Let's get started. Richie Braham, Levi Jones, Tab Perry, Kelley Washington and Anthony Wright will be out this week. The guys that will be questionable will be Dexter Jackson, Rashad Jeanty, Chris Perry and Brian Simmons. Everybody else probably will have an opportunity to play.
Q: Has Chris Perry been activated to the 53-man roster?ML:
Q: Has a big reason for the offense's troubles been because of the line's lack of continuity?ML:
Oh, that would be an excuse. That's part of what you've got to do as a team. When a guy gets injured, other guys have to step up. We had a lot of injuries two years ago on the offensive line. You work through it and put new guys in, get back to work, and get after it and go. I'm not going to even worry about trying to speak about it or explain it. We've got to do it. It's not like we've had to bring a guy off the street or anything. These guys have been with us and we've got to go. There are a lot of reasons why we're not being as productive as we need to be.
Q: Has there been a decision on Levi Jones' surgery?ML:
He's going to have surgery today.
Q: Is it going to be exploratory surgery?ML:
We'll see. They're all exploratory until they open the knee up.
Q: Who or what is breaking down?ML:
It's a lot of different things we've got to do better: offense, defense and special teams.
Q: What kind of challenge does Julius Peppers and the Panthers defense present? Will you need to run the ball more?ML:
It's going to be important, with as good a players as they have on their side of the football. It's a good football team defensively — very stout up front. It's important for us to establish the running game and control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football.
Q: More on the run defense:ML:
We probably did a better job of tackling in the last game. That's the key thing. Guys were where they needed to be on most plays. The one particular
long run they had, we had a guy decide he was going to jump out of his gap and do somebody else's job. Then they get the ball going, we miss a tackle and it ends up being a 38-yard run. You can't do that on defense. If you don't do those things, you're not going to play good defense. When you do that and you're playing against a guy that can make a guy miss, you have an opportunity to get gashed.
Q: Were you impressed with Andrew Whitworth?ML:
Andrew has seemed to handle the situation he's been put in, whether it be guard or tackle. He's got a big task ahead of him. This is a big challenge for our football team. It's going to be a physical game. We know that. These guys are good, productive players. They need to win we need to win. So it's going to be a hell of a match-up.
Q: Talk a little about Steve Smith:ML:
He plays very aggressive, and very hard. He does a great job competing for the football. He's a very strong runner after he catches the football. They do a lot of good things to get the ball in his hands. They try to create ways for him to touch the football.
Q: You said the club has to improve 'what we do and how we do it?' Does that point to play-calling, and has Bob Bratkowski been unfairly tossed under the bus?ML:
I don't know. I wouldn't listen to talk radio. You obviously do, so let me know.
Q: Is the criticism toward Bob Bratkowski unfair?ML:
Oh, yeah. Criticize me; I'm the one that's in charge of this place. It's not Bob's fault. It's my fault when we don't win.
Q: Chad Johnson seems to suggest that last year your offense didn't take what it was given, it took what it wanted. Is that the case this year?ML:
Let Chad speak for himself. I don't necessarily agree because Chad has a very tainted view of things all the time. But that's OK. Greed is good. I think we would all like to make sure we continue to be aggressive, and I think that's all he's speaking to. But we're not going to be careless or foolish. As I said, we need to play better. We need to take care of the football. We need to make sure we run the right route. We need to make sure we line up corrrectly. We need to make sure we throw it correctly, protect it, get the right depth and get the right guy protecting on the right protector. So there's a lot that needs to occur.
We need to get the ball back on defense. We need to stop them on third down on defense. When we do all those things, we'll be sitting here feeling a lot better. And until we do, we're going to be upset and angry. It's easy to point a finger, but the first thing we want to do is take care of our own job and make sure we're where we belong, and we're not 100 percent at that yet. And Chad realizes that.
Q: Why are games so close in the NFL? Is it a mindset to finish close games?ML:
Well, you've got to make plays. We had opportunites to make plays. We had a ball go in the air and we knocked it down. We didn't intercept it. We had another ball go off our chest. We had a chance to stop them on third and fourth down. We don't get it done. We have a first down at the 10-yard line. We have an opportunity to make a first down and shorten the game. We've got to punt the ball, and get better coverage. A lot of things we could do to make a difference in the football game. We have a chance to score a couple times, once before halftime. We don't get any points. So those are things we've got to do much better.
