Rich Braham, Levi Jones and Kelley Washington are out this week. It looks like Kevin Kaesvinharn will be doubtful, and in between doubtful and questionable will be Brian Simmons. The other guys will be probable, including Willie Anderson and Tory James. We're getting a little healthier. With Kaesviharn, we'll make the decision later in the week. He's coming along. Just the swelling had kind of moved down his leg later in the week last week and he was unable to do it. Brian seems to be improving, but right now we'll list him in that in between area. I say it's questionable. (Trainer) Paul Sparling thinks it's more doubtful, but that's all right.
Q: Does the signing of Ben Wilkerson signal anything about Richie Braham?ML:
No. Richie actually will return to on-field work today. Not in practice, but he began on-field work today. So he's coming along.
Q: How do you get your guys focused after Sunday's frustration?ML:
It's behind us. Let's just play football one game at a time. That's all we can do. This week is an exciting week. We get an opportunity to play the Chargers.
Q: Is it must-win time yet?ML:
No. Good question, though. I've been waiting for that one. That's pretty good.
Q: Is frustration part of a young football team?ML:
It's all around the league. This is Cincinnati, so it's our turn. It's not the way you want to do it, but we'll be fine. Guys will handle it. You try not to show it publicly just because it doesn't put the right image on yourself. It doesn't put the right image for young people who watch the game and are trying to learn the game from these guys. Things aren't going to always go your way. Something's not going to be called or you're not going to get the ball. You've got to move on. That way, your mind is clear for the next opportunity you have.
Q: How do you help them handle adversity?ML:
You've just got to keep educating them. We know we're going to face adversity all the time. Its part of every season. You just keep coming out of it and go. It's a good thing for us. It's a good process. It's the fun part of the challenge.
Q: Did you tell them anything different?ML:
Not at all. Not that I'd ever tell you.
Q: Chad Johnson's numbers are down but T.J. Houshmandzadeh's are up:ML:
Well, we're not going to force the football where we don't need to. I think we're going to take what's there and execute our offense. We used to try and be a little bit more creative in some areas. Maybe we don't need to be. Rudi's got the same amount of carries. Carson's production is 200 yards off what it was last year. We're not getting the big plays that we had from Chad last year, but we've gotten some hidden yards in interference penalties that don't show up in yardage. Our quarterback is a lot better than he was two years ago. Not quite as efficient as he was a year ago. We've allowed more pressure on the quarterback, whether it is the quarterback, the receivers, the backs, the line, etc. That's where we are. We've earned 4-4. We have one chance, one opportunity to win a football game Sunday. And that's the challenge. It's exciting.
Q: Is protecting the quarterback about scheme or execution?ML:
It's about execution. It has nothing to do with it, schematically. It's execution of finishing, of getting to the right guy. Guys have to get out and get their route done. Guys get grabbed on the route and stop running. Those kinds of things put the quarterback and the protection in a bad situation because it keeps the ball in the quarterback's hands when maybe it shouldn't be. Those things add up. It makes a difference.
Q: How about the defense?ML:
The thing defensively that we continue to be good with is not allowing explosive plays. If we continue to tackle and play better on third down, then we'll end up where we need to be. With all the different guys that have played over there on defense, hopefully we can settle into a starting group of 14-15 guys, rather than the 17, 18 or 20 that have played thus far. It seems like a different group runs out there all the time. That being said, let's settle in and do things the correct way, and don't press. Don't try to get too much done. Stay in your right leverage.
Q: Why have there been fewer takeaways by the defense?ML:
They come in bunches. Last year was big. This year, I think we're playing teams that, if you look at over their years, they don't turn the ball over quite as much. These are a little stronger running teams and chances are they're not going to get the ball on the ground as much as you do when you play passing football teams. I think that's a little bit of it. They are teams that take care of the football year in and year out. We've had opportunities. We haven't come up with them lately. You've got to come up with them and keep working at it. Stay running to the football and the ball will get in our hands. Our guys are going to catch the ball more than they're going to ever drop it. We've just got to keep after it.
Q: Where's the fine line between wanting the ball and being selfish?ML:
Just as long as they don't start talking in the third person, we'll be okay. We just have to keep playing. I'm the most frustrated of any of them.
Q: What do you feel is your offensive identity?ML:
Hopefully, it's a productive offensive football team. That's what you want to be. I think the way we're set up, we want to be balanced. We're going to be best suited when we're balanced. We have a group up front that needs to be balanced. We have a running back that needs to be balanced. We have a quarterback that would like to be balanced. Their head coach wants to be balanced. That's the key point. We want to be a balanced football team.
We need to push the football, as I continue to tell you, vertically down the field because that gets things off of Rudi Johnson and makes it sometimes a little easier for those guys up front to do their jobs. But if we don't hold up in protection, then you get more of the other stuff coming at you that way. So it's that Catch-22.
We're not far off of it. We're going to have some fun. We're going to get back to winning football games. This is the start of it right now. We have an opportunity to set our sail and do good things. We're not that far off. We weren't that good when we were 3-0 and we're not that bad at 4-4. And so we're just going to keep on playing.
Q: With what some of the players have been saying after losses, people have this perception that you have lost control:ML:
Unfortunately, I can't help them always frame the right answer the way they want to say it, what they really do mean. I think we stink, too, when we don't win. We've got to win. We are paid to win. That's the way it is. When we don't win, we're upset. We're upset with everything about it. They are young men who learn from it, and they realize after the fact that maybe they should've answered that a little bit differently. We try and educate them all the time about expressing themselves, what to say and how to do it the right way.
Q: Thoughts on the San Diego Chargers:ML:
They're a good offensive football team. Philip Rivers has come in and played without forcing the football. He's been able to run their offense. He's been an apprentice for a couple years. He's gotten an opportunity to drive the car now. He likes those keys. And he's got a pretty good set of tires around him that make things go pretty good. Their offensive line is physical. They've got an excellent receiving tight end in Antonio Gates. They do a good job of mixing their guys. LaDainian Tomlinson is obviously quite a threat with the ball in his hands, and it creates a lot of things whether it be running, catching, or throwing. So you've got to be aware of him at all times. They do a good job of packaging their offensive plays, and they're fun to look at. On defense, they're real physical. They get after the quarterback. Their secondary does a nice job of staying sound and square in technique. It'll be quite a challenge for our wide receivers this week. They get up on people. They play man-to-man coverage, and allow that rush to get there. Their linebackers are athletic, and can run. They do a good job. They're an impressive football team.
Q: Chad didn't talk to the media today:ML:
I'm surprised (laughs). That's a good thing. Chad's frustrated. We're going to help Chad out of his frustration the best we can. That's part of my job. And I love doing that. I'm excited about it.
Q: Where do you go for balance?ML:
It's the challenge of it. This is the fun. We're right in the thick of it. We've got that shovel. We dug a little hole. We'll keep our head down, dig out of it and get after it. And that's the fun of it. We'll be ready.