"We just got word that we are able to practice with the veteran free-agent players and the guys that signed (new) contracts, which means that the CBA has been totally ratified by everyone involved. I am looking forward to having some new faces out there tonight, with helmets and jersey numbers. We'll try to ease them into practice. Some of them have been here with us longer than others, but we will still try and ease them in as we go into this weekend. We want to come out of this weekend full strength and headed into next week as we get closer and closer to the preseason. Come tomorrow, we will be a week away from our first preseason game."
Q: How does Cedric (Benson) look to you? Does he look in shape physically?ML: "All he has done is stand out there and watch walkthroughs, so I haven't seen anything from him yet. I can't tell you how he looks just yet."
Q: Do you think this offensive style caters to what his (Benson's) needs are? ML: "I think any offense that hands the ball off at any point in the drive caters to Cedric's needs. What he needs to do is become a better receiver and do some of the other things that are going to be more important to us in our offense. He has to be more diligent in the passing game: being in the right spots, getting the right route run, and getting it run correctly and precisely while having the speed and energy out of the cuts."
Q: Does this offense cater more than last year's to a receiver out of the backfield?ML: "Any offense does, but you have to have an effective player that does that. You have to get to the right spots, turn the right way, and other things. Hopefully the design of the things that we are doing will lead to that so he can better understand it."
Q: How does the quarterback situation look?ML: "We are pleased with the quarterbacks. We have had two quarterbacks working so far and we are very pleased where Andy (Dalton) is right now, and we are going to add some other guys to the mix this evening."
Q: How beneficial was it, as a coaching staff, to be able to get a real good look at a bunch of young guys that you may not have been able to do otherwise?ML: "That has been good in some positions. We have been able to see some players that, otherwise, wouldn't have got as many repetitions. Hopefully it will help them as they get an opportunity to play in a week or so against the Lions.
Q: With all the new faces at camp, does it give it a different feel?ML: "It wouldn't matter if we knew all these guys. With the labor situation that occurred this offseason in the NFL, there was going to be a new look anyway. We have new rules, and this is the first time we've been around our players. Normally we've been around the draft picks for two-and-a-half months now. It's a total change. We've had to adjust and adapt to it. The way we do things is different. And we're having to deal with getting our guys in football condition as we are also learning football.
Q: There were lots of questions surrounding (free agent Donte)Whitner. Any thoughts on that?ML: "I don't know. We don't have a player until he passes a physical and signs a contract, so we'll see what happens with all of that."
Q: How do you feel about some of the signings that have happened so far with the defense?ML: "I think the people that are doing that have done a great job. I think the evaluation process and our ability to get the guys here and signed has been very good. We've really made our defense more physical and more athletic. We've added some guys in key spots that we wanted to add. And I'm excited about it. Guys who've been good pros are hungry and are having an opportunity to mesh with the guys we have."
Q: How do you feel about the youth of the wide receivers and how they can contribute early?ML: "That's what you want. You want a young football team for the most part. You want a young, athletic football team. And if we could always stop the clock and keep them this young and enthusiastic and athletic, you'd feel good about it. We're excited about it. As they continue to use their athleticism, speed, and energy, it will help us as a football team."
Q: You talked the other day about Carlos Dunlap turning a corner in maturity. Do you think Andre Smith has done that now?ML: "I think Andre has done some things personally, but he hasn't had an opportunity. Hopefully as he begins to play football each and every day, we can have the same progress made."
Q: What's the main thing you're looking for out of the scrimmage and mock game situations?ML: "We'll have an opportunity for guys to play football with tackling when we get in those situations on Friday night. I think that's good. They've been working hard for a little over a week or so. and now the opportunity comes to move to the next stage of football, when we make the drills live, and that part will be fun for them. We'll get a chance to evaluate some more things on tape. It's harder to evaluate summer football (practices). That's why we play the preseason games. The coaches want to hold on to that. It's our best opportunity to evaluate our players and hopefully only risk your 11 guys verses their 11 guys, rather than the 22 situation we have out here anytime we make a (practice) drill live."
Q: Because of the number of free agents unable to play, which undrafted guys have seized the opportunity and done well?ML: "I mentioned the running backs. I think they've done a nice job. (Including) Colin Cochart, the tight end from South Dakota State. And David Pender, a guy that we didn't have with us (in practice) last year after we claimed him off waivers, because he had to go through some personal things. He's done a couple of good things. It's hard to say right now because you have to get into playing football a little bit, and as we go forward, I think we'll get to know more and more about these guys."