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Coach Munchak's Sunday Press Conference

Posted Aug 21, 2011

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(opening remarks)

Just real quickly, you watch the game and you get one impression and I think when you watch tape sometimes you get another, but I thought like I mentioned last night our energy level was real high on all three phases of the game.  The guys wanted to play and played hard when they were in there.  Obviously, they should do that when they are playing in the game, but I think some people get the perception that it is the preseason, so maybe guys aren’t going to play as hard or it is not as important to them; that is the furthest thing from the truth as far as how they are approaching these games when they are playing.  That is what is kind of encouraging to watch.  You start with the offense, and as I said last night you rush for 200 yards in a preseason game when your top two running backs aren’t in there, a lot of good things are going on.  Those backs stepped up and ran hard, the line blocked well, the receivers blocked well.  It was a group effort there.  There was an emphasis in camp on the run game, we wanted to start early this season and get that going and that has showed.  I think wearing the pads every day in practice has helped them.  I think all those things are factors in us being more consistent early in preseason with those kinds of things.  The screens were good again.  We had a couple nice screens in the game that were big plays early same as last week.  That was encouraging to see that we are getting linemen out there, putting people on the ground and making some plays with that.  Time of possession is something we struggled with last year.  Even though it is the preseason it is nice to have both games where we are on the field more than the other team.  Those are things that you watch on offense that were exciting.  Defensively, we all know the first play we gave them one there and the thing was to see how we reacted and see how well the defense handled them the rest of the first half with our starters in there versus theirs. We had three sacks, we hit the quarterback about seven times, we had about six or seven tackles for losses, so we were controlling the line of scrimmage.  They couldn’t run the ball, I think they averaged two yards a carry.  Those are the things as you watch and see how hard they played, it is fun to watch.  I think that is something they will get out of it too.  Those are the things you look at as you watch these games.  You want to win them, believe me we wanted to win it.  In the end they put a drive together, their first drive and last drive was enough to get it done.  We didn’t make a play at the end and they did.  All of the stuff in between was very encouraging when you are playing a lot of guys.  That was good.  Things to look at on the other side, some of the negatives on the offense we know we had three shots down there in the red zone and we only got the one touchdown.  The positive to that though is the turnovers we have gotten in two games we scored touchdowns on all three.  When the offense was given the ball back, we went and scored touchdowns all three times in these two games.  The two other times down there, one time we had a penalty which cannot happen on the four-yard line.  We just can’t do those things.  That held us to only a field goal on that drive.  Then we got stopped on a third-and-one in the red zone which can’t happen.  Those are the things that on offense we need to continue to work at because in two games we have had a lot of opportunities to put more points on the board.  That will get better as we get going.  As you watch the game and say what can we do better, those are a couple of things.  On defense there isn’t much to say except for the first play where we had confusion on the back end and allowing the play-action play to get us.  Those guys just played.  They were hitting the quarterback and Cortland (Finnegan) looked like he was having a great time against a good quarterback and a good offense.  They came back and rallied and played really well there in the first half.  Pretty good.

(on Jason Jones’ injury)

He got that on the first play.  Unfortunately, he got great pressure and beat the guy inside and the guy ends up running him past and he ends up tripping over somebody else, some other lineman, and got tangled up and twisted his knee.  The good thing is yes he will not need surgery.  We are thinking it is a couple of weeks maybe.  We will see, but he won’t be able to play next week and having a short week after this week, the best we will be looking at is for the Jacksonville game.

(on the possibility of Jones playing in the Jacksonville opener)

Right now, but as you know that is one day out seeing how he is.  The good thing is at first I think they may have thought it was worse.  It wasn’t so that is a good thing.  Again he is a big part of our plans inside and the things he can do on the pass rush, so we are hoping for the best with that.

(on other injury issues with Matt Hasselbeck and Akeem Ayers)

No, Akeem is fine.  I think there is no issue there.  We are assuming Matt is going to be fine just the whole thing where the running back cut the linebacker who was blitzing and that is why he ended up going low on him.  The linebacker came in low because he got cut.  He got by his legs and Matt tried to avoid that after he let go of the ball and he just kind of fell awkward.  Like you said, he bit his tongue and I think he kind of caught his rib.  The whole thing was just kind of an awkward fall.  Likely, he is fine so we will see how he is going forward.  We assume he will be fine for this week.

