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Coach Munchak's Nov. 19 Practice Report

Posted Nov 19, 2013

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on whether the team is fresh after the long weekend off)

I hope so. It was good. We got a chance to work against each other which was good. We haven’t been able to do that in a while, so that was good to get some good tempo that way. We worked on obviously moving ahead with the Raiders and some of the things we anticipate getting from them. It was a nice combination, good workout, quick tempo, good conditioning. We didn’t take a lot of rest in between, so we were able to get a lot of reps in a short period of time.

(on the Raiders’ quarterback situation)

I’m sure they won’t tell us until Sunday who’s going to be out there, but obviously (Terrelle) Pryor is a guy that’s going to be…we all understand how well he’s running the ball this year. We’re going to have to prepare for both types of offenses. That’s what was nice about having an extra day today—we were able to work on a lot of things they’ve done with the zone read and those types of things. It’s hard to simulate someone who has his athleticism, but Rusty (Smith) did his best. It was good work for us that way. They do the wildcat. They’re going to do that either way, so you’re going to have to work on that anyway no matter who is at quarterback. They did it last week against Houston, so those are the things…again, we’ve seen a lot of it during the season from Seattle and from San Francisco. We understand that if Pryor’s playing, we got to do a better job tackling on the quarterback and making sure he doesn’t hurt us. I know he has a lot of yards. He’s had a couple big runs, so that’s something we have to be very aware of. We’ve got to stay in our lanes and all those types of things we didn’t do in some of those other games.

(on the message to the team)

We talked last week before we left about the big picture of where we’re at and what our situation is. Now I think it’s just the weekly picture. All that matters now is the Raider game and getting a win. We’ve been 1-5 the last six weeks, a lot of what-ifs and things we could’ve done to win that we didn’t do. Now the only thing we can handle is having a great week of practice which, again, we felt we’ve had for most weeks and win a football game. That’s all that matters now is this game on Sunday. I think they need to focus in on that. Like I said, the big picture’s there. We all understand the situation we’re in. we can’t worry about what we didn’t accomplish to this point. We can’t get caught up in what it means if we don’t accomplish what we want to accomplish. We just got to concentrate on this window, being focused on tunnel vision on Sunday afternoon’s game and winning the football game.

(on having a shot at the playoffs despite a 4-6 record)

I mean, you want to feel like our good start allowed that. The good thing is there was a good part of this, and we started this thing out the way we hoped we would. We’ve been in every game we’ve played in. We have to find these next six ways to finish with Ws, but I think it keeps the energy going that at least you still know that you control what happens here to some degree. If you run the table, you’re going to be in the playoffs. That’s how it’ll be. That’s easier said than done, no doubt, but that just shows you a lot of teams are going through the same issues we’re going through. The consistency week in and week out (across) the league is pretty balanced in a lot of ways, so you’re going to have teams that are going to lose a lot more games also this year. Someone has to rise up like we’ve talked about. Every year there’s a team that’s going to come out of this thing in the AFC for that wild card spot. You kind of have to lay that on them of why not us. It starts this weekend, and you can only win one at a time. So, you better start concentrating on one at a time. All efforts are on that. We understand it, and we need to go in and play better.

(on the team’s red zone play both offensively and defensively)

I think, again, you look at last week with Indianapolis. On offense, just look at the offensive side. We know the defense had some too, but on the offensive side, again, if we finished the drive in the second quarter when we had first-and-10 on the nine or the 10, that’s four points. They stopped us, we ran the ball twice. They cover us well, and we come away with three points. We have a holding call, and we don’t overcome that. We would have had second-and-three at the 10. That’s eight points. That’s two drives, eight points. There are a lot of good things we did on offense on Thursday night, but that’s what we didn’t do so well—we left eight points on the field. The defense did the same thing—they could have made some stops they didn’t make. You stress that, you work on that, you hammer on it. That’s points left on the field.

(on whether the team has to play better red zone defense)

I think so. We talk about that. Most teams that are successful down there can run it. Last week, obviously, they ran it in on us a couple times—the quarterback ran one in, the running back got one in, and the big one there on the last drive they had. You have to be able to stop the run. We’re doing a lot of good things on defense. We’re 10th  in the league, we’re one of the best, top-five, top-six on third down. But, in the red zone, we start off strong there. The last few weeks when we’ve need it, we haven’t done so well.

