HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on reasons why the Patriots are so good at yards after catch)
I think it start with (Tom Brady’s) accuracy. I think he puts it in a place where they can turn up without wasting motion. You have certain guys that just have a knack for making the first guy miss. It’s a combination of that. Obviously, they’re good receivers. They’ve worked with each other a lot. I think a lot of it is that the ball placement is so good that they’re able to take it. He puts it in spots where his receivers aren’t going to get hit real hard. The safest spot to put it in, situations where they can run with it as they’re catching it. That’s probably the biggest part. That’s what he does so well.
(on what he tells guys playing in their first NFL game)
Something we’ve discussed throughout this, the process of just starting training camp, everything as soon as those guys are just playing a preseason game. I think a lot of times for me, I just tell them stories maybe when I went through the same situation. You just try to come up with things that make them realize it’s just another game. When the game all starts, it’s just football. You prepare for it and just go out and play your best. That’s how most guys work—once the game starts it’s all about the football and doing your assignment. I think it’s the buildup before that sometimes guys get a little worked up over. That’s what you’re trying to calm down. Everyone has to find their own way of doing that. As a head coach, you can do a lot of things, say a lot of things. It ultimately comes down to the player just relaxing and believing and having the confidence in himself that he’s ready to play.
(on how much it will help
I think all of those things will be big. Definitely the running game going well makes his job a lot easier. Getting great field position, getting first downs—all of those things will help him a lot, there’s no doubt. For any quarterback, you don’t want to hand the ball off twice and have third-and-10 or third-and-11. You just can’t have those kinds of things. I don’t care who you are, you’re not going to convert a lot of those. I think we’ll be smart. We’re going to try to be as wide open as we can because we don’t want to be predictable. We have to make it to where it’s not…we have a young quarterback. We have to be smart on how we spread the ball around.
(on if he has a special message for Jake Locker heading into his first start)
It’s something he and I will talk about as we go through. I think I talk to those quarterbacks throughout the week. I’m with them pretty much throughout the week in meetings and on the field. I kind of always have their ear a little bit. I like to talk to them on Saturday mornings alone. I spent plenty of time with these guys where I’m hopefully adding a message throughout the week. It’s just not a wait until Saturday morning or Sunday morning to give them words of wisdom. I think it’s just something during the week that you try to relax them on what they’re doing. Usually you can tell if a guy is struggling a little bit. I don’t see him having a problem with it.
(on how much confidence he has in the run game)
With a lot of things, we just didn’t know what was going to happen last year. Chris (Johnson) held out and that created some uncertainty. I think just because of the offense being with the new coordinator, being with new coaches, there was so much newness last year that I think with a lot of things, we were very unsure how things were going to start in that first game or how things were going to go. This year, we’re much more optimistic. I think we’ve fought through some of our problems that we had last year. Hopefully that will show up in this game.
(on if defenses have an advantage Week 1 of the regular season)
I think that’s more of a preseason edge. I think you saw in the second half that changed quite a bit once the offenses kind of got rolling and got a feel for what the defenses are doing. Yeah, I think that generally a defense starts faster than offenses, but I think that’s more when you start training camp and start preseason versus once you get into the season. I think there shouldn’t be any reason why the offense can’t come out playing pretty well.
(on how long of a leash Jake Locker has on Sunday)
Last year, I don’t know if we ever took Matt (Hasselbeck) out unless it was an injury. Jake (Locker) only played because Matt got injured in all of those games and had issues going on. I think one was his calf. He’s had two or three times where I think it happened strictly because of injury. He didn’t have any leash on him last year. He was playing start to finish, and the only reason Jake got in was because of injuries. I see it the same way for Jake. We believe in him, I think that’s a sign of belief. If there’s a reason to make a change because of injury or him not feeling right, that’s a whole different story. You don’t go into a season worrying about what you’re going to do if things don’t go well. Then, with the way things went last year in the opener, we would have put Jake in in the opener because offensively we didn’t play very well in the first three quarters. All of a sudden in the fourth quarter, we came on. I think you just have to hang with it. With the offense a lot of times, it’s not just the quarterback that’s not performing. We’ve made a decision we’re excited about and he’s a player that we think is going to have a really good year.
(on what Art Modell has meant to the NFL)
I always loved playing in Cleveland, being in the same division with them. I’m sad I never got a chance to really meet him, just heard the stories about him, the years in Cleveland. Other than the fact that the team they put together for so many years, for me, that was always my favorite place to play because of the tradition in Cleveland—the locker rooms, the small locker room, coming out through the dugout, the whole experience, knowing that Jim Brown played there at one time, the fan base. (Art Modell) helped created all that there in Cleveland. I thought that the dog pound, there were so many things that were kind of cool about playing in Cleveland. We played there once a year. I know it is a big loss for the NFL, and he’s obviously a big part of what the game is today.
(on how he sees the matchup playing out between Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and the Titans offensive line)
(Vince Wilfork) is a good football player, him and (Kyle) Love. That’s two big men that take up a lot of space, and you can’t underestimate, they’re not just run stoppers. Wilfork, especially, has made plays on the quarterback, had sacks, intercepted passes. The guy has done things that it’s hard to believe what he is able to do with his size. He’s kind of one of the leaders of the defense. They’re a young group. They do a great job of keeping the right veterans and mixing them with the good, young players, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I think they are about as young as we are on defense. Still, they play at a very high level. I think he’s one of the guys they look for to make plays for them. Him and Love look to control the line of scrimmage. It’s going to be a battle upfront for us with them to create space. If we want to get a running game going, it’s going to have to be controlling those two guys.
(on if that’s a tough task for
Sure it is. I think it’s a tough start for anybody. (Vince Wilfork) may play over (David) Stewart depending if they’re playing some 3-4 or if they’re playing the 4-3 he’ll be with the guards. I think all three guys, even Stewart, have to play against some of those bigger guys. They’re smart how they use people. They kind of look and see what you do as an offensive team, and they try to take your strengths away. They do that by using their personnel in different ways. I think that’s what they’re known for, and they’ve done a good job with it. I think a lot of guys on the offensive line are going to have to deal with that front seven.