September 3, 2020
Opening Statement: “It’s good to see everybody. Well that was a fun day yesterday, getting an opportunity to go down to the stadium. It seems like forever since we’ve been down there, so super cool to be in our locker room again, super great to be on the field, and I just thought we had a good day, had a good practice and just kind of making sure that we went through our routine there obviously before the Chicago game. It was fun to be there, a little bit different trying to imagine that being a gameday atmosphere without anybody in the stands. I’m sure you guys felt the same way as far as all the empty seats and everything. It was good to get some of the crowd noise in there and work on just having to handle all that, which was positive, and really just some good, competitive football. It was great to be in our stadium. Obviously just makes it that much closer to the season and getting ready for real football, so that was awesome.
“Today, we’re going to push things back a little bit, so I apologize for the delay here, but we’re going to have little bit longer meetings here this morning. We’re going to go through the tape from yesterday, and then we’re going to go out in the afternoon and kind of do a jog-through, run-through practice for us, take the pads off and kind of tempo it down. Some good mental prep here today, some good mental work, situational football, which will be real important pushing forward (and) getting ready for next week. As far as that’s concerned with players participating, we’ll see kind of how (it goes) as the day goes. We’ve got some guys that are sore from yesterday, being on the turf. I’m pretty sore from yesterday being on the turf. That was my first time on the game turf, so my stuff’s hurting too. Hunter Bryant, he’ll be out regardless. Dan Skipper, he’ll be out. Everybody else I think is some sort of either limited, or we’ll kind of see how the muscles are doing here this afternoon.”
On how the team bonded and shown unity off the field and how that will carry over into the season: “I think from my standpoint, and certainly, I think the team – I’ll answer kind of the schedule part of it first – probably when we started training camp, everybody was a little bit uneasy. How’s it going to go? What’s it going to look like? You just put your head down, and you grinded through it, and you got into a rhythm and it was pretty comfortable after a while, no different from the spring, I would say, with the virtual learning. I imagine the season’s going to be the same way. It’s going to be a little bit unknown here to start, a little bit uncomfortable, but then we’ll get into it and we’ll find our rhythm, and we’ll get into a schedule and everything will feel normal or as normal as we can make it in unnormal times. So, I think all of that’s going to be exciting. I would say that, like you mentioned, based on how this team has just handled everything that I would say 2020 has kind of thrown at them at such a high level, I’m just so appreciative for their maturity and the way that they’ve been able to come approach everything every single day that I know that we’ll do the same in the season too. I know the team is a tight team. They like to compete; they like to work with each other. They’ve got a strong brotherhood, and certainly we’ve got to build that as we go through the season and go try to win some games. But I know they’ll handle that adjustment the same as they have all the others.”
On the assessment of the long snappers this training camp: “I think all of the specialists, the competition’s been really good. Certainly, at the long snapper position, those guys have gone out and competed every day, some really good, some a little bit more difficult for both guys. I think part of it is also a little bit of a change in scheme too, with a new (special teams) coordinator with Brayden (Coombs) and some of the punt protection stuff that we’re doing, so I think that’s been some work in progress for both guys, especially we’ve had different systems here through the course of the years. So ‘Muhl’ (Don Muhlbach), certainly – he actually has a background in this system from before. And definitely (Steven) Wirtel is out there competing. Those guys are doing a great job. ‘Muhl’ has been a steady rock for us for a long time, so it’s a good competition to have when you have two good players.”
On the difficulty of transitioning from a long-tenured player after so many years: “I mean, I think just in general terms, roster evaluation and things like that, it’s never easy. Certainly, the better competition you have, it’s not easy, but that’s actually a good problem. That’s what you want to have. You want to have good competition all the way across the board. So that’s something we look forward to. I know the players do a great job with it too. Everybody’s different in those situations, everybody’s experience is different. I’ve certainly been around a lot of great players even toward the end of their careers and how they handled those situations. In the end, we’ll always do what’s best for the team and try to go forward from there.”
