just for a little bit. I don’t think you can ever get away from the routine of working out and staying in shape and things like that. Once you get away from that, then you’re just fighting to get back. So, I think those guys have got to stay into that consistently. I think the X’s and O’s they’ve hit it so hard here through these three phases, I think it’s good to just not think about it for like 10 days, two weeks at the most, and then get back into the book. The thing that I find out most with guys with the new staff or a new scheme like we have now or even rookies, it’s why you try not to judge people too hard through OTAs. Guys come in, you throw everything at them. They go through waves in OTAs, but usually they get away for a month, they come back, and then you actually get to see who guys are, if they’re more confident, they know the playbook better and they have a better chance to compete.”
What are your expectations for LB Elvis Dumervil this week? Is he going to observe practice, is he going to get reps?
“Yeah, I just want Elvis to come in here, learn the schemes, and really get a chance to meet everyone. I talked about Elvis about this week before we signed and him not being in the camp, him not going through OTAs and stuff, I did want to get him signed fast to get him in here, but we didn’t think getting him involved in the work and everything was important at least for now. I think he’s in very good shape, but until you train and go through that process, we’re just a little bit more worried about the football shape. I think it’d be better for him to not have him out there until training camp.”
That’s the plan--?
“Yeah, that’s the plan.”
But, he’s here?
“Yeah, he’s here. He’s going to do everything, except he’s not going to do anything on the field.”
Is everybody here? Is there anybody missing?
“No. Yeah, everyone is here.”
That’s been pretty much the theme throughout this whole offseason program. How reassuring has that been for you to have so many people participate?
“It’s been good. You never know how it’s going to work out, especially when you don’t know everyone, when you’re new. We had everyone show up the first day, which I think with a new staff, usually that happens, but you like to see how it ends up throughout the whole time. Our turnout has been great. I’ve been very excited with our players, not just from a talent standpoint, but the type of people they are. Guys have been consistent working every day, which is how our team has been. It’s only been a few months, but it’s been very encouraging so far.”
What did you like about Elvis and what role do you kind of envision for him long-term?
“Just playing against Elvis over the years, he’s very hard to block. He knows how to get to the quarterback. He’s got extremely long arms. He doesn’t have the height, which people could say is a disadvantage, but when you have those arms, I think it’s an advantage because he’s always under people. He’s got power to him that way with his lower center of gravity, but he’s got the length in his arms to still keep those tackles away from him. I think that’s why Elvis has had such a good career. I think that’s why he’s had the numbers with the sacks and I’m hoping he can bring that here.”
Can he also bring sort of a mentorship role? You guys have added a lot of veterans familiar with your scheme and it would seem that he would fit in that LEO role working with--?
“Yeah, totally. We would never bring in a guy just to be a mentor, but in Elvis’s case it’s a huge bonus. I still believe Elvis can play. I think he put it on tape at the end of last year when he started to get more over his injury. He’s had a hell-of-a career, but Elvis is a pro. I think Elvis lives and dies getting to the quarterback. He’s thinking about it all the time, every day, when he’s in the building, when he’s outside the building. Anytime you can have a guy who thinks that way, who has also had the success, it rubs off on people. What [free agent DE] Dwight Freeney did last year for [Atlanta Falcons LB] Vic Beasley I thought was huge, and I think when you bring in veterans like this who have had success, who know how to do it the right way, everyone learns from that.”
What did he express to you guys in terms of where he feels he’s at in his career, how much he’s got left, how many years he wants to play, etcetera?
“We talked to Elvis on the phone and then we flew him down here and talked to him. He looked good and they always tell you they feel good and they’re ready to go, but then when I saw him he looked that way. Elvis looks like he’s in the best shape that he can be. He says he feels great. He explained to us what he’s gone through over the last couple of years with some injuries and stuff. What he said matched on tape, games he felt better, games he felt worse. We believe he’s healthier. We believe we’re getting a pretty good player. We’re excited to get him out here and compete with the guys.”
Is DL Solomon Thomas going to be able to get here today or tomorrow?
“No, we're going to have to wait for Solomon until Thursday.”
