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Coach Munchak's Monday Press Conference

Posted Nov 6, 2012

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on whether the team will stick with the same schemes and personnel the rest of the season)

I think you’re evolving weekly with your team, with your players, especially when you’re having injuries. Doing what you think is best, having the best players out there. We feel we’re definitely doing that, as far as playing the right people. Week in and week out, every team does the same thing. We’re going to move forward with what we’re doing. A game like yesterday, I hope that we won’t turn the ball over five times next week and have two special teams touchdowns given up. Basically 35 points were given up not by the defense in one game. I don’t know how often that’s been done before in the history of the league. We gave the game away, and I don’t think you’ll see us do that again. That’s the part of this that’s hard to handle, why all that would happen in one game. Both sides of the ball there, special teams and offense struggling to take care of the football.

(on how he thinks the team has embraced his motto of ‘Be a pro, do your job’)

I guess it depends in what capacity you look at it. In a lot of ways, that’s going on. If you’re talking about yesterday in particular, obviously, don’t fumble the football. Everyone from eight years old at the time knows that you don’t throw interceptions and you don’t turn the ball over and expect to win. Obviously we didn’t do our job yesterday.

(on if players were hanging their heads after watching the tape from Sunday’s game)

I don’t think so, but maybe coaches will stand here all the time and say that. We obviously are embarrassed by how the game went, by making that many mistakes with the football I’m saying, with the breakdown in protection on the punt for a touchdown, with a punt not punted well for a punt return, things we haven’t done that are totally unlike us. I think up until that point yesterday, we had two fumbles by our skill players. I think Chris (Johnson) had one fumble in the Minnesota game, and I think we had one fumble by a receiver after eight weeks. In that game, we had four. We’re not a team that fumbles the football very often. Actually, I think Chris had one fumble in 170 carries when he did the Minnesota game, so it’s not something that happens very often with us at all. We’re usually very disciplined in that area. We hadn’t had a turnover in two weeks on offense or as a team in general in the last two weeks up until last week. We played a very good football team yesterday, and we didn’t give ourselves a chance to win, and that’s hard to take.

(on if his message to the team about the Bears’ defense got lost)

I don’t think so. They knew they were good at something. They were aware of it, they see it on film. You don’t have to be told. You watch the Detroit game, and I think Detroit fumbled three or four times just two weeks ago, that cost them that game. They were very well aware of it, that these guys hit. But again, you can’t simulate something when you’re getting hit and guys are stripping. During the week you can have guys grabbing at the ball and doing those kinds of things, but it’s definitely a different mentality when you’re in the heat of the battle and you have two guys tackling you and you’re trying to push a guy off and someone else gets the ball. Usually, we do a very good job with that. Like I said yesterday, give them credit. They’re known for being good at it. We didn’t expect, obviously, the ball to come out. I don’t think these guys did. I think they were trying to make plays. That first play of the game, Kenny (Britt) makes a great…We have a 30-yard gain on the first snap. He’s trying to defend one defender and the ball comes out. I don’t know. We were very well aware that they do a very good job of ball-hawking and getting the ball out, their whole defense does. Unfortunately, they were successful against us.

(on if Jamie Harper missed a blocking assignment on the blocked punt)

There was confusion on that. We had a protection breakdown. He’s on the outside there. That was something that never should have happened, and it happened.

(on Devin Hester’s long punt return)

It was the one that was kicked in the middle. It was kicked low and short, that was the problem. The other kicks were good. I thought the other kicks we did a very good job of covering and putting them in the corners. It wasn’t a very good kick by Brett (Kern). When it’s not a good kick, you have to make up for it with a good tackle. We missed a tackle on top of it being a poor kick. It ended up as great field position for them.

