ML: "Even though we didn't have any of the offseason time, it feels a little bit like familiar territory, as far as where we are football-wise as we work toward this last preseason game. It has been a good week for us to go back and focus, like the training camp mode, on some of the things we have locked down tight -- different specific concepts. We have had a good opportunity to do that and we will continue with that today and try to give the guys a little bit of look at the Colts tomorrow in preparation for the game Thursday night. So it's been a good couple days to do that, and really go back in and take a look at the things we are doing and make sure these things are ready to go for the regular season."
Which position battles have the most competition?
ML: "I think there will be decisions at a lot of positions. I don't know that there is a position where there's not a decision that has to be made in respect to the entire final roster. Throughout the entire team we've had some good competition. We've had some young guys come on and show things, whether it be competition for a guy we might waive and ask to sign back on the practice squad, or a guy that ends up making the 53-man roster that maybe five weeks ago you didn't know would be in that position. That's been common throughout. We've had a couple of guys that have joined us that way. They are pushing for an opportunity to stay. That's good throughout the roster decision, hopefully.
"We got Pat (Sims) out there yesterday and got him going. To get him and (Jonathan) Fanene to round into shape and get their conditioning level up with the rest of the football team is also important over this last 10 days prior to the first game."
Is it more difficult cutting the roster down to 53 players from 80 this season, as opposed to cutting it from 70 in previous seasons?
ML: "We are basically below the 80-man right now because we have some guys that will go to different lists at that point (the start of the regular season). Obviously every roster is around that 80 number; that is a lot of players to be released. You have possibly 27 guys being released off 32 rosters. My math tells me that is over 600 people. That is a lot of players to be released at that point."
Does it now appear that Adam Jones will be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list?
ML: "By the medical viewpoint, that is probably the likely way, because he is not going to have any type of clearance prior to the beginning (of the regular season). I don't see a clearance coming down in the next week that would change my feeling right now on him, and he hasn't practiced football. He is progressing well in everything, and all indications are to this point that things will work out very well for him. I try to keep telling him he should be grateful for those things because that wasn't necessarily the prognosis at different points since he's been injured. He has worked hard and there has been a total improvement in where they see him being and how quickly and how early (he can recover). He should feel good about that."
Is the lockout to blame for some players not healing as quickly over the offseason because they couldn't see the team's training staff?
ML: "There are a few guys – we talked about this before – that were affected by the time out of here because they weren't able to work with people hands on. A couple guys' surgeries were (probably) delayed that normally would have been attended to earlier, because they would have been back trying to function and do certain things and so they would have known their body was not quite responding the way it ought to or what they were used to it doing. And they would have looked for more guidance earlier on. It is the situation we are in now, and we have to deal with it and make the best of it."
Even though you don't like to put labels on the linebacker positions, what makes the middle linebacker unique?
ML: "I think a guy that plays the interior of the defense has to have the ability to feel people around him. There's an innateness that comes with that. I think if you're an outside linebacker, you're generally playing from one side in, as opposed to inside-out. You guys (the media) define Sam and Will, and you don't really do it right. As I tell you many times, it's just a name. The Sam doesn't line up on the strong side. It's not a strong-side linebacker. It's just a name. We've got to call him something. We could call them Henry and Hank, but we call them Sam and Will."
What made you want to move Rey Maualuga to the middle this season?
ML: "We actually made the decision last year, if you remember, but we had some injuries and it didn't work out. Rey got injured and we had some other injuries at some other spots and it just didn't work out that way"
Does he have that innateness you talked about?
ML: "I think he does, yes."
Was that one of the reasons why you decided it was time to move him inside?
ML: "I think when we drafted Rey, we wanted to get Rey on the field right away. The best way to put him on the field right away was where he was (outside linebacker), and after we had been around him and knew the things that he could do, then it would be an easy transition to make. We've tried to do a lot of different things with Rey since he's been here in his career, but as you get into the season you have injuries, and so you've got to have a focus on what you can do right and do best.
"Rey's been able to be centered in different spots, but he's handling the move well. I think he's done a nice job of handling the huddle and so forth. I think he's playing more than he's ever played, and he has a tendency to really dry out with his body. He's a big-time sweater, so it's important that he continues to work on the hydration. We brought him out of the game a little bit the other night. I think you'll see us do things like that where we're going to relieve him a little bit because he's hyperactive. He plays so hard all of the time, so we're going to have to make sure we protect him that way."
Where do you think you are in regards to punt returner and kick returners?
ML: "We keep trying to look at other guys. We kind of know who we have and who's been here and who's been productive doing it, and that would be Bernard (Scott) and Andre (Caldwell) on kickoffs. But we've looked at some of these young guys and new guys. We want to make sure we get a look at them and see if there is way that they can help, and we'll do the same thing to a punt returner. We used (Jamere) Holland, we'll use little (Andrew) Hawkins this week. We'll continue to look at those guys and keep moving them around and see if one of those guys can add something to the football team."
Are you encouraged by the play of Andrew Hawkins?
ML: "I've been really impressed with Andrew. He's come in and worked extremely hard and kind of caught up to everybody else quickly after being released by the Rams. He's making the most of this opportunity. When you've got guys competing for jobs on football teams, that's the way you want to go about it. He's a great lesson for some of these rookie players in their first time in professional football. Obviously he's been around for a little bit. He's had a couple of years playing in Canada and so forth, so he's been through it a little bit. I think he's making the most of this opportunity, no question."
Are you encouraged by the play of Colin Cochart?
ML: "Colin, I feel like, has really gotten better each time out there. He's really what we felt like (he would be) when he went through the draft undrafted – that he would have the opportunity to be on someone's 53-man roster. I think the more he becomes comfortable, the faster he'll play, and that's what's going to be big when the season begins."
How much growth have you seen from A.J. Green and Andy Dalton over the past five weeks?
ML: "I think there's been a lot of maturity, and as the time has gone on. It's good to be back here (Paul Brown Stadium) for them to get comfortable with the surroundings and what the regular season is all about and how you go about it – when you lift weights, eat, how the day unfolds, extra time to spend with coaches, which coaches are going to coach you and spend extra time on the practice field, and when you make the transition to leave here and what the day entails. We have to keep outlining how the day goes. It was good for them to go out and play well last Thursday and build upon where they kind of got going in New York. Obviously the New York game wasn't A.J.'s best outing, and so it was good for him to bounce back and make some catches and plays."
Has Jerome Simpson matured a lot early this season?
ML: "He has. It's a position that has lent itself to a "look at me" (attitude), and we could have looked at him a few times the other night, but the ball had already gone the other way. He's already done some amazing things. When Shipley caught the ball against the Jets, if the focus on that play would have been Jerome, it would have been a touchdown. It was a beautiful move he made. He's done a lot of good things – he's blocked excellently. He had one error in the game early on. You never know when you're going to be the guy, and that's something he has to get used to.
"As for Andre (Caldwell), he seized his moment the other night and did well. He continues to carve out more and more time for himself. We have a good rotation going whether it is the three wide receivers or the alternating of the two wide receiver. Andre is going to have the opportunity to come in and do a lot, and he deserves it. He's been up to the challenge and has been making good on it."
Did you sense Simpson's maturity in not getting discouraged?
ML: "I don't know if there's anything for him to be discouraged about. It's his first opportunity to be a full-time NFL starter. He's not been able to rise quite to that level before. It's an exciting thing for him. You're not going to catch 10 passes every time out there, but make sure when your 10 come, make sure you're ready to get them, because there are going to be times when it comes that way."