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Coach Munchak's Aug. 18 Press Conference

Posted Aug 18, 2013

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on Kendall Wright’s injury status)

It’s a knee sprain, so we’ll have to see how he’s doing day-to-day. He won’t play this week, and we’re just going to have to see how he goes from there.

(on whether the mildness of Wright’s injury is good news)

Yeah. When he got hurt we were hoping it was something very little just like he would miss a couple of plays when he got tackled on that one reception before the half after the two minute drive. They checked it out there, and it’s a strained ligament. That’s something you have to wait and see how quickly he heals.

(on whether Wright will be available for the season opener)

I would think so, yes.

(on feelings of relief knowing Wright didn’t tear his ACL)

Well, that’s the hard part about this game. Anytime you go out there especially in the preseason games that’s the part most teams hope they can avoid especially with a player like him that we feel is going to have a good year for us. He was having a really good game last night. He was getting open, running around well, and we know he’s going to be one of our playmakers. That’s hard. Luckily, it looks like it’s something that’s not going to be too bad.

(on how much the injury hurts Wright’s momentum)

It’s difficult, there’s no doubt. He’s excited about the second year, excited about the offense, and has a great feel for what we’re doing. His relationship with Jake (Locker) is getting stronger and stronger. The confidence they have in each other, having a good feel for each other, him getting open almost every play. He has that kind of ability. So, I think it’s hard at first when all of a sudden he’s not going to play this week and probably not next week. Hopefully we have him back when the season starts. 

(on whether Damian Williams will take over during Wright’s absence)

He’ll probably be the guy that gets the first opportunity to play in there. Damian’s done a great job. He’s caught some tough balls the last two games. He’s had a good training camp and has done everything we’ve asked of him. Yesterday, I thought he had some nice catches like he did in the first game. We’re lucky we have a handful of receivers that we do have that someone can step up next week and play more with the first group.

(on using Justin Hunter more in the first rotation)

I just think he’ll be in the rotation. I think you’ll see him. I think it’ll still be (Kenny) Britt and Nate (Washington). Now Damian (Williams) will play more. Yeah, everyone moves up. When someone gets hurt, everyone moves up a little bit. Depending on how much we’re throwing the football and what we’re doing, he’d get an opportunity. He had a nice third-down catch yesterday which is good for him. He’s getting better at practices. He had some good practices last week. He just has to continue to get better like he has been, and you’ll see him out there more.

(on whether the dropped passes can be attributed to a bad night)

You just keep moving forward. We’re doing everything we can in practice. You just keep catching balls, catching balls off the jugs (machines), and concentrating on it. It’s all about concentration and looking that ball in and not letting your eyes get away from you. We had two or three drops yesterday like the big one on the third-and-three. Kenny (Britt) had a drop that was a big-time play there on the first-and-10 in the first half. We had a couple others that were close there, too. You have to make those plays. That’s what the league here’s all about. The receivers know that. They’re as upset as anybody when they put one on the ground that they should have caught. If we’re going to accomplish what we think we’re going to accomplish as an offense, we have to catch those balls.

(on Akeem Ayers’ injury)

I mean he’s got the ankle, so that’s hard to judge. He probably won’t play this week which we figured out last night because it’ll probably be a thing where it takes him a week to get through it. So, it’s one of those deals you see how he heals and how sore he is today. But, there’s nothing concerning that he’ll be out a length of time. Those are frustrating injuries because you just really don’t know.

(on expectations for Akeem to play against Pittsburgh)

Yeah. I mean I would hope so.

(on the team’s overall performance last night)

I think there was some good stuff there. I think we started like we hoped we would. We talked about getting a start compared to the week earlier. The offense got the ball first on the road at the 20-yard line. I think we drove about 10 plays down to their end of the field. We converted a couple of third downs during that drive. So, it was good to see that. We would’ve liked to finish that drive, but we didn’t. We kicked a field goal. I think it came away the way we hoped. A week earlier, we came out and were three-and-out and looked very tentative. This week, I think it was a lot different. The defense goes out that drive and we give up a completion on the first play. After that we have the second down with two guys hitting the quarterback, putting him on his back. The third down, we sacked the quarterback. (Jurrell) Casey has a great move and beats the guard and takes the ball right off the quarterback. Right there, I thought things were heading to a huge day because we did exactly what we hoped we’d do. The frustrating part of the day began then. On the third-and-three we couldn’t convert. We missed a field goal. They obviously got some things going on their side of the ball. Again, we got them in some long-down situations, but we let them out of it. In their first drive they made a play and converted, ending up scoring on us. The next time they had the ball it was the same thing. It was third-and-11. So, we had opportunities to get off the field because we were getting them in long-down situations. But, they made some plays, and we didn’t. That’s the difference in this league. On our end we saw we were down to kicking field goals instead of finishing drives. That part was frustrating because a lot of good things were happening, but we just weren’t putting points on the board.

