Levi Jones is out. Rich Braham is doubtful. Eric Ghiaciuc is questionable.
Q: You told the players Thursday night you didn't want a phone call; please address Reggie McNeal's arrest:ML:
Yeah, it's unfortunate it happened. I think Reggie's is more like the Matthias Askew thing than anything. So a guy gets arrested for not being arrested. Be careful how far you go with that one.
Q: How much of an offensive game plan changes because of the weather?ML:
It depends on the surface. Here with our surface, we don't have to worry about that. It has to do with the ability of your players. We don't necessarily worry about the wind with Carson. I think we're kind of blessed with both those things since we changed the surface of the field. It's not as big an issue as it would be if you were playing on grass late in the year, or when the turf used to freeze at Riverfront. That was like cows on ice. That's how it was. It was very slick and slippery. That's the good thing with these new surfaces and the heating systems underneath; you really get a true footing. We didn't really know it was raining last Thursday. Guys have to obviously change their equipment. That's the one thing that's a little different. We've got to make sure we've got the right equipment on and apparel, so you look good and it functions well.
Q: The linebackers are giving credit to the defensive line for opening up holes:ML:
I don't know about what openings are. I think that guys are staying in their gaps, staying on their feet, tackling and playing good defense. It takes 11 guys to do it. It takes the secondary tackling. It takes everybody at their point of attack, getting the ball rolled back to the free guy and the free guy making the tackle. That's how you play defense.
Q: Is Oakland better than their 2-10 record?ML:
Oakland's a talented football team and I think that, yes, they're a better football team than what their record indicates. They've had a lot of close football games. They've not necessarily been out of many games at all. They're coming in here and they've got us circled. So we have to play great football in all three phases. This is a talented team with explosive players on offense. Obviously on defense, they're playing very well. They've scored touchdowns on defense much like the group we just played. They're very similar to Baltimore.
Q: Thoughts on Oakland's receivers:ML:
They're talented guys. They have explosive receivers in Jerry Porter, Ronald Curry, Randy Moss and Alvis Whitted. Their tight ends can run. So this is a talented group on offense that way.
Q: Thoughts on Oakland cornerbacks:ML:
They play a lot of man-to-man coverage and do a good job getting their hands on guys and running with them. They've played well this season.
Q: Is it gratifying to see Stacy Andrews and Ben Wilkerson playing well?ML:
They've gotten an opportunity to play and it's been good. I think it's a good thing when the hurt guys don't have to go out there and play. We've been fortunate in some spots. Other spots, rookies have to play right away. Obviously, Stacy probably spent more time practicing and playing in preseason games than anybody, and got an opportunity. He did well.
Q: With so many starters coming back, how do you divvy up playing time?ML:
It will be a little bit more of a challenge. But we'll see how the week unfolds. We've been getting to this point for two or three weeks, and then on Friday I pretty much know where I'm going to be. I'll make that call, today really, when we start game-planning. We're getting closer to being healthy, maybe. But we'll see. Again, I don't worry about who's coming back. You guys want to make that a story. That's got nothing to do with this football team. It's who's playing, and that's what counts. It doesn't have to do with guys that aren't here or not playing or haven't played. It's who is playing and that's how you continue to win football games. It's not with the other guys. We'll just keep going.
Q: With Johnathan Joseph playing well, what do you do when Deltha O'Neal returns?ML:
I don't know whether Deltha will be able to play this week or not. We'll see, whether we suit him up or not. Just like you said, we're doing okay. We'll keep playing the way we're playing and see what happens.
Q: The offensive line is playing well. Is it because of Paul Alexander?ML:
The players win and the coaches lose. So we understand that part of it. Paul has coached the same way he's coached all the way through. He's done a fine job of getting our guys prepared and ready, and if we don't get guys picked up the correct way, then he's the one who feels the worst about it. The credit goes to the players who've worked really hard in making sure everyone's on the same page. That includes the tight ends, the running backs, the quarterback and the receivers. Again, the function of the offense is not the offensive line. It's all 11 guys. And when we had pressure or a sack or whatever it may be, it's not necessarily the offensive line. There are a lot of reasons why those things occur. They've done a good job. They keep working at it.
Q: Thoughts on Willie Anderson:ML:
Obviously, Willie continues to be the rock. When he's sore and probably more injured than most guys would let on, he gets himself out there and prepares. Even when he's not taking the practice reps, he's there in support mentally of the guy who's in there. His presence means a lot all the time. He keeps driving and pushing guys and bringing guys along with him.
Q: Willie seems to have been one constant in your coaching tenure:ML:
He loves Sunday. That's what he looks forward to. And on Sunday, you've got to join him. And that's good because he brings guys with him. They're not going to let him down. He's just keeps fighting and fighting. He understands how this works. It's not a sprint. This is a long road and a journey.
Q: Last year, you clinched early. This year, you're fighting to get into the playoffs. Which do you prefer?ML:
This is the one we got dealt. It's what we earned. It'll be good. We get to play great football for the next four weeks. We've got to win four games. If we win four games, I think we'll have accomplished one of our first goals, and that's win the division. So we'll keep pressure on (Baltimore). That's the thing we've got to do. We've got to win four games. We can't worry about anything else. We have to win one game at a time the next four games. I think things will take care of itself.
Q: What is your relationship like with Art Shell?ML:
I didn't know Art at all, but I think through his time -- since I was fortunate enough to become a head coach and Art's work there in the league office -- I probably got to know more of him that way. You really get to understand who Art Shell is and what an outstanding football player he was. But now you know why. He's such a straight-arrowed man, who's tough, a fierce competitive, and he's demanding. Speaking with him in February and March regarding getting back into coaching, those are the things you could hear ring out in his voice.
Every season's difficult and when you're not getting the wins, it seems more difficult. But they're the same. He's coaching and pushing his butt off and they're not getting the feel-good of it come Sundays. This is a hard working man who's not going to give in. He'll get a chance to re-shape, re-shift his football team at some point again. I think he's been an inspiration to all coaches from the time he became a head coach the first time, with the success he's had, and how he's come back and handled the thing very classy. He just keeps working hard at it.
Q: Does it surprise you that Art never got a second shot till now?ML:
It does, actually. I know he had talked to people. You always get a perception of what things are. Again, I can't speak for why people don't get an opportunity.