(on adding John Skelton as a third option at quarterback)

Well, we thought we had a need just because of the way quarterbacks get hurt like ours have. We needed to have another quarterback here. We felt if something happened to Fitz (Ryan Fitzpatrick) we had Rusty (Smith)—which we’re fine with. But, we didn’t have anyone else into our system. We didn’t want to have the panic if something did happen Sunday that we have to find another quarterback that could come in on Monday and learn our system in case he has to play the following Sunday because Rusty got hurt. We knew we had the short week last week and couldn’t do anything about it last week. We thought we’d look for a veteran quarterback, a quarterback that has at least played in the league, has some starts. He has 20 starts, so we looked at a handful of guys. He was suited well for what we’re going to do, what we like to do on offense, so we brought John (Skelton) in. He came in yesterday, started learning the offense. I mean, Rusty’s going to be our second quarterback. If something happens to Fitz, Rusty would go in and play. Rusty’s been in our system a while. He’s very comfortable with what we’re doing, we’re very comfortable with him, so he’d be the guy second—it’s not going to affect his situation. This allows us to have someone else here learning the offense in case we have another injury. Hopefully we won’t, but if we do, we need to be prepared at that position to have someone else. The only way to do that is to get someone in here as soon as we could. When Tommie (Campbell) went on injured reserve, we knew we were going to bring a quarterback in.

(on whether all three quarterbacks will be active Sunday)

No, unless the quarterback gets hurt, unless the quarterback goes in the game with an injury or concern. We’d just suit up two.

(on whether John Skelton is an upgrade over Shonn Greene as the team’s third string quarterback)

Shonn (Greene) was a little upset that we had lost confidence in him, but we still need a third quarterback on game day. He’s still alive there, but if we go in with healthy quarterbacks—which our quarterbacks are healthy—that it is a rarity. Anything’s possible that we’d have to worry about the third guy, but at least we have one on the team now that can be ready the following Sunday if need be.

(on whether Shonn Greene can throw)

I don’t think so, barely. We’re looking at some other options from the guys we have now. We’re looking into that. Like I said, (with the) wildcat—we practiced that a couple years ago for all that what-ifs that could happen in a game with CJ doing it, one of the running backs doing it, and obviously just running the football.

(on Chris Johnson breaking tackles)

Well, you work on it as much as you can during practice, in drills, but it’s still hard to simulate that. You drill it, breaking tackles, but as far as helping him, there’s not really much we can do for him. The more opportunities you get (to break tackles), the better you get. I thought the other night he was very good at it. They didn’t fit great a couple times. On the first run the corner didn’t fit real well, and I think he (Chris Johnson) juked him nice, made it seem like he was going to jump outside, so the corner kind of bit, and he jumped it inside. I think those things he’s very good at. I think it’s tough sometimes for the back depending on coming off the cut who the tackler is if he can make a guy miss. He’s solid at it. I don’t think it’s anything that you’re going to see him break numerous tackles every weekend. I think the more opportunities he gets, there’s no doubt the more likelihood he would make someone miss. I think where he makes people miss more is, like you said earlier, off of a pass where there’s more separation. When he’s coming off the hole, it’s a little harder because a lot of times the defender has the angle off another defender or the pile or the sideline or whatever it may be. Whereas when he catches a screen or something out there, there’s a lot more space to work with, and he can go either way. That’s a challenge every weekend.

(on Jake Locker’s recovery time post-surgery)

Not until they do the surgery this week I guess and find out exactly what they decide to do and how they fix it. I think we’ll hear more about it then.

(on whether Kevin Walter is ready to play)

He’s not ready to be back on the active roster, so I think today’s the deadline for that. He wouldn’t get back on the roster this year.

(on whether Kevin Walter will be placed on IR or remain on the PUP list)

I think you could leave him on either. If he doesn’t start practicing this week like today, then he just stays on PUP and won’t be playing this year.

(on whether the team caught a bad break with Walter’s injury)

I think he did and we did—we both did. We expected him to come in and really be helpful. That physical nature we were talking about back in the offseason when we wanted to bring in physical players to help us change our identity, he was a guy that stood out because of the type of receiver he was in Houston. We played against him a lot of years, and that’s what he was known for. We wanted a receiver (where) that was part of his DNA, his makeup. Unfortunately, we never got a chance to use that. He was just a great fit for us because he knew our offense so well. He’s been used in the run game, the play-action game so much that it was just a natural fit for us. Great guy. It was just disappointing for him and us that we kept thinking it was something more minor than it was. We thought he’d be back by the end of OTAs, then it was, ‘Oh, he’ll be back by training camp.’ He just never really came back from the surgery, and I know he’s upset. He’s a guy that’s in this building every single day. He’s around the meetings. It’s a shame because he could’ve been a help to us this year.

