ML: “As we move forward into the Colts game, it will be the last opportunity in the preseason for a lot of these guys who are fighting to make the team. There are some spots up for grabs, which I guess is a good thing. It’s a good opportunity to roll these guys out and give them some playing time. For our backups, it’s a chance to kind of get their last football in them for awhile. A good opportunity against other players.
Q: Treating this like a normal preseason finale?
ML: “These last two weeks we’ve been able to do that. I think it will be very similar to what we had last week. Not as much exposure for some guys. We played our guys significantly against Philadelphia. We want them to stay sharp and make steps forward. Defensively, most of the starting group has missed time due to small ailments. We’ve got to judge that accordingly and not overexpose guys.”
Q: How has
ML: “Antwan has battled a virus that he came to training camp with, and he had the slight knee issue. He keeps fighting to get back out there. He got some good snaps in against Buffalo and get another chance this week to play some. He’s gaining his sea legs back, and the weight that he lost from the virus he had. It’s difficult to gain a whole lot of weight during training camp. His strength is improving and he’s smiling more. The foot or Achilles (that sidelined him in 2009) has not been the issue. “
Q: Can you talk about the determining factors with the release of Antonio Bryant?
ML: “I just think it’s hard to go forward and not know (about a player’s availability). It’s important for us to have guys that we are seeing in practice. It was a good time to give him an opportunity. It was a good time for the football team to put this behind us because it was going to be a bone of contention and speculation and all the things it stirred up. It was good to get it over with this week. We basically made the decision in Buffalo on Saturday. I came to that feeling myself and spoke with Mike (Brown) on it. I thought the timing would be right to put it behind us and focus on this week, and then on the Patriots, which is the most important thing. It provides him an opportunity to catch up with another team, give him a possible opportunity to come back here and whatever that may be. I love this guy, for whatever reason, since he got drafted and when I coached against him when I was with the Redskins. It’s unfortunate it didn’t work out, but we’ll see what happens in the future.”
Q: So there’s a chance?
ML: “I love the kid, and he’s such a football player. All he wants to do is play football, which is a good thing.”
Q: What lessons did you learn from this?
ML: “There’s no reason to elaborate and go backwards with everything. There’s no need to talk about it. Go forward.”
Q: With Antonio and now the release of Rashad (Jeanty) yesterday, there have been some questions about the medical staff:
ML: “That’s unfortunate, but people are going to question what they are going to question. Their agents are going to react the way they’re going to react, and if I were in that position, probably that’s how I would react, too.
“But I’ve had complete confidence (in the staff), and a lot of those things that have been written and said aren’t true. The situation on guys that were mentioned was exactly the prognosis I was given when they were injured, and that’s the only thing I can go by.
“When Chris Perry was injured, I was told it was a bad injury – the ankle dislocation was a bad injury. When Carson (Palmer) was injured, I was told he would begin the next season as the starting quarterback. When Tab Perry’s hip was injured, after the scans were done, I was told it was a bad injury. That’s all I can go on. The track record and the body of work prove itself out that way.
“I think we’ve taken great strides since I began here in 2003 to give our guys the very best medical care. I’ve been very forthright with our players. I’m pushing them every day, but the medical staff is worried about their longevity and their career, because that’s Mike (Brown’s) most important thing. Number one, to be able to walk away after professional football and have a productive life. Secondly, that he’s able to play not just this year, but the following year and the year after that. But I’m going to push, and they know that, until they tell me to back down because the guy can’t do it. Because that’s the only way I think we can run this football team. I’ve got a group of tough-minded individuals, and they like playing with tough-minded guys who know they’ll sacrifice for each other. (The Bryant story) is a one-day thing, and it’ll go by like all others do.”
Q: Do you anticipate Adam (Jones) playing on Thursday?
ML: “I don’t think so. I think it’s good to give him a little bit of a break. We wore him out a little bit (in Buffalo) because we were a little thin on numbers. I think he’s due a little rest. He’s had a very good camp. I think his entrance back into football has been exceptional. I think he’s dealt with a lot of things, a lot of pressures other people don’t have any idea about, not just in football but some other things as well. I’m very proud of what he’s done and how he’s gone about it. He gives you everything he’s got out there, and that’s what been great about him. I’m very excited for him and his chance to get back and play NFL football.”
Q: So there’s nothing wrong with the neck or knee?
ML: “No. He just needs a little bit of recuperation time. I was going to spell him already from returns, but I think the best thing to do is spell him totally this week. I think he wants to play, but it’s best that he doesn’t. He may warm up and look good in his uniform, but it’s best that he not play.”
Q: Is this the most depth you’ve had for kick returners?
ML: “Yes, you don’t have to beat around the bush on that one. We have been trying to find some guys that can make a difference in the game returning the ball, and it’s been great. That is a great weapon to have. Sometimes I’ve been envious of teams that have a couple of guys like that. It really changes how the opposing special teams coach looks at the game. He looks and sees that this guy brings this, but this other guy may bring that. They are not sure who the returner is, and it can make a big difference. I was told the Bills entire team had to sit in the special teams meeting prior to the game last week, because they were making a point about how our guys were playing on special teams. That is a great testament to (special teams coach) Darrin (Simmons), the rest of the coaches and players in that area.”
Q: More on the special teams:
ML: “It has been important here, and everybody in this building knows it is an important part of our football team. We take it seriously. We have everybody attend our meetings. We review game tape and everything. We want to show guys what our guys are doing. Sometimes our quarterbacks and receivers aren’t as involved in that area, or maybe Cedric (Benson), but I want everybody to know what is going on. You see a lot of good.
Q: Is it possible that you might not have true fullback in the offense?
ML: “We went no-huddle on Saturday for Carson’s three series. At this point we are using the three-wide receiver mode. We will have other ways to play our no-huddle offense come the regular season. That limited (Joe) Tronzo’s snaps or Dan (Coats) who we have been working at fullback some. We want to see how that would work and how he would fit into that. We did that few years ago, and last year he was back at tight end. There is a possibility yes; maybe we’ll talk about it on Sunday.”
Q: How much progress has (Jerome) Simpson made on special teams?
ML: “He will get another opportunity come Thursday night. I would answer the question yes, he has made a lot of progress. But he is in a group of guys that have been progressing rapidly. The signing of Mike Windt after the draft made our snapper
Q: What would you like to see out of J.T. (O’Sullivan) and Jordan (Palmer)?
ML: “ Calmness. Command. Presence and calmness that sometimes kind of comes and goes a bit, in my eyes. Keep a quiet confidence, calmness and demeanor about what they are doing. I know sometimes, they know more about what they are doing than the guys around them, and that leads to some of the uneasiness that shows up.
“We saw that (calmness) with J.T. last year, when Carson missed a couple of games with the ankle injury in the preseason. I don’t think the Jet game last year (final regular season game) was a fair look at J.T.’s abilities. I had guys coming to me in the pregame meal saying, ‘Coach, am I going to play tonight?’ Obviously, their mindsets had been not quite there, even though I was harping on it, ‘Yes you are, yes you are.’ All the public and aura was, ‘Well, they are not going to play.’ Essentially they weren’t going to play, but yet, we got to go out there and field a team and protect our quarterback and give him a chance to be successful. That’s what I would like to see again from our two guys. Relax and show a quiet confidence that you want to have as your starting quarterback.”
Q: How difficult would it be this late to bring in another QB?
ML: “It’s a difficult position to learn on the run. You are talking about terminology, nomenclature, everything from huddle to cadence to play-calling, so it is a significant step to do that.”