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Coach Munchak's Monday Press Conference

Posted Oct 22, 2012

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on the status of Jake Locker)

We won’t meet on that until this afternoon. He just went over this morning, so that’s something that we’ll talk about and get into later on today.

(on who he expects will start at quarterback on Sunday)

I would assume it’s going to be Matt (Hasselbeck) just because of the activity last week. Jake (Locker) started to do a lot of things. We’ll see once we talk to the doctors and get a chance to talk to Jake and see how his exam went, we’ll see how much more activity, how much further we can take it starting on tomorrow and Wednesday. Then we’ll know more. So we’ll see where he’s at. He feels he’s getting much better, he is. He’s gotten better each week, each day, which is all positive stuff. That’s why again, the MRI today, they’ll do that every week because you can see more of the healing that way. We’ll take it from there.

(on how healed Jake Locker needs to be to play)

Yeah, you just want to make sure it’s healing right before he starts getting bumped and hit and pushed around. You want to make sure things are healing correctly before you jump to the next step. So I think we have to be cautious there. He’s throwing. He hasn’t thrown in traffic, so we just have to take it one step at a time and be smart about it. That’s what we’re doing, and if everything looks good, he could be throwing in traffic on Wednesday in practice. So we’ll just have to wait and see.

(on the next steps that Jake Locker has to take in practice)

I think everyone comes back from an injury at different paces. Once you get to doing real life stuff like Kenny Britt did and everyone else, once you get on the field and start running routes, and you find out, ‘OK, how sore am I going to get? How am I doing? I’m ready to go.’ It’s just a matter of how he progresses. He could progress very fast. He’s been throwing, he’s throwing well. It’s not his throwing shoulder, so it’s more of how he can tolerate things as he goes to the next step. You just don’t know how long each step is going to take. It may be (quick). ‘OK, I got the OK to do it. All of a sudden on Wednesday I’m throwing. Next thing I’m doing this on Thursday, next thing I’m doing this on Friday, and I’m playing.’ It’s just a matter of how he progresses through each stage, once we feel comfortable that he can move to the next stage. That’s kind of what’s in a holding pattern now, until we can do that. That’s all the information we really have, other than that, it’s just a lot of speculation of where he’s at and timing and guessing what week it will be. We just don’t know that. When he’s ready to play, like I said, he’ll be the guy playing. We just don’t know when that is right now.

(on if it’s possible that Jake Locker is weeks away from returning)

Well if you want to look at the worst case scenario. Anything is possible. I can’t sit here and say something isn’t possible with any injury we have, any of the guys that got hurt today. We think Colin McCarthy will be starting this week, but obviously something could happen this week where he doesn’t start. We’re assuming that he’s doing well, for Jake (Locker), everything is moving along the way that it should. He should be able to play hopefully sooner than later.

(on if he’s considered holding Jake Locker out through the bye week)

No, I think you’re right. For any of these (injuries), not just Jake (Locker), but a lot of these guys that are going through injuries, you’ll consider all that, just like we considered not playing Colin (McCarthy) yesterday for that reason. He wasn’t quite ready, he wasn’t quite where we thought, maybe the week off makes a difference. You’ll always factor in all the situations. There is too much football left in the season to put all your eggs in one basket for one game. We have to be smart when we’re making decisions, with the player involved in every decision that we make. The player is as involved as we are in trying to decide what is best for the player, number one, and what’s the best way going forward and looking at the long-term for this team to win football games. I think we’ll look at all those factors, depending when Jake is at the point where we think he’s ready to play in a game.

(on if he might decide to stick with Matt Hasselbeck for the remainder of the season if Jake Locker isn’t ready to return for a long time)

The first part of your question was, that yeah, the quicker a guy comes back, you don’t have to even consider how it affects the team. The longer someone is out, you do factor in all the factors, you always do. You’d be crazy not to as far as if it’s Jake (Locker) or whoever, when you miss so long. I don’t want to speculate how long he is out, and what we will do with that. There are a lot of circumstances we won’t know. Week to week in this game, it changes dramatically, like we have as a team. Two weeks ago, I don’t think people thought we’d be 4-4 or have a chance at 4-4 this week. I think things change so much that I don’t want to even speculate past this week.