(on the back-to-back illegal formation penalties in the first quarter)

To me, they cover each other up, and it shouldn’t happen. No matter what formation is called or who is responsible, if you have three guys next to each other, a tight end and two receivers, they should communicate along the lines of making sure two are back and one is up. They didn’t do that. I think one time Chris (Johnson) came out late. I think they already adjusted and didn’t know Chris was coming out in the empty formation. You come up with a lot of excuses, but bottom line, it shouldn’t happen.

(on Kendall Wright’s comment that he lined up as he had in practice)

Again I don’t want to comment on something. I don’t know which one of those plays Kendall (Wright) is referring to.

(on if it’s possible that someone lined up wrong all week at practice)

No, it’s not.

(on the struggles of the special teams unit)

It is disappointing. Like you said, that was the one phase that we have said has been consistent for us. Yesterday, having the bad play, having the return, having the block is totally unlike us. It seemed like the whole game was totally unlike us. That’s why it’s so hard to explain why that would happen on a day at home against a very good football team that was coming in. We knew what was at stake, and we went out and made some mistakes that we normally would not make.

(on the dialogue he’s had with Mr. Adams throughout the season)

Periodically, most of the home games Mr. Adams comes in for, so I’ll get a chance to speak with him briefly. I usually check in during the week after games. That’s kind of the usual deal. 

(on if he spoke with Mr. Adams on Monday)

Yes, we spoke briefly today, which we have done before after games.

(on the conversation that he had with Mr. Adams on Monday)

That’s between him and I.

(on his reaction to Mr. Adams’ comments after the game on Sunday)

Obviously Mr. Adams is very much entitled to his opinion. I probably would have said the same thing if I were him. This is his team, he expects us to play well, especially at home. That’s our job, that’s my job, to make sure that we’re out there playing our best and playing games at home, hopefully, every time we line up. We didn’t do that, and we didn’t play well. I’d be upset too, if I were him.

(on if the coaches and players feel any added pressure after those comments)

We should have the same pressure every week. I hope that’s not what it takes to win a football game or play better. Every week, you line up. This is your job, this is your livelihood. You’ve been blessed to play this game and coach it. When you line up on a Sunday, it’s all about winning. That’s what we need to do, and we didn’t do it last week.

(on if he expects that any coaching moves would not be made until after the conclusion of the season)

Well again, we’re looking into the future, the crystal ball. Right now, no, I’m not planning on making any changes. That doesn’t mean that I mean that I could make a change three weeks from now. We’re moving forward, we have to win football games. Right now, I’m not spending my time deciding on making coaching changes. No, I’m not thinking of doing that.

(on how much pressure he feels now)

It always does when you’re not winning. As a player, I feel the pressure because it’s something you want to do. You work so hard to do something, and when you don’t have success, it’s hard to take. When you become a coach, as a line coach, I feel the same pressure many times here in Nashville, when we weren’t playing well. People thought we were done at different times when we were 1-4 and had bad records and came off some horrible losses, everything was coming to an end. There’s pressure because at that time, I’m responsible for getting an offense line ready to play. What else can I do to help these guys play better? Now as a head coach, I have more responsibility, obviously. I’m responsible for putting a team out there that is ready to play, and that the city is proud of, and that we can go get in the playoffs like the plan is to do. Obviously, the last two weeks, we haven’t done that.

(on if he expects that Jake Locker will start on Sunday)

Like I said, he’s been progressing well. He had good practices last week. He’s seeing the doctor today as far as the weekly exam he gets, and then we’ll know more then. Hopefully, he’ll keep progressing and we’ll do more with him this week and make those decisions as we go forward.

(on if he expects that Jake Locker will be cleared for contact this week)

That’s the step. That’s the next step you’re hoping for. He’s practicing out there 11-on-11. Now, obviously, in practice you’re not going to tackle anyway. The next step at some point would be for him to start taking game reps or reps during practice for Miami. If that goes well, then that would be the next step if he’s at that point. Right now, he might just do the same thing he did last week, and stick with the scout team reps. That’s something we’ll find out over the next day or so.

