On announcing starters, fines, players' backgrounds
Throughout the 2010 NFL season, Coach Mike Tomlin will provide his insight and observations to Steelers.com on a variety of topics pertaining to the team and the National Football League.
Q. Two different times this year, you have had situations where the starting quarterback was injured, and you chose to announce the replacement almost immediately. Why do it that way?
A. Because I want to get about the business of preparing for the football game. I know the announcement means nothing to our football team because they're readying themselves for action, but I'm trying to limit the amount of questions and things they have to deal with in order to prepare for the game. I want these guys focused on what we're doing, which is preparing for the game. If I make the announcement, the story blows over, it's out there, and the guys are not fielding questions all week about who is the quarterback and the ramifications if so-and-so is the quarterback. I think it creates somewhat of a distraction in today's NFL – as the media is a big part of what we do. Sometimes you make decisions about announcements and things relative to that, and I think (the quarterback) is one of those things that is quickly becoming a potential distraction for football teams, when you don't attack it aggressively.
Q. Is quarterback a unique situation, or do you view all positions the same way?
A. It really depends on circumstances. I trust my instincts. I know we have a noteworthy situation here, particularly with the quarterback position. Because it is the quarterback position, it makes it unique, and I'm just reacting and doing what I deem is appropriate under those circumstances.
Q. You had three guys fined for the Titans game. What's your opinion on how the league adjudicates these things?
A. I understand the rules as they are written and that we need to adhere to them. When we don't, then we could be potentially penalized and/or fined. That's part of it. In some of those situations penalties were not levied, but that's standard protocol. Fines go out around the league every week for plays that were not penalized.
Q. Do you talk to players who get fined about being fined?
A. Very little. Most of the time, they know it's coming, so it's less of a news item than many people realize. We talk about playing penalty-free football, and how that hurts our team if we don't, so indirectly we talk about fines, but I'm more interested in the yardage than the dollar amount because it's not my money.
Q. Do you concern yourself with the fact that the league might be trying to take the aggression out of the game?
A. I am concerned about it. I'm less concerned about it when I think it's across-the-board. I get hyper-sensitive when I think that we are being targeted because of our reputation. I like our reputation. I like the persona that we have in terms of how we play football, but I don't want to see our team targeted.
Q. Can you explain the process by which a player is notified of a fine and then up through the part of actually paying the money?
A. Players get a letter via email or FedEx, or both. They have a limited number of days to appeal it via email. When they do that, it goes through an appeals process. If they explain their actions and why they acted in the way they did – the big thing is that the explanation of their action has to show that the action was not egregious. If it does that, you have a chance at getting a reduction or an elimination of the fine. They'll send you notification after a period of time to let you know either that it is what it is, or it's a reduced amount, or it wasn't egregious and there is no fine. Then the payment is deducted from their next paycheck.
Q. A lot of players in the NFL have arrived here by overcoming some tough situations as they were growing up. Do you factor that in when you deal with them as their coach?
A. You acknowledge the existence of those life stories, because that's as much a part of the fabric of the NFL as the players and the games and so forth. These are special people, and they are special people because of the blessing God has given them from a genetic standpoint and their experiences. I truly believe it has made them who they are, and if it was a detriment to them then they wouldn't be here. It's usually a weapon at their disposal when channeled in the proper direction, and I try to guide them in terms of channeling it. That being the competitive spirit, the never-say-die approach and things that people tend to acquire through life experiences.
Q. Do you actively seek this kind of background information?
A. Absolutely. It starts prior to them being here, but no question it continues and really is shaped after they arrive. I think that when you gather information about people prior to them being drafted or acquired, they're in interview mode, if you will. You really get to know people over the course of time as you deal with them on a day-to-day basis, and you really start to be able to connect the dots with what makes them tick and why they are the way they are.
Q. Did you take sociology at William & Mary?
A. I was a sociology major, and I use it every day.