(on if there is a scenario where Jake Locker would be shut down for the season)

Oh no.

(on the decision to stick with Jake Locker when he is healthy regardless of Matt Hasselbeck’s production)

The quarterback is obviously a very important position. We’re going to take into account everything when we make a decision on what’s best for the football team going forward. Generally speaking, Jake (Locker) comes back, he’ll be the guy playing. We’ll factor in what the situation is, when that time is, what’s going on with our team. You’ll think about all those things, but you’re not going to sit here and say, ‘Well, he may lose the job.’ You’re not going to go there. He should be the starter, there’s no reason not to be. Since he’s been hurt, we’re 2-2. We lost the Houston game. We won two games, which is a good start, and hopefully we’ll continue that. We know we can win with Matt (Hasselbeck). We feel we can win with Jake, obviously, also. That’s pretty much what it is. You’re going to weigh each decision when the time comes, but generally speaking, I would assume my thinking is if you’re asking me to project out, that when he’s healthy, then we’d play him. Again, you could go into possibilities. This whole press conference could be about possibilities of injured guys getting back and when that is. If it’s eight weeks from now, what should we do? There are a lot of possibilities. If Jake’s ready to play this week, Jake would start. That’s the easiest way to say it I guess. If Jake’s ready next week, Jake will start. From there, we’ll have to figure it out.

(on if he’s worried that the offense may lose its rhythm when Jake Locker returns)

No. You can’t worry about all these things. We’re very happy with Jake (Locker), and we think Jake is a very good quarterback. We think we’ll be fine with either quarterback we can win with.

(on the team’s mood change after winning two games in a row)

I just think it gives you confidence when you win a game in the league. When you’re not winning, you realize how hard it is to do. When you finally do win a couple in a row, win one on the road which we haven’t done. A lot of firsts yesterday, winning on the road, winning two in a row. We won all three games, really close at the last second-type of wins. That’s all good stuff we can build on. It just builds confidence going into the next week and watching tape. We talked about when you lose a game, how close it really was. When you win a game, we realize we could play a lot better than we did yesterday in all three phases of the game. I think the guys are confident. We’re playing a division game again. We’re 0-1 in our division against a team that’s 3-3, that is playing kind of similar to how we are. This is going to be a big-time game for us to come in here and get a division win, and get back to 4-4, but it’s not going to be easy to do. Indianapolis is playing very well, won a big game yesterday for them, beat Green Bay a couple of weeks ago, so they’re obviously kind of in the same position we’re in.

(on how much credit Andrew Luck should get for the Colts’ progress so far this season)

We haven’t started studying them a lot yet, just seeing clips, too. We’ll start that today. I think any time you have a quarterback, obviously he’s getting credit, because it seems like he’s doing a lot for them already. They’re letting him throw the ball quite a bit. He’s making big plays for them. I obviously saw, the Green Bay game quite a bit, where he had a huge comeback in that game at home, threw for a bunch of yards, made some plays. Any time you have a quarterback, you always have a chance of winning. I think they were behind big in that game and came back and won it. Just another great challenge for us. We have to keep getting better. We are at no means thinking we’ve made it. We’ve won two games in a row, we’re 3-4. We have a lot of things we’re not doing well. We’re happy that the last couple of weeks we’ve turned a lot of that around, but we have a long way to go before we take anyone for granted. This is going to be a very hard game for us to win.