(on if he was nervous seeing his starting quarterback go down with an injury)

It is, anytime you see someone because there are so many times you think guys are going to get hurt and they don’t and then other times you just aren’t quite sure.  You don’t want to lose anybody especially in preseason before you get started.  A lot of times you don’t know and say well they went low on him and that is why you have to watch the tape all the time to see a replay because it is really hard to tell sometimes what is really happening on certain plays.  That looked pretty clean, it was an accidental contact down low.  The good news is he should be fine.

(on if the team is trying more things this preseason coming off the lockout)

We actually probably try less.  I think that is why we are getting better at things.  We realize there is a short window of time to work on things and I think the philosophy is not as much that we will save that, we won’t use that until the season starts.  I think we are doing things that we know we need to work on.  We knew the run game was a priority on the offensive side.  We knew we were going to work some screens.  We have run two reverses in two games.  We are doing a little bit of everything, things that people are going to see when we get into the season because we have to be good at it.  I think the same thing on defense.  Are we doing everything and all of our schemes and different things we may do with pressure packages and all those things?  We are not.  We are bringing pressures; the Rams brought a lot of pressure last night also.  Those are things you are going to see anytime you play from the defensive side of the ball.  I think we are working on the stuff that we think we need to get better at.  I think it is showing up for us in these two games.

(on if settling for field goals in the red zone is a byproduct of a short offseason and if they are quick fixes)

You would think they would be because if you go back and look at what happened this week.  Like I mentioned we had second-and-four on the four-yard line and we had a snap problem, we don’t snap the football, so we lose five yards.  Five yards down there is big.  Can you still score?  Yes, but we were second-and-nine and we had two shots and we didn’t get the points in.  The other one we are in the red zone and it was necessarily inside the 10 or five, but we had a third-and-one and they stopped us.  Now we have to kick the field goal instead of go for it.  Those are things that yes you look at the play and was it a good play?  Yes the play we called was a good call and we had a chance to get it done and then they just outplayed us one that one snap.  Those are things we have to work on and not be denied on third-and-one.  We have to earn three more plays and we didn’t on that snap.  Those are things that you look at and say yeah we can fix those things pretty easily.  The frustrating one is the penalty.  Those are things that you cannot have.  That is the first penalty that kind of hurt us in preseason and kind of set us back.  You hope that you can still overcome that but we didn’t last night on that particular play.

(on if Jake Locker got his first real NFL feel because of the Rams’ pass rush)

I think the highs and the lows for him are the league, that’s how the league is going to be when we are playing. The guy comes in cold when Matt (Hasselbeck) got hurt, we have a third down-and-two and he throws a ball to (Jared) Cook down to the five-yard line. He rolled out and made a great play with a good decision and he got a first-and-10. In the second half it wasn’t necessarily in the pocket blitzes, he handled himself very well in the pocket. Heck he got out of one, he converted one for a first down when there was nobody there with his legs he made a first down there for us in the third quarter. The time he threw the pick it was a boot play and we booted twice into the blitz. The first time the tight end fell down but he got rid of the ball and it just fell incomplete. The second time, when he threw the interception, they had the safety blitz on that side so we rolled him into it and he thought he could make a play to the tight end and the way the rush came, he kind of jumped and lifted his arm up and the ball when high and it gets intercepted. Those are the things that he will learn from and playing in the league. There are things that have happened to him in college, I’m sure that same play and it’s just trying to get it to the tight end or somewhere where it can’t be caught, or what you hate to say is he would have to take a sack because he is rolling into a bad situation. He made a decision to try to make a play and it backfired.

(on his thoughts on the hit that Myron Rolle was penalized for last night)

I think you try to take the gray out of it for the official. I think an official is looking for, as we all know, safety; helmet to helmet contact is something they’re looking for if it’s close. Especially in a preseason game, that flag is coming out, and we know that. I think you have to be smart with how you make contact with a defender in a situation like that; don’t even make it close, so you don’t talk them into a flag. If it was one, then the league will deal with that later if he did something that shouldn’t have been done.

(on if players bare some of the responsibility for their personal safety)

Well, you have to fair catch it. Their safety net is picking their hand up. If you don’t want to get hit, pick your hand up and avoid the contact; that’s the safety valve they have on a punt. I think we got tackled once, they did once, and the third one they finally called a flag. Those two hits were lower. It’s almost like you’re encouraged to go lower because there won’t be a flag, and the third one was on us, which was higher. It’s hard to tell from the sideline what they saw, but obviously they called a flag on it, so we just have to be smart about those things.

