HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on the heat)
I think so. The last couple days have been I think real good for us in that way. Coming out a little earlier, assuming it's going to be like this those first couple home games. You know the Patriot game and the Detroit game, usually September is pretty warm at our place. This is, I think, great for the players to get a feel for that. I think it makes you realize what kind of shape you really are in. You go through camp and just assume you're in good shape, but really that's why we have them out here getting eight or nine rep drives where they're getting a feel for hopefully what it will be like on opening day.
(on if his game plan for the final preseason game is any different because of Jake Locker needing more reps)
It's something where we want to probably play him longer. Like last year, I think, Matt (Hasselbeck), we played a series. So definitely when we've had young quarterbacks before playing, the emphasis is to let them play more. Everybody just realizes they're going to have to play with him. If he plays four series, five series, then everyone is staying with him until we decide to take him out. You hope we come out and put together some nice drives, so maybe that'd be sooner than later. We're definitely thinking more about getting some reps on that side of the ball.
(on if the other veterans like having to play more)
I think they realize that that's part of it. That's just how it is. Just like in the past when we've had young offensive linemen that have had to play longer, or other positions, running back, this is just one of those things where they'd obviously rather not, but they realize how important it is. I think it's something that they're looking forward to doing, just coming out and playing well. Heck, we don't play for 10 days. We have plenty of time to rest after this game. I think the more work, the better.
(on if there are benefits with Jake Locker having faced the Saints two times last season)
Well this won't be real complicated. The last preseason game generally is going to be more like the first as far as teams' game plans. It's going to be pretty much, just play some football and see who can make plays. It's probably not going to be a lot of fooling you and disguising you as much as it's going to be once the season starts or maybe as much as it's been the last two weeks. The thing is this defense is real similar to ours in what they do. We see it every day in practice where you think we'd be able to come out and not get fooled and be able to execute pretty well on both sides of the ball.
(on if Jake Locker will play the entire first half)
Probably not that much unless we just don't have reps, unless they just control the ball on their side and we just don't get the reps. You hope that we get enough done that he'd be off sooner.
(on if the Saints discussed coming straight to Nashville when changing their travel plans because of the storm)
No, not with us. I'm sure logistically they were talking with people upstairs about all the different options. I guess this option ended up being the best for them to do what they're doing. That would have been fine, but obviously we didn't get to that point.
(on Fernando Velasco's performance at center through the preseason)
It's not like he hasn't done it before. We've seen him go into games. He didn't play as much last year, but the year before when he started the Dallas game and a couple of others when Eugene (Amano) got hurt and Leroy (Harris) was out a game, so he's had some starts at center and guard. I think he's comfortable playing, so we're not worried about that. He's fit in. Like I said, if you're not talking about a lineman, it usually means things are going pretty well for him. He's done a good job handling the ball, handling the noise when we were up in Seattle, did a good job the last couple of weeks. We're happy with where that's at, and we're excited about as far as how we're playing. We're definitely protecting very well, hopefully we'll keep that part up. It's the run game in general, which doesn't just include those five, but we just have to get more consistent every week. We've kind of been spotty, one game really good, one game OK. We need to get better. That's the part of the game we'll have to continue to work on.
(on if he considered trying Fernando Velasco and then Kevin Matthews after Eugene Amano's injury)
Also the combination of Kevin (Matthews) being out for that week. When he got hurt, he kind of missed a week of practice in there. Fernando (Velasco) had the opportunity and it became evident to us that that was a good fit, and that was going to be a good fit. That's why, from the beginning, we thought Fernando would have a shot at even our right guard at the time when we were pushing Kevin Matthews with Eugene (Amano). In the end, we had enough time to roll those guys to where we thought Fernando could play either position. Obviously, center becomes the one that opens up. But he's done well, so we're happy with where that's at. We plan on going into the opening season with those five (linemen), and then we'll just go from there as far as who is going to back them up.
(on the performance of Leroy Harris through the preseason)
We're trying to get him fully healthy. We knew that Hutch (Steve Hutchinson), we were just going to take care of him, he's fine. We're just being smart with the reps and just getting him into the season. He's very comfortable in our system now. He's played well the last couple of games. He's ready to go, now it's matter of resting him. Leroy (Harris), because he had the knee surgery, had the shoulder surgery, he's not quite where we need him to be as far as playing. So again, that's why we've been trying to take it easy in practice, get him a little chance to recover, and then that way he can play more in the games. He's played quite a bit in all three games, and he'll do the same this week. He's the last one to get over the hump a little bit with endurance. When you have knee surgery and shoulder (surgery) it's more about endurance with your injuries. That's kind of what he's battling right now. But we're happy with how he's playing, he's just got to be able to build up his endurance.