We talked to offensive line coach John Benton the other day and he said that there were three guys at the guard position he thought that were going to be competing for those two spots. We talked about inside linebackers with the guys you have there. Are you overall happy with the competitions that are shaping up for training camp? Do you think that that’s how you sort of envisioned it, to have three guys competing for a couple of spots at a number of different positions?
“Yeah, I think that's the goal. That's really the goal, to me, for every organization and every position. When you're having good competition battles and you know at the end of training camp you might have to cut someone who you consider an NFL player, then good things are happening. I've been on teams where I've gone out and it's the second day of OTAs and I kind of already know who the offense is or who the defense is and you can see it. When you go out there and you finished OTAs and you're going into minicamp and you're still not quite sure, it means you've added good competition and you've done as good with the personnel situations as you can. That's the goal that we are going to try to get here every year, to where it brings the best out of everybody, coaches and players. If nothing is going to be handed to you, you know that the guy behind you is just waiting for you to slip up, it's going to raise both of your game, and we are going to try always to get that at every position."
How do you feel the chemistry has been developing amongst the offense?
“I think it has been really good. Just watching guys, it's kind of important to me here, we're trying to establish a culture that guys like to be here. I feel our team has gotten tight. We finished in phase two, we finished about one o'clock and I go in there at about four o'clock in the locker room and guys are still in there playing cards, playing ping pong and hanging out. It seems like guys are getting closer. I think that's one of the things why you want people to be in an offseason together. It's not just so you can teach your schemes and everything and get everyone on the same page, but you want to try to build a common goal. I think, special organizations and special teams, the only way that you build that is through shared sacrifice. When you’ve got all of the guys, the 100-percent turnout we've had, going through this long offseason and guys grinding together, competing hard and then still not running out the door as soon as they're done, spending time hanging out, you start to build that brotherhood that you want. To me, that's what is going to get you through adversity that everyone is bound to face at some time in the year.”
WR Pierre Garçon said last week that he was kind of frustrated because the offense hadn't been able to get into a rhythm in these practices. Is that something that is important to you this week for the offense to put some things together and string some passes against the defense?
“Yeah, it's important to me to see both sides improve. I want to see the defense do good. I want to see the offense do good. I'm getting used to that as a head coach. Being on offense my whole life, when the offense gets their butt kicked usually I'm very upset with it and I need to be halfway happy with it now. I'm trying to balance that with myself. What I was excited last week, whether it was Tuesday or Wednesday, I forget when we practiced, I think it was Tuesday, but I thought the offense had the best practice of the year so far. I thought the offense did a really good job. Right when you feel good about yourself, the NFL will humble you fast. When we came out Thursday, I thought the defense had their best practice of the year. I thought last week was one of our better deals as a team. Each had their day. It's kind of fun when it's like that going into the final minicamp you kind of see who wins the battle.”
When you say the offense had that good day, what did you see that maybe hasn't been apparent in the other practices?
“We've had a few. Unfortunately for you guys and Pierre, I think we've struggled the most when you guys are watching. When you’re moving the ball. When you're moving the ball and scoring points, and hitting stuff in rhythm people can feel it. It's usually contagious and it gets going. Then usually you go in and human nature, you feel good about yourself and the other team doesn't and they come out and kick your ass the next day. That's something else that you’ve got to go through that is staying humble, never being too high, never being too low. It's what you do every single second.”
You guys announced your coaching interns for training camp and one of them is Katie Sowers. Can you describe what the significance is in bringing the first female coach onto the staff here and then just what her coaching style was like when she was with the Falcons and you?
“Yeah, I didn't know Katie in Atlanta. I think [Falcons Assistant General Manager] Scott Pioli knew her. He asked if we would be good with her in our rooms and we were fine. She came in and worked with the receivers and did as good of a job as anyone I've had in the internship. She worked with [Falcons Assistant Head Coach/Wide Receivers/Passing Game Coordinator] Raheem [Morris] and [Wide Receivers/Passing Game Specialist] Mike LaFleur last year in Atlanta. We loved having her around. She was eager to learn it, she has played professional football in a women's league in the United States for a while and she's passionate about it. Us spending a whole training camp with her, she did a great job and she ended up helping out in Atlanta in personnel throughout the year. She just hit me up a few months ago and said her internship was up over there and asked if we would want to have her here. There was no doubt. She does a good job and we're excited to have her.”