Opening comments: ML:
As for the game yesterday, I thought we displayed great energy and good effort. We knew it would be important to get off to a good start, and we did. I thought the coaches planning our play selection offensively early really got us going. Anytime you get in that situation on the other side of a fast start, it's really hard to come back. We didn't get points on those first drives, but we got movement. That got them on their heels and got them to thinking about a few more things.
I thought defensively, winning on third down early in the game was really important. Even when we gave up the nine-yard gain, then we stopped them on third-and-one. Throughout the early part of the game we gave up one run, but other than that we were pretty good. It was good to stay away from the penalties in the kicking game. Leon (Hall) misjudged a punt, and ran a long way on one return for no gain. But he did a good job back there, and that gives just another capable guy at returning punts. I thought Ryan (Fitzpatrick) did a good job for us yesterday. And lastly, I think our fans did a great job yesterday. It always plays a part in the game when you have home field advantage. When the '08 season schedule came out, and we saw that we were finishing the season at home, we know that would be huge.
As far as injuries from the game yesterday, Darryl Blackstock came away with a groin injury and Rashad Jeanty sustained a pec injury. Both of those guys would be down some time if we were playing, but they will heal on their own. The guys that may need some offseason surgery are Keith Rivers, who will have an ankle cleaned out from an injury from college, and David Jones, who may have a knee scoped. He played with a knee that gave him some trouble this year. The guys who have had surgery seem to be doing well; Johnathan Joseph and Marvin White. Andrew Whitworth seems to be doing well without surgery. Stacy Andrews will have surgery on his knee here in the near future. Robert Geathers and Frostee Rucker both seem to be on the mend. That is where we are as a football team as we head into the offseason.
Q: Any news on Carson Palmer?ML:
As we continue to tell you, Carson is doing fine. He'll continue to rehab and do the things he's been doing, throw and rehab, and continue to move forward.
Q: What do you think about the coaching staff, and do you see any changes in the offseason?ML:
I think every year we get to this point, and you guys ask the same question. So we have the blanket statement that we'll see what happens when it happens. I don't know any of that right now (changes). We just finished playing yesterday. I'm sure guys have aspirations to do different things, and we'll see what those hold.
Q: Where does Chris Henry stand with you right now?ML:
Chris, I believe, is under contract for next season.
Q: What have you seen from him in terms of behavior and maturity, and what does he need to do in the offseason?ML:
I think Chris did a good job of doing what's asked of him, of being where he needs to be when he needs to be there. His play has gotten better over the last few weeks. I think it gets taken for granted sometimes that a guy can be away and miss as much time as he did and still be a productive player. It really took a lot of time for him to get going and to do things that were productive.
Q: There seems to be room for roster turnover this winter; how much change do you anticipate?ML:
I think we'll have some turnover in players. We need to get better in some positions, no doubt. We need to get better in positions, whether it be through the draft of acquisition of some guys. We have some guys who obviously are free agents, both in the restricted category and unrestricted. We'll have to see how it plays out, how those things shake out.
Q: You have said you believe in building a team through the draft, but there are some intriguing names of potential free agents:ML:
There really never gets to be such a good list at the end of the day. In most cases, teams sign back their players. And players are generally going to be more productive with the football team they're with, because they know the intricacies of things. They know their ups and downs. Players are generally more productive on their current teams. That's why most players that are wanted generally fit back into their teams a little better than they do when they go elsewhere.
Q: Chad (Ocho Cinco) doesn't need surgery on that shoulder?ML:
Well, we'll see. I think that still remains to be seen.
Q: Chad and T.J. (Houshmandzadeh) had trying seasons:ML:
Well, it has been, and hopefully they learned a good lesson about what they used to be and what they kind of molded themselves into. Hopefully they'll go back and understand that what they used to be made them more productive, and they kept their edge a little better. I can't have said it enough times that they weren't quite ready to go when we got started, and that makes a big difference. It's difficult to train on your own at the pace everyone else is keeping with the team.
Q: Who could you name as someone who made you comfortable when you were in a slump?ML:
I can't afford a slump. So I don't know that I get in any slumps in any way. But I think we had some guys come in and be productive. Like David Jones, who's fought through a sore knee for most of the football season, and has come in and out and played really productively for us. This was a story of a guy who got an opportunity and wasn't going to relinquish the opportunity if he could stay out there, and I think that's a good example of that.