(on if he wants to name a starting quarterback by Wednesday)

Oh, definitely. I think it’d be more, if we got, hypothetically, to Wednesday where we thought he was able to take the next step and start taking team reps, then it’d be more about seeing how he did that way physically and mentally getting ready for an actual game again. If we felt he was there, then it’d be the final step of, ‘Hey listen, he’s ready to play.’

(on if he thinks it would be better to hold Jake Locker out until after the bye week)

If we think it would help him, yeah. After talking with the doctors tomorrow, if we think that that’s the best thing to do because of where he’s at, then yeah. But if we say, ‘Hey, you know what? He can play, he’s ready to go.’ Then why wait? I guess that’s how we look at it. Again, like I mentioned yesterday, winning or losing, I know a lot of people go by that, thinking if we’re 3-0, we’ll do this, or if 0-3, we’ll do this. That really didn’t have a factor either way.

(on if he expects that playing Jake Locker would provide a spark)

I think he’ll provide a spark if we’re winning or losing. That’s why he’s our starter. That’s why I always answer the question the same. That when he’s healthy and we felt he was ready to play, we’d put him in there because he brings a different type of spark than Matt (Hasselbeck) does. When Matt jumped in there, he does things differently, and he does different things well. I think anytime you have a little adjustment to the roster, even though you may not want to have to do it because of injury, you hope that it brings something positive to the equation. Obviously, Matt has done that this year when he’s stepped in and played. I think he brought a little different type of excitement. All of a sudden when Jake (Locker) does come back at some point, I think he’ll do the same.

(on if lopsided losses are difficult for the team)

I don’t know. I thought last week was a lot harder on me than any of the others. This game was most disappointing because it’s embarrassing to lose at home by playing so sloppy. Every loss has a little different character to it, different feel to it. The team you saw out there yesterday was not…We could play the Bears 10 more times, and that kind of game is never going to happen ever again, but it happened on Sunday, so we have to deal with it. That’s the hard part of this loss, is that it’s hard to stand here and tell you that we did a lot of good things in that game yesterday, but some players played very well. That’s going to get long lost when you’re losing by 30 points. The way we lost, it wasn’t like grind it out, it was big turnover plays that just pretty much put us behind. That game was hard to take. Last week, I thought for me, was probably one of the hardest losses I’ve had as a head coach. We could have won the game 20 different ways, and we lost. That was hard to take, because you start thinking as a coach, when it’s that close, you think any one play can change the game. We didn’t make any of those plays, we went 0-for last week to win that game, and we lost in overtime. I think every loss has its unique feel to it. To answer your question, yeah, I think it’s hard to take. The good thing for the players is they get to watch the tape in detail and see what was supposed to happen and what was called. I think that gives you a little better feel for the direction you’re going because a player can see better the good in some of the things that are going on, and that it’s not as far as it may seem by the lopsided losses you’re referring to. But it is what it is, it’s a loss. Last week was one loss, this is one. As ugly as it was, it’s only one loss. We come back to Miami, we have to win the game. That’s where we’re at. The NFL, the nice thing is you play on Sunday. We have to find a way to win the football game that obviously, most people think there is no way we can win. That should be how probably most of our games are going forward. It’s up to us to change that perspective. It’s going to be how we play.

(on who played well Sunday)

