San Diego Chargers Monday Press Conferences


Opening statement:

"We're a little earlier today than a normal week. Most of the players are in and we do have a meeting at noon. The injury update: Scott Mruczkowski has a strained ankle at the minimum. It could be worse. He's having it looked at and doing all the MRI tests right now. He would be out of this football game. Jacques Cesaire came out obviously with the elbow. It looks like he would have a chance to play on Friday night. Jammer is sore but I think he'll be fine. I just talked to him. He was in getting treatment. Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips are both sore, which they have been after each game. I'm hopeful that even though it's short week that they will be able to make it back. I don't know how much practice they would be able to get. Hardwick is going to go through walk-thru today and practice tomorrow and we'll see where he's at. It's an unusual week with the Tennessee game being on a Friday night and us traveling on a Wednesday. We got in early this morning to start working on Tennessee. Our coaches worked Saturday after our walk-thru. They spent most of the afternoon working on Tennessee.

"My thoughts about the game…as I thought, it would be an extremely physical game. They are like us in their offensive and defensive lines. I think they're very, very physical. They are a very talented football team. There were peaks and valleys for us in the game. It looks like when we're up by 11 that we're in pretty good shape and then we have a ball that is a little bit thrown behind and Gates mishandles it a little bit. It kind of gave them momentum and let them back in. I can't say enough about how our guys responded and made the plays we had to make to find a way to move down the field. Nate made a great kick. Those kicks, as I always say, I never take any kick for granted because I've been in some heartbreakers where it didn't go through. I appreciate every kick he makes. But when you make a 52-yarder with eight seconds it's really special. That group takes a lot of pride…our offensive line, David Binn and Mike (Scifres) holding. They take a lot of pride in that whole operation.

"I thought there were a lot of good things. They got a couple plays in the running game that were broken plays. One was the screen to Chad Johnson and the other was run where Larry Johnson came back inside and we had one guy misplay it. But from a physical standpoint inside, I thought we played awfully well against the run as I said last night. I have great respect for Carson (Palmer) and what they do in the passing game. We really hurt ourselves in third down situations where we had chances to get them off the field and didn't. I think that gave them life. Those are the things we are going to concentrate on in a short week."

Thoughts on team winning fourth straight title:

"In this day and age I think it says a lot about this organization but each year now in this league your team is different. I know that our core guys have stayed constant and those are the guys you build on. Those are the guys that get all of the attention. This year for me is different because so many guys have had to step up and so many guys that people don't even know. I honestly can ask a lot of people and probably some of you in the room to name our 11 starters on defense and you might get half of them. To name our starting offensive line, there are a lot of people who don't know who those guys are because we didn't know who they were about eight months ago. I'm really proud how we've had so many different people contribute to what we have gotten done."

How long would've you let Nate kick the field goal?

"Obviously, when you get inside that point of 10 seconds, you like to be in there a little tighter. He can make that kick from 60."

What happened to the 20 seconds when the clock read 1:17?

"Well, you saw me on the sideline. We called time out. I don't know if it was 1:17 but it was about 1:10 and then I looked back up and someone said in the head set 'I thought you called time out?' I did call time out. He heard me call time out and I signaled. I made eye contact with the official. It didn't get called. They put 10 seconds back on the clock. That was disappointing to me."

Should you have been penalized for LT not getting inside the numbers?

"He has to get inside the numbers. I believe that's a penalty. The problem we had was Darren's shoe came off and he's trying to do the right thing coming off. We're going to spike the ball and if he had been a little bit more aware of the fact and I don't think he know right then that we're going to spike the ball. He starts off before Philip signals it. You can spike it and the guy can have one shoe on. In fact I think Darren can out run a few guys wearing with only one shoe. He could've stayed in."

Would you have to make a decision on Hardwick by tomorrow?

"We don't really. We have two centers who can play. Obviously, Dennis Norman went in and played the last couple plays. Tyronne Green has been working at center. We can go through to the end of the week. Actually we have to go through end of the week because today is a walk thru and tomorrow is practice and we'll see on Wednesday how Nick is doing."

Where you sandbagging when earlier in the year you said the team isn't as good as fans think?

"No. I wasn't because I know there is a lot of revisionist history being passed around right now and a lot of different theories. We were in a tough way after the Raiders game. We had a lot of people hurt. Even the guys not hurt where not healthy. Merriman and Phillips weren't 100% through the first month. My comments were we're not as good as people want us to be but we can get there. I believe we can get there but we needed a contribution from a lot of different people to do it. If someone told me that Brandyn Dombrowski was going to play right guard for three weeks and then play right tackle for six weeks in August, I would've had real concerns. We've lined up through this whole streak with Mruczkowski, Vasquez and Dombrowski on our right side of the line and I don't think those our household names but they are good football players. It's not the way we intended to play the bulk of our season."

Is that thing you're most impressed about with so many guys stepping in?

