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Coach Munchak's Nov. 11 Practice Report

Posted Nov 11, 2013

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on Jake Locker’s injury status)

Jake (Locker) will be out for the year with a foot injury. We don’t know when and if he will need surgery and how to handle all that going forward, but he won’t play the rest of the year.

(on losing him for the season)

Ryan Fitzpatrick will replace Jake Locker in the starting lineup. Locker will miss the rest of the season with a foot injury he suffered against Jacksonville.

It’s very disappointing. It’s hard on the team like we talked about. When we were 3-1 we thought he was really coming into his own, and we thought the team was kind of coming together, becoming his. With the injury, like we all know, we kind of struggled after that point, more so than we thought we would, on offense especially. We got him back, but we didn’t think he was 100 percent comfortable yet — we thought that would be coming in the next eight weeks. To lose him now is a huge blow. When you watch any team lose their quarterback, it’s a big effect on the team. Losing him, losing the center (Brian Schwenke) in the first quarter, it made it hard.

(on how the injury happened)

I didn’t talk to him about it yet. I know the doctors and everyone who is looking at him, (said) it didn’t seem like he tried to stop and plant. It seemed like it was a non-contact thing, but I didn’t study it. You couldn’t see anything that was obvious.

(on the recovery timeline)

I don’t know. I mean, for Lisfranc (injuries) I think it’s different depending on what they decide to do I guess, what work they do. Other than (him) being out for the year, we just don’t know. I think that’s something over the next couple of days (we will know more about). I’m sure he’ll talk to surgeons and decide what the best path is, and we’ll know more about recovery.

(on how he is handling the injury)

That’s the thing that’s hard for him, too. He’s your quarterback, he’s the guy we thought would be here for a long time. That may still work out, it’s just that right now it’s disappointing — last year and this year — that he wasn’t able to finish the season and really find out what team we have and what team we could become on offense. It’s hard for him. I know how depressed he is, I know how hard this hurt him and our team. He’s a fighter, and I know all that. If anyone can come back off another injury, it’s going to be him. It’s hard right now, (but) we’re just concentrating on these next few weeks. That’s all we’re concerned about. Next year is next year. Right now we just got to go forward and find a way to win.

(on rethinking how to use Jake Locker)

I don’t think so. He could run the inside counters and stuff people do with their quarterback. I mean that play he got hurt he’s outside, that’s like a boot play. He’s on the edge, and he has plenty of time to slide or make a decision with what to do with himself. Those kinds of things he should be able to continue to do. I just think anytime you have a quarterback that has running ability, you have to be careful not having too much for him because he took the hardest hit on the pass play where he took off and ran and didn’t get down in time and got hit pretty good there. After that happened I said, ‘Hey, start sliding.’ He didn’t, and unfortunately he got hurt.

(on whether he was trying to get extra yards when he dove head-first after a run)

I’m sure he was. It’s all about making plays just like he went for the tackle. He’s always wanting to find a win to help the team win. I think he figured I might as well get a first down. I’m not quite sure in that split second if he was going to stop, maybe juke a guy. He could have flipped it back to CJ (Chris Johnson), he could have slid. I mean, he had options. It’s just a freak play. You can go back and look at those things and he can do that 100 times and it wouldn’t happen again.

(on concerns about Jake Locker being injury-prone)

I think that’s stuff we’ll talk about when the season’s over when we start making the next decisions on the next season. Now it’s just a matter of we don’t have him for this season, so we just got figure out what we do about that and how we go forward. That’s a nice February discussion as far as the health of him and other players.

(on the backup quarterback situation and whether the team will make roster moves)

Rusty (Smith) is up. Right now, Rusty’s the best answer for us (because) he knows what we’re doing. I think he’d be fine going in and running the offense, so he’ll become the two in practice. Obviously, we’re on the short week, so we’ll be doing what we’ve been doing — seeing what other options there are to add a third and who it might be (and if) there is a better second. We don’t think so necessarily right now, so we’re going to have our work cut out for us.

(on the state of the offense with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm)

I just think he wasn’t as comfortable the first time around. He’ll use this as a great opportunity for him to really show I think what kind of quarterback he is and can be. The team didn’t play well during that time, (and) we didn’t help him a lot on offense during those games against some defenses. I think yesterday he came in and did some really good things with the ball and got us in a position to win that football game. He put some yards up, made some good throws. He threw for a touchdown, made a good decision there. I thought overall he came in yesterday and did a really nice job. If he can continue to do that and we don’t have the turnovers…we saw what happened when you four turnovers and a safety — you don’t win. Just like Indy found out — you can’t do that, or you’re going to lose no matter who you play. We got to make sure that part doesn’t creep back in, but he’s excited about his opportunity. I know he’s wanting to come out and play, so we’ll see. We need him to play well, obviously, and we got to help him.