(on if he thinks the offensive line is better this year with the addition of two new starters)
Well you always think you are. We'll see how we execute, but we feel good about it. We feel like the leadership, we like the way they're playing as a group. The communication has been very good. Like I said, they've seen a lot of different things and have made some good calls—things that go unseen by people watching the game—but adjustments and protections, especially, where they get an opportunity to make a lot of decisions. I think we're happy with where we're headed, and it's just a matter of if we can get on a roll early as an offense and make plays and stay out there. That's the only thing that's been kind of discouraging with the offense in the first three games is that they're just not extending drives, not staying on the field long enough. I feel with the guys we have, and that's all the positions, if we stay on the field, we're going to be hard to stop. As we get a feel for a game and get seven, eight, nine, 10-play drives, I think that's where we could take over games. We just have to be able to get to that spot, we have to move chains. That's a little bit where we've struggled some in especially the last two games.
(on if the defensive line will have to play a lot on Thursday night because of injuries)
Yeah, but the young guys will get to play a lot. We still have about 11 linemen that are healthy, that are practicing. So you're going to probably get your ends out and the two starting inside guys probably aren't going to play. The two ends will play a little bit and then they'll come out. Then the rest of the guys will take over. Hopefully the offense again will fix that problem by the offensive side of the ball controlling it. Maybe the offense gets 80 plays, and they get 40 this week which would be nice. That's kind of what you're hoping, that the defense doesn't get overworked again with 90-some reps.
(on if he believes that there might not be a suspension for Kenny Britt)
We're not really looking anything into it. We'll just kind of wait until we hear. We know obviously time is running out on that, so we know we'll hear something real soon. I don't know what it means. I hope it's a positive thing for us, but we'll find out soon I guess.
(on how long before Mike Otto can return to practice)
I'm guessing maybe another week or so for him. That's what I assume. Once he gets the pin out of his hand, and I guess at that point, then we'll see how he can handle the pain of it, and how he can cover it up and protect him.
(on whether having an injury makes it harder for cuts when you know a player could miss the first few weeks)
It is hard to have a lineman that you know can't help you in case there is another injury. If there is no other injury then we are fine, but when you are that thin like everyone is. Everyone has the same problem. Usually you carry four tackles which we will do again so that just means that you are down to three. Having one injury in the first week would be a problem, but hopefully we stay healthy for two weeks and then all of a sudden we are in great shape again. That is just part of the game and that is when you have numbers and you can only suit up 46. That is what every team deals with, so hopefully that is something that we won't have to deal with.
(on if the Dave Ball situation is comparable on the defensive side)
You have to take everything into account. When you are taking roster spots, you are talking about guys that need to be contributing in some way. That is something where you can have a couple of guys that you can do things with but you have to be careful. Those are all the factors that go into those last four or five guys. They definitely get affected by their health, the team's health and the health of different positions not necessarily their own. That makes the decisions hard.
(on if he can get a better sense of where the defense is going against the high-powered Saints offense)
We definitely could, but unfortunately probably we aren't going to see that group as long as we would probably like, like last week seeing the Cardinals into the third quarter and Tampa to the half. Last time we played them their first group didn't play very long, so we may get a small test with a series or two and then it will be more their second group. That shouldn't matter. We are still going to be tested. They still have good players and we still have to perform. It is just good going into the game knowing we are playing against a good football team. You would like to see us play well. Again we are not getting caught up with what they do. We have our own problems to worry about and we are more concerned about us. Whatever they put out there we have to perform and we just want to come out feeling good in all three phases knowing that we have 10 days to get ready for the opener.
(on if the Markelle Martin injury situation lingered longer than he thought)
We hoped that we would be ready soon, that we could have made maybe a different decision. In the long run maybe it made the decision easier rather than have one of those tweener decisions with how many weeks he would be out and you are trying to get the crystal ball out and figure out if he is three weeks or four weeks. He is a guy that you really don't know yet because having a hamstring and then having the knee. Maybe it is better that he has a chance to get healthy and then we have a chance to see really where he is at.