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Coach Munchak's Saturday Press Conference

Posted Sep 1, 2012

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on the factor that injuries played in final roster cut decisions)

It affects, obviously, a lot of decisions. It makes some decisions easier and some decisions harder because, again, being short at a position maybe makes you keep a guy at another position that, you know, we wouldn’t have because of health. There’s plusses and minuses to it.

(on Ryan Durand’s placement on injured reserve)

It would have been hard. He was a guy that we definitely had to think hard about, ‘Do we want to keep a guard, do we want to keep a tackle in that last spot?’ Him getting hurt — unfortunately, like you said, you don’t want that to happen. It happened. He knows that. He’d rather let it play out, I’m sure. Like you said, he had a very good camp, I thought, and the injury just kind of made it hard for us to be able to keep him at a position we needed to keep, so there’s injured reserve and you go from there.

(on how difficult it is to place players on injured reserve if their injuries might not last a full season)

That’s what the hard part is. You have someone else, and maybe they’re pretty even and like you mentioned in the phrase of the question, that makes the decision for you in some cases because you need healthy guys. You have to suit up 46 guys and you have to worry about having the right guys, the right combination to win. We can’t have a bunch of guys that are hurt that we are carrying on our roster, so you have to have a fine line between that. You don’t want to give guys up, so again, there are some guys you are going to keep because, who knows, in a week or two, maybe they’ll be healthy, but if there’s uncertainty with some guys that are on the bubble and it could be three weeks, it could be four weeks, you just can’t afford in some cases to take that chance and how long it might take to have that person back when you could have kept somebody else that could be contributing to us playing on Sundays. That’s the hard part as we always say, that people lose focus of, it’s not just, like you said, the injuries help and hurt it.

(on how long it would have taken Leger Douzable to return)

That’s the problem. We don’t know, without the surgery, we don’t know. That’s uncertain. We just know right now he wouldn’t be ready and that affects how we go forward. We may have some other questions at that spot, so we’re holding off on that. We were hoping to see some signs that maybe it was something he could play with without a surgery, that he could get strong enough, but it could be too far down the line before we find that answer out, and he may never be able to unless he gets it fixed. Those are the things you’re projecting at times. It’s disappointing for everyone — your players, especially. Guys want to play football. You get to this point, and they want to be on the football team and play. Everyone’s excited about opening the season and the week, and so for the guys like Leger and those guys that had a good camp that we were counting on, all of a sudden, in one play that all changes.

(on if Leger Douzable has scheduled a surgery)

No, he has not, as far as I know. Right now, we haven’t scheduled anything. The thing with him, to fix what he had — or possibly had — it would be season-ending surgery if he had to go that far. We’re waiting to see if he could play without liability on that, because if he gets surgery, he’s not going to be able to play this season for anybody. The question is, could he have played without the surgery? I guess that’s where he, as a player, you’re hoping you can do it. So we just felt the best thing for right now, that he’d have trouble doing that.

(on the strategy of not using the new rule that allows one designated player to return from injured reserve later in the season)

I think every team will look at that differently since it is something that is new, but yeah, I think we’re hoping that it’s something that we don’t have to use it at all as the season progresses, but it’s something that’s there. There’s cases last year of guys getting hurt in the first couple of weeks of the season that could have come back and played in the playoffs. I think that was the intent of (the new rule). If you lose a top player in the league, a marquee guy, a marquee guy to you on your team that’s important, that’s one of those six-to-eight weekers and you think, you know what, we could have him back and need him for the December run, that leaves the door open for those things, instead of losing him for the season or have to count him on your roster every week. So, I think that’s a good thing for the players and the teams. How many teams will use it, or how it works out, we’ll see, but right now, we didn’t think there was anyone that we’d want to put that on at this point. It’s something we’ll wait and see, but hopefully won’t need it.

(on when a player has to be designated for the new IR rule)

I think if we do it now it would have to be this week.  I can use it at any time.  We can use it after week five.  It is just a matter that they can’t play for eight weeks.  They can’t practice for six weeks and then they can start practicing and then they have to be off for eight weeks.  So if you do the math, if you are in the Super Bowl you can probably figure out how far you can actually use it, if that is week 10 or somewhere around there depending on off weeks and all that.  You could use it late in the season, especially if you are a playoff team that is definitely going to have extra games to play in January and February.