(on if he thinks Larry Fitzgerald’s new contract will complicate negotiations with Chris Johnson)

I hope not. I don’t know the details of that deal, but I’m sure there are large amounts of money. Again, the difference is you’re comparing positions. You’re comparing a running back, a quarterback, and a receiver; I don’t know how they compare in all the breakdowns. The salary survey is not something I am involved with anymore. I’m sure it’s something that will get attention, but I’m not sure how much that will affect us.

(on if he would entertain a trade offer for Chris Johnson)

No, last night was a great opportunity; we had some big old holes and those guys came through here, but I could easily stand here and say CJ (Chris Johnson) would have scored on three of those. I don’t know if he would have, but maybe with his speed coming through there. We’re just happy that we have guys that stepped up. We asked Jamie Harper because he knew he was going to be starting, hey can we count on you? I don’t think he thought he’d be starting in the second preseason game when we drafted him. He answered the bell, he played well, he played hard, and ran better than he did a week earlier. So, he’s getting better, and it’s the same thing with the other two guys (Stafon Johnson and Herb Donaldson).

(on if the running backs’ performance gives the team more leverage with Chris Johnson)

I don’t think so. That doesn’t change. We want him here; we know we need him to be part of this thing for us to reach our goals. I think it’s encouraging for him to see, you know what, we’re going to do some great things this year in the run game. We want him to be a big part of that. We got tight ends, the line, the receivers; they’re all-in on this thing. It’s probably more exciting for him to want to be here, to know that he’s going to have a chance to be a part of something maybe better than he has been a part of before. I think it’s hopefully encouraging for Chris (Johnson) to want to be here. A lot of people would of thought last night that they’re (Titans) starting their third running back so they’re probably going to pass every down. I think we showed everybody our mentality here is going to be, like it or not, control the line of scrimmage, and making plays with what we can do up front. That’ll open up the other things; our young guys responded and so did everyone else around them. It’s not just the offensive line and the backs, heck the receivers blocked well. There were some big holes there and those guys did a great job downfield. I think a lot of people take pride in that, especially when we work on it so much in practice. Now, they go into the games and go, wow this stuff works. If I make that block, it doesn’t matter who the running back is, we can still do some special things. Having CJ (Chris Johnson) back, which we all want, will just make that even easier.

(on if the team will ask Chris Johnson to do less this year)

I don’t think we will. You want him touching the ball as much as we can. Maybe when I say that, maybe it’s more catching the ball with a swing-pass or a dump-off, those are touches too…or a screen, maybe we can give him more touches that way. If he is going to touch it 25 times, maybe it’s 20 runs and five passes that give him the same opportunities. We just want him in here so Chris Palmer can get used to how to use him. Chris (Palmer) has never worked with him, so that’s the hard part. Chris has to figure that out too by having him here.

(on if he has stayed on the periphery of contract negations with Chris Johnson)

I think it reaches a point, as we know we’re three weeks away from the start, that it’s getting to be important that we get this thing worked out. As coaches, we don’t have any control over all that. You get anxious because you’re trying to make decisions on how we move forward. We’re all hoping that it gets done soon so we can move forward; not only so we can stop having to answer these kinds of questions, but also to us as an offense going forward; what our plan is for the Jacksonville (Jaguars) and the (Baltimore) Ravens the second week, so we can start seeing how to use our personnel, like we’re doing with the other players. With the receivers, tight ends, and the backs, we’re trying to figure out who does what, well. You want your top guy here to see exactly how we can use him maybe in different ways.

(on if he is at the point where he is worried about Chris Johnson’s absence)

Not worried, just concerned when you don’t have all your players in. At some point you want to, but we won’t spend too much time dwelling on it because we have too many other things to do and work on. The (Chicago) Bears game is coming up, and I think we all hoped that somewhere by this time, back three to four weeks ago, that we’d have all of this behind us. Hopefully that will happen soon.

(on if he expects Javon Ringer back this week)

We do, we will see. We say we do, but we thought we had a chance last week, but it’s one of those injuries that just kind of nagging a little bit. We will be smart with that again like we were last week, but hopefully we will have him practice Tuesday, Wednesday, and then have a better feel for that.

(on if this is where he expected the team to be at this point of the preseason)

I think we didn’t know what to expect because of the lockout situation, so I’m somewhat more pleasantly happy with where we are at. We didn’t know where we would be, so we didn’t know what the expectations should be. I think we’ve got accomplished what we thought we would and I think the players are responding to that. So far so good, we still have a couple weeks to work on stuff before the real games start, the ones that count, but I think we are happy where we are at knowing that we have a lot of work ahead of us.