(on losing the game and starting quarterback on Sunday)

I think it was hard to take, there’s no doubt. With the short week, first of all, you’re hoping to win and not get as many guys hurt because there’s not a whole lot of time to make changes. But, it’s hard. We went through this two year in a row now, and shuffling the deck is not a good thing to do—you can see that from other teams. So, it was very hard at the time, but we don’t have much time to worry about it. We didn’t play well. It wouldn’t have mattered who was playing yesterday (because) we made that game very hard on ourselves. We need to change that for this weekend.

(on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s outing Sunday in relief of Jake Locker)

I’m assuming he’ll handle it well, I thought he did handle it pretty well yesterday. When he was pressured, he got the ball out and made good decisions with the ball. He moved the chains for the most part, and he got us back in it when we looked like we weren’t ever going to get back in it and gave us a chance to be two (points) down and a change to win. Even when we blew that, we, again, had a chance at an onside kick and a chance to win the football game. Teams have done that many times, and we had plenty of time to score at the end if we got the onside kick. We made it hard on ourselves, but he put us back in. we didn’t give up on that part, but we shouldn’t have been in that position. When you are, you have to figure out how to win those games.

(on Brian Schwenke’s status)

He’s pretty sore. With the short week, it’s going to be hard for him. We’ll see how quickly he can come back and see if he can back up or where he’s at with that. He’s kind of day-to-day with that because those ankles can get better quickly or it could be something that’s going to take a little bit of time. We’re kind of holding our breath, and we’ll see.

(on whether his injury is season-ending)

No. I’d hope that he would be ready for the next game with the 10-day break if he’s not ready to help us this week.

(on Damian Williams’ status)

Damian’s (Williams) the same way; he’ll be day-to-day. He was over there finishing up his tests, so him and (Brian) Schwenke are probably the two guys we don’t know as much about yet.

(on whether his injury is hip- or quad-related)

I don’t know. I haven’t heard exactly, but it’s more of a hip I think, hip area. I don’t know, but we’re waiting to see. I haven’t heard officially. He had a lot going on today, and I didn’t hear exactly what’s going on.

(on who will assume kickoff and punt return duties in Damian Williams’ absence)

We’re going to have to look at that. We can’t put Vern (Alterraun Verner)…we can’t lose our best corner that is playing so well. We saw how Damian’s (Williams) out there one game and the receiver gets hurt. It’s a tough position to have to play, so that’s another position we’re looking at to see the best way to go about it Thursday night.

(on whether the kick returner is coached to come out of the end zone every time)

No. Last week we got two out to the 30 with him bringing it out. Same with this week. We got one where we did a better job on. But, the first two, again, wasn’t blocked well. Those are opportunities to make plays and start the game, and we thought we could make a play. We thought in that phase of the game that we wanted to give Damian (Williams) a chance. It’s one of those things where if you don’t get out it looks like, ‘Hey, just take a knee.’ On those two, we didn’t block it as well as we hoped, and we started at the 15.

(on special teams play this season)

We gave up points which has hurt us. We were in the Kansas City game and we got one back in the Seattle game, but Pittsburgh…some strange things have happened to this team this year. I think we’ve been solid in some areas. I think we’re number five or four in the league in coverage. We’re in the top-10 on field position which is a big part of special teams—last year we were in the bottom, almost 28th or 29th on field position where the defense and offense started. We’re doing some of the hidden numbers better, but we just haven’t had any points. We haven’t scored points; we’ve given them up. When your team gets hurt, your special teams gets hurt because now guys can’t play on special teams because you’re pulling George Wilson, you’re pulling guys off special teams. (Patrick) Bailey’s been hurt and missed three or four games, (Zaviar) Gooden’s missed three or four games. Your core guys have been hurt, so you have guys out there that are trying to do their best to help, but they’re limited in certain roles.

(on the onside kick)

I think it’s effective. I think both are effective or have been. It’s something we felt comfortable with. We hadn’t had to do one in a while, and we thought at that point that was the best way to go.

(on what happened with the onside kick)

It was supposed to be hard to handle the way he kicked it with the spin. Obviously, they recovered it. I know (the percentage) isn’t good to get that kick. We thought it’s about making a play, and special teams needed to make one there. We needed 20 yards, and we had a chance to kick it and win it. We just can’t put ourselves in those positions.

(on whether anyone on the roster can return kicks and punts)

Yes. There’s some guys on the roster we’re looking at. We’re looking to see who’s available elsewhere. That’s something we’ll probably have figured out by tomorrow or tonight.

(on whether Devon Wylie can assume return duties)

(Devon) Wylie is a guy that can do it. He did it in preseason for Kansas City. He did a nice job in preseason, so he’s definitely a guy we could consider.