I thought the offensive line was solid during the game. I thought Jurrell Casey played pretty hard throughout the game and made some plays. I thought Akeem Ayers made some nice plays throughout the game. Zach Brown made some nice tackles and played physical, so I think there’s guys that, were they error free? No, but there were a lot of things that were good. You asked about guys working hard and guys were working hard. I mean, Jurrell Casey in the last few minutes of the game, Jurrell sprinted seven yards down the sideline and made a tackle on a three-yard gain. I mean you see things like that, that’s what you want to see. There’s only so much good to look for in a game when it’s that way. I get that. Most people didn’t see it because you leave and it’s all about the disappointment, but you have to build on stuff for next week, so there’s still a lot of plays in there that were made by players that was good to watch. Heck, Chris Johnson fumbles two balls, has the penalty, and the last play of the game they ran a safety blitz, and he knocked a guy on his butt. He could have gone out there with half (the effort) and done whatever, but he wouldn’t have made the play. People get this perspective that because you lose, you’re not trying and the game doesn’t mean anything. Believe me, he doesn’t want to fumble the football. It means a lot to him that he put the ball on the ground. He knows he hurt the football team, all that stuff, but on top of that, it doesn’t mean he’s going to hang his head. He knows that he could get embarrassed on the next play and the next play also, so NFL players don’t quit on stuff, and I haven’t seen these guys quitting. We didn’t play well, but we didn’t quit on anything. 

(on sticking with the run later in the game despite falling behind early)

I think because it happened so fast. It was the first quarter, and we were down. It was just like bam, bam, bam because of our own fault that we felt the best stuff against Chicago anyway was the play action and running the football, and you could see they were consistent. They kept eight guys in the box anyway, up by 26, so they didn’t want us to run the ball. They were No. 1 in rushing defense going into that game. I think now they are sixth or seventh because we busted the big one, but he was having success running the ball before that. Other than the third-down-and-one that they got penetration on, I thought we ran the ball against a very good football team. People will say, ‘You guys were behind.’ Well, yeah, we were behind, but that doesn’t mean that they wanted to give up an 80-yard run or a 15-yard run or some of the runs we had there. We stuck with it for a reason: we thought that was the best way to stay with it without putting everything on Matt (Hasselbeck) and the receivers for the next three quarters, that we needed to get back into our offense, and we did that in the third quarter. We came out in the third quarter, we had a nice talk at halftime about what went on. We were all very disappointed about where we were at at halftime. We had a very good talk as a team at that point. We came out, we stopped them on defense, we sacked the quarterback, we took the ball and went down the field and scored. To me, if we had kept that going like that, then I think, even though we might not have won the football game, that’s what we were trying to achieve, is to see, somehow, if we could get back in it. You’re within three scores, you’re trying to figure out, OK, if we make a play here and make a play here and get to two scores by the fourth quarter, all of a sudden, you never know. I think that was the mentality when you saw us come out of the locker room, and both sides did a nice job, and we came back and ended up giving up the big run, which they ended up getting a field goal on, so again, give them credit. They made plays when they had to. They didn’t give us a chance even to see any kind of glimmer of getting back into it after that first (series) in the third quarter, so we stuck with that phase of the game because we thought that was a good way to move the ball on them.

(on if he anticipates making any lineup changes)

Like I said earlier, we always do. Even when you win a football game, some guys don’t play well. Just like on the opposite, even though we didn’t win the football game, some guys played well. There aren’t 22 guys or 30 guys all playing poorly because you lost, same thing when you win. Even though we win, there is maybe an area of the game that we’re not happy with, so we look at it as far as making adjustments or getting different players in there, maybe rolling this guy, maybe this guy is playing too much. If you’re a good staff and you’re good coaches, that’s something you should constantly be trying to make sure you’re doing the right thing, do we have the right guys in there? Are we asking them to do the right thing? Can they handle that? I think, win or lose, you’re doing that. Otherwise you’re going to get caught in a problem down the road. We try to do that on a weekly basis and don’t get caught up by if we won or lost to decide how thorough we should be in our evaluation of ourselves.

(on if he thinks Kendall Wright will be able to play Sunday)

At this point, yeah, I mean he got the elbow, but there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be able to play.

(on if he thinks Leroy Harris will be able to play Sunday)

Leroy (Harris) is more questionable. I think they’re re-examining him today. His knee was harder to examine when it happened because of the type of injury, because of how loose it was, it was swollen so it was hard to tell how loose or how strong it was. I think, today, he’s got an appointment to get checked on, so we’ll get a better feel for where he’s at.

