Coach Whisenhunt's Training Camp Preview



(Opening Statement)

It's nice to see everybody. Excited to get started. It's that period of however many weeks it was, it was just a long time. It was a dead time. Now, the energy is back, we're ready to go and excited about it.

(On players arriving to camp)

Well, we just did the conditioning test, so I would say they're all already here. Everybody's here, we're all good.

(On the conditioning test)

I was pleased with the conditioning test today. Did anybody fail? No. Everybody did what they were supposed to. There were a couple of guys that were close, and that was because we put some tough weights on guys, and I think a little bit of it is trying to manage the four-week period that they were away, so I think that will all stabilize. There's not anybody that I'm really concerned about from the weight standpoint.

(On Chance Warmack)

Chance looked good. Weight was good, he was one pound within his weight, which, when you're talking about 300-plus pounds, that's really not that significant. He did fine in the conditioning test. I think he understands the sense of urgency of which he needs to prepare, and hopefully that will show up as we proceed through training camp.

(On what to expect from inheriting a team as the new head coach)

I think that's yet to be determined. There's no reason to say we're this, we're that right now. We have not even had a padded practice. I like the players that we have on this team. The only thing I can speak to that is when we came here in the third game of the season last year, when I was with San Diego and played this team, I thought it was a pretty good football team. That impression has not changed from my vantage point, and really, the only thing that matters is what the players in this room feel like. I think they're pretty confident that we can have a good season if we have a good camp.

(On changing the culture of the team)

The only thing I'm worried about is getting our guys prepared. I think they worked hard in the OTAs and in mini camps that we had. I was very pleased with that. I felt like the chemistry with this group of men was something that was building on the positive side, but there's so much yet that we have to determine. We have to go through adversity, that's part of forging a team. I like the guys, I respect the amount of work that they put in, and if we can have a good camp, we're certainly excited about the season.

(On finding a balance in training camp)

There's no question it has to be tough. By today's standards, I don't really know how to quantify what tough is. I think one of the things I learned from Coach (Bill) Cowher, he had a great feel for the team, when to push and when to back off. I'm not saying that's something that you can learn or know, but I just respected the way he did it, and I've tried to think about that at different times during camp. We're going to push these guys, and I think that one of the reasons that I'm so excited about this team is they want to be pushed, but there are times when you have to back it off.

(On success and stars emerging on the roster)

That's kind of a tricky answer. When you classify a player as a star, is that stat-driven? Is that perception by somebody outside? I think if you watch a Tennessee Titans football game and you watch Jurrell Casey or you watch Kendall Wright, you have a tremendous amount of respect for the way those guys play. I'm just using those two guys as an example. Derrick Morgan could, obviously, fit into that, as could (Michael) Griffin and (Bernard) Pollard, and I could continue to name them. Now, whether they're considered stars in fantasy stats, or whether they're considered stars by all of these experts that are out there, I don't know. I consider them to be good football players. I think the thing that we judge, or the way that I judge it, is the respect they have when you put that tape on. I feel like we have a lot of those players on this football team, good football players. Maybe, I guess the long answer to the question is, maybe the star comes after you have success.

(On training camps now and when he was a player)

There's probably not a real perspective, because that was so long ago. My first camp, there was 125 guys on the team. We have six weeks of two-a-days every day in pads. I'll never forget Mick Luckhurst, who was our kicker in Atlanta, stood up at the end of training camp. I was just barely surviving at that time and he said, "I know it's been a tough camp for all of us," and I just looked at him and I said, "Really? You've kicked balls the whole camp, haven't been hit one time, and it's been a tough camp for you." It's tough. That was a little bit of a different era. The one thing I'll say is it's really kind of funny because Tommy Smith and I were sitting in my office a few days ago, and we were talking about the roster, and we were talking about how things have changed, because he's been involved with this team for a number of years. We were just talking about the difference in the CBA and the practices, and that's the way it is today. I understand that. I think that there is significance, because players have gotten bigger and faster, that you do have to protect them. I think that the schedule that we have now is good, but it's definitely a lot easier, from my perspective, to get through a camp in today's way of doing things than it was all those years ago.

