"I'm looking forward to having a productive day today with our practice against the Vikings. I think its good for our football team to take a step forward and practice against different people, new things, and new schemes. You have to react differently to things much like you have to do in a real game, where everything isn't do scripted and you have to react. These are really good opportunities for our skill players to move forward and play against different personnel. Its really good and I'm looking forward to it being a couple productive games for us prior to the game."
Is this like the old days with Mike Zimmer, and coordinating with him to script a practice?
"What Mike and I did in the springtime was decide what areas we wanted to cover. We talked last night and yesterday morning, and will talk here again today. We have some adjustments we will put in from the other coaches. Its pretty easy when you do it with people you're friends with and respect that way."
Do the players feel a different level of excitement with these next few days?
"Yes I think there is, no question. There's way to pull back from that. I tried to pull back yesterday in preparation for today. That's a good thing."
How much do you get from these two days in comparison to Friday?
"I think Friday is a good thing, but this is an experience that I think down the road for certain players is invaluable as far as experience and reaction. Its also valuable to our football team when it comes to that 46 man roster down the road, because these situations will come up throughout the season. I think how a guy handles those situations or whatever it may be, will help a guy push forward."
You guys both have the same mentality of grooming smart football players who understand the bigger picture. Is that starting to click with the younger guys?
"I think so. You want the younger guys to go out and be able to execute their jobs, do them to the best of their ability. It has to be play after play and not have any breakdowns or meltdowns. Hopefully it will reduce some of the anxiety that will come about Friday evening."
How much satisfaction do you get seeing many of your former coordinators go on to head coaching jobs?
"It gives me a great deal of satisfaction. First off, Mike and I have been friends since the early 80s, and spent a lot of time around each other. It' the same with Hue (Jackson) and Jay (Gruden). and all the success they've had. I've had with a relationship with Hue for a long period of time. I remember him when he first got into coaching. Its special. Jay I didn't know as long, but I've coached with Jon (Gruden), so we got back to those times. You feel good about it. What all three guys have in common, as with most of our coaching staff, is they have been career coaches all their life. All they've done is grind. They were grinders as young coaches, and they're grinders now. That's why they've been so successful."
How did you first meet Mike Zimmer?
"Mike coached at Weber State when I coached at Idaho State. We obviously played them. The coaches in the Big Sky conference decided they were going to take a page from the Pac 10 conference and have the assistant coaches' golf tournament. And then we carried it over to the WAC conference after that. We were really big time (laughs).
"But it was good times for all of us then. I started in the NFL in Pittsburgh in 1992, and I think Mike started with the Cowboys in '93. It was right around the same time. We would see each other. We played against the Cowboys, obviously, quite a few times. I remember riding on the bus to the Pro Bowl game, and his son Adam being just a young boy then and riding up front with Mike and I. So we spent a lot of time together.
"And then obviously when we had the opportunity to sit down and discuss Mike coming here to Cincinnati, when we were in the room for six or eight hours and forgetting to eat dinner. We were just filling up all the (dry erase) boards. It was fun. It was great, I got to see him last night, and it was just really cool. We spend a lot of time together at the owners' meetings now. It's just fun to have a friend, and him be so successful, and be a part of it."
Who is the better golfer?
"Well, I don't know. I don't think he's playing much golf. But that's not to say that I'm the better golfer (laughs). I went on golf overload there for a little bit. I'm good for a while (laughs)."
How much did the stuff that you guys do here with the double A-gaps, which Zimmer and Paul Guenther put in, impact your success over the last five to seven years?
"People have been lining up different ways in the NFL for a long time. There are only so many ways. But coaches have done a great job of taking and building upon it per plan, week after week. Mike kind of looks at it as his baby, which is cool."
You know you're onto something when other teams start doing the same thing, or at least pieces of it, like a lot of teams are doing with that philosophy now…
"Well again, they've done a good job it. I'm sure, Dave (Bengals radio analyst and former Bengals offensive lineman Dave Lapham), at some point you faced that in your career, or something like it. So it's similar. But people continue to put their spin on things. Most importantly for our players is how our players understand the things we do out of those looks and the critical coaching points."
How much did Paul Guenther's relationship with Mike Zimmer have to do with his promotion to defensive coordinator once Zimmer left for Minnesota?
"As you're part of the meetings on offense and defense, you know the expertise of coaches and you know their input with the things you're doing and what they bring to the table. I thought Paul was a very valuable part of what we were doing and a great asset to Mike.
"And that's what you want on your coaching staff. You want guys who bring very sound ideas. Something that checks out A to Z, not something that falters halfway through because it's not sound. You want guys who can give input. And you get a chance to "yay or nay" it, just like I get to do from the top of it once they get it around third base. My thing is, 'How does the player understand, how does he know and how does he play fast with it?' We can be what we think are the smartest coaches, but it's how the players take it and what they do with it that counts."