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Coach Munchak's Monday Press Conference

Posted Sep 3, 2012

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on if there is a different feeling in the building with cuts behind the team and the season opener this weekend)

Today, after having a day off and knowing this is still an extra day, Monday we had pads on—today—to go out. Again, a lot of guys didn’t play as much on Thursday, so it’s been awhile. We thought we’d go back to some basics and kind of mix it with some competitive periods, offense versus defense, and mixing in carded periods of needs, things we want to get a jump start on with the Patriots. So it kept practice moving pretty good throughout the day. Great weather, obviously. We hadn’t practiced in the rain in a while, so to actually have the wet ball and do some of those things, got some good conditioning in with some of our drills that we did. I think it’s a great way to ease into the week. Tomorrow they’ll start getting into the routine of a game week, having tomorrow off. Wednesday will start like the normal game week. I think it’s building, which is what you want. I don’t think you want to get too excited. The opener always is the one that you tend to get a little overexcited about because you’re getting started and anticipation of what’s going to go on this year. But I think we’re easing into it the right way, and come Wednesday, I think, again, we’ll take it to the next level of really locking into all of the details of the game plan and practicing like we normally do on a Wednesday.

(on memories from the 59-0 loss to the Patriots in 2009)

Obviously, I haven’t thought a whole lot about it since it happened. I guess it woke us up as a team. We went 8-2 after that. I always look at what came positively out of that. The fact that we had an off week after that, we were 0-6, I think we were 0-6. We responded about the best you could by going 8-2 at the end of the season. Why it took that, I don’t know. It was one of those days where everything that can go wrong, went wrong. The good thing is I think we showed as a team that we learned from it. Whatever it did, it got us rolling. We played much better from that point on. I think that’s what you take from it, that’s what we did. There’s nothing else you can really take out of that. It’s only going to count as one loss. You go on, and we did. I think we made a positive out of something that was real ugly.

(on if that game showed him what Tom Brady can do if the defense isn’t at the top of its game)

I don’t know. We know what a great player (Tom Brady) is, no doubt about it. A lot of guys on this team obviously don’t have any memory of that because they weren’t here. There’s only a handful of guys on each side of the ball that are still on this team. We know what a great quarterback he is. I think that can happen, and I think that’s a good lesson any weekend if you’re not at the top of your game in a week that it could get ugly fast, especially when you’re playing the team and the quarterback that has been the best in the AFC for quite a few years.

(on how encouraging it is that Alterraun Verner kept Patriots wide receiver Brandon Lloyd in check last season when he played for Denver)

For individual battles, it’s more about confidence for the individual player. Just like an offensive lineman, if you’ve played against someone else before, you have a better feel for them. So I think a lot of times, you go out there, and if you’ve never played against a certain guy, then the beginning of the game is a little more awkward maybe because you’re trying to get a feel for what kind of player he is. On film, you can only see so much until you get out there. I think the fact that he’s played against him before just gives him more confidence in knowing what he likes to do and maybe how to play him better right from the beginning of the game. So I think those are the things when you compete against some of the same players or even the same team, there’s more of a comfort in some of those areas which is helpful.

(on if it’s unusual to see Tom Brady pressured as much as he has been this preseason)

That’s the thing with preseason. I think that’s why some people take the mentality of not playing their starters a lot, for those kind of reasons, that you’re not really locked into a game plan, you know they’re not playing long, so you keep it real basic. Sometimes those kinds of things happen, it doesn’t mean they’re going to happen in the regular season. But I think that’s why a lot of teams are careful in how they play guys, because again, you’re not game planning. You really don’t know who you’re playing against and how they’re going to attack you. A lot of times you’ll see blitzes and things you really hadn’t seen before in preseason, and all of a sudden, something like that happens and it looks a little sloppier than it needs to. We know that he’s a guy that is really well-protected in the past. Obviously, any quarterback, if you’re going to throw him off his game, if we can get pressure on him or any quarterback, it’s going to make a difference in a game. So we know how important it’s going to be to disrupt what he likes to do on offense. In the preseason, you saw, like you said, a couple games that happening. Again, you can’t take a whole lot into that just because, like I said, it’s preseason.

