ML: "We had a good couple days, yesterday and today, and obviously we have an extra day this week just formulating the football team. We are off to a good start. Guys are in a good place, a good state of mind with the excitement and anticipation of the season, which is where we ought to be. We know the task at hand and the grind we are about to head into and all the challenges the season will throw in front of us. We've been spending a couple days just dealing with a lot of that, talking about that, making sure for a lot of the new guys and young guys that they understand what is ahead. So, it's been productive – and by the time we finish today, a productive couple days. Then we'll enter into the preparations to start the season later in the week. I feel good about where things are and where we are."
Playing the game on Monday night means you'll have around 30 extra hours this week to get healthier. Do you think that extra time will help some of those injured players?
ML: "It's a positive. I don't know that it will make much difference in the decisions that I make, but I think it is a positive in general."
What do you like about Jeff Faine and what has he shown you?
ML: "Good athlete, very aggressive guy. Strong, aggressive, good athlete, who moves well on his feet. We thought he was by far the best option for us to add another veteran player to go into the season, so we felt like we'd be covered. Obviously, he's hit the ground running here and spent a lot of time with Paul (offensive line coach Paul Alexander), with the other linemen and with the quarterback. We're trying to get up to speed on everything. He has an advantage because he played basically the same system in Tampa and New Orleans. Most of the things are familiar. A lot of the terminology and things are familiar to him, so he's kind of ahead of the curve that way. He's been through all four preseason games (on tape) with the guys in the room, with making him do everything. So he was the guy doing it in place of Kyle (Cook) and Trevor (Robinson). He's really working hard at it and as we get later in the week, I think there will be a sense of calmness that nothing has really changed. He's just a new guy, but (it will seem as if) he's been here from the onset by the time he gets done."
Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones both have lockers next to Andy Dalton. Is there a reason for that, or is it just coincidence?
ML: "There is reasoning for everything we do (laughs)."
Can you elaborate?
ML: "No, it wouldn't be proper for me to elaborate. But there are reasons for everything we do."
You kept seven receivers on the roster. Was that a case of there just being so much of a balance at that position?
ML: "I really felt like those guys earned their way on the football team. The guys we were competing with for the last couple spots, they deserve the spots – in productivity on the field, productivity on offense, productivity on special teams. I can see where there is a role. When looking at the 46-man squad, I saw where those seven guys all had a chance. If they were in the 46, they'd be big contributors on Sunday. I think that was key. That is the beauty of training camp and the preseason games. That's why I think the preseason games are such a great thing. Guys get opportunities to play themselves onto the football team. Those guys earned those spots. I think everybody felt good about that. We may be different than we were at times at other spots, but that's where we are now. We got some other guys in the wings at those spots and we feel good about those guys. As of today, this is where we are. By tomorrow we have a chance to be different."
With seven receivers on the roster, could you envision activating different guys for different opponents?
ML: "We have an opportunity to activate guys based on their performances. I don't know about per-opponent. It may be how Jay (offensive coordinator Jay Gruden) envisions using them and how they work and the different combinations. But the two rookies did a great job this preseason. And (Ryan) Whalen has done great, (Andrew) Hawkins has come back and expanded his role, (Brandon) Tate and (Armon) Binns have done very well. All seven guys have been very productive throughout the preseason."
How difficult was it letting Roddrick Muckelroy go?
ML: "Rod has really worked hard. He did a good job, but right now there wasn't another spot for him at this point."
If something were to happen to Jeff Faine, do you feel comfortable with Trevor Robinson?
ML: "Oh yeah. With Trevor, no doubt. He's taken every snap since he's been here as an offensive center. We envisioned him as a center when we signed him. He's great mentally. He'll keep growing physically. Center, linebackers, tight ends – they all get here a different way. Interior linemen don't always come through the draft. He's got an opportunity to be one of those guys."
What intrigued you enough about Bryce Davis to sign him to the practice squad?