(on whether Walter will be around next season)

Well, we just got to see once we get to the offseason really where he’s at after these next six weeks, once we get into the offseason in January, February and what his situation is and how he goes forward. He’s a guy that’s been around for a little while—he’s not a young player. This is the first time he’s had this type of injury, and, unfortunately, it’s when he got here. Same with Shonn Greene. Shonn never had been hurt, and he gets hurt in the opener. We’ll have to look at it in the offseason where he’s at.

(on whether Moise Fokou will play this weekend)

We’re hoping so. He practiced today, did a lot of reps with the defense. We need to get him back in there, hopefully he’ll be a big part of the game Sunday. A lot will be determined by how he handles Wednesday and Thursday and how his knee does before we make that final decision. The good thing is he’s out there, he’s working. We just got to see where he’s at and how much can we realistically expect him to do on Sunday, how many reps could he play, that type of thing. I mean, he’s used to playing every snap, so we’d have to take a look at where he’s at by Friday and decide.

(on whether Moise Fokou and Colin McCarthy can share snaps at middle linebacker)

Yep. That could be something with easing him back in, at least taking advantage of his leadership and how he’s played for us, his communication skills. That would be the option of figuring out where he’s at and see, ‘OK, how do we fit this together for Sunday.’

(on whether the team has missed Fokou)

Yeah I think we have, there’s no doubt we have. I think he’s come in and really took charge of that defense. I think we were playing at a high level. I think he has a fun style of watching him play the way he competes, the way he plays, the way the other guys have responded to him. He’s a really good communicator. When you’re playing a lot of different linebackers…that’s his style. He was playing well. The players were responding to him. You’re hoping he can come right back in and we can pick up where we left off with him.

(on whether Brian Schwenke can play this week)

Not sure. Today he did individual drills, but he’s a lot better than he was last week, than Thursday and Friday when we left here. Now it’s just a matter of how quickly the ankle responds the next three days when he starts doing football activities and see really where he’s at. That’s one of those things where he can go from starting or not suiting up. He’s a guy that, if he’s ready to go, you’re going to play him. If he’s not, you rest him.

(on Chris Spencer’s performance in place of Schwenke)

He’s been solid. Chris (Spencer) has been exactly what we thought he’d be coming here. He had the holding call which, again, for offensive linemen you want to try to avoid. He got caught in a bad spot there, and they called it. Other than that, I think he’s done a nice job of running the offense at center for someone who hasn’t had a chance to play since preseason. That’s hard for a player to come in after sitting for 10 weeks and getting back into it, but I think the more he plays the better he’ll get.

(on Damian Williams’ status)

He didn’t do anything today. I don’t see him doing anything this week.

(on whether his injury is hip-related)

Yeah, the hip area. I just think he’s still sore and improving, but he still has a little work ahead of him.

(on whether his injury is similar to the one Jake Locker suffered earlier in the season)

I think it’s different. I don’t know enough about it medically to tell you the differences, but the hip is still sore.

(on other injured players)

The main guys are Moise (Fokou) and (Brian) Schwenke really. We knew Damian (Williams) would be lagging behind a little bit.

(on whether Justin Hunter passed concussion tests)

I think he’s doing well. Tomorrow I think he has one more appointment before he’s officially allowed to move forward.

(on whether Justin Hunter practiced today)

He didn’t do anything football-wise with us. He did the stuff that he could do with the trainers to make sure he doesn’t have any setbacks. He’s done well, so we’re assuming he’s OK.

(on whether the team’s new ownership is hands-on)

They were at both football games. I saw Tommy (Smith) right after the Jacksonville game. I know Ruston (Webster) speaks with him every day. He’s very attuned to what we’re doing going forward. I’ve talked to him. He’s on the same page with what we’re doing, what happened both games, updates on those types of things. We’ve had good discussions. I know he talks to Ruston, so they’re involved on a daily basis. Like I said, they were at both games. He was down in the locker room after the Jacksonville game. I didn’t get a chance to see him because of the lateness of the game after Indianapolis, but he was there. It’s been good that way as far as their involvement.

(on losing games despite improved statistics)

You got to win games. Everything else, like you said, we’re improving in a lot of ways as a football team with what we’re accomplishing on the field. When you’re trying to find out what’s going wrong and why you’re not finishing games, that’s when those things become important. You’re looking at all phases and what’s happening here. There’s a lot of good things happening around the team, and guys are stepping up having real good years on defense and on offense. All that is there which is what you want. Ultimately, you want the wins. If guys are playing well and we’re statistically doing well, it means more wins. That’s the part that makes it frustrating because you see us headed in the right direction. You see players stepping up, guys like Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker and on defense Vern (Alterraun Verner) making plays. You can go on and on with guys stepping up like (Jason) McCourty and so, but the bottom line is it’s about wins and finishing games and making one more play, making one more sack, having one less penalty or turnover. There’s a lot of good in there, but we’ve got to take all that good and get more wins from it. That’s what’s frustrating about it because we feel like we have the group that’s coming together in a way that we should have more wins. So, that’s what makes it hard.

