Marvin Lewis News Conference
Paul Brown Stadium
August 20, 2014
"Moving forward and looking at the Arizona Cardinals, this is kind of our week to get the young guys introduced to what a regular season schedule would be. This is kind of our normal Wednesday here, and the schedule will also be similar on the rest of the days.
"The Cardinals are a team that had a successful year last year, just short of the playoffs, being 10-6. They have an offense with Carson (Palmer) at quarterback. Their receiving corps is a big group and they have the speed guys in Teddy Ginn and the kid they drafted from Pittsburg State (John Brown), so they added some speed to that group as well. The running back, Ellington, had a good year for them last year, and they brought over (Jonathan) Dwyer. It's an explosive offensive team.
"They have moved the ball this preseason with their first group, so it's a good challenge for the defense. On the other side of the ball, this is a group that had 47 sacks last year and played the run pretty well -- they gave up around 85 yards a game last year--and they got after the quarterback. It will be a great test for us in all three phases of the game.
"We really need to improve in the kicking game, as far as the return phase, and not have the errors and penalties that we've gotten. Not all would be legitimate calls, but enough of them have been. It hurts. They've hurt our production on offense, particularly in the second half of last week's game. The poor quarterbacks, we'd get the ball at the 30, but we kept having to start at the 10 or 12- yard line, and that's difficult. We've really got to do a better job with that as we go into this game.
"For our team, we're in pretty good health. Obviously we've got some guys that are injured and out, but for the most part I feel fortunate to be where we are. Knock on wood we continue to stay the course that way."
Will you get some guys back that haven't taken snaps yet, like Geno Atkins and Andre Smith potentially?
The third preseason game used to be seen as something of a "dress rehearsal." Is it still that way, or have you gone to just being concerned with keeping everybody healthy for the regular season?
"I don't know when I flipped over, but it's been a while. The health of the football team is so important. We're going to let some of the guys play more this week, but ultimately what counts is being able to prepare and be ready to go for Baltimore, and having the guys stay healthy and ready to go. We're going to extend the play of our guys because there is something about the football conditioning part. They can run and do the things we do, and the way we practice, but to go out there and have to play extended time out there makes a big difference. There's quite a difference between the first game we play to last week's game. More than anything, I want to make sure of the conditioning part. We'll get some guys into the second quarter this week and go from there."
Do you need four preseason games still?
"I think you do. As coaches, we like having the four games to evaluate the young guys. For 30-something of our players, we're good. For that next 25-30 guys that are vying for jobs, it's important to have the four opportunities that we do, where we really have to block live and tackle live. We're only exposing to injury 11 guys at a time, different than if you were practicing against yourself and you had more live periods."
Do you want to see the starters come out of locker room, play into third quarter?
"No, I don't foresee that as a possibility, but we'll see how I feel at halftime. I'll reserve judgment of that.
Are you thinking give them a half and let's go?
"Yeah, depending on the number of plays. If we would have an exorbitant number of plays then we'd be good, but I want to see the number of plays and go from there."
Is there a little more game-planning or studying the opponent this week?
"Just studying the opponent more. There was no one in here real late last night game-planning. We want to put the video out there for our guys. This is the first time we've looked at our opponent with our players. In the previous weeks, we looked at the opponent one day. We looked at the Jets one day, and we looked at Kansas City one day, so this is different. We want to teach the young players how the week would go. This is what we do on Wednesday morning, here's where we start, here's where we talk about the personnel and go through them like that. It's the first time we've done that."
What's the biggest way the practice squad expansion can help you?
"This is the best part of this that I perceive: there's a guy, a Jayson DiManche type guy who makes your football team, who makes your 53 and your 46 because of injury. The next year you draft a guy, and you get the guy back who was hurt, and now, even though he's a good young prospect, he's not allowed to be on the practice squad. To me, that was the significance of it.
"We had the Frazier kid a few years ago (Andre Frazier, former University of Cincinnati LB) who had been in Pittsburgh. I think in '05 he got to play for the Steelers, played in every game on special teams, and then we signed him after that, and he wasn't practice-squad eligible. He would have been the 54th guy, but yet you can't keep him around. There are instances like that, now this gives them an opportunity to be on your squad, if they haven't been active but so many games. As a coach you've got to look at that and see. But that would be an instance right there."
Is that something you had been pushing for?
