It looked like CB Richard Sherman went down kind of hard early in practice and didn’t come back. Was that just a precaution?
“Yeah. I didn’t see him fall, but yeah they told me out there his hammy got tight on him so they took him out. We’ll see after I talk to [vice president of medical services/head athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson] Ferg.”
No G Joshua Garnett again today. What’s the concern level like for you guys right now with him?
“There is concern. Josh, he doesn’t feel right. So, that’s always worrisome when a player doesn’t feel right. I know Josh is getting a few second opinions. We’ll wait until our doctors talk with the other people and we’ll see what conclusion they come to.”
Is it the same knee as last summer?
It sounds like it’s a little more than a contusion then if he’s getting a second opinion.
“Yeah, I don’t know. That depends who you talk to and that’s what we’re trying to find out. That’s what he’s trying to find out. Josh went through a lot last year with his knee and took a season off treating it right. He got himself ready to play and came in here and had a good OTAs, had a couple good practices and then he hit his knee. It’s worried him and I understand that. But, he doesn’t feel right and we’re trying to figure out what it is and hopefully we will.”
You stopped practice early on and brought the team together. Can you explain what you were seeing and what the message was there?
“I just wanted guys to lock in more. We’ve got a day off tomorrow. This was our fourth day in a row so that’s usually our toughest day. Had to cut it a little bit short yesterday just because we were losing some guys. Guys were tightening up and just made a decision to cut the last two-minute period yesterday. I just told them early on I wasn’t going to do that today. We had to lock in. We had to tough through this. I didn’t want to waste a day. I think guys were working, but I want people mindful in everything they do and not going through the motions so we’re getting better out there, not just getting tired.”
Did you notice the offense in particular needed to be a little more sharp, particularly with pre-snap stuff?
“Yeah. It wasn’t just pre-snaps. Missed reads, guys going the wrong way, some busts. Even coaches, too. Coaches getting off script, having the wrong personnel in there and things like that. It wasn’t just the players. It was everyone. Pretty typical this time of camp and sometimes you just need to wake people up before you waste a whole practice and come in and watch the film and realize you should’ve done that earlier.”
Did DL Cassius Marsh pull his groin?
“I don’t think he pulled it. I think it’s very similar to the other guys. Same thing with [DL Jeremiah] Attaochu today. That’s why he didn’t practice. Guys are tight. They’re all tight and they’re trying to tough through it. Cassius went in to practice like that and then he felt it got a little tighter, I want to say towards the third period so we pulled him out.”
Playing CB D.J. Reed Jr. with the ones, does that speak to him having a good camp and the impression he’s made?
“Yes. I mean, we have guys out, guys changing, guys that tighten up certain periods. Again, I don’t look too much into that. I didn’t know that for sure until you said that. So, it’s not like we go in there like, ‘Hey, D.J. is going to go with the ones today.’ There’s reps, people going out. But, on top of that, he has deserved it, too. He has played very well and he’s been making some plays out there.”
WR Richie James Jr. was playing with the starters in the last move-the-ball period. What do you like about him so far?
“I like all our group. All our guys have been playing hard. Richie has been doing a good job. Same thing with him as the question about D.J. [WR Dante] Pettis didn’t practice today. Had a couple guys tightening up, too. We’re trying to mix it up. We threw him in the slot today. We’ll throw someone else in another day. He’s a tough player. He can separate and he’s done a good job. We’re going to have some good competition there.”
Why did you give Pettis the day off? I saw it was a recovery day.
“Tight groin. It was tight on him yesterday. Tightened up on him even more in walk-through and came in this morning with it even tighter. When it’s usually like that, you want to stop him before he pulls it.”
Have you ever heard the players use the slogan ‘overcome coaching?’
“Yeah, it’s my line. So, I hope so. If not, they don’t listen to me.”
Can you explain what overcome coaching means?
“It’s a nice way of trying to tell a player, ‘Don’t be a robot.’ You know, ‘Coach that’s what you told me to do.’ ‘Well yeah, I drew it on paper versus cover three and you got cover two. It’s not the exact same. Now you’ve got to do this.’ Sometimes you’ve got to overcome coaching. I apologize for not calling it versus the right coverage. But, when you don’t, now you’ve got to overcome my mistake or that I’m not as good as you. It’s just a nicer way to me of saying, ‘Hey, don’t be a robot. Try to be a football player.’ That’s huge. That’s what guys do. In man overage, you have certain routes and certain depths because you better get to 10 yards and break to like a 20-yard depth on the hash to get over certain zoning linebackers. That’s what it’s drawn for on paper. What happens when you get bump coverage? There’s no underneath linebackers and the guy’s jamming the heck out of you. Well, there’s a timing element. You better not get all the way to 10 and then break to 20. We’re going to get sacked. It’s taking a lot longer. Break that off sooner. You have to know the timing of when we’re trying to get rid of the ball. Now it isn’t an issue. There are no zoning linebackers so that’s not a problem. But, then you go do that versus zone the next play and you’re running under linebackers instead of over the top of them. Things change. In order to play in the NFL, you can’t be a robot. You do have to overcome coaching sometimes.”