(on how to best fix the defense’s struggles)

Just get more consistent, I guess. We find ways, yesterday in that game, for example, we made the plays when we had to, to win the game. You watch the last three drives, we got three three-and-outs, we got the ball back for the offense twice. They could have driven the ball at the end of the game for the go-ahead field goal, but we get a four-and-out, make a stop there. We finish the game making great plays, stopping the screen, stopping the run, hitting the quarterback, making an interception. So obviously, it’s possible to do that all game long. That’s what we need to do. We need to be more consistent from start to finish. As a team, we haven’t been that way. Obviously, when we lost on the offensive side, when we got behind in two or three of our games, offensively we were inconsistent. Yesterday you saw us much more consistent on offense. It’s coming, we just have to get it to where we can do it for a whole game. Like I said, in this league you talk about that it’s all about making plays. You’d rather do it all game long, but if you have to…We went on the road for the first time this year and didn’t turn the ball over. The previous games, we turned the ball over six times which cost us about 30 points to the defense. Yesterday, we get two turnovers and score 14 points. That’s how you win the games on the road. All the other stuff is important, but the bottom line is that stat is usually the most telling one that you look at, especially for teams on turnover ratio. Yesterday we took care of the ball on the offensive side of the ball, didn’t make it easy for Buffalo in any way. Our defense got two big plays, the sack and the fumble by Kamerion (Wimbley) and then the interception by Jason (McCourty) at the end.

(on if he has considered having defensive coordinator Jerry Gray coach from the box)

I think it’s a preference, where they feel comfortable calling the game. Like I said, Chris (Palmer) has done both in his career. He felt very comfortable doing it either way, same with Jerry (Gray). Jerry has done both too. We’ll look at anything if we think it’s going to make a difference or help us in some way. So right now, we’re comfortable with the way we’re doing it.

(on how Chris Palmer ended up coaching from the box)

Just us as a staff talking about what we thought was best. Like I said, a lot of that was not about the play calling, but more about the young receivers. We thought it was a good idea to have Dave Ragone down there with his receivers during the game.

(on if he would potentially have a conversation with Jerry Gray about coaching in the box)

Are we doing that this week? Not necessarily, no. We talk about those things all the time, about different ways. As a coaching staff, you almost probably do it to a fault of what we can do better as a staff to help us win games on Sunday. There is only so much a staff can do, but there are definitely ways to improve what we do. We’re always looking for ways. ‘How about if we do this or do that or do this? Or move this guy here?’ You’re always looking at all the possibilities. We always talk about all that. Right now, we feel we’re doing it the way we need to do it. 

(on if he might tweak the players’ schedule after back-to-back wins)

Well, like you said, it went well for us. We had the Thursday game, we won. As far as schedules go as a head coach, we keep all of our schedules from training camp on, OTA’s, all of that stuff and we are always analyzing what we thought went well. We go back after a short week for example, and then the long week, and what we did to get ready for the Pittsburgh game, and how I ran practice and how we did meetings and keep track. Then, daily figuring out what I liked or didn’t like or get feedback from the players. Going off a long week, how many days should you give them off? Do you give them off two days or three days? What do other teams do? But it’s more about what is best for your players. You keep that and look at that next year and see where you adjust it, no different than I do after a game of what we could do better as coaches. ‘Hey, should I call a timeout here? Should I have done this? Should I have done that?’ As a coach, that’s all you can analyze. There is no film to watch of us, of what we did. So yeah, we’re constantly doing that and trying to find out what’s best. ‘Maybe this made a difference, or maybe if I had done something differently.’ But it worked out well for us, because obviously our two best games were the last two weeks, Thursday, the short week, and the long week where we came back in both situations and played pretty well. 

(on the success of the no-huddle offense early on the first drive)

Yeah, we’ve been working on it. It’s something we’ve done all through training camp for both reasons, to get our defense ready for it because there are a lot of teams that do no-huddle. Like we knew we were opening up against the Patriots that did it, we practiced against Atlanta who did it. We’ve had work on both sides. We didn’t stay in the no-huddle, we kind of worked it in, which I think was a good way to do it too. There are a lot of ways…We didn’t go to two-minute, it was pretty much like run a couple of plays, get into it, stayed there for a couple of plays, get back out. I think the players are very comfortable with that, and Chris Palmer has done a great job with that. So that’s something we feel we can do at any time. We did it in the Patriot game, I think with Jake (Locker). We did it in the preseason with Jake, back in those games. It’s something we’ve shown at times. The Buffalo game, it just kind of gave us momentum, I think, on that first drive, especially if we’re completing balls. I don’t know if we had a third down on the first drive when we went down and scored. We did a nice job on first and second downs.