(on what his emotions are like after cutdown day)

I don’t think it has passed you yet.  With talking to the team today, they had the day off yesterday, we made all of our decisions and talked to the players yesterday, which I thought was as good of a way to do it.  We just brought the guys in that we had to make the decisions with.  Talking to the team today it is more that you are excited for them.  The guys sitting here are excited for the fact that they are a part of this team going forward.  I know a lot of them obviously were wondering how it was going to work out for them.  You are happy for them and happy for the team that we are moving on to the next phase, but the process of the last 48 hours is definitely the hardest part in this profession as a coach, as a player.  Being in a position as the head coach where you have to talk to each of these guys individually the last two weeks as you have made the decisions, so obviously it is very draining, very sad and disappointing.  There is so much like we talked about earlier that we owe it to this team to have the best guys in this room.  We have to take into fact the factors that we have talked about with injuries and different things that affect who you keep and don’t keep in different parts of your roster.  The bottom line is we owe it to them; we owe it to the fan base to have the best team we can put together.  We feel we have made some good decisions on that right now as of today.  It is hard.  You take a couple days, it is nice having these couple days to get some extra work in to get a little separation and transition to next week where you start game week.  I think then you can kind of move forward.  I think these couple days are still a little hard to move forward because you have been through so much with a lot of these players.

(on the performance of DaJohn Harris to make the team as a rookie free agent)

He just continued to get better.  I think that is what you look for in a rookie is someone that is a big man with some decent pass rush skills that he started to get better the more he played.  You saw consistency and saw a lot of upside in him going forward.  He fit what we were looking for in our defensive lineman.  Again we weren’t sure how many we were going to keep.  Is it nine?  Is it 10?  So that spot gets affected a lot.  I was just happy with what he accomplished to this point, so we thought he could be a guy that could fit in as we go forward if there are injuries and things like that.

(on if the scouts were aware of DaJohn Harris’ heart condition in February)

Like everyone else, we did our homework on him, our due diligence.  We were talking about it in the pre-draft conversations with our medical team, making their opinion on him and how they felt about bringing him in as a free agent.  We felt good about it, so when the draft ended he was one of the guys that we reached out to early and luckily he was very excited about coming here.   A lot of other teams talked to him, but he knew Jurrell Casey and they had a relationship.  I thought that meant something to him.  We were thrilled that we got him in here because it is hard to get…especially O-line and D-line are hard to come by when the draft ends.  We were happy to get him.

(on how DaJohn Harris was a better fit than Zach Clayton)

Right now I just think it was his size.  I don’t know that there is any one thing.  We have had Zach for a year here and that was a very hard decision.  That was probably one of the hardest ones because Zach is what you want on your team.  For the one year being here, the guy just works hard every day and shows up every day.  He got better when he was here and that was a very difficult decision.  Zach could be back here on practice (squad).  There are a lot of things that can happen yet.  I told the players the same thing.  We are sitting here and we have 53 guys on the roster but unfortunately you are still always trying to improve your roster and trying to fill the practice squad which is coming up as we speak.  We are working on that over the next hour or so.  There are a lot of things that can happen, a lot of variables.  There are guys on other teams that have been let go that you are still looking at.  That is all just part of it.  Right now we thought this was the best way to go.  We obviously like Zach a lot and who knows maybe that part can still work out.  We have had Zach and we thought that DaJohn really was getting better and becoming a force and rushing the passer well and thought it was worth continuing to give him a look.

(on choosing Al Afalava over Aaron Francisco)

They were both in it.  Again health became an issue there too because you factor that in.  Al has played every game.  Aaron had some issues in a couple of the games with injuries and couldn’t play in the last game and some things creeped up that he had two or three times during preseason.  That factors in and then how we are going to use them and what kind of safety we need.  That was definitely a tough decision.  Those guys were definitely going head-to-head on that fourth spot.