Are you seeing more guys overcoming coaching this year because they’re more familiar with the system?
“Yeah. I think that comes with reps. It’s very rare that you install a play and you do it, especially for a young guy. They’re going to try to do it exactly how you want and that is what you want. Then, you usually get a different look and they did exactly what you want. You try to coach them on the field and you come in and say, ‘Alright, I know what I told you, but I was telling you to do this versus inside leverage. Now, you’ve got outside leverage. What can we do differently?’ Then, they learn from that. There’s 15 different ways you can run a slant route. But on paper, it says run dead straight to five and break in at a 45-degree angle. What are you going to do versus cloud? What are you going to do versus quarters? What are you going to do versus man? What are you going to do versus three-deep? That’s just stuff you coach. But, players have to have a feel, too. That’s why you want smart guys and also guys that the game comes a little natural to.”
When did you first start saying that?
“I forget. I’ve said it for a long time. Probably all the way back to when I was in Houston.”
Does having the officials here this week help alleviate concerns about the lowering of the helmet rule?
“Not really. You know, I think everyone is just waiting to see how it is. It’s not them. They showed the clips that the NFL tells them to show. They’re going to try to call it exactly how the NFL articulates it in the written book. I think also, just like what I said about players, sometimes you have to overcome written words. It is a game and you can’t always go with exactly how it’s written. It’s tough. You’ve got to feel it out. Sometimes if you get too detailed on the language, there might be 100 penalties. I know that’s not what anybody wants. I also know that nobody wants people getting hurt and people putting themselves in risky position. There’s a fine line to it. If you take it so literally, it’ll scare everyone because it’ll be hard to play football if you take it that literally. That’s why I think everyone is kind of in a wait and see approach. We’ll figure it out as it goes.”
There were a couple of plays today that seemed like they could’ve been called under the wording. They’re not out there telling you or the players that, ‘Hey, that might get called in a game situation?’ Nothing happened in practices that would--?
“No, they show the ones in practices and most of them are pretty obvious. But, you also see some clips that they show that I can almost find that on every play if I get the remote in my hand and look hard enough. It’s going to be a huge challenge for the refs. It’s going to be a huge challenge for the players. It’s going to be a huge challenge for the coaches. We’ll see what happens.”
Do you think that could lead to offenses being more aggressive in targeting the middle of the field and maybe thinking that those opportunities are out there maybe to get flags?
“Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s going to make it very tough to play zone defenses. If there’s a window and you throw that, how can the guy stop it. If you get your feet under and you can really do it the right way, it’s just hard those bang-bang plays. That is an advantage for the offense. It’s very hard for guys to stop it. You’ve either got to intercept it or break down and let him catch it and then try to hit it out. Yeah, that is tough for guys.”
How often does stuff look worse in real time than it maybe actually is?
“I think it can go both ways. Thing is, it is a violent game, there’s no doubt about it. That’s why it’s not for everyone and I think it’s also why people, America, loves it too. So, there’s a fine line to it. The more educated everyone has gotten in these last 10 years and stuff, we do have a responsibility to do everything we can to fix that stuff. But, there is always going to be some risk to all sports, not just football.”
We counted 13 guys are currently on the roster who were on the roster when you inherited this team. Does that seem like a low number to you, is that a surprising number to you or is it just natural, the way this thing works?
“I know that’s a lot, but that’s probably what I would have anticipated before we got here. We had an idea of that and we knew it was going to take some time and I’ve been happy with what we’ve done in our two-year span, just getting guys, some of our later draft picks, some undrafted guys, some of our free agents. I’m glad these guys have come in and been able to help us do that because you can’t just turn over a roster until you have people to replace them with. So, you’re always looking to upgrade, whatever it is. We’re still looking to do that. I hope that gets harder and harder for us each year.”
RB Jerick McKinnon and RB Matt Breida got stopped in the backfield a few times today. You have a few new faces on the offensive line. What did you see from that group in particular in terms of run blocking today?