(on whether the Bengals converting on third-and-longs was a symptom of poor pass rushing or blown coverages)

If it was pass rush you would have sacked the quarterback and you don’t have to worry about the coverage. So, on those plays, yes, the ball came out on time. We didn’t get to the quarterback on those two plays. But, we were in a situation where we should have gotten off the field with the tackles. We had some technique errors where guys weren’t aligned where they should have been maybe in a better position to make a tackle when the ball was caught. We had a communication error on that one that allowed the receiver a 5-yard pass. They need to run out after a catch, and they got out on both of those plays. That’s the stuff we have to prevent from happening.

(on concern over Rob Bironas’ kicking game)

I think there’s always concern when something happens that normally doesn’t. I don’t know his history, his career, if he’s missed many balls, let alone missed two of them inside 40 yards in that area. He’s usually pretty automatic there. I think you’re always concerned when guys drop balls and kickers miss kicks. We have concerns. We have concerns when we allow third-and10, third-and-11 five times a game. So, there’s concerns, yes. This has never been an issue before, and I’m hoping he gets a couple opportunities next week and we put this behind us.

(on the possibility of bringing in additional kickers)

No. We’re fine with our kickers.

(on whether Bernard Pollard and George Wilson will be third-down guys)

That’s something that will just depend on who ends up making the roster when this whole thing comes together and who we’re playing against and what our matchups are. I think in preseason we’re not concerned for that because you really don’t know who Cincinnati in this case is going to play out or who’s out there with the matchups. It’s different when you’re game planning someone and realize ‘Hey, we’re going to have issues here.’ So, we’re going to have different kind of packages for different downs and distances by tendencies. You get a lot more into it, and that’s when you make those kinds of decisions.

(on Kamerion Wimbley’s position on the depth chart)

It’s the same thing as the first week. He played with the second group. This week he played with the first group through the first half. He was in there the first half once Akeem (Ayers) got hurt. He was playing the nickel end. The first half he was out there when we were in third-down situations or we were in a nickel defense he became the other end opposite (Derrick) Morgan. That’s usually Akeem’s spot. Akeem got hurt in the first series. So he (Wimbley) did play about a dozen snaps there and then the second half he played more of the true end spot to get some reps there for him, because he didn’t get any of those in the first half.

(on the number of regular season snaps Kamerion Wimbley will receive)

That’s just all going to depend on what we have him doing. Depending on what his role ends up being when we get into a real game, if he’s going to be a fourth rusher, a nickel, a part of a three-down package, if he’s going to be the backup to (Derrick) Morgan in the base defense. It’s just going to depend on who we’re playing against, how many reps you get.

(on Tommie Campbell and Fernando Velasco working toward starting spots)

(Fernando) Velasco did fine when he was in at center. The offensive line in general had a pretty good game for the most part this week. There were no sacks with the first group. Last week we had some issues early when we were a little tentative we gave up a couple of pressures and sacks on Jake (Locker) last week. This week, that went away against a good group with a silent count. It gets underestimated what an issue that is for offensive linemen when you haven’t been through that. I thought we handled that well in Cincinnati. We handled their rush pretty well, their blitzes pretty well with the first group. We ran the ball well. I think we averaged over four yards a carry in the first half with the guys. All of that was better. Fernando (Velasco) handled things well. He knows our system. He did a pretty good job. Tommie (Campbell) was solid throughout the day. He had the play on him, the two-yard touchdown pass. You wish he played it differently and broke that up. He didn’t. They made a play on him, but overall, other than that, no big issues there. As far as our decision making, we’re just watching the tape, talking about how we’re going to handle this week. That’s when we’ll starting thinking about those types of decisions.

(on having the starting lineup in Game 3 of the preseason)

We’d love to. You always want it, the sooner, the better as far as that. We still have a couple days here, Monday and Tuesday, where we’re going to do some things before we get into Atlanta…having a full week of preparation. The few spots where we feel there are some questions with that we’d like to lean towards that way of getting the guys out there, because, as we all know, the fourth preseason game you play less time. This is the game where you want to get the guys that are going to get a chance to work in the Pittsburgh game out there together.