Q: The offensive line seemed to be a strength at the beginning of the season. What do you think of them now?ML:
Well, it wasn't a strength at the beginning of the year, because we didn't start out and knock anybody off the ball as we began the season in Baltimore. It was a perceived strength, but it wasn't a real strength. And we need to be better.
Q: Didn't it seem like the offensive line group improved by season's end?ML:
Well, I think we found at the end of the season that guys who want to play are going to be better than guys who aren't quite sure whether they want to play. If you have 11 guys out there wanting to play and wanting to get it done correctly, you have a chance to be more productive. I think that's important and a good lesson. It's getting the right 11 guys on that particular play and at that particular moment in the game going in the right direction at that time, and then you have a chance to play better in every area in all three phases of the football.
Q: A couple of defensive players were talking about finishing 12th on overall defense. Do you have any reflection on the defense overall?ML:
Well that's great. It's good with a bunch of different faces and people. They just kept improving on things. I thought each and every week, Mike (Zimmer) put an outstanding plan together, and the players have done a great job of going out and executing it the best they could. We've still got some blemishes there with some plays we'd like to take back, some explosive plays if we could eliminate those. But you don't get a chance to do that. As we got down the stretch here at the end of the football season, I think we probably had just one in our last seven games, and that makes a big difference.
Q: Andre Caldwell showed that he could line up and play the game, but not so much with Jerome Simpson:ML:
Well, it's difficult. You can't practice seven wide receivers in part of the game plan. It's probably not fair to Andre to say you didn't get any chances to practice with the offense because we've got a new quarterback, and you want the guys taking the chances in the slots where they're going to be. And so even though I got Jerome suited up this week prior to this game, until Friday afternoon or Saturday really, we were unsure whether Jerome would have an opportunity to suit up because we were going to go in a different direction with a different play had T.J. been ready to go. So you don't know going in how the crystal ball is going to shake out.
Q: Are you happy with what you see out of both of those guys (Caldwell and Simpson)?ML:
I'm very happy with what I've seen out of both of the young receivers. And I think Mario (Urrutia), who was on our practice squad all season, has shown a lot of improvement. Just the time, the detail and the work each day in practice, and getting coached up each day has helped him.
Q: Talk about the determination on the goal-line stand (against Kansas City):ML:
It ended up being a big part of the game, because had they scored right away there, there's more time on the clock. That would have allowed them the decision on whether not to kick it deep or try the onside. If you try an onside kick, your probability of getting that is so slim, and when we recovered, basically the ballgame is over. The goal-line stand, not allowing them to score right away, was big. Had they scored with four minutes to go, they could have kicked the ball deep. But when you're down to 2:27 like it was, they had no opportunity to kick it deep. They had to onside kick, down by two possessions as they were. I think the guys could taste that second straight shutout. Any time you shut anybody out in the NFL is huge. Those plays, nobody really understood the magnitude of them at that point.
Q: Mike Zimmer, said he really respected this group of players on defense because they always worked, and you said you liked this team. Do you have respect for the defense as Zimmer does?ML:
I think that way with our whole football team. They worked the entire year. Obviously, that's a defensive group without any known stars or Pro Bowl players at this point, but they continued to work and fight together all the time, and it's big. You're putting up decent numbers with a team that was one of the least in gaining first downs and scoring points and field position. All those things make a big difference on the other side of the ball defensively as well.
Q: The guys didn't quit on you as other teams did around the league, even though you were playing with what looked like a preseason team at some points. How do you think you did keeping this football team together?ML: I don't know about me. I think our veteran guys, the John Thorntons, the Bobbie Williamses, guys like that, even a new guy like Chris Crocker, they came in and did a fabulous job of keeping guys going and playing. All those guys had young guys and new guys playing beside them all the time. Domata (Peko) now has some skins on the wall. They did a great job of driving this group, Dhani (Jones), to be better and better every week and to never spit the bit. They did a great job of that. I think Darrin (Simmons, special teams coach), did a great job, and Shayne Graham really extended himself to the special teams group. They took pleasure into getting better each and every week and really enjoyed that and thrived on that.