Transcript of coach Pat Shurmur's daily press conference for Tuesday, August 21
(Opening statement) – "I think the players were lucky (today), the weather got cool for them, which I think is good every once in a while. We haven't had a lot of heat, so in some ways I'm hoping that it gets hot for the next couple of days. It was a good practice and it felt like we got a lot done. We worked on third down quite a bit, some third and long situations, which were very challenging for the offense. If you're in third and long it's because you didn't do something right on first and second down. You have to be willing to number one, not be in those situations, but then if you are, you have to make your fair share of them. I thought the competition was good today. Now we'll start focusing on what we're going to do this weekend when we play Philadelphia. You saw we had some more players out today. ‘Am I right Nate (Ulrich), were there more guys practicing (jokingly)?' I think. Check with Nate, but we had more guys out there running around today which is good. I'm always happiest when we got most or all our guys out there working, that means we're all getting better together."
(On if they have thought about playing time for Philadelphia) – "No, we're going to finalize that here in the next couple of days. You'll see our ones out there."
(On Michael Vick getting hurt last night and if he will keep Brandon Weeden's reps to a minimum) – "Each team is different. Each game is different. I understand exactly why each team did what they did last night. The Patriots chose to make their big amount of work for their ones here coming up against Tampa Bay. I understand why Philadelphia did what they did based on who their first opponent is, and then the shortness in time between a Monday game and a Friday game. That's for them to decide. I've got a little different scenario, we have time between the games, and it's important that I think our guys get their work. We all pretty much in the fourth preseason game become very cautious when it comes to injuries."
(On if there will be any secrets left in the season opener between the two teams because the staffs know each other so well) – "I think the game is won and lost by the players. There's a fair amount of scheme involved, but the players have got to go out and do it, and we as coaches try to help them. There is some familiarity because I was there for 10 years. Some of the coaches that are here, like Dick Jauron was there as well, Brad Childress of course. I think you can overdo that. Then you get into the he-said she-said, I know they're going to do this or we're going to do this. It can get crazy. I think what you need to do is, do the things that you think your players do best as matched up the best you can against who you're playing against. I think that's where the focus needs to stay."
(On how he thinks the receivers are doing in terms of yards after catch) – "Yards after catch are important. You'd like to be able to make a five yard throw and run for a touchdown. That's the ideal. There are a lot of reasons why you get yacs (yards after catch) and there are a lot of reasons why you don't. Sometimes it's an inaccuracy of a throw. Sometimes it's just the guy catching it doesn't maybe have the ability to go the distance. Maybe the coverage is tight and you threw it in a short window. I think we emphasize it quite a bit. You need to catch the ball, secure it and then get yards. We continually emphasize it, and then our hopes are that is shows up in a game."
(On what makes Sheldon Brown special) – "I think being a veteran. I think he's pretty well aware if he has some limitations, how to not make those limitations show up. He knows his strengths and he's a very smart player. Like most veteran players that have had success for a long time, he knows the players he's played against, he knows the scheme better this year, and so all that kind of plays into it. That's why he has a chance to be successful."
(On where he would identify the special teams after the first two preseason games) – "When you talk about special teams, number one, I think of scoring points, and we're making our field goals. I think it's a credit to the snap, hold, kick and the protection. We've got that better than a year ago. I think Reggie (Hodges) is punting the ball real well. I think we have some young returners that have a chance to catch it and make yards. When you look at the core of special teams, you see some young linebacker type bodies and safety type bodies, those middle-weight type guys that can run the field and still are sturdy enough to block. I think all that kind of in a nutshell, is why I think those guys, number one, have had a good start, but they have to contribute this year to victories. That's why I'm hopeful it will happen."
(On if Joshua Cribbs is the team's punt returner or are they looking at other guys) – "Josh (Cribbs) is going to return kicks for us. Josh is also a very outstanding cover guy. As I mentioned, he's a play maker on special teams, both in the return phase and in the coverage phase. We have some other guys out that are working on return. We've seen Travis Benjamin do it, Buster (Skrine). The list goes on of younger, kind of fast type, different style guys. I would expect that you'll see them from time to time."
(On the defense and the ability to create turnovers) – "From a defensive standpoint you want to be strong and aggressive and fundamental. The other two important are obviously third downs and the red zone you want to be good in those areas. You have to get off the field and then when they get close you have to make them kick field goals. So one of them, it goes to getting off the field and the offense getting the ball, the other one is eliminating scores. Within that, we all know how important it is to get turnovers. We have to minimize them on offense and get them on defense. I'd be very proud of this crew if at the end of the year we were a team that got more than our fair share. I think that will contribute to victories as well. (There is) nothing more demoralizing for an offense than to either get the ball on a fumble or an interception and then the next most demoralizing thing, of course, it when you're knocking the quarterback around. You want a defense that can do those things."
(On Greg Little looking better in this camp) – "I think he's playing better and more consistent and he's not a rookie. I think that because of the experience of at least just one year, I think that helps him look less rookie-like. He looks better physically, he knows more about what to do and the details of his position. It tends to show up and so I think that's where he's at."
(On if he likes Greg Little's personality) – "Yes, I think that comes with some of these guys are young emotional type guys that enjoy playing the game. When that enjoyment shows up in practice and we see improvement then I think it's all good."
(On what Buster Skrine has shown him to this point) – "Well, I haven't seen anything really different. I see him constantly getting better, but I've said all along he's a feisty guy and he challenges on every play. That showed up the other night."
(On if he would feel comfortable with Buster Skrine filling in for Joe Haden or Sheldon Brown) – "There's no question, Buster can play outside. No question in my mind."
(On what makes Buster Skrine a good outside cornerback) – "Well, I think he has the ability to cover, he's fast enough to run down when they chose to do so and he knows how to play the scheme. If it's a two-on-one situation, a zone situation, a man situation and you got to have a feel. You'd like for all your corners to be able to play outside and then you sit and decide who the nickel guy is that plays inside. I think he's much improved in that area."
(On the firmness of Jason Pinkston's body) – "I think so. He's a big man and if he lets it go for three or four days I don't know how big he could get. That's just the way he's built, but I do think he's made an effort to get his body right here in the offseason. You know, it's like anything you train how you eat and how you exercise and how you perform and exert yourself to develop and then obviously maintain. For big guys, sometimes, it's important that they really have to watch what they eat as opposed to some of the guys that are leaner, where they can eat all day long. I think he's done a good job of finding whatever that is. There's still a lot of development that needs to happen there, but the one thing I like about him when he went away in the offseason my last meeting with him I told him, ‘Listen, you've got to do everything you can to get your body right' and I think he took that to heart. I know I was reinforced by George Warhop, his coach, and it's not a finished product by any means, but I think he's made progress there."
(On Alex Mack and his upside) – "I think he will always continue to get better because he works at it. He's obviously established himself as one of the better centers in this league, but he'll be the first one to tell you there are things that he works on every day."
(On his approach to the final week before cuts are made) – "Running parallel with them out here competing is our conversations with them. We're constantly telling them where they're at and what they need to do better. Whether it's a guy that your buddy might worry about or you might think has made the team, or someone that everybody perceives as being on the bubble, they're out here working and then we constantly give them feedback as to what they have to get better at. So that kind of all runs parallel, I would say."
(On how much better this team is than the one he had last year) – "Well, I don't know. At that point talent is potential and we need to see it turn itself into wins, so I don't know. I feel like we have some younger guys here that are different than what we've had in the past. I see some guys that were here a year ago with us that are one year better in our system. As you know by now, I'm a hopeful guy and when I look at our team I see a group of guys that's coming together than better what it was a year ago at this time."