(on Deuce Lutui’s play on Sunday)

Again, you talk about a little surge. He’s a fun guy, he kind of brought a little energy, I thought, to the group as far as his personality. He’s had 60, 70 starts in the league, he’s played in a Super Bowl. For not playing for a long time, I think he held his own. He did some things here and there, but nothing that hurt us. He was OK.

(on if Leroy Harris will potentially miss the rest of the season)

That’s a possibility depending on what we find out today with that knee. Again, you’re starting to get into a time crunch, six weeks. You know there is a bye in there, six, seven weeks left, so we need to see. It’s one of those things where if he can heal without surgery, is what they’re looking at. Can he put a brace on it, and can he do it that way, or can’t he? I think once we find that out, which would probably be this week, then we’ll know what to do.

(on if Markelle Martin is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list)

He’s this week. I think we have to make a decision on him this week.

(on if Al Afalava is hurt to the point where it makes the decision on Markelle Martin easier)

That’s the same thing. We’ll see where we think Al is at because it’s a roster spot, so we have to take a look and see what’s the best way to do that, and right now, until we get, like you said, there’s a handful of guys we need to see where their health is at, and that will help us make our decision this week.

(on what he’s seen out of Markelle Martin)

It’s hard to tell, because you can’t go by anything other than the college tape because he hasn’t been healthy since we drafted him. Unfortunately, he was limited in practices through OTAs, camp and even now the last couple of weeks, so it’s hard to get a real good feel for him, and then if you put a guy up, especially in that position, he has to go help on special teams right away, so those are the decisions we’re going to have to make.

(on if it is difficult to prevent finger pointing)

Again, for me, it hasn’t been a problem yet. I think, for me, and everyone in this building, or when they’re with me, they’re, I think, we’ve been handling things well for how things could be for how this season has gone, compared to what we thought we would do. Obviously, most teams think they’re going to do much better than 3-6, and we know we’ve had a tough schedule and all that good old stuff, but the bottom line is we haven’t played as well as we think we should, and we need to. Having said that, I think they’ve handled themselves, for me, very well because of all the things I ask them to do, they do. We’re out there practicing, and like I said, Thursday, I thought was as good a practice as we’ve had, as far as physically getting after it, challenging each other, competing, and that’s what you want to see. They’re competing, they’re working, they’re not finding a way not to practice. Most guys are out there going at it pretty good, so all indications that I can go by, are that they’re doing what we need to do and responding the way they should, even though it would be easy not to. There’s no doubt when you don’t have success, or when things don’t go your way, adversity, it’s easy to join in the masses and start saying what everybody else is saying or what people are telling them they should say or what their neighbors are saying or what the media is telling them exactly what’s going on with our team. I think they’re at least listening to what they think is really happening, and for us to get through this time, we’re going to have to do that, or that makes it hard. When guys start splintering off, I don’t see any merit in that. I don’t see the advantage in doing that. Even when I played and you had a guy on your team that would do some of that, nothing good comes of it. I mean, it’s not going to change anything for the positive. You’re better off doing it in here, like you would with your family. We’re family here. We’re all in this thing together. It we don’t win, you know what, we lose together and we win together. I think these guys believe in that part of it, so if you have something to say, it’s better to say it to your (position) coach or to me or to this room so we can work our way through it because we’re all unhappy and we didn’t lose that game because of one guy yesterday. We lost that game because of all of us: 53 of us, plus the coaching staff is responsible for where we’re at right now, and that’s the thing, I think, that they realize and that’s the talk that you hear me say to them. You’ve heard some of that stuff today to the players, and that’s their decision of how they handle themselves. They decide on their attitude and how they’re going to handle their situation, but I think so far, it’s been as good as it can be under the circumstances. They’re angry, they’re all the things they should be. But they’ll come back Wednesday, and we’ve got to find a way to beat Miami and then the conversation next Monday is much better.    