(on how healthy the team is heading into the New England game)

Again, having the extra days is helpful. We still have a couple more days before we start practicing. (Jurrell) Casey practiced today, obviously we feel good about him. Sen’Derrick (Marks) should be practicing this week. So yeah, we feel good about just about everybody on the list. I think they should be available to play, and hopefully that makes the decision harder about who to activate and who not to.

(on how important it is that he can center a game plan around Jake Locker’s strengths this week)

We’re excited about it. Again, a lot of firsts for him. Even though it’s his second year, it’s going to be his first NFL start. It’s exciting for him, it’s exciting for the franchise. You’re playing against a pretty darn good football team to start your career. I think we have to be smart on what we will ask him to do, what we will have him do. I don’t think we really have to limit him. He just has to do things that he should, that he’s good at right now. Obviously the guys around him, this game isn’t all on his shoulders. I think he realizes that we have a lot of weapons we have to be able to use. But that makes it exciting because I think there are a lot of things we can do with Jake (Locker).

(on the trend of young quarterbacks in the NFL this year)

I think it’s just kind of a maybe a little coincidence on the situations a lot of teams happen to be in. I don’t think this has ever happened before, this many young guys at the same time breaking in. I guess it’s good for the league to see how these guys develop. We’re excited about our guy going forward. I think this is going to be a great challenge for him, for us starting out with obviously the best team in the AFC.

(on if he’s happy with his secondary heading into an opening schedule against strong passing teams)

Of course we should feel confident. We feel good. You never know when a season starts how it’s going to go. We feel good about what we’ve seen, and we feel good about how guys have progressed in the secondary. (Jason) McCourty has been there obviously, so has (Michael) Griffin. Griff has been playing a couple positions, so I think he’s excited about how we’re using him. (Alterraun) Verner has been playing, so it’s not new to him. Again him starting, not a big deal I don’t think. We like the way the young guys have come on. We like the versatility we have, that we can play different people and we can look at matchups and play guys that we feel give us the best chance to win on a weekly basis, on a situation basis, by personnel we’re playing or what a team is doing. I think we’ll find out where we’re at in a lot of areas, like every team does on opening day and that first month of the season. There’s no doubt we’re going to face some challenges with some very good quarterbacks early in the season. We’ll find out quickly where we’re at.

(on the Patriots’ two-tight end attack)

As you see, it’s a challenge for every team that plays them because they’ve got good players. They’ve got guys that when they get open, they’ve got a quarterback that’s very accurate and can put it right on them. They’re good at adjusting during the game, during the series. You can go on and on about all the things they do so well and why they’re ranked in the top categories in everything offensively. There’s no doubt that that’s a challenge. To me, that’s what the league is all about. You’re playing against the best. It’s time to rise up and see where you stand. I think that’s a great challenge for our defense. If you’re competitive, that’s the kind of challenge that you want. I think they’re going to be excited all week about what they have to do. They know they have to be on top of their game, or it could be a long day real quick with the type of players the Patriots have.

(on how the team’s mood changes with it being a game week)

The obvious things come up. You have your roster, just all the things that happened. You have the long week to prepare for this team. Especially the opener, because you’ve known for so long who the opening team is going to be, no matter who it is. We’ve known since the third week of April. You talk about that opener from the time you get your team together in April, May, June, training camp and now here you are. That’s the buildup that starts, the excitement. Then I think the town, your city, people here in Nashville are excited about seeing where we’re at. That first game everyone is kind of wondering. That’s how the whole league is. I think the perception is built so strong on, ‘Anyone can win.’ You know who the obvious good teams are usually going to be every year, but generally, there are always teams that surprise you because a team has changed so much a lot of times, year to year. I think you fill your holes, you get excited. I think that’s where we’re at. I think we’re thinking we’ve done some good things in preseason, we’re seeing things come together. As a team, you start believing in each other each step of the way as you see things getting better, as you do well—if it’s the OTA’s, if it’s during camp. When you go out and want to see a preseason game, how are we? So you see guys make plays on offense, defense, special teams. You start buying in more that we’re headed in the right direction, we’ve got some guys that can make plays, this is getting even more exciting. This is why you play. Here we go, we’ve got 16 of these opportunities. That’s all you’re guaranteed. I think you’re ready to go and really see where you are at. You get a little taste of it in preseason, but really, this is where that first week, second week. Even like last year for us, we came out after the first game, I really didn’t know still where we were because we didn’t play the way I hoped we would in the opener. But the next three weeks you saw us win. I think you started seeing us come together as we went. You’re hoping you start out being at home, is enough to really help us come out and play well against a good football team and give ourselves the chance to win. I think it’s just all the excitement of finally doing it, finally putting a game plan in, finally seeing where we’re at as a group now that we have our team together, now that we know who the 53 are. Here’s the guys you’re going to go to battle with. I think it just gets exciting because everything is so new. You’re not tired yet, you’re not beat up yet as much. I think you just see that thing grow and grow and grow. You have to be careful not to be too excited, so you can relax and just play football. But it’s fun, the opener is probably the most exciting until you get later and maybe toward the end of the year when you’re starting to make your run for the playoffs.