(on if he is worried about the youth on the defensive line with the loss of Dave Ball and Leger Douzable)

It could have been different if those guys stayed healthy obviously, but I think that is what we were excited about when camp started.  I don’t know since I have been here that from top to bottom that we have had so many defensive linemen that we think can play.  We are very lucky in that regard.  Usually in past years we have a couple of guys hurt and we have big issues.  I think the fact that we drafted well a couple of years at the tackle spot and getting (Scott) Solomon this year and going and going to get (Kamerion) Wimbley, I think Solomon has showed up and that he can definitely help us.  I thought that bringing in (Keyunta) Dawson that guy just plays at 100 miles per hour.  We have the same kind of guys that play hard, play physical, relentless and that makes a huge difference on some of the stuff that you don’t necessarily pay attention to in a game like chasing down screens.  When the screen is stopped usually you are successful because defensive linemen are hustling.  That is when those things get stopped.  I think we have the type of guys and in the preseason we saw it that we stopped a lot of big plays because of hustle of the four defensive ends we have right now with (Pannel) Egboh being the fifth that can kind of play defensive tackle and defensive end.  That is where his value comes in, the fact that he can play both.  The injuries were unfortunate but luckily we had guys that really stepped up and improved during training camp.

(on how many dominoes fell with Marc Mariani’s injury)

That is hard to say.  You just don’t know what direction you would go if it didn’t happen.  You try to avoid those things because you have enough to worry about, so I really didn’t think about if this did happen what we would have done because we are trying to figure out  what we are doing when it did happen, if that makes sense.  Obviously, it affected the returner.  That is where it starts but other than that I don’t know how much more it would have affected if it didn’t happen.

(on the decision to release Chris Hawkins)

It was hard too.  When we talk about hard cuts that was a guy that came in as a practice squad and undrafted and moved up when we had injuries.  We were excited about what we saw in him when the season ended and where we thought his future could be, but again when (Ryan) Mouton gets healthy, he was out of the equation last year because of an injury.  He came on well and Coty Sensabaugh was a draft pick and came on and was getting better every week and Tommie Campbell.  There are five corners and that was the problem right there.  All throughout camp people were talking about guys that we lost but we have five or six.  If (Terrence) Wheatley didn’t get hurt that is another guy that we thought was doing good and he got injured.  That is the hard part of the business.  You have a lot of guys that we are excited about and we can’t keep them all.  That was a very hard cut.

(on if there is any strain going into Week 1 with just four receivers)

I think we are fine right now.  We feel with the tight ends and things that we do that we are fine there with the four for this weekend.  A lot of games you are going to carry four when you have five.  I think last year we carried four most of the time.  There are things we can do with the tight ends, and if we decide to do anything with Darius (Reynaud) out there also.  We have other options.  We feel fine about it.

(on players that have been cut from other teams that could be added to the roster)

Like I said, we always say that we are looking.  We are going to continue to see what is out there.  Things can always happen and you don’t want to make guys nervous and they are looking over their shoulders, but you want guys to realize that this isn’t the end of it.  We have to continue to make the roster better.  They have to continue to get better as players and working at practice and doing all those things.  If we feel there is something out there that helps us, another player that maybe gives us something that we don’t have, then obviously we will make the decision to make the change if we need to.  Right now we are doing like what every other team in the league is doing.  We are doing our homework.  We are looking to see who is out there.  If there are a couple of spots that we feel we can improve, if there are we will do it.

(on giving Darius Reynaud reps at wide receiver)

I don’t know.  We are having him do so much right now; we just want to be careful that we are not doing too much with him.  I think the running back thing is still something that he is continuing to learn.  I think we are really stressing that position first right now plus returning.  At some point if we decide there is a reason to do that we will.  For now it is really just concentrating on what we think he will be doing most of the time.  He can do a lot of things just in those two positions alone.

(on the start of Kenny Britt’s suspension)

It started Friday. He’s out for a week which means I assume he can come back in on Monday after the game.