(On getting down to a 53-man roster)

I'm hoping that it's going to be hard to get to 53. That, to me, is a sign of a team that you have a chance with. I know that when I first went into Arizona, it wasn't as hard to get to 53 as it was in 2009 after we'd gone to the Super Bowl. Once again, it's probably premature to say a whole lot about that, because we haven't had one practice in pads. As this thing goes, there will be guys that stand out that do well in practice and then fall on their face in the games. There will be guys that don't look good in practice that light it up on a preseason game, so you have to balance all of that with where we're going to be at the end. The only thing I can say about that is I'm hopeful that when we get to that point, it will be a tough decision.

(On designation for injured players)

The designation for (Andy) Levitre is the worst excuse for getting out of the running test I've ever seen. He's going to be NFI. He's still active. In case something comes up down the road that we're unaware of, I don't want to jinx myself, but let's just say there's an infection, and it causes you to miss more time than you originally anticipated, then when we get down to the roster decisions, we'll have the option of being able to move him to a spot that doesn't count against the roster. Marcus Dixon will be PUP, starting. Very similar from the designation standpoint, but both still count active against the 90-man.

(On Shonn Greene)

I could be smart and say, yeah, we expect a running back to hit the ground running, but he will practice. We're going to be careful with his weights, because even though his knee is good, there's no swelling, he can participate, we don't want to put him in a situation where we getting a nagging injury with it, going forward. From a standpoint that I'm talking about it swelling, things where you have to manage. He'll practice tomorrow, and we'll space out his reps just to make sure we get him in shape.  

(On having the running backs together)

We're going to have to see how all those things fit into place. We get a chance to see Dexter (McCluster) in preseason games, even in some of our periods, run the football, which, from the backfield, especially in sub stuff is a third down back. That's going to factor into it. Leon Washington, I know a lot more about Leon, so his reps probably won't be as many, because he knows what he's doing. Bishop (Sankey), we've got to find out about. We've got to see what areas that he can contribute and have input. We know a little more about Shonn (Greene), the big thing about him is just being healthy, so I think those roles are yet to be determined. I think that we'll have a clear vision of how we're going to use these guys once we get a chance to see them through camp.

(On training camp being enough time)

It's enough time. There's no question. Essentially, we'll have padded practices every day. We're just having one-a-day practices. With that and the preseason games, you get an opportunity to get prepared.

(On quarterbacks getting reps)

Charlie (Whitehurst) will get some reps during that. We've got to get Jake (Locker) reps, we've got to get Charlie reps, we've got to get two other quarterbacks reps. That's one of the concerns going in, is getting everybody enough reps. One of the things that these players have to understand is you've got to make them count when you're in there. We have a plan. We have a plan of how we're going to designate the reps and make sure that we feel comfortable with how many Jake's getting, Charlie's getting, and all of them.

(On filling in for Andy Levitre)

We worked a little bit with Taylor (Lewan) at guard some in the last part of OTAs, and Chris Spencer also played in there, so we'll rotate a couple of guys through there. I don't want to put too much stress, I still want Taylor, obviously, to get his reps at tackle, so we'll just have a rotation to do that.

(On revealing plays in camp and the preseason)

That's tough. I'm kind of still up in the air on that. I'll probably have a better sense of that before we play our first game. Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh used to run everything, all preseason, and still couldn't stop it even in-season. You'd like to think that way, offensively, and I know Ray (Horton)'s going to throw a lot at them in preseason, but mostly, I think there's some things that we won't show, just because you feel pretty good about them, but at some point, people are going to see it on tape, so at that point it really comes down to being able to execute it.

(On Zach Mettenberger's bar incident)

I think one of the things, when I got hired, and (Tommy Smith and I) are talking, is that it's important how our players represent our team in this community. One of the things I was the most fired up about coming here was this community, so I did talk to Zach, I talked to Taylor (Lewan). Even though Zach did nothing wrong, you've got to be careful about those situations that you're in. The thing I'll applaud Zach on is he did not respond, which is tough, especially when you're 23 years old and you have a lot of testosterone running through your body. You've got to represent us, our team, the right way, because when we have success, we want our fans to be fired up about our players. That's important, and it's tough. You've got to understand and be aware of your settings, so that's one of the things that we'll talk about as a team today, because it's so important.