(on the impressions Keyunta Dawson and Darius Reynaud made as they battled for a  roster spot)

I think (Keyunta) Dawson, we played against him a little bit when he was with Indianapolis. You just never know, he came in. We always said for the D-line, we were excited about the guys we had. The guy played hard from the first day he walked in the door for OTA’s until right now. He put himself in position to help us. You’re excited for a guy that can come in, when no one is really thinking he’d be in the mix at the time. Things happen on rosters all the time, you talk about it, between injuries that come up or how a guy is playing or how many guys you decide to keep. It’s exciting for him. I know he’s excited and thrilled. Like I said, in the preseason games, every time he’s in there he just makes plays and works so hard that good things have happened for him. You’re happy to see that. I think we’ve been talking about (Darius) Reynaud the whole camp just because he started making big plays and started standing out from the beginning. You still didn’t know how it was going to work out, how he was going to fit. Then, obviously things worked out to where he’s here and he’s going to be a big part of our team. He’s a guy that can make plays. He’s a guy you have to be concerned about when he’s on the football field. Congratulations to both of them for coming back and making the football team. Hopefully, they’re not only going to make the team, they’re going to help us win football games. That’s what we think is going to happen. We’re excited they’re part of the team. They’re good stories, like you said, just because expectations weren’t—maybe our expectations weren’t, but theirs are probably a lot different than ours were. When you’re putting your roster together, you’re hoping a few guys can pop up and surprise you. Those two both did.

(on what Darius Reynaud brings to the return spot)

I think he’s just a different type of guy because of the speed that he possesses. He’s got good run instincts. When he has the ball in his hand, he’s shown good vision. I think that’s why he’s done a good job at running back, also. When he’s been in there, I think he sees things and makes quick decisions on which way, if he’s going to get downhill or make a cutback. He’s been consistently good that way, again, like I said, from the beginning all through camp. As a running back, he’s going to have to continue to work on that, as well all know, because he’s never had to be a complete running back. We’re asking him to do everything that all the other running backs do, so that’s going to be a work in progress, but we like what we’ve seen. Like I said, anytime he touches the ball, when you have his type of speed and his type of energy, he’s a guy that makes plays for us. He can take a three-yard pass and turn it into much more than that. You can’t have enough weapons, and he adds another one to our team.

(on if he’s seen improvements with the replacement officials during the preseason)

For me, I think it’s different because you get different crews. It’s hard to say. I thought some weeks, just like I do with the regular officials, I think it was OK in a couple of games. You’re always going to complain about missed calls. I think it’s tough on them, it’s tough on everyone when this kind of thing happens, when there are labor problems within the group. You always like to have players and everyone…you want everyone back and playing the game that is used to it. We have no say over it, we have no involvement in it. I think we’ll be fine. Nothing really happened in our games that was a big problem other than the usual things. You want them not to miss this call, not to miss that call. But we sit here every weekend after a game on a Sunday or a Monday, and we turn in 10, 12 things we think a referee missed or officials missed in a game anyway. I think there are always going to be complaints from fans, from coaches, from everyone. I think in general, you know what, this is how it’s going to be, let’s go. I’m not going to stand here and blame the officials for not winning a football game.

(on if there’s a completion percentage he’d like to see Jake Locker hit this weekend)

Bottom line, win the game. I think you start with that, and if you’re not, then you work on the rest. The bottom line is, is he doing what he needs to do to help us win the football game? Then you have to evaluate. Once we get started to a regular season, we can start seeing where he’s at. Then we can start evaluating if his percentage completion isn’t high enough, then why? What kind of throws are we having him make? Is it really the throws that he’s making that are inaccurate, or is it something else? Is it drops? Is it design? Then you have to evaluate everything. I think it starts with the fact that obviously all we care about is winning football games. We think Jake (Locker) can help us do that. Then if he’s struggling in some phase of his game, then obviously we’ll see what we can do to fix that.