(on where the disconnect is with the team)

Well, I think it’s stuff we’ve talked about. I think it’s situational football. We have to be better in the moment making the plays in the moment when we need them, in the window that here’s that play, make that play. We just talked about that with the green zone and red zone. (When) it’s first-and-10 at the nine, we’ve got to score. It’s that moment right there where we have to finish this drive and make it 21-3 not 17-3. That’s what’s hurting us on defense when, ‘Here’s your moment, now make that stop.’ It’s not always the fourth quarter. If you play well in the first, second quarter, maybe you can put that game away in the second quarter. I’ve been in games where as a team you put it away in the first quarter because…last year against Chicago we turned the ball over five times in the first quarter. We’re letting this thing go down to the fourth quarter all the time. We have to find a way not to let it get down to the fourth quarter because obviously we’ve lost too many games in the fourth quarter by being so close but so far. We’ve won a couple like the San Diego game, but it’s more about when those opportunities happen during the game, we have to take advantage of them. We’re not. We’re dropping the ball, dropping that third-and-three, not getting that interception. The fumble is in our hands down by the goal line, but we drop it on defense. It’s things like that. It’s hard to explain why in that moment why we don’t make that play. That’s the frustration here I think. As a group, we’re doing some things very, very well. When there’s time to make those plays that could change a game, we’re not making enough of them.

(on sticking with Devon Wylie as a returner and whether he can help the team)

We think so. That’s why he’s here that we had him in the game last week. We felt he’s very decisive.  A couple of kicks that came into the red zone he made great decisions on with not fielding, blocked a defender, immediately alerted everyone to get away from the ball. The ball went into the end zone both times, and we get the ball at the 20. I thought they were good decisions there, and I thought the punt thing he did very well. We all know the turnover. For us going forward with the options of bringing in someone new, we’re comfortable with going forward with him. We’ll see how it goes this week.

(on playing in Oakland)

It’s a fun place to play—the (fans) are into it in a different way. There’s a lot of energy in that building when you go there and play. What stands out for me is probably the championship game we lost there. That was probably the biggest game we played there after making a great comeback that year from what our record was in the beginning of the season. That was a game, again, I thought we could have won. I think turnovers hurt us that day. It’s a fun place to play. I think it’ll be a great atmosphere because, again, they’re in the same boat we’re kind of in. We have the same record, we’re both trying to be that wild card team, so I’m sure there will be a lot of excitement in that game out there.

(on whether Tommie Campbell needs surgery)

Yes, he’s going to have to have his shoulder fixed.

(on Frank Chamberlin’s death)

That was shocker to hear about that. I don’t think any of us knew he was in that condition. He had brain surgery I guess recently in the past year and everything. I remember him being here as a linebacker, obviously. Prayers and thoughts go out to his family. That was awful to hear that.

(on whether he thought about traveling to Oakland on Friday instead of Saturday)

You know, as a player I’ve done both. I’ve probably done it every way you could possibly do it; went out on Saturday at a normal hour and got there late. With Coach Fisher, we did the same thing. We went out on Friday numerous times. As we all know, we haven’t won many games on the west coast, so we were trying a lot of ways to do it. We thought about going for a week I think at one time, but we didn’t do that. I think it’s a little different for everybody I guess. I’ve talked to a lot of coaches about it over the years of what they’ve done. I thought the process of what we do now is probably good. As a player, I liked it. I liked the fact of not interfering with your Friday routine. I think Friday night is a big night of sleep anyway to make sure you get a great rest on Friday evening. That way you’re home on Friday, and you’re not messing up your schedule on Friday. What we do is when you fly, you fly Saturday morning like you would if you came here. If you got to be here at eight in the morning, you got to be at the airport at eight in the morning. Instead of coming to work you get on a plane. By the time we land it’s like 11 o’clock pacific time, and we start our Saturday. When we get there it’s Saturday morning, and we have meetings like we would here. We have lunch, and then we have practice at the stadium like we would here. I think getting off their feet and moving around is a good thing after flying for four hours. Then we come back to the hotel and it’s like a Saturday night. They have their free time to have dinner then we move meetings up to seven o’clock which is like nine o’clock—the time we have them here. Curfew is at nine instead of 11, so it’s like what we have here. That’s kind of their day. As a player, I liked that the best personally versus being there and messing Friday up. I guess if you win it’s the right way, and if you lose it’s the wrong way. We need to win which we’re going to do. This would be the way to do it.

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