(on the Bills’ success on screens and passes to the running backs)

They’ve been pretty much good at it all year. They have some pretty good players that make people miss. They got us on that middle screen early; they screened five, six times a game. The good thing is the most important one of the game is the one we stopped them on, the one they tried in the fourth quarter where they got a five-yard loss. They made some plays on some screens. They run them well, that spread offense where you’re doing a little bit of everything and running the ball and throwing the quick screens out there, the slow screens and getting the ball out of your hands quick. The good thing is when he held the ball like a normal quarterback, he got sacked and fumbled it early in the third quarter when (Kamerion) Wimbley got him. Most times the ball comes out quickly, and when he had to hold the ball in the fourth quarter, he threw the pick. He got hit by (Derrick) Morgan and threw the short ball there that we picked off. Then we hit him at the end twice when he was trying to throw the ball. When he had to hold it longer, we got there and we created problems for them. When we kept in rhythm, he was able to get the ball out where obviously, we couldn’t get there. They beat us a couple times in blitzes for a touchdown. We were rolling the dice with them blitzing, trying to get after them. They made some plays. That’s a team you have to be careful with because they run so many screens. You can get caught blitzing too much or bringing too much pressure, and they make plays on you. We knew it’d be like that, and we knew it’d be one of those back-and-forth-types of games. It seems like it always is with them. Luckily, we made enough plays at the end to win.

(on if Chris Johnson’s growing confidence is making him more decisive)

I just think it’s in general. He’s getting more opportunities. The holes are better, they’re more consistent. He’s getting the opportunity to run some of the same runs more than one time. Obviously, he’s running hard. He got some open space and had an 80-yard run. I think from what they’ve told me, he’s the first one in the history of the league to have four of them. That’s something special, I think, to be proud of. You realize how hard that is to come by, and you have one guy that plays for us, that has four of them. I thought that was great for him. I think you saw the speed, once he got through the hole, and he hit it quick and decisive. That’s what I think we’re capable of. I thought the touchdown run before that, 16 yards, his effort was great there, diving to get in. He’s all in. He wants to get the yards, and he wants to have big games, but he can’t do it by himself. He’s got to run well and consistent, and we have to continue to block for him. But more importantly, we have to stay in games where he can have the opportunity to carry the ball 20 times.

(on injuries suffered during Sunday’s game)

Zac Diles will be out, probably have to go on injured reserve (because) he broke his leg. It was hard during the game. We lost him, and then, you know, he only played about 10 plays, 11 plays, got hurt right away, which is very unfortunate. Then (Will) Witherspoon got hurt, hurt his hamstring, so he was kind of hobbled, trying to play. He should be OK for this week, we assume, so Tim Shaw had to come in and play. Between that and special teams, rolling with guys as they were getting hurt, was definitely a challenge during the game, so we’ll have to wait and see how—the good news is that we should have McCarthy back for this week, so that’s good, so we should have the three starting guys actually intact for this game, but the question now, is more about the depth at linebacker.

(on what happened to cause Zac Diles’ broken leg)

I didn’t get a chance to talk to him. On the film, it was kind of hard to see. On that field, I couldn’t tell, it was hard to see how it happened. It didn’t look like there was any contact when it actually happened on the play he was involved in.

(on other injuries)

(Ryan) Mouton [shoulder] should be OK. Patrick Bailey, ribs, he could be very questionable this week because I think he broke a rib, so that’s definitely going to be questionable, depending on the pain. That’s very painful, obviously. (Craig) Stevens had that last year, and it could cost him the week. Mouton should be fine to play; I think (Jordan) Babineaux had a wrist. He’s OK. (Witherspoon), like we talked about, has a hamstring issue, but he’ll be OK for the game. We expect to have Colin (McCarthy) back for this game, and then Michael Roos, this morning, had his appendix (taken) out, so he’ll be day-to-day.

(on when Michael Roos had the problem with the appendix)

I guess during the night, during the evening, so he had the surgery this morning.

(on if Michael Roos will play Sunday)

We haven’t, this just happened, so we’ll have to wait and see. I haven’t really talked to the doctor about it as far how that all goes. Day-to-day.