(On changing the team's mindset about playoffs)

I hope it's already started. I hope that they've seen enough of how we operate as a staff and how our systems work, that they feel like we can win it. I think if you ask our players, they would tell you that. One of the things that I like about this group, we have a lot of good leadership, a lot of good, young leadership. We've got some guys like Wesley Woodyard that played with a playoff football team, that was one of the best in the league last year. They bring a lot to the table from the leadership perspective that way. Bernard Pollard is another one who has been on successful teams. Michael Roos has been around when they've had success. I think everybody's excited at this time of year, because we're all even, but the way our players worked in the off season, I think gives them confidence that we have a chance, especially because we were close in so many games last year. I really believe that our players feel that way, and that's an important piece of it.

(On coaches having similar approaches)

I want them to be good teachers and set the right environment for our players, from a learning aspect. That goes into the process of hiring these guys. Mr. Smith gave me the opportunity to hire some good coaches, and there were some good coaches that were already on this staff. We've got a small set, we're working together, and I've been very impressed with that.

(On what he hasn't learned about the team)

Situational football is what the NFL's come down to. Two minute, third downs, being able to win in the red zone. Those are all things that you have to be able to execute well. We've done it in shorts, we've got to do it in pads. Then, of course, we've got to get in-game situations. We have the 40-second clock that runs out here when we're practicing. It's a lot different when you get into a game and those things are happening quicker and how they handle the stress. The personality of our team, we've got to find out about that. I think we've got a good group of leaders, and that's going to help with that, but the next big thing for us is putting the pads on and seeing how we can grow from that.

(On sorting out starting positions)

I'm comfortable with the competition. I think the guys that are competing for the spots are good players, so however it shakes out is going to work for us. I think competition brings out the best in guys. Whoever doesn't get it is going to be ready to play if they have to because they've prepared for two or three weeks and fought for the starting spot. I'm not concerned about that. I think that we'll have a sense as we go through camp.

(On Tommy Smith's expectations)

He was very good about support. It means a lot that he would take the time to come into my office and sit down and talk this time of year, with a lot of things going on. He's very supportive, and that's an important piece of this puzzle. I think he has realistic expectations, but I think the most important thing is that he wants this team to represent our community the right way.

(On Tommy Smith spending time in Nashville)

I've seen Tommy here a number of times already, and Tommy and I have talked at least a couple of times a week, so I anticipate that we'll see him quite a bit.

(On support from the fan base compared to ownership)

Probably not, that's the NFL. Everybody expects you to win. Understand this, we want to win. This is not about rebuilding a team or being patient. This is about winning. Our goal is to get a home playoff game, because that's an important piece of it for our fans. I hope they understand the process of this, but by no means do we feel like it's a process that we're asking for patience.

(On the conditioning test)

This is a test that I've done as a player. This is a test we've done at a number of different teams. It's a 300-yard shuttle. It's a pretty good test of conditioning. Do six 25-yard sprint and turns, and you have a time to do it, you have a time to rest, and then you have to do a second one. By the time you get to about 250 yards of the second one, that piano drops on your back and makes it tough, but our guys did a nice job.

(On options for receivers)

It's become a matchup game, and you're trying to create those mismatches. We have a number of guys that we feel can do that, and I'm hopeful that we'll get some guys that step up during camp in those backup roles that we have confidence can do that. When you get to the season, it's more about week to week, what their roles are. If we don't have somebody, then we're going to lean more heavily on some of the others that we know what they can do. I'll give you the perfect example. Wide receiver that we had in San Diego last year, Tutu (Seyi Ajirotutu) wasn't even on our team at the start of the season. We're playing Kansas City in a critical game late in the year, on the last play of the game in a two-minute situation as an X, he catches the touchdown pass. You never would have expected that to win the game, but that's what this league's all about. He came in, he showed up, earned more trust from the quarterback, and he made a play for us.

(On second-year players' performances)

Everybody's a little different. I think maybe some of it is a basis off of what they did their first year. If you have a guy that played lights out their first year like Ben (Roethlisberger) did for us in Pittsburgh, he followed that up pretty good with a Super Bowl win his second year. You don't ever know. I like what I've seen out of Justin (Hunter) and Chance (Warmack). They're both talented, young players, and I hope that we have the leadership and we have the environment that's going to put pressure on them to make that jump.

(On what he's looking for in the team's personality)

Tough, smart football team that can win games at the end or in tight situations when they need to.

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