(on what he expects from Kendall Wright this first game)

Well we’re hoping a lot of catches, a lot of excitement. He’s had a chance to show some of that in the preseason games, where he’s going to catch some balls and be involved in the games. When you talk about playing a whole game, that’s what the excitement is, to see these guys play 40, 50 snaps and see really what he’s capable of doing. I think for our first-round draft choice, we’re excited about him, and he hasn’t shown us any reason not to feel he’s going to be a big part of this offense as we get started on Sunday. Excited for him—another young guy, it’s obviously his first start and we feel he’s a guy that we’ll put in positions to make some big plays for us.

(on if last season’s opening loss influenced his preparations for this year’s season opener against the Patriots)

I don’t think anything really changed. That game wasn’t anything…we had a chance to win it, even at the end. Why we went down and didn’t play as well early, there wasn’t anything that we were able to diagnose as this being the problem. Like I said, I’ve talked to a lot of coaches over the years when they try to figure out all of that stuff, why are we flat in the first half? Obviously every game, guys are excited. Things may not look right when you watch it on tape, but I don’t think you can ever say a team isn’t ready to play. Teams are ready to play, just maybe the opponent did something, or just the way the game fell, maybe it looked flat or it didn’t look the way we should. There’s nothing that happened that game that was so obvious that we say, ‘Hey, we’ll fix this and this, and this won’t happen again, and we’ll come out in the opener and play great.’ To me, it’s just hard work. You have to work hard, like we did last year, and be ready for your opponent, like we were last year, and hope it starts off better than it did last year.

(on if there is any extra anxiety over the first week being a head coach)

There always is. Like I said when we were talking here, because you think you’re excited about stuff. But again, you haven’t gone through a whole game yet. Just like anything, until you go through it one time at least, or two times, you want to see really what you do have. You feel good about what you’ve seen, you’ve seen them obviously for the last so many months. But I think until you actually go out there and play a full game, there’s never a guarantee about what you do have. I think we’re excited, there’s no reason not to be. Like I said, probably the biggest difference between last year and this year is we know our team much better. That doesn’t relate to how we work them, but I think as far as our combinations on both sides, offense and defense, I think Jerry (Gray) and Chris (Palmer) feel much better about knowing what we have, how to use it. Last year, CJ (Chris Johnson), his first week of practice was game week. There were a lot of things different last year. Our approach is the same, but I think we understand our players much better to start this season than we did last year.

(on his prediction for how the team will finish the season)

We always think we’re going to win the division. That’s kind of what everyone’s goal is. We don’t make predictions and think about it, but we know what our goals are. It starts this Sunday. Winning AFC games are always a big part of it, as we found out last year, we lost out for a tiebreaker. We understand all that, it’s one game at a time as we all know. I think again, we’re very optimistic about this season. We know all the games will be tough with the good teams we’re going to have to play. We know we’re going to have to be on top of our game real early. But it’s a 16-game season, so whatever happens, you can’t let that take away from how it finishes. You hope you start out always with a great start—last year we were 3-1. This year, you hope to do at least that or better. We’re assuming that we’re going to win enough games to win the division.

(on if he’s named captains yet)

No, not yet. We’ve voted, but not yet.

(on how critical Chris Johnson’s blocking will be against New England’s defense)

It’s important every Sunday, but there’s no doubt, I think most teams always want to try to get matchup problems on backs. Every defense works on that. You try to get someone you feel can have an easy guy to pass rush or any easier time. So I think teams always try to design some of that, so that’s nothing new for CJ (Chris Johnson). Obviously he’s not a big back, so teams always would try to get him to have to block certain people. I would imagine it will be no different this week. Again, CJ does a good job with protection, he knows who to block, he gets on it pretty quickly. Again, usually he holds up pretty decently.

(on how much of a role Ryan Mouton will play)

He started practicing a little bit last week. He’s fine, he’s been cleared by the doctor as of last week. Obviously we didn’t play him in the game. We’re excited for him on special teams and as a defensive player. We’ll see as the game plan goes forward with how much he’ll play.

(on when he estimates Mike Otto will return)

Probably another week.

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