(on Michael Roos’ durability at left tackle)

Yeah, he hasn’t missed a start since he’s been here. If anyone, he’s kind of like Bruce Matthews was. He’s a quick healer, he can tolerate high pain levels and still play, which he’s done since he’s been here, so we’ll have to wait and see. It’s hard to say, other than telling you what happened. We just don’t know much as far as, it’s not something that happens very often, as far as football players, so it’s hard to tell what that will mean as far as when he can play again, how quickly he can play, and we’ll have to see.

(on if Mike Otto would replace Michael Roos)

Yeah, Mike would play.

(on if Michael Roos is in similar position to former Titans TE Shad Meier)

We don’t know. We’re just getting into it. I’m not sure what happened with (Shad Meier) when he had it or how much time he missed or if it’s all the same, if the procedure is the same or different than (Michael Roos) had, so it’s kind of hard to talk about.

(on if Michael Roos had difficulty during the trip to Buffalo)

I think he was a little sore, but he was checked out and nothing, there were no symptoms of any kind. He was cleared, thought he was going to be OK. He was fine and then, obviously, he played the game and was OK after the game, and I guess in the evening, in the morning, it started bothering him.

(on if the team will try to sign a replacement for Zac Diles or elevate Thaddeus Gibson from the practice squad)

We’ll probably look at linebackers. (Thaddeus Gibson) is more of a defensive lineman, so I think we’ll look at linebackers. We’ll have some coming in tomorrow, this afternoon, looking at that position because we are going to be shorthanded there now.

(on if Chris Johnson is getting to the next level of the defense easier)

I think we’ve created more lanes for him to do that. Yes, I think that the blocking is getting better. It’s a little bit of everything. I think the blocking, the play calling. Everyone takes the blame, everyone should get the credit because it’s not just one thing. It’s a lot of times, when you call a certain play, I thought (offensive coordinator) Chris (Palmer) did a great job yesterday of changing it up when we were calling the runs. We stuck with it, so we got into some situations where they thought we weren’t going to run it, like the inside zone play we ran for a (27-yard) run. I think in the fourth quarter, on the last drive, they didn’t expect that. They had seven in the box, we hand it off on an inside zone and we have a (27-yard) run that put us in position to win that game. So I think Chris did a great job of that because we stayed in the game, so you had more options, more opportunity to mix the run game in throughout the game rather than just pass every down. I think that’s helped (Chris Johnson) quite a bit, and because of that, the lanes are (there), we’re not as predictable. When you’re in games like that, close games, it’s a lot harder for a defense to figure out what you’re doing versus the alternative, so it’s all things working well together, and I think confidence grows, the blocking gets better, the running back all of a sudden is better and all of a sudden, two weeks later, the offensive line must not be as bad as we all thought. The running back, maybe he does have a couple years left, after two weeks. As far as we’re concerned, we’ve just got to keep it going. It’s not going to matter how we get — it’s nice to have success, but we know we have a long year to go. We’ve got to come back and have another great day against Indianapolis running the football. If we do that, we’ll continue to win.

(on Al Afalava’s play in a relief role Sunday)

Yeah, he did a nice job. That’s what Al (Afalava) can do. I think we thought, when he made the team, he’d get more opportunities. The problem with some of the games is we weren’t able to suit him up because of numbers and issues and numbers at linebacker and things like that. You can’t suit everybody up, so unfortunately, he wasn’t in position to do that in some of those games, and now that he’s been up, again, we wanted to find ways to get him in, the same way with (Jordan Babineaux), he’s been starting since he’s been here. Again, he’s a guy, those guys are playing every snap. The guy is playing 100 percent of the plays, plus playing a lot of special teams for us, so again, we’re trying to find ways to give him a break during the game also. So it’s kind of a combination of things, and we think Al is a heavy hitter, does make a difference when he’s in there and so, when he got an opportunity on a couple of series, he did a nice job, so hopefully that’s something that there will be a spot, a place for him at times, some packages that we can get him on the field to kind of change up our style of play some. 

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