"Yeah, we've looked at how to propose it when we discussed it in the competition committee, and that was the thing that I brought up, that I see that as being kind of a hole in the system. It's an unfair hole because that's one of your hard-trying guys. He's a guy who maybe came here as a college free agent, maybe was a late-round draft pick, and he's one of those who's first one in, last one to leave, works his tail off, but yet he gets pushed out the door if he can't make the team again the next year. Colin Cochart was another example of a kid who did that for us. So we've had a couple of guys like that, and this rule would give them the opportunity to be on the practice squad and then eventually back on a 53-man roster."
Do you see that number increasing for the two added?
"I don't know that. I would say no. I think people feel good about where it is right now and this was a major move. It's helpful for a coach."
Would you like to see it go where all guys not yet to four years experience are eligible for practice squad?
"There's a lot of talk like that. That's for the negotiator and all that the people with the union to figure out There have been a lot of proposals that talked about a developmental league and things like that, and here in this case we can keep two more guys in shape and ready to go. Everybody has access to them, and we're already paying the strength coach. The player doesn't have to go somewhere and spend 500 or 1000 dollars a week to train and eat. We're feeding them. We've got the greatest health club going here, so it's a good deal. I think it's an advantage to both the player and the club."
Another thing that's been brought up was eliminating inactives on game day...
"The 46 from the 53 was created so that if you had an unfortunate run of injuries at a positon, say defensive back, and the other team came out and played five wide receivers against you all day and you wouldn't be so stuck. It gives some flexibility. I think everybody understands why it is that way."
Do you still see Geno Atkins being ready to go by the season opener?
How important is it for Geno to play this week?
"It's good for Geno to continue in Geno's progression, and he's done a good job of it. I even heard him talk on the field the other day, and I was like, 'Whoa, who's that?' (Laughs) I think it's been good. Everyone goes through a process and progression.
"It's no different than a few years ago, when we went through this with Carson (Palmer). It takes a little time, but I think Geno's done well with it. Guys heal at their own pace, and I think in the mental process it's always going to be at their own pace. But he's been good. Nick (trainer Nick Cosgray) felt great about him the week before training camp, so we've been able to use this time and get him more confident with the football aspect of it. Geno Atkins can push Nick Cosgray around the field all day long, and it's not going to be the same (as playing). He had to get used to the football aspect, and we've been able to do that, and go slow with it, knowing not only his value to the football team but his value moving forward."
How important is it to get gassed in game conditions, not just doing cardio and going through OTAs?
"My point is, whatever we need to do. we're going to do. I'm not going to paint myself into a corner and say he's got to play 57 snaps this week or else he's not going to be ready, because we're going to work with it, and how we judge the best way through it. There's no hard and fast, because sometimes as coaches we do that, and you're looking for an out, and so you say little and don't have to worry about it."
How impressed are you with the first team in the first couple of weeks?
"I'm glad we've played pretty good football, pretty sound football. This is another opportunity. What we did the first two weeks really doesn't matter now, and it won't matter a bit in September, so we have to continue to progress. What I'm pleased with is how both coordinators have done a great job of really having the guys in tune with what was going to occur on the field from the standpoint of their play calling, and from the standpoint of the attack of the other side of the ball. I think they've gained the credibility with the players, because it's the first time in the fire with this team for both of these coaches."
Is Jason Campbell improved enough that he may be able to go this weekend?
Any update on Rex Burkhead?
"He's got a sore knee. He's coming along well. He's just in a brace now. He'll be out of that in a couple of days and be running in the pool soon. I don't think much is going to hold Rex back very long, but he's going to have to go through the process of getting it right. He plays a position where he's going to have to be able to do what a running back does. He's progressing well."
When is the last time you talked to Carson Palmer?
"The last time I talked to Carson was probably when we played the Raiders (in 2012), after the game. I don't know, we've had maybe one dialogue by text maybe. I think I said something stupid and it became a story, and I texted him, and apologized to him that I didn't mean it that way. That kind of thing. I think that's the last time was after the game."
It's been so long -- there are only 16 guys left from when he was here …
"He's gone on, we've gone on, and everybody's happy. He played his tail off last year. He's impressive to watch. He's still Carson. That's why it's hard, every time we look at a quarterback, bringing these guys in from off the street, man, it's hard to compare. I laugh and I think when I went out to USC and watched him throw, when I watched him in Mobile before I even had this job, just throwing in Mobile, and then going out to USC, and then we went out again, and worked him out on our own, and my gosh. You still see it every time he drops back. It's just so impressive. I was talking to (Tyler) Eifert, he played with Carson in that golf outing out there in Tahoe this year. He's impressive with his physical skills that way, throwing the ball. It's hard to compare anybody else to him. I've never seen anybody like it."