On his evaluation of the running backs group: “Probably another really good comparison with just trying to get full, live-speed reps in the run game. We got a couple of them last Saturday, which was good to be able to kind of see what that looked like. I think the biggest thing with both offense and defensive line right now that I’m just seeing and will probably see in September is pad level. I think some of that is just guys will have good pad level early in practice, and then it will start to get higher as practice goes on. Some of that is just the conditioning, the amount of reps that we need to play in those situations, especially if it’s a longer drive. We’ve increased the amount of plays that we’ve added in team (drills) from a standpoint of how many consecutive plays that guys have been out there to try to simulate that. Yesterday, we probably had one drive that was about 10 plays long, and you could see at the end of it, everybody’s pad level was getting real high. When that happens at the line of scrimmage, there’s a lot of knock back, there’s a lot of not really good fundamental skills that are being executed, especially in the run game where you need it the most. So, that was probably my biggest thing that I’m kind of on right now, is just getting the pad level down. Hand placement would probably next, making sure that we’re inside with our hands.”
On how difficult cut day is on him: “To be honest with you, I hate it. It’s the worst. You invest in these guys, they invest so much in you, and we’re trying to come together as a team and we’re building and we’re competing, and you love these guys that you’re coaching every single day. That tough reality of what this weekend is – it’s brutal, to be honest with you. In the back of my mind, I just have to understand that I’m going to do what’s best for the team. Certainly, I think one of the things that’s real important for everybody to understand – this weekend is definitely not the end of anything. There’s always going to be roster movement, there’s going to be change, there’s going to be turnover, there’s going to be opportunities to come in and to compete again and keep working. So, sometimes it’s just a temporary thing and the formality of it, but I would say that in general, it’s a day you walk away from and you’re probably just a little bit down from that standpoint because you love the game, you love the guys and you wish you could just have everybody out there.”
On if he feels like he got everything out of training camp that he needed to: “You know, it’s a great question, and I’m actually trying to have that conversation with a couple of other coaches and some other teams and seeing how they’re feeling with the same situation. I think we’ve tried to maximize the amount of time that we’ve had. I certainly – whatever we are, 12 practices in in training camp, that is not enough. We all know that. So, we have some ground to make up, but we also understand that if we can get the basics and the fundamentals and kind of the core of what we want to do in and taught, we’re going to add on it as we go through the season, and we’re going to need the month of September to do that. Certainly just making sure that we’ve taught all the different aspects of the game is the biggest part of it. There are so many minute details that go into the games that we have to give all that to our players to make sure they can comprehend what’s happening on the field as it happens. So, I think we’ve done a good job with that from that standpoint, but certainly it’s a little bit unsettling from the amount of time that we’ve had on the practice field knowing that we’re going to play a real NFL game here very soon.”
On if the four protected practice squad spots change anything on his end: “I think it’s interesting. I think the protection really – so take post-game on a Monday morning. You come in, and you have injuries on your team. I think that’s really when most teams go out and they look at different practice squad players and who they’re going to add in for Wednesday’s practice. So, that protection really doesn’t kick in until after that. So, you still have that opportunity at the beginning of the week to kind of lose those types of players. A lot of the protection might be in the case where at the end of the week, maybe you’ve put in a gameplan, you’ve kind of grinded through the week and then other teams might come in and try to grab your guys off your practice squad, particularly the team that you’re playing that week, and try to see what they know. So that’s kind of one of those deals where that protection helps you there. But I do think it does kind of maybe give the player and the team a little bit more security from a standpoint of, ‘This guy’s here for the week, and now as we prepare for the weekend, he can be part of the gameplan knowing that we have the opportunity to bring those guys up at the end of the week if we need them.’ In that part of it, yes.”
On if he ever had doubts that there would be a season: “I think just the biggest part of it was going through each phase and saying, ‘OK, how are we going to handle this phase? Is this phase really going to work?’ I can’t sit here and say in the spring that I even thought about the fall, and really to be honest with you, at the start of training camp, probably wasn’t thinking about the season either. I was just trying to get through training camp. It’s literally been day-by-day, because it’s completely new and there’s no book for this. I’m kind of on your wavelength, I don’t want to jinx anything. I just want to keep going, head down, grind it out, and we’ll pick it up next Sunday and hopefully play the Bears.”
On if this week feels different with a game looming: “Honestly, I think that flip is really starting to happen here in the last 24 (hours) and will really continue here over the next couple. Just because it was so critical that we did not look ahead and that we just kind of stayed the course of training camp because of the evaluations and some of the things that we were trying to figure out with the roster and some of the things that we needed to teach. We didn’t want to make sure that we lost sight of that and got too far in front of ourselves.”

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