ML: "He's been a tight end the entire time. He moves well and has done a nice job on his snaps in the preseason. He has a chance to continue to develop, and he's not that far off as a long snapper. He's got good ability there. We've seen how Darrin (special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons) can take a guy and work with them. He'll continue to work as a tight end in practice and then work as a long snapper with Darrin afterward."
You made it to the playoffs last season, but there are 15 new players on the current roster who were not here for that game. What do you think that says about this roster?
ML: "That's a good thing. We've talked about that many times. We have to continue to strive to get better. I don't know what the comparison is to 2010 and '06 (years following playoff berths), but I hope it is more this year, because those years didn't work out. We didn't have anything to rest on and knew that we had to get better. Our other teams in the division got better, and we needed to also."
In what areas have you improved since that playoff game?
ML: "I think we got better at receiver. We spent the last 20 minutes talking about that (laughs). I know we've gotten better in the back end on defense. We haven't gotten an experience to see as much of it yet, but on the defensive line too. We've improved the interior of the defense at linebacker with (Vontaze) Burfict. He has the chance to be a good player, and he certainly has been an upgrade on special teams. That's why he got to stay. Those things were important to do. At safety, there's no doubt we got better there."
A lot of the cornerbacks on this roster spent a majority of the preseason in the cold tub, recovering from injuries. Does that concern you?
ML: "That's good and bad. Their legs are fresh. That's what you want. That's what we wanted last year for a guy like Robert Geathers. That's the best thing you can do, so we didn't have to wear him out taking snaps. It's a good thing. Leon (Hall) got the work he needed to do. We were able to work with Nate (Clements) in the spots he plays. Terence (Newman) had to prove he was ready to go, and I think he did that. Jason (Allen) did everything he could do until he couldn't do it anymore. He had to work more because the other guys were out. He showed enough when he was working every single day for two weeks straight before he got injured. Adam (Jones) is going to be Adam (laughs). He's always going to deal with these kinds of things, he just has to learn how to overcome them. His legs will be fresh and ready to go and run. They could have played last week, but we kept those guys out again and that shows that we're coming to today ready to go."
Is it an advantage for you to know that you don't have to rush Dre Kirkpatrick back from his injury because of the depth at that position?
ML: "That was part of our thinking, and to really try to cover ourselves for Leon by signing Jason and Terence. But now that Dre has the injury, he's probably going to be a couple of weeks in rehab mode before we get him out on the practice field, I'm glad. We're blessed to be in the situation we're in."
Robert Geathers seems like the type of guy who can answer the bell after an injury:
ML: "If last week were a regular-season week, Robert would have played and practiced, but it wasn't. Plus, we get him back moving and doing the things defensively he has to do back with the defensive guys and hold him out of the game. We made progress. Same thing with BenJarvus (Green-Ellis). Those guys were at the point where you're ready to play, but we had the luxury of preserving them. I think it worked out well. But now we've got to get ready to play a very tough, physical football game."
Is that the same with Rey Maualuga?
This is Robert Geathers's ninth season here. Domata Peko and Andrew Whitworth have both been here seven seasons. What about those players has made them stick for so long?
ML: "Their lifestyles, their character, the kind of guys they are, they're obviously great leaders on this football team. With the situation we've got, we've got six guys with better than seven years and six guys with seven years of experience – so 12 guys. Then we drop down. There's maybe one or two with six years, and then we take a real dive to the younger guys. I think it's a really good mix. Those guys have done it, they're close friends, they like each other. They've been great leaders for the football team and great shepherds."
You're average age on the roster is about the same, but the average amount of NFL experience has stayed the same:
ML: "More experienced, but it's still a good mix. It's one that has a lot of energy, and that's what you've got to have. We have the experience of Jermaine (Gresham) and Geno (Atkins) and Andy (Dalton) and A.J. (Green) who played at a high level last year. We bring in some other guys like Newman and Jason Allen and BenJarvus and Jamaal Anderson, who have played at a high level. They have had success and experience, and I think they're a good addition. So that's a good mix of the older veteran guys that we added."