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Coach Whisenhunt's Thursday Practice Report



(on the impact of having referees at practice)

I think progress is really going to be determined by what we do on Sunday. Hopefully, that will be better. If we can be better in that area, then we've accomplished what we wanted to do. I think there's more awareness about it on the practice field. It's easy to talk about, but I think the officials give us a little bit more belief in that. The guys are paying attention. We talked with them yesterday about the penalties. We put it up in front of the team, which is something that's important. We'll do that again after today's practice, but it wasn't a bad day penalty-wise yesterday, so hopefully that will pay dividends for us Sunday.

(on players' awareness of their performances)

I think it's always different for different guys. Obviously, some of the guys that have been in it for a while have a better sense of that. I think it's fair to say some of the younger guys don't really have a great sense of that. That's where you have to spend time with them and explain. It's a very competitive, tough business. Sometimes self-evaluation is an important part of that.

(on if players should feel as though they need to improve)

I think individually with those guys you talk to them about that. I think you want the team to have a sense of urgency about playing better football. Sometimes you get a sense of you're actually closer than what it's perceived by. People want to talk about stats, people want to talk about tangible things, and you lose sight of making progress. Obviously, our record is what it is, so it's hard to sit up here and say we're doing a lot better, but there are some guys that are playing well for us.

(on what is needed to create a spark)

You never know with those things. Preparation is an important part of it. A lot of times things, when you score on special teams or defensively, sometimes it doesn't necessarily happen like it's drawn up. The preparation that you put in allows you to be in the right spot, and sometimes it's players making great individual efforts. Would it help us? Absolutely, it would help us. That's an important part of it. You see a number of teams that over the last few weeks have had turnovers that either they scored on or have led to scores, which turns the game around. We've been close. We've had one against, obviously, Cleveland, that was close that was called back because of a penalty and a couple others in situations like that, and it hasn't bounced our way yet. Hopefully we'll get some of those coming up in these games as we go on the back eight.

(on how much of a concern offensive communication is for Zach Mettenberger)

I guess we'll see. It's a tough place, the noise. I think he's prepared to do that to some level, just because he's had to do it in the SEC, and those environments are a little bit like what you're facing in the NFL level. Working in practice with the noise helps. I think his knowledge of the system is a lot better than it was when we first started. That helps, but until you get out there and you get on that field Sunday, we won't know for sure.

(on his confidence in Zach Mettenberger making changes at the line of scrimmage)

I think there is some merit to having one game under his belt, so that does help. I think one of the things from the first game, and I know the noise wasn't a factor there, was he handled that part of it very well. These early mornings that he's coming in and he's studying and working on the terminology, because really that's what it is. It's being able to make the call and then process that. There are a lot of things that go on. Am I comfortable with him making some of those checks at the line? I'll be a lot more comfortable after we do it in a game, but I'm as comfortable as you can be with the amount of time and effort he's put into it and how smoothly he's done it in practice.

(on Zach Mettenberger not being deterred by mistakes made during games)

I'd say that's probably a fair statement from what I've seen of him. The only thing I'd say about your characterization, I don't necessarily think we have to have that. I think it seems like we do get something going or we do play better when we do something well early in the game. Zach (Mettenberger) is a confident young man. I wouldn't blame him. The way he played his senior year at LSU in some of those games, it does help prepare you, I think, for this level. He's had success in the preseason, which gives him some confidence. Playing against a team like this in Baltimore, this is a very good football team in a very tough place to play. We'll get a chance to see how he handles it.

(on how much better he expects Zach Mettenberger to be after his first NFL start)

I guess we'll see on Sunday. There are a lot of ways to look at how much better do you think he'll be. There's always how many completions does he have, how many turnovers does he have, those kind of things, obviously. Really what it ultimately comes down to is how is he going to be able to operate in those conditions? Is he going to be able to understand the protections if he's got to get the ball out quick, comes out quick, is he going to be able to get in and out of the huddle get us to the line of scrimmage, make those checks that he needs to make, those are all things that are important pieces of it that he doesn't have a lot of experience at this level. We're confident based on the work that he's done that he can do that. We expect to see him be able to perform well.

(on what he wants to see out of the run game this Sunday)

This is a tough run defense that we're playing. We obviously have to work hard to try to get some more positive things out of our run game. I think if we can do a better job in some of these games not turning the ball over, not getting down, not getting behind the sticks with penalties, that'll allow us to have an opportunity to run the ball a little bit better. I think we've had success with situations where we've been effective at running the football, we just haven't had enough of those. Hopefully we can do a better job managing this game and playing better early, which will give us chances to do that.

(on the Ravens defensive front)

There's no question this is a good front. They have a good front seven, and they can get after you, even with just four guys because of their outside pressure. You certainly don't want to give them an advantage by being in a must-pass situation, so we do have to mix that up.

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