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LeBeau's take

6-1-01, 1:45 a.m.

After sending his players home until the July 20 start of training camp and his coaching staff on vacation, head coach Dick LeBeau sat down Thursday with Geoff Hobson of to discuss the past month of workouts.

HOBSON: With the release of left tackle Rod Jones, are you concerned with Richmond Webb? He says he needs to drop 15 to 20 pounds.

LEBEAU: I liked what I saw on film from last year when he played football. I'm concerned with any of our players who are not absolutely in line with what I think their playing weights should be.

We have to address that between now and training camp. It's very difficult to lose weight in the camps we just completed. There's a lot of ways to lose weight. We all know what they are. We're confident it will be done.

HOBSON: Are you worried about the wide receivers? Chad Johnson couldn't be here (because of his college graduation date) and Darnay Scott chose to be here only the last two days.

LEBEAU: (Johnson) will be here as soon as league rules allow him to be. The quarterbacks can still throw. The receivers can still learn all the routes and run the routes. They won't get the teamwork because it's over.

HOBSON: Have you talked to Darnay?

LEBEAU: I've talked to Darnay at length.

HOBSON: What was your message?

LEBEAU: Darnay will be in here working some in June with the quarterbacks.

HOBSON: Some of his teammates have suggested since Darnay missed all of last year, he doesn't know you as a head coach and might not have understood the urgency from you and some of the other guys. That there are different expectations with you.

LEBEAU: Whatever the reason, we think that Darnay will be with us next month.

HOBSON: I guess you told him the importance of everybody being here.

LEBEAU: It's important for all our players to give us as much as they can give us.

HOBSON: What about your quarterbacks? Scott Mitchell came into the camp thinking he wasn't going to get many reps because of Akili Smith and Jon Kitna. But he was pleasantly surprised at how spread out the snaps were and that he got as much work as he did.

LEBEAU: The quarterbacks are one of the highlights. It depended on which day you're looking at because one might have looked better than the other. But it wasn't always the same one. I hope as we get into playing football games that one will separate himself, but now I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing that each one showed some pretty good flashes of good play.

HOBSON: Kitna said it was pretty clear you guys weren't looking for a guy to separate yet.

LEBEAU: We tried to get the offense installed in a timely manner and get them comfortable with it. It's like anything else. The final answer is going to come with production and how they move the football.

HOBSON: What did you see from Kitna?

I saw from Jon on the field what I saw from him when I interviewed him in my office. A confident look. A dedicated, professional look. An attitude. A demeanor. A lot of things I like.

HOBSON: How about Akili?

LEBEAU: Akili is more mature. He definitely threw the ball the best that he's thrown it since he's been here. At times he was very, very impressive. The arm strength and reads. Some of the coverages he beat with his arm were very impressive. But his overall bearing and confidence were back up, which was an important thing to get done.

HOBSON: It looked like on some plays he still had the habit of holding on to the ball.

LEBEAU: I think all the quarterbacks at times held it a little and I think that's a reflection more of a new offense than anything else. Akili made good improvement in that area. It was rare when I said to myself, 'We've got to get rid of the ball a little quicker.' Are we there yet? No, but did we make strides? Yes, I think Akili made strides.

HOBSON: It's pretty much consensus Mitchell looked excellent most of the camp.

LEBEAU: Scott looked better than I thought he'd look. I thought he did very well. I haven't mentioned this to him yet, but I think perhaps he's had this system somewhere in his past and has operated it because he just seemed very comfortable with the reads and releases and I thought he played very well.

HOBSON: He's not so sure the snaps will be able to get so evenly divided in training camp.

LEBEAU: We're going to do whatever we can to find the best player. It's not an easy thing to do (getting enough plays to find out about three quarterbacks while trying to get one ready for the season), but we're going to try to do it.

That's one of the jobs of Coach (offensive coordinator Bob) Bratkowski and Coach (quarterbacks coach Ken) Anderson.

To budget the practice and the scripts. You can't just send a couple of guys out there and throw a few balls. A lot of things have to go into it. If it means we have to work a little bit later getting ready for training camp, so be it. I'd rather do that than miss giving a player a chance to show he is in fact the most productive guy we've got.

HOBSON: I guess you think one of those three guys has a chance at being the Opening Day starter.

LEBEAU: I think that would be a fair statement.

HOBSON: No doubt you're still looking for a veteran cornerback in free agency.

But what did you see out of your guys this month that maybe you didn't see last year? (New cornerback coach) Kevin Coyle said he pretty much rotated everybody and he doesn't have starters set in stone.

LEBEAU: I thought our corner play did improve late last season. I don't see us regressing. We have to progress, we know that. For the most part, it's a young group with a good opportunity to progress. We're not going to limit ourselves to any one position. We'll look at the free-agent period that still has some time to run and if there's a player there we think can help, we'll pursue them.

HOBSON: First impression of first pick Justin Smith?

LEBEAU: A lot of talent. Good work ethic. I saw all the things we drafted him for. Quickness on the edge.

HOBSON: What is the main thing you tried to accomplish this month and did you accomplish it?

LEBEAU: Our main focus was to install a new offense and a lot of a new defense and we got that done. Along with that we wanted to build a unity and make progress along those lines last year through very adverse conditions and to use that as a foundation to build the season of 2001. I think we took some steps there.

The spirit and camaraderie were good. It's not quite where I want it to be yet, but I think we'll end up being a pretty close, spirited team when we start playing.

HOBSON: You came out right away and said the depth chart means nothing and you weren't going to make any long-term calls off of anything before training camp. It seemed like this camp – your first one as head coach _ was more about setting your own tempo. Setting your tone.

LEBEAU: I want them, to understand what we're going to ask of them. Any job deserves a job description, what a person is expected to do for an organization. We try to present that. How we do business and we want it to be constant. We don't want to be up and down. We want the players to see what our program is and we think we can become a very competitive team.

HOBSON: What did you like about this month?

LEBEAU: I liked the participation we had. Not everyone was here all at the same time, but there is no one who wasn't here and the bulk of the team was always here. Those are positives. My goal next year is to see everyone here all the time. That's what we're working for and I think when we get things accomplished what we're trying to get accomplished, we'll have that.

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