HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on if he knew how sick Chris Johnson was)
He practiced all week and didn't miss any reps and we knew that he was not feeling his best. That happens to a lot of players this time of year but he handled himself well. He was able to get through practice, knew that definitely he wasn't feeling his best health-wise but I think he started to get stronger as the week went on by Friday and Saturday. He felt good but that's why we had Jamie Harper up as the third running back just in case there was any problems with Chris (Johnson) or with reps or if for some reason we were going to run the ball 50 times, that we may need to have a third back. It worked out well, he was able to do everything that he wanted to do. He was very productive in the reps he had and so it worked out fine.
(on if Chris Johnson had stamina issues due to his illness)
No I don't think so, that's something that you can ask him. I don't know that it affected his play. I think Jim Skipper did a really nice job of rotating him and (Javon) Ringer just to avoid that and we do that most games anyway. We were just a little more aware of it because we had him, Jared Cook had a little something going on. A lot of guys have some issues whether it's sickness or injuries or something nagging them that we are aware of as coaches, so we are being cautious of that during the game with rotations and things like that knowing that information going into the game.
(on who should get credit for the running game being effective lately)
I think everyone has been taking the blame so everyone should take the credit. This is what we talked about the second half of the season, just forgetting what we were ranked and what was going on and why it was happening. We have been working at this and we have been saying that every week to you guys. We are working hard in practice, we are adding different things, we are concentrating, we are doing all we could to kind of change the outcome of the run game. Like I said when we weren't posting the numbers, you saw it in the Cleveland game back in week three we ran the ball pretty well. You saw glimpses in other games, the Pittsburgh game when it first started. There are always reasons why you don't get the 20 carries, the 25 carries and so you have to live with the consequences of the fact that we weren't getting the yards that we are getting now. It's a credit to the guys, they hung in there, they put up with the criticism, which we deserve if we are not running the ball well, we know that comes with the territory. I thought Chris (Johnson) handled it well. I think you guys know that he handled it well to media, he handled it well in the locker room. No one pointed fingers at each other. We handled it like men, like pros like you are supposed to and now three out of the last four weeks the numbers have been more of what we think we need to do and we all know that it all depends on these last four weeks now. We got it going, now we just have to keep it going and we don't get caught up in 'oh we got it going now,' because that means nothing going into the Saints game. What we did last week gives us confidence, but it doesn't guarantee him running for 150 yards because that's what we are doing now. It's something that they have to deal with and we are excited about it.
(on if missing training camp is now an advantage because he is fresher than if he had been playing for an extra seven weeks)
That's what we are hoping, we are looking at it that way now that it's an advantage for us coming down the stretch that we become the best running football team the last eight weeks of the season and hopefully into the playoffs. That's how we have to spin it when you struggle early, but all of those factors were definitely a factor. The fact that he wasn't in camp, how much did that factor into why he didn't run as well, I don't know, I don't think anyone can figure that out or how the line was playing or not playing early in the season, there are a lot of things there that are kind of hard to put your finger on. That's why we said from the beginning of this conversation when it started after the first couple weeks of the season, if we knew exactly what it was then we would have fixed it long ago. I think it was just a combination of a lot of things, stuff we were doing, the flow of a game, the opportunities that weren't there in certain games. There seems to be more opportunities there now and there is no doubt that we are doing better with the running game early in the game which there is no doubt makes a difference.
(on Ahmard Hall being more involved in the offense)
Well I think the screen was something that we called early. If you call it the first play then you are going to get a shot at it. He is good with the ball in his hands. He has always been a good screen runner and he has been good over the years when we have asked on a third-down conversion or just getting a handoff like we did yesterday. It's just a confidence thing, giving him more opportunities to do it. It's the confidence that the coordinator feels comfortable because the guy doesn't carry the ball much so you have to be careful with the handoffs. A lot of games over the years he has been our third running back, so in practice he gets a lot of reps handling the ball, so we have a lot of confidence in him, I know I do. We gave it to him on the fourth down. We felt confident that he would find a way to get that yard and he did. He is just a good hard football player and besides blocking there are other things that he can do.
(on Jason McCourty's health)
He still has some concussion-type symptoms, mild. It's something that will probably be day-by-day and see where he is by the end of the week. With those, you have to be very careful these days with that and we will be. We will have to see how he is by Friday, that Thursday, Friday area to see how he comes around. He is feeling pretty good today so it's just a matter if he continues to feel that way, kind of like Jared Cook a couple of weeks ago had one or had one similar. It's just how quickly he feels good and how quickly he can pass a quick test and he would be out there. We will just have to wait and see on him.
(on if New Orleans provides the biggest challenge of the season in pass defense )
Probably, I think they will be excited for it. There is no doubt that people see the numbers and the great success that he has had. We haven't played them in a little while, the preseason, you can't really go by that. We played them three years ago there when he was there in a Monday night game. There is no doubt that he is a great football player and we know that. I think when you are a professional football player that's something that you get excited about. You have a team that is in position like we are to have a shot at the playoffs and you are going to play against a team that is one of the best teams in the league that has won a Super Bowl a couple years ago, has a great quarterback, has a lot of weapons and they are coming into our place to play a game that means a lot to both teams. I think we are excited about it, we are glad we are playing here and not at their place. We need our crowd to be a huge part of this football game, especially to help the defense so it's something that we will be excited about come Sunday.
(on if he is surprised that the Bills didn't attack rookie Chris Hawkins more and how the secondary responded after losing Jason McCourty)
Well I think they did a good job. You have a veteran group with Cortland (Finnegan) and Griff (Michael Griffin) and (Chris) Hope and (Jordan) Babineaux. You have some guys that work well together, they have been through this before, they have been through adjustments that we have been adjusting ourselves with those guys. When Jason (McCourty) got hurt, having (Alterraun) Verner who can go right in there and play, so we have been very lucky to have guys that can go in and step up and you don't see a big drop off. There is no doubt that when Chris got in, that was probably his first action of the year at that position, he made some nice tackles, he did what was asked of him and I think Jerry (Gray) did a good job to make sure that he was not caught in some tough spots as best he could.
(on how close Tommie Campbell was to playing)
He wanted to play, he was very upset about it. We just felt that we were putting him in a position where we asked him to be a gunner out there and using his hands quite a bit and after warming him up we didn't feel that he would be able to do the things he needed to do. We couldn't take the chance of having to put someone else down because of him and then basically losing two guys that could help us on special teams. We thought resting him would help us have him strong and healthy for the next four weeks.
(on if there was an MRI on Nate Washington's ankle today )
There was one today, I haven't heard. We think he is going to be OK, it's going to be a day-to-day thing with an ankle. We all know that he pushed it a little bit and went back in there. He knew how important the game was, he made a big catch for us on the third down to keep the drive going for us in the third quarter. He is having a great year and there is no doubt that it will be important to have him in the lineup. All indications are that he will be questionable during the week but we assume that he will be available on Sunday.