(on Jackie Battle receiving continuous second half reps)

Just like in the first half, there was that third or fourth drive where eight out of nine plays were runs and we moved the ball down from our 20 (yard line) down to their 20 (yard line). You’re seeing that if we get something going, we’re going to stick with what’s working. That’s what Dowell (Loggains) went with. That was the one where we ended up having the penalty on (David) Stewart. That kind of hurt the drive. We had the drop on the third-and-three. Otherwise, we took seven minutes off the clock and we were hammering the ball pretty well. That was probably the best period we ran the ball in the second quarter. Same thing happened in the third quarter. We got some momentum going running the ball and the thinking is if we get something going, we get someone on their heels, we not giving them a chance to recover, we’re going to keep going. Battle was running well, we were blocking well, we needed to get some momentum and so we stuck with the run.

(on the effectiveness of the combination of offensive backs)

It’s a feel thing. There won’t be any one way to do it. Every week will be different. That’s what we were excited about when we got Shonn (Greene). Getting (Jackie) Battle was just an added bonus there with another back that we felt could come in and handle the load. You’ll see it happen a lot of different ways. When we talk to Shonn and CJ (Chris Johnson) about how this is going to work, this is pretty much the conversation. We’re going to do what’s best for them, best for the team depending on who we’re playing against. They’ll both get an opportunity to make plays.

(on Chance Warmack’s performance)

He did a nice job. His experiences are great. He loves it. He’s just excited about being on the road for the first time playing and he knows the guy he played against is one of the better defensive tackles in the league. He was more relaxed from the first play on and did a nice job. We had him pull on some plays. He did a nice job. His protection was pretty solid throughout the day. There are always technique things as a lineman you can get better at. He had a couple of plays where he thought he heard one play and it was a different play, but luckily nothing bad happened. It’s just a continual learning experience and he played well. It was a nice solid game for him, good experience for him. Atlanta and Minnesota will be two more great opportunities for him so that when we get to Pittsburgh he’ll have a feel for the speed of the game.

(on Ropati Pitoitua playing with a broken hand)

Ropati broke his hand. He’s having surgery tomorrow on it. It’s something he’ll be able to cast and play with. It’s just going to limit him obviously. It’s going to be frustrating having that type of injury. That’s something we didn’t find out about until after the game. He can probably play this week if he had to play. I would imagine we wouldn’t play him and he’d play the following week.

(on whether or not he knows which of Ropati Pitoitua’s hands is broken)

No.

(on how Ropati Pitoitua’s broken hand limits his playing ability)

It will all probably depend on what kind of cast he has on his hand and what it looks like when the doctor actually gets in there and does the surgery on it. For offensive and defensive linemen, those hands are important. I guess in all positions they are. It’s something he can play through, it’s just a matter of how much it limits him.

(on who steps in for Ropati Pitoitua)

We haven’t really decided how we’re going to handle it. We’ll play this week with Atlanta. Atlanta will be more “hurry up,” so maybe a different type of mentality of what personnel they put on the field. They may do a lot more with three receivers, so maybe a different guy. If they play more two back, then one of the other guys could get a chance to play a little bit more. We’ll wait and see as we get through the week. 

(on who steps in for Akeem Ayers)

It would probably be (Patrick) Bailey, just to begin with, just because he hasn’t played a whole lot. We know him, but this gives him a chance to be with the first group. He took over and played and did a nice solid job. Patrick (Bailey) is not going to make many mistakes. He’s going to do exactly what you ask him to do. He was basically put on base downs. He played that spot so I imagine he’d be the guy that would start the game in the base package. In the nickel package (Kamerion) Wimbley would take over the other spot. Wimbley would take over in the four-man-rush package.

(on the number of rushing yards the defense gave up in the Bengals game)

You’re always concerned. You want to stop. Two of their big runs were in the second half against younger guys. They had some runs where they made some plays. It’s always concerning. You want to stop the run. Our defense takes a lot of pride in that, so it’s something we’ll continue to work on. You don’t get too overly concerned. It just depends on what kind of plays we get hurt on, what was the stuff we weren’t really prepared for, who’s in there when it happens. It’s just more schematically if we were sound. It’s about guys missing tackles and not giving up a down, that type of thing. It’s a concern. There’s no doubt. We want to be able to stop the run. You don’t get too caught up in it, but you need to come out and make sure those things don’t happen against Atlanta.

(on Moise Fokou starting during the regular season)

That’s still three weeks away, but right now he’s our starter unless something changes between now and three weeks (from now). I don’t know what’s going to go on with Colin (McCarthy). For now he’d be the starter, yes.

