Initial comments ...
"It's an exciting week for us. The opportunity to play against another team, we need to do that. Whether it be young players, new players, new offense, or new defense, we need to go up against other people. Thursday night brings us the first opportunity. It's exciting for us to be at this point. It rolls around very quickly. It seemed like far off, but now it has gotten here quickly. I can feel the excitement of it in the players. It will be fun out there Thursday night."
Would you like one or two of these offensive linemen to reach out and take one of those jobs? I know they are all in the mix and are competing at RG, RT or left side. I'd imagine you are getting to the point where you'd like …
"Well we haven't played anybody. That wasn't going to change your evaluations. What we've done up to date is not a true, clean evaluation."
So were you always looking from the start of the preseason games until camp?
Would the first offensive line play beyond Andy Dalton?
"Possibly. There is not a first offensive line (laughs), but yes, there will be people who will extend beyond Andy."
Keeping guys healthy is important, but it's also the first game reps for new offensive systems. Are you going to go by feel in terms of how long guys play?
"I'm not going to change based on that. In the past I haven't gone into games with a certain numbers of plays for players and so forth."
If you guys decide to play Vontaze Burfict in the game, is he ready health and conditioning wise?
"Vontaze won't play in this game. I think I said that the other day. If I didn't, I just broke news (laughs). But he's come back and played in the regular season after practicing for three days. There's not the necessity for this game."
What about with Tyler Eifert?
"I'm not going to break news. I'll give you something to do Thursday night."
Matt Nagy got his feet wet last week. How much do you remember …
The Bears coach had his first game last week. How much do you remember about your first preseason game? Did you feel completely ready for it or was your head swiveling a little bit?
"I don't remember the first preseason game."
It was in New York against the Giants or the Jets …
"Yeah (laughs). I remember A.J. (Green) and Andy's first preseason game against the Jets. I remember Carson Palmer's preseason game against the Jets. I don't remember that one particularly. I think Matt, having the luxury of five games since they played last week, is a good thing. It gets the operation of things and how you are going to do things. Obviously he has a very experienced defensive coordinator in Vic Fangio. For the offensive side of the ball, I believe he is calling the plays, so that might work a little differently for him."
What do you want to see out of your team Thursday in this opener?
"Play crisp. Play physical and play crisp."
I know you said you guys aren't going to coach it any differently with the tackling, but are you curious to see how the officials are going to call things?
"We've been coaching tackling differently since we began with our players in April. I wouldn't say we were coaching it any differently than we did before. We've been coaching tackling all the time."
But is there that question mark in your mind how the referees will enforce it?
"There is no question mark in my mind."
Do you think (the league) has clarified it enough?
"I understand it (laughs)."
The way it played out in the Hall of Fame game, did anything surprise you in the way they called it?
"Well there's always calls that happen that aren't necessarily what should be called. There's going to be errors. That doesn't change. You have a high-speed game and people having to make very quick judgement without the benefit of instant replay, high definition and slowing it down frame-by-frame. There's always going to be things that aren't quite right. It happens all the time. This isn't going to change that. So if you're looking for a definitive way, it's not going to happen."
Are preseason games important to evaluate your return guys?
"It's important for them to have live football for the coverage part, the guy returning the ball and the blocking portion. We don't expose our guys out here (at practice) to that. The most injuries occur in that phase of football, that doesn't change and that is the scary part of this. You don't want to lose guys at all. Unfortunately, in the kicking game the injury rate is higher than any other play in football. That's just the way it is in the open field and the speed of it."
Does the goal of avoiding injury outweigh the goal of maybe seeing those guys on kickoffs?
"Everything is based on the timing of it. It's not based on where the ball comes down. It's based on timing. We will play it like we normally do it."
How do you feel safety Jessie Bates has been so far?
"He has done a good job. It's important for him to play these games when it's real football and get accustom to being out there all the time."
Have you felt like his run in the offseason program with the ones (first team) has helped his transition?
"We have to have that confidence, him building the confidence in himself, the confidence the rest of group has with him, it's two fold, so yes."
Are these games important to see his NFL instincts more so than in practice?
"No, playing his position you see it all the time. Everything is going to happen faster. There's not the play to play recognition you get in practice, because of the familiarly you have with the offensive spacing and groupings."
Bobby Hart came in here with 21 NFL starts. Is it obvious to you he comes in here (to Cincinnati) with that experience and brings that to the position?
"He's got the experience and the chip on his shoulder. He's a guy battling for a job, battling to be a starter. He's a guy that checks all the boxes. He's still a very young player, a good athlete, a big man, still has development ahead of him. That was the attraction to Bobby."
William Jackson made a lot of explosive plays last year, what are you hoping to see from him as the season unfolds?
"To play with great consistency and be a great pro. A pro does it play in and play out and doesn't have the lapses. William understands that and he is smart enough to understand that. He's athletic and gifted enough if he wants to reap and really have the opportunity to maximize his abilities. It's the maturity of playing play in and play out."
How important is it for LB Vontaze (Burfict), to play at some point this preseason?
"I'm not going to speculate. I'll play him when I feel like he needs to play or he won't play."
Couple years removed from his injury, do you see a difference in DT Andrew Billings?
"He's had a good camp, yes. He's another guy that came on the latter part of last season as he recovered from the knee surgery the year previous. This is good and he feels good about himself. It's important for him to play well this preseason."
Do knee injuries typically take a long time like that to actually get back to where they were? (Referencing Andrew Billings)
"Yeah, they really believe the player needs 15 to 18 months to get back. You see a different in Gio (Giovanni Bernard) in a similar situation. It depends positionally. In Andrew's case you have a young player who never really got to play and got hurt and missed time. The injury he had affects the ability to push on big people as big people push back on you. You need the leg strength and balance. The only way to gain that again is by doing it. Nick Cosgray (Director of Rehabilitation) out there pushing on him isn't going to help much. He's got to do it all the time. It's good he perked up through the end of last year and he's come here into camp and done it and he's going back to Baylor and graduate on Saturday and that's very cool for him."