“I think our O-Line is, I think we’re getting better. I think we’re better right now than we were last year at this time, without a doubt. You fight, depth is always an issue. Right now we have three guards not out there. We have [G Jonathan] Cooper who hasn’t been out yet. Obviously what we said about Garnett. [OL JP] Flynn wasn’t out there. So, that’s the NFL. It’s tough and that’s what you take guys into a year, you’re going to always try to find your best five and we will. But, you’ve got to have a lot of versatility because you never know how that year is going to go and you usually only have eight guys on the roster. There are five positions, you dress seven on game day. I’ve had years where you keep the same five and you have years where you have people starting at tackle that weren’t even on your team in Week 8. So, we’ll see how it goes.”
What’s the plan for Cooper as far as working him in and getting him integrated?
“He’s done more each day. We stared out with individual, I want to say, four days ago.
He started taking some one-on-one reps these last three days which has been good for him, just going against a guy and reacting. I’ll go in there and watch his one-on-ones in a few hours here. Tomorrow’s an off day and we’ll communicate with him, Ferg, all of the doctors, [head strength & conditioning coach] Ray [Wright] and we’ll see where he’s at after this off day.”
Do you look at him as a right guard or a left guard?
“You’ve got to play both. We have an open competition right now. I know you guys like that word, but we have a hard competition for right guard. I think you guys know who our spots are at the other four and we don’t know who that’s going to be. All of those guys, it’s tough. That’s why this league is hard. He’s battling an injury. Garnett’s battling an injury, which that’s legit. But, those guys have to play football to earn a spot and you’re pulling for all of them but you can’t play when you’re hurt. I get that. So, you hope that they rehab their hardest, you hope that they get in a spot where they feel confident to get out there because neither one of them, Josh hasn’t played a lot of football, Coop hasn’t played in our system before. I’d like those guys to have a chance to earn a starting position, but they’re definitely opening up a lot of opportunities for these other guys.”
You’ve mentioned you’ve been happy with the way C Weston Richburg has played, but obviously he’s replacing a guy who was here for a while and was a leader in that room. How has Weston ingratiated himself in that respect and taking a leadership role with the offensive line?
“Just from me observing, I think it’s been great. I think that’d be a better question maybe for the O-Line room. But, I think guys, everyone wants to wait until you see how guys can play first and I think everyone saw in OTAs that he’s a really good player. Usually when you see that, guys respect him right away. Just from what I’ve seen, I love the way the guy carries himself. He’s a worker and seems like a good dude to me. I would be surprised if he wasn’t one of the guys and one of the leaders in the O-Line room.”
T Mike McGlinchey seems to have struggled a little bit in one-on-ones. Is he working on new technique? Is it adjusting to the speed of the NFL?
“Yeah, just battling. Those guys are going against each other every day. It’s one-on-ones, similar to corners too. Guys should beat you eventually. Hopefully the quarterback gets rid of the ball. Sometimes you have a halfback in there to chip him, things like that. But, him and Marsh have been battling a lot. I think McGlinchey is getting better and I also think our D-Line is getting better. So, it’s been a fun battle for all of those guys.”
We talked about RB Joe Williams at some length during the offseason. Just given the fact that, the way he came into the NFL, general manager John Lynch didn’t have him on the draft board, concerns about how much he loved football, the fact that you said, looking at his first year in the NFL, he needs to play with more urgency, were there times last year that you wondered, ‘Did I make a mistake sticking my neck on the line for this guy?’
“Yeah, of course. You think that with everybody. I do believe in Joe’s ability and his talent. That’s why we wanted him here. But, lots of guys have ability and talent in this league. It’s hard and it’s not for everyone. You don’t fall into playing in the NFL. You’ve got to be talented and it’s got to mean a lot to you. I think it does to Joe. But, I think it’s taken him time to see the difference and the urgency that it takes to succeed at this level. When you’re talking about the running back position, that’s a real position where if you’re not locked in, if you hesitate at all, if you’re not expecting to get drilled every single play, I know I wouldn’t want to play running back in the NFL or college or probably even high school. It’s just different. So, guys learn that. Joe wasn’t quite as ready last year and that does make you wonder, because you can’t succeed if you don’t have that mindset. But, I’ve seen it this year. I saw it in the way he worked and I feel that he fixed his body, got a lot more muscle and got in better shape. But, you really never know until you put the pads on because he showed it in OTAs and we’ve had the pads on for a while now and it’s been what we were hoping to see. Hopefully it will continue over to games.”