(on if he feels he can get results from all four running backs)

We do. I think that we have to decide how many we can suit up on game day, how many of those guys you’re going to have on the roster every Sunday. We found out last year with guys getting nicked, (Javon) Ringer got hurt a couple times during the year where we only had two. We’re happy with what we saw. They all bring a little something different to the game as far as how they play. I think right now, we’re content. With Darius (Reynaud) as a new wrinkle there that we didn’t have last year, he adds a little bit more to that mix.

(on if the team plans on reaching a settlement with some of the players on injured reserve or if they will stay on IR)

I don’t know. Each one of those will probably be individual decisions as we go as far as guys getting hurt and settling with guys that maybe get healthy and have a chance to play somewhere else. Those are decisions we’ll make as we go.

(on if he’s able to monitor what Kenny Britt is doing during his suspension this week)

He won’t be with us, and we won’t be talking with him. Pretty much he’s on his own for the next seven days, whatever it is—nine days until the game. We’ll see him next Monday.

(on if it’s a strain that Kenny Britt’s out of the team’s hands now that he has worked himself back into shape)

I don’t think so. You’d rather have players here, and you’d rather not have him be going through this. The whole thing is frustrating and disappointing that we even have this situation. Having said that, the fact that I think he’s excited about where he’s at physically, I think his confidence has grown quite a bit in the last 10 days in how much he’s been able to do—even though it’s been just the last couple of days that he’s been with us as far as when he came off PUP. I think that, and the fact, like you said, he’s got a week, and he’ll be back here. I think he has plenty that I know he can work on. He’s been doing enough to where he’ll know what he needs to be doing over the next week before he comes back in. I think he’s going to come back in, he’ll have a chance to get on the field and play in San Diego. Hopefully, once he gets this behind him and realizes why this happened and can’t happen again, now the football season is right in front of him, he should be excited for it once he gets back here.

(on if he feels that he can win with the four wide receivers currently on the roster)

Definitely we feel that we can, no doubt about it. If we didn’t, we would have done something differently. We feel good about those guys. They’ve been consistent, they’ve been staying healthy. They’ve been coming off their best years they’ve had. They’ve had solid camps. We’re excited about them, and then you add Jared Cook to it, you had (Taylor) Thompson to it, you add (Craig) Stevens to it, the two backs we just talked about that are guys that can go make plays. So we feel that we have plenty of weapons, if we use them all, if we play right, that we could play against anybody.

(on if he plans on increasing Kenny Britt’s snaps against San Diego)

I think a lot is going to depend on once he actually starts competing, when he gets back here on Monday and we start doing things with him competitive-wise and Tuesday, he has a full week. See how he progresses, see how he handles it. We’ve simulated a lot of things, but there’s nothing like getting more contact on you. Physically, he’s in great shape. We know that mentally he should be fine with what we’re doing. So now it’s just a matter of him being smart with it. Even if we’re excited about where he’s at, we have to be smart about it being a long football season. We think, hopefully, he’ll be able to play enough to where he helps us.

(on if the team is interested in former Patriots center Dan Koppen)

I guess you probably never say anything has ever totally sailed. I think you always are leaving things up in case something comes up down the road. I think we’re real happy with our center, so I’d say no, we’re not looking to really do anything right now with the center position, knowing that (Dan Koppen) is strictly a center, that’s where he’s comfortable, that’s really what he’s going to play. We’re happy with Fernando (Velasco) and the direction we’re headed there with our first five. The depth part, will we always be looking to upgrade the back end? Sure. If we can find someone that we think, we’ll do that at all of our positions, not just the offensive line. I think we’ve shown we’ll do that here. (Koppen) is a good football player, and I’m surprised it didn’t work out for him there, but right now, I think we’re happy with our center.

