How is the tenor of minicamp different than OTAs? What are you seeing now that you weren’t seeing before?
We’ve had good work in both actually. I’ve been pleased with the attitude and the work ethic and it’s been a continuation of that. Hopefully it doesn’t change. It should be the same tone in both. We have more experienced players throughout, for sure, but I think the young guys have done a really good job. I think they’re working hard.
How have LB
I think they both look tremendous. I’m pleased with the overall conditioning of our squad right now, defensively, that’s all I see. We’ve got a ways to go. I’m not saying we’re ready to open the season, but they’ve been doing something, all of them.
Why does conditioning matter so much this time of year? Why are you focusing on it?
Everybody is. This is a 12 month a year job now. You have to compete with people that are making it a 12 month a year job. You have to keep up with the Jones’.
I think he’ll play really solid football, which he has done for several years now. You’re correct, he did come off one of his better years. He’s been playing really good football for some time.
Speaking of keeping up with the Jones’, what has LB
We don’t have to keep up with him. [Laughs]. We were excited to be lucky enough to get him in the draft. Everything I have seen here, he has really got a great work ethic. He’s a great young man. He didn’t come in here expecting anything to be handed to him. He wants to earn his spot on our roster. It’s just all been positive. Plus, he’s shown us a lot of instinctive football ability. If the coach doesn’t mess him up, I think he’s got a chance to be a pretty good player.
Have you thought about your future? Do you want to continue doing this beyond this year?
I don’t think because of the situation that I am in that it would be very productive for me to think about it. I just go one day at a time really, one year at a time. I feel blessed that I’m still in the game and surrounded with young people that are working hard. I don’t worry too much about the future. Some of us don’t have as much future as others.
This is a defense that has been ranked number one the past two years. What do you think you still have to improve upon?
The first thing, the obvious thing, is we have to get more turnovers. We’ve had years that we’ve been real productive there, but the last couple we haven’t been. I wish I knew the answer to the why, but we’re searching for those answers and we’re working in that direction. We’ll keep stressing it. That’s the most obvious area. We have to help the offense shorten their field and maybe get some more points ourselves. You’ve got to get fumbles, sacks and interceptions to do that. We want to get [production] higher in that for sure.
How hard is it going to be to make up for losing guys like NT Casey Hampton and CB Keenan Lewis?
We’re going to miss those players. They’re wonderful players and have been very good to us. We went through a little bit of a transition. We lost James Farrior a few years ago, Aaron Smith. They were great players and core players to our defense. Fortunately, they had great careers and they were great teachers who handed down what they had learned to these young men who were around them. That’s why we were able to keep our defense at a fairly competitive level, even though we were losing these great players. Until it’s done, you won’t ever know for sure. I’ll be watching for that and I think our guys will do a good job. But we’ll be missing those two guys.
Is it too soon for anyone to distinguish themselves?
I think it is too soon because we don’t have pads on and half of them really don’t know the defense yet. We’re just looking more at establishing a teaching environment and a relationship with these new young men. We’re doing a little character checking, too, and they’ve all done tremendously well. I really like our young safety from Syracuse [
There was an intangible that LB James Harrison brought. How do you make up for that?
We hope it’s a team thing. He happened to be a member of a tough defense and he’s pretty tough. I don’t try to make up for one guy. It’s what we are as 11 men out there on the field. Again, I go back to what I said earlier, those guys were great teachers and great team players and that part of them will always still be here. So, I think we’ll be alright.