(on what would have to change in order for Moise Fokou to lose the starting spot)

I don’t want to predict what could happen with Colin (McCarthy). I don’t know if Colin will be practicing this week, next week. It all depends on how that plays out.

(on how hopeful he is for Colin McCarthy’s return)

I would like him to play. I would think he would want to too. I think if he’s healthy enough you want to get him on the field. I think it helps these players to get some playing time in, especially guys that haven’t done anything in so long, to where, all of a sudden you’re in a game and things are going pretty fast for you. It takes a while. It doesn’t matter who you are. You don’t play at all and then you step into Pittsburgh and play well, that’s not easy to do.  

(on Moise Fokou winning by default)

We think he’s playing well, but obviously the guy he’s competing against hasn’t practiced. He’s the best linebacker that’s lined up in practice every day. 

(on injured players ready for next week)

This week, (Brian) Schwenke may have a chance. We thought last week he would, he’s a guy that we’re hoping is out there by the middle of the week. He wants to get out there as much as we want him out there. Taylor Thompson should be OK this week and then probably Daimion Stafford will have a shot at this week I would think.

(on if Kevin Walter is ready to practice)

Not yet. He’s doing things separately, but he’s not at that level where he’s getting close enough to practice.

(on when Delanie Walker will be ready)

Delanie (Walker) is a guy that will probably start in the next week to have an opportunity to start doing individual drills and getting involved with the offense. Starting Monday or Tuesday, depending on how he’s feeling today. 

(on activating Delanie Walker from PUP)

He’d have to if we did that. If we feel he’s comfortable it’ll probably be one of the days this week.

(on preparing for the Atlanta game like a regular season week)

Yeah, we will, starting Wednesday. So, Wednesday will be like a normal Wednesday for the season for us. Wednesday, Thursday, even though it’s a Saturday game. These two days here, Monday, Tuesday will be more of working on some things we need to work on as an offense and defense as we get a feel for where our health is as a group going into tomorrow’s practice.  Monday and Tuesday will be for working on areas of concern, areas of need that we need to improve upon. Then Wednesday would be more getting into Atlanta, like we would a game week. So Wednesday, Thursday, Friday would be a normal week getting ready for Atlanta.     

(on Delanie Walker playing in the preseason)

I don’t know. Originally, with the surgery we thought that he’d play at some point, whether it be the third or the fourth preseason game. He’s kind of on that schedule to do that, now it’s just a matter of the smart way to go about it. Once he starts actually getting on the field and practicing and running routes and competing against the defense, all those things will affect what’s best for him. 

(on rushing Delanie Walker back for preseason or saving him for the opener)

I think that’s the hard part. We’ve been part of this before where guys have been, you know, that last game some guys really want to play in that game. It’s probably going to be talking to him, too, and seeing… we’ll assume by then medically there is no issue. If he wants to get tackled, maybe get him in a 12 to 15 play type of thing with Jake (Locker) and with the first offense in Minnesota, so I can see that being a scenario. Again, if there is any concern at all, he needs a little bit more time, since you still have another 10 days before you play, then we’ll just have to factor those things in to what kind of week he has this week and where is he at, does it make any sense to do that. We won’t be concerned about hiding anything, it’ll just be a matter of him getting on the field running our base offense and just getting a feel of the game again. Some guys really want that, and I assume Delanie (Walker) is one of those kind of guys that wants the reps and be out there and get tackled and that kind of thing, and know that he has 10 more days until we play again.  So we’ll have to see.    

(on Jack Doyle and Brandon Barden competing for the fourth tight end spot)

I think it’s been about the same. (Brandon) Barden had a touchdown, which was nice for him, at the end of the game where it took a long time to get one of those. We finally get one of those in the game. That was good. They both played pretty well, played solid, thought they blocked well in the run game, for what we asked them to do. I think those guys are still competing and these next two weeks will be real important for those guys.   

(on looking at the tight end situation and balancing the entire roster)

That’s the hard part of the decision making that will come up here in a couple of weeks is that guys that aren’t quite ready, but they will be ready a couple weeks in are sort of in positions where you’re not quite sure what everyone’s health is and all of sudden you’re forced to keep an extra guy in a certain spot because of those things. You hope you can limit some of those, but that could be a concern along with some other spots, where linebackers, we have guys that are kind of, are they back or are they not?  That’s the hard part about having a 53-man roster.

(on Michael Preston’s performance)

He did a nice job yesterday. He’s on special teams. He’s blocking. He had some nice catches yesterday.  He’s still learning the position, without a doubt, learning the system, but he’s been taking advantage of the reps he’s been getting.

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