(on how he hopes to build off the defense’s interceptions and the play of the offensive line from the preseason)

I hope we can build off of it a lot. That’s the one thing about preseason that I like is the fact that these guys, you get a confidence going. You start getting a confidence going with each other. To me, when you’re playing a game, it doesn’t matter, it’s all about playing your best. I think our guys approached it that way in the preseason, that we need to establish an identity a little more, that we can go make those plays. I think we’re one of the tops in the league in turnovers, and we got four again the other night. We had sacks, we pressured the quarterback, we haven’t really been turning it over which has been good. Like you said, the protection has been good. You kind of like that we’re heading the right direction in a lot of categories. We all know we’re 0-0 now going forward, but I think you still want to have success at different phases of the game, and we’ve had success in a lot of the phases we were concerned about after last year ended. I think that’s a good sign, and you want to build off of that. It’s good for the players that see that, ‘You know that technique I worked on or maybe improving my strength or my speed? Or that coach is teaching me this.’ They’re buying in more. They’re seeing, ‘I’m having success doing these things.’ That just adds to as you get started for the season. You hope that’s really what you get out of preseason. The same thing as coaches, you want to see guys have success. You feel good about our draft class. Our whole draft class made the team, they’re going to contribute. I think it makes you excited about what the scouts did during the offseason, what Ruston (Webster) and his guys did. The seven guys we drafted—we’ve got one on PUP—but six are contributing. The whole draft class last year is contributing. When you see them have success, you realize we’re doing the right things in this organization. It should be exciting to say that we have a good, young team that is heading in the right direction. Now we have to go out there and play some good football teams and make plays, and there are some things we’re not doing so well right now, but we have a whole season to get better at it. Hopefully in these games, we’ll make the plays to win them.

(on Troy Kropog’s play during training camp)

Again, another guy I thought, did we know him? We were waiting for him to step up in a consistent manner. I thought the last two or three weeks he really did that. He’s been asked to play a lot with (Mike) Otto being hurt. He took advantage of it. Otto is going to be another week or so before he’s playing, so I think that just gave us confidence in that position to have another guy we feel comfortable that can actually play some guard or tackle if he had to. That’s what you need this time of year. You need versatility; you need someone that you trust. It’s hard to just take a lineman off the street and have them help you on day one because of an injury. I think his value became larger because of that.

(on if there are any other injuries coming out of the preseason that are going to limit guys early on)

The good news is that the guys that we sat out last week, it was more to rest some nagging things or things that happened the week before. We feel good about all of them, that they all should have a really good chance at practicing all week and being part of the game plan and playing on Sunday. I’m hoping that’s the case, so I can have a hard time figuring out who the seven guys are that aren’t active. I think right now, again, get through these couple of days, we’ll probably rest some guys. We still have time here these next few days, so we’ll be smart about that. I think we feel pretty good about the condition of our team.

(on if he’s thinner at offensive line than he’d like to be)

Well, you suit up seven. So I think we still have, with (Kevin) Matthews, six, and the two tackles, nine. You suit up seven, so that’s why we kept the extra tackle to protect us there because of (Mike) Otto being kind of iffy as far as where he’s at.

(on if there’s a different feel in the building today with cuts behind the team)

I think it’s still a hard day, like we said right from the beginning, just because of what went on the last 24 hours with their teammates. Like I said, for us here and for us as a staff, this is the first time we’ve been through this were we’ve had guys for a full year. A lot of the guys we let go we’ve had around since March or April. These players build a lot of relationships with guys who all of a sudden aren’t sitting next to them in meetings rooms. The meeting rooms are half empty in some cases. The meeting room here is a lot less (full). You take 35 guys out, and there’s a lot less people sitting in these chairs. I think for everyone, they’re happy for their situation and they’re happy for where this team is headed. But I think it’s just one of those small hangover days where you’re excited, everything is good, but it’ll start growing. That’s probably a good thing. You like to see that they’re excited to build from now, Wednesday,Thursday, Friday, build to where we’re hoping to be on Sunday.

(on the start of Kenny Britt’s suspension)

It started Friday. He’s out for a week which means I assume he can come back in on Monday after the game.

(on if he feels he can get results from all four running backs)

We do. I think that we have to decide how many we can suit up on game day, how many of those guys you’re going to have on the roster every Sunday. We found out year with guys getting nicked, (Javon) Ringer got hurt a couple times during the year where we only had two. We’re happy with what we saw. They all bring a little something different to the game as far as how they play. I think right now, we’re content. With Darius (Reynaud) as a new wrinkle there that we didn’t have last year, he adds a little bit more to that mix.

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