We leave a free rusher free. We leave a free runner free on a running play in the fourth quarter. We roughed the quarterback in the fourth quarter. We roughed the quarterback in the third quarter. So there's a lot of different things we need to do better and more efficiently to give us an opportunity to win games and change the complexion of the football game. That's what it takes. But you're right, there's going to be close games in the NFL. This is what we wanted. Now we're here, and now let's respond to it and let's meet the challenge.
Q: Did you get a response from the league regarding Justin Smith's flag? Will you share it with us?ML:
It's not my business to share with you.
Q: Did it make you happy or unhappy?ML:
I knew what the thing was. The official's got to do his thing. He has to do it in a split second. But I know what's right. One play does not lose a football game, nor does it win it. We had a lot of opportunities. Why we turn things into the officials is we want to know how to help coach our guys, and tell them how to respond and what to do and how to do it. That's all we can do. But that guy still has to make a split second decision. They're going to err on the side of safety whether it be a defenseless receiver or quarterback. We understand that, so hopefully we come out on the top of all those judgments, and they don't happen at a critical point in the game where they make that big of a difference.
Obviously, that could have swayed the game one way or another, possibly. But that was just one play. That's why we do it. It's a good process. It's a good system because it helps us improve our guys and help them understand why this was called or why it wasn't called, so that we can coach it up and do better the next time in that situation.
Q: How well is Deltha O'Neal playing?ML:
We've got to play better--everywhere. I told you I'm not blowing smoke up anybody around here. We've got to play better. We had a couple third-down
opportunities the other day and their guy caught the ball, the last I checked. We've all got to play better. That's what you're paid to do. We've got to play better. We've got to tackle. We've got to cover. We've got to make plays when we're on the line. We've got a great challenge this week for our secondary with their wide receiver corps. Drew Carter, Steve Smith, Keyshawn Johnson and Kerry Colbert are very good players. They're big guys, physical players and we've got to understand that. And this is a great challenge for our football team, particularly our secondary. And we have to make sure we get pressure on the quarterback so he can't stay there and have an opportunity to utilize his guys. But they're playing well right now. They're a very confident group, so it's a great challenge for our wide receivers to out-play their group. It's going to be a great day Sunday. It's going to be filled up. It's going to be loud. It's going to be a lot of fun. We've got to get excited about that.
Q: You guys were 4-0 last year and now you are 3-2. Is this a different kind of adversity, possibly a nice teaching tool?ML:
You face adversity every week. It's always good and it's something we know we've got to come through. It'll make us a better football team. Just like
we know when we won three games and we played with different guys and we won over in Pittsburgh. Everyone said what a great team we are with all this great depth. We lost two football games and now you've kicked us under the bus. We'll come out from under it. We'll be all right. I can talk about adversity all I want, but if we don't block, tackle, throw, catch and run it doesn't matter. We handle it by practicing and getting after it and doing it. Simplifying things is what we've got to do. We've got to play hard, and play fast. We don't want to have indecision.
Q: What is the time frame for Chris Perry to get in game shape?ML:
We'll see. I can't give you a time frame. It could be Sunday. It could be next Sunday. It could be the Sunday after that. We have a three-week window once we moved him into the practice deal, and we'll see what works best and whether or not we have a spot to play him if he were ready to.
Q: Do you have to simplify to play fast?ML:
I don't know if you have to simplify. You have to be repetitive, yet you can't be so repetitive you don't allow yourself an opportunity to be successful. It's a fine line. That's why you have good, smart players.
Q: Will Chris Perry practice this afternoon?ML:
Q: Does the three-week window start today?ML:
At 1:15. We moved him to whatever list we had to. We took him off the PUP list today.
Q: What's the harm in sharing information from the NFL on a controversial call?ML:
Because that would put the officials in a bad situation. That guy's got a tough job. He really does. In the last year and a half with being involved with
the competition committee, I have a better understanding of that. So it's not to be debated. This is a game played by humans. It is decided sometimes with quick decisions. It's not exact science. There's a lot of different ways to do it. As we know, offense, defense, and special teams. Some of these things have to be snap decisions, and they're going to err on the side of safety.