(on Al Afalava’s play)

You put the players in and you make roster changes. Well yeah, you do during the game. A guy that plays the run a little better, they’re running the ball a lot, you put a guy you think is a better run stopper in. Then you roll a guy into pass, and you put guys in situations you think they’ll be successful in. I think it’s just an example of trying to use guys. It doesn’t mean someone is playing horrible, it just means you think you have a better matchup. Coty Sensabaugh played more yesterday because of the matchups we liked with him versus Ryan Mouton. Ryan still played 10 or 12 plays, but didn’t play as much as he had because again, we’re trying to find ways to get guys in the best position and get them out there to make plays to help us win. You’re going to see that, and it doesn’t necessarily mean someone is doing poorly, it just means that we think this is a better fit for what we’re asking them to do. It could be a blitz package, it could be zone, it could be man. It could be depending on what we have for that game, for that play. So you’ll see Jerry (Gray), I think, doing more of that. We’re trying to do everything we can to win games. That’s what we’ll continue to do.

(on Xavier Adibi’s status)

Same thing, a knee, just don’t know how bad it is as far as he strained his ligament in his knee. It’s just a matter of again, we’ll have more information on him this afternoon or tomorrow.

(on if his demeanor is different behind closed doors)

I think you see mostly what my personality is. I’m not sure what you mean by lighting people up. I don’t throw things. Like I said before, I don’t flip the Gatorade cooler. If that’s all it would take, I would have done it long ago. I think I get people’s attention. I think the bottom line is getting people’s attention and getting them refocused on what you’re trying to say to them, and making sure you have their attention. So if it’s speaking louder and firmer to them, whatever is necessary to get their attention. I think these guys give me their attention, they’ve been respectful in that way. It hasn’t been an issue. Is that going to make a guy go play better? All I can do is refocus him and redirect him and hope that he’ll go out and use the ability he has to do that. I’ve never been around a coach that would yell at me, and I’d play better because I got yelled at. I’d like someone to talk to me because I realize that he doesn’t like what I’m doing, and I need to fix that. I think every player has to know that what he’s doing is right or wrong. Everyone wants a pat on the head, everyone wants a kick in the butt. I think that’s my job to make sure that I’m doing both, so that they feel that they constantly have direction, that I’m not accepting a certain behavior. We’re not going to accept guys fumbling. Did the guys fumble on purpose? Obviously, I know they didn’t, but that’s not acceptable behavior. Not lining up in the right formations is not acceptable. There are a lot of things you bring to their attention so we’re all on the same page. I think they get the point, as firmly as I can. I think I have good talks with them. It may not pay dividends immediately. When the smoke clears, you go out there and you yell at them at halftime, you may not get the win you want there in the third or fourth quarter. It looked good for about seven or eight minutes in the third quarter. Maybe I should have called timeout and repeated what I said, maybe we would have gotten another drive or something. That didn’t happen. Maybe it pays dividends as you go, maybe it pays dividends with guys not pointing fingers today or tomorrow. You know what? I’m going to go do this instead of doing that because something sticks in their head that I said to them either after the game or on Monday. That’s all you can hope for as a coach, I think, is make sure you’re doing those things. That’s my job, is to focus them, direct them, teach them, and try to get the best out of them. That’s what I’m trying to do.

(on the increased snaps for Sen’Derrick Marks and Jurrell Casey)

I think what happened was it was a cool day. I think (Jurrell) Casey played, like I mentioned earlier, we thought he played well, we thought he was getting good penetration. He’d been hurt most of the year with the elbow. He had that big old thing on his arm for all that time. Then he got the shoulder, so he was playing a lot less plays for a long time. I thought yesterday he had a lot of energy, played well. So again, it was working. I think it was one of those things where we just left him in there. I think (Sen’Derrick) Marks was moving around pretty well too in the middle. I think it was some of that, with the matchups obviously part of it too. I think the fact that the two of them, we thought, were pretty solid throughout the day, was the main part of the reason. 

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