(on how the new kickoff rule is playing out in games)

It seems like everyone in the preseason is bringing it out, so it’s kind of hard to get a feel for what they will do when the games really count. Like last night, the first three times (Rob) Bironas kicked it really deep, and we had them inside the 20 all three times. I don’t know if teams want to start that way every game so I think the philosophy may change for teams. They are trying to get the returns and kind of working within the rule to see this is going to unfold. It’s going to be interesting to see how it is, and if the philosophy is going to change quite a bit teams once it is the regular season then it is right now. I think in our first game, I think five out of six were taken out of there even though some of them were six or seven yards deep. Last night, I think we touched-back at least two or three, whereas they brought all of ours out I think. Yeah, it’s going to be interesting to see how all of that plays out once we get into the games.

(on if he was happy with the young reserves on defense)

Like I said, these guys have been  playing well. We controlled the line of scrimmage on the screens. Jurrell Casey chases down the screen and makes a heck of a play with a three-yard loss. That’s really where screens get stopped a lot of times is by defensive lineman and that was a play that stood out just watching him hustle down the line and  being blocked by a lineman, he tackles the back from behind and blows the whole play up. In the blitz packages, I thought we did a great job of putting pressure on the quarterback. I mentioned right from the beginning we hit him quite a bit and sacked him three times, hurried him, we had six or seven tackled in the run game for minus yards. These guys are attacking the line of scrimmage and all playing well within Jerry (Gray’s) scheme. For me, watching it has been enjoyable because I never had an opportunity to watch that side of the ball back in the day. So now it’s kind of nice to watch what’s going on both sides of the ball and studying the film from both sides and drawing up a real good feel for what we are good at and what kind of personnel we have.

(on the Kevin Matthews injury)

He will have the dreaded boot on for a couple days and kind of see how he goes. That’s one of those things where, is it a high ankle, is it a low ankle, so I guess we will find out. I think his tests went well, his MRI test. They looked at it and scanned it so it’s kind of see how he responds. If he is like his dad he will probably heal fast. Bruce (Matthews) was able to heal real quick when he had injuries like this so we will see. We will know more about him probably in a couple of days.

(on if it’s tough to compare Kevin Matthews to Bruce Matthews)

That’s probably the most I would compare them. I would never put that kind of pressure on him or anyone to match up to Bruce (Matthews) but hopefully he will heal quickly. I know he is anxious, he is a young guy that does not want to miss any reps in practice. He knows there are opportunities to make the roster, especially in the third and fourth game. So I’m sure he is going to do whatever it takes to try to get out there, and he is not practicing so we will have to keep him off the field probably.

(on the injury situations regarding Kenny Britt, Barrett Ruud, David Stewart, and Sen’Derrick Marks)

Starting this week Kenny will probably again continue doing what he is doing if he doesn’t have any setbacks and the thinking would be to try to get him into the game and get him in some game time work this weekend. That would be good to see assuming the next five days go well for him in practice. (Barrett) Ruud will kind of be the same thing, start getting him back into practice and ease him in to the next couple of days and see how his shoulder responds. They feel positive about him, so we will see how he is as we go through the week. (David) Stewart would probably be the same way, (David) Stewart would probably be by Wednesday. (Sen’Derrick) Marks will start practicing normal practice. For the first time he will probably be involved in team-work situations. We will evaluate how he handles that, if he gets sore during the week, and it would be great to get him a series or two this weekend. (David) Stewart is the same way. I think you will start seeing him running Monday, Tuesday and we will kind of see where he is at on Wednesday, and then we would like to get him in on Saturday. So we have three or four guys that look like they have a chance to get back on the field Saturday, but we will see how they progress during the week.

(on how it feels to have a veteran quarterback like Matt Hasselbeck under center)

That helps us a lot, the quarterback position was the one that we were most concerned about back in February, and to have him play well both games, last night again making some good decisions. He ran for a first down on his first third down so he is moving better than I think people thought. One of his best completions was on a boot, moving the pocket he completed one to (Jared) Cook. He is competitive and I think he likes his situation here and so do we. I think so far so good and in this third game he will get an opportunity to play even more, at least to probably halftime we will see. But so far all of the quarterbacks have been great in camp.

(on Nick Schommer’s status)

He should be practicing this week also, kind of what (Robert) Johnson did last week. We should work him back in and he is another guy to see how his hamstring responds over the next couple of days, but he will be back probably tomorrow.

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