(on the challenges of preparing for a game on a short week)

I just think this game wasn’t the one I was ever worried about because this one (there’s) natural energy because it’s Thursday night football, it’s here, it’s a division game. If we can repeat what we did last year, come out, play well like we did against Pittsburgh, (that’s) what we need to do and find a way to beat the division leader. They’re coming off a tough game, so obviously they’re going to come out locked and loaded because they’re embarrassed by what happened to them. I don’t think the Rams are 30 points better than them. It’s going to be a tough game. When you throw interceptions, that’s what happens.

(on whether the Titans are an average team)

We don’t think that. Obviously, internally we don’t think that, but our record is telling you that. Until we show otherwise, it’s hard to stand here and say (we’re not average). I think we have the makings, (and) I know we’re a lot better than we were last year. We had four games we could have won in the fourth quarter. If we put ourselves in those positions to be perfect in the fourth quarter, then we have to finish drives. (Otherwise we) have to play better earlier in the game and you don’t have to worry about all that like we did against the Jets. That’s the challenge, and we’re hurting ourselves. All those games we could have, should have (won), but we didn’t.

(on whether the team has an identity)

I think so. I think it’s coming. I thought on defense this year has been more of what we thought we’d be. I think we’re more physical, and I think we’re playing better against the run. On third down on both sides of the ball we’re in the top-10 on offense and defense. Statistically we got sacks, (Jurrell) Casey’s got seven sacks. Vern (Alterraun Verner) has more interceptions than any corner in the league. We could talk about stats, but the only stat that matters ultimately is wins and losses. We have guys that are playing very well within the system, a lot better than they’ve ever played. Delanie (Walker) has more catches than he’s ever had at the tight end position, CJ (Chris Johnson) is third in rushing. There’s all these little things, but the bottom line for us is winning. Do I think we’re better? Definitely. Do I think when you lose your quarterback that changes how things go? Definitely. But, we have to regroup from that. That’s going to be our challenge on offense. I think the defense has held the fort pretty well. Yesterday (the Jaguars) rushed for 20 yards, and (they have) a good running back. I think we did a lot of good things yesterday. They were 25 percent on third down. I mean, we were 58 percent. They had the ball on the ground three times, and we didn’t recover any. Things just didn’t go our way unfortunately, and that’s on us. We feel good about who we are, what we need to accomplish. We’re frustrated, and we need to find a way to win a football game this weekend.

(on changing the culture)

I think we’ve gone a long way that way especially on the defensive side of the ball. I think this team is a lot more together, a lot more locked into what we’re trying to accomplish, handling adversity much better than we have the two years previous for me because of guys like George Wilson and Bernard (Pollard) and Moise (Fokou) and guys like that and Ropati (Pitoitua). I think those guys have done a nice job. The hard part is when you lose your quarterback. He’s the guy that you’re hoping grows into your guys. Unfortunately, with the injuries we’ve lost the strong position where your leadership comes from on offense.

(on whether guys should be self-starters or motivated by coaches)

I think it would be both. I think we’ve rolled the roster around, changed who’s playing. We’ve changed guys’ reps, moved guys to different positions. We’ve done it at receiver, we’ve done it at offensive line, the linebacker position; we’ve kind of moved it around quite a bit I think to show guys what’s expected if there’s any concerns. I think we’re doing it that way, we’re doing it with how we practice, what’s expected of them. The discipline in the building and outside the building has been great. Hopefully it’s going to convert into us having a run here. We have to win the next two, three games. We have to beat Indy. We got Indy twice in three games, so that’s going to be our challenge.

(on whether there is a problem in the locker room)

No. No I don’t. No, I don’t see it. I haven’t heard. No.

(on whether Michael Preston will be called up)

It’s going to depend on where he’s at, what we do on returner, at offensive line. All those decisions will come today or tomorrow.

(on Delanie Walker and Bernard Pollard’s postgame locker room comments)

If there is a guy that feels that way, yeah, I think I would have heard. I don't know what you mean by a cancer or what your definition is. Well I don't know. Like I said, I haven't heard anything about that. That's two guys I talk to all the time, they haven't mentioned that to me. So, I'll be sure to ask them about it.

(on Moise Fokou and David Stewart’s statuses)

He (Moise Fokou) looks better; Stew (David Stewart) looks good. I’m hoping Stew can play this week. We assume he will, and Moise is still day-to-day still. It’s hard because we’re not doing a whole lot in practice, and we need to see where he’s at. The rest may be better for him, we’ll see.

(on why the Colts have been able to rebound after losses)

Their quarterback. I think their quarterback..we saw firsthand last year. We had two games, and I thought we had them beat twice last year. He (Andrew Luck) made some great plays to take those games off us, and I think their defense plays hard and fast. (Robert) Mathis is still as good as any defensive end in football, so they’re doing it the right way. They have a quarterback that no matter what the score is can bring you back and win football games a lot in a short period of time. The key is their quarterback staying healthy, and he usually plays very well.

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