"Yes, I know I named the offensive line but in the defensive line we probably have had eight different guys start games this year which is unheard of. Our linebackers have been a revolving door because of the health situations. We've just had great contributions from young football players. Alfonso Boone had another outstanding game. He got cut from Kansas City in August. To me and I keep saying this it speaks volumes about our coaching staff and our assistant coaches because those are the guys when a young guy like Dombrowski steps up in plays, if Vaughn Martin steps up and plays, if James Holt becomes a real contributor on special teams then someone is doing a great job getting them ready. I give that credit to the assistant coaches."

What is the biggest headache with the short week?

"The hardest thing is everybody talks about the game plan and coaching and that's not the problem. We'll get that done. The hardest thing is the players. The players have played in a lot football games and they're banged up. They're beat up. We've kind of managed this a year ago when we played at home. We're going to do everything we can to be as fresh as we can. Take care of them during the week and do everything we can to get them ready to play. We're playing another very good football team that is alive and on a roll. We're going to have to be at our best."

On if the Titans are as good of a challenge as they've had the last couple of weeks:

"Absolutely and they keep getting bigger. I thought Dallas was going to be an enormous challenge and it was. On Sunday, the circumstances made it closer than it maybe could've been but that's the way it is when we're playing a real good team. Now, it's Tennessee and playing them in their place. We've been there. It's a tough place to play. They're very good there. They have a guy who is trying to set a record for 2,000 yards or set a record for most yards. Their quarterback is playing awfully well and they've always been a very, very good defense. They're explosive in the running game and Vince Young is playing at a higher level. They look very good on tape "

On if the defense will be ready for the Titans offense:

We're not going to be tired on Friday. We're going to be fresh and ready to go. Everybody has to take care of their job. You have to tackle great. Your secondary has to take great angles. You have to be very, very sound."

Thoughts on Chris Johnson:

I know if he gets a little bit of space he can run a long ways with a football. He's as explosive player as we've faced or probably in the league in a long time."

On if the friction between two teams dissipates over time:

"As I said, these are two real competitive teams, two very good teams. It's a physical style of football. We played them back there and there was some stuff going on there. I didn't see that in the playoff game here. I thought it was handled well the second time we played them."

On Vince Young:

They've really done a nice job with him in his pocket presence and getting the ball checked down to the second and third receivers. He's always been able to throw the football down the field and make special throws. He made two against Miami that were unbelievable. He threw it right between two guys to his receiver, right over the top of the guy. I think his presence in the pocket and getting down to the second and third receiver has really improved."

Do you have to spy him?

"Absolutely. You have to change it up. There is no question. You have to be aware that he can take off and go."

On being ready:

"It seems every week there is another pretty good challenge. As I said, this last stretch, we knew it was going to be very, very difficult. The combination of going on the road to Dallas, and Dallas' showing against New Orleans, they are an outstanding football team. Then playing Cincinnati now this next test we just want to go play our best and do everything we can to try to win the football game."

Are you surprised in what Tim Dobbins has evolved into?

"Not at all. Tim is a very aggressive player. He's a physical football player. He's always had the knack for making big plays but I think the more he plays, the more comfortable he is with the different things in terms of pass coverage."

On playing on Christmas:

It's hard. You look at these now and every week there's two teams playing on Thursday. You have to manage the short week. We played here last year on Christmas Eve. We've coached games on Christmas day and it's kind of a mindset."


What do you see when you look at Tennessee's defense?

"It's a very similar group to what we played in the playoffs and at their place a few years ago. Obviously they're dealing with some unfortunate injuries, but it's (a lot of) the same personnel and for the most part a very similar scheme. As they were then, they're a very physical team. They're a very fundamentally sound team. They don't do a ton of stuff but they do everything they do very well. Going to their place, night game, it'll certainly be a challenge. We have something we want to accomplish and they're in the thick of this crazy AFC at 7-7 along with a bunch of other teams."

They've always been very physical but in 2007 things got a little crazy. Do you think there will be any spillover from that?

"I don't think there's anything that will carry over from then. It's a physical game. There were some unfortunate injuries in that game but it's a solid team. It has been for some time now. At their place, late in the year, it'll be exciting."

When you have a short week like this, is there any part of your preparation that has to be sacrificed?

"There's not any that has to be sacrificed, but certainly it's a different routine. It's makeshift. You don't really have a routine plan for this. You've got to find a way to feel as prepared as you feel in a normal week. I think being here on Monday, getting a head start is the first step to getting that done. Obviously it will be a challenge but the preparation will have to continue this week up until Christmas morning. You'll still have to obviously keep going. Today is a Wednesday in our preparation. We're not quite to where we would be on a Wednesday but guys are focused and we got a lot done today."

To a certain extent, will guys be cramming on Thursday and Friday?

"No, I don't think you'll be cramming, but I think there may be some things you won't have as down pat as you would in a normal week. I think you try to treat these days as the same. What you try to do on a Wednesday you try to treat it like you would today. It won't hurt in weeks like this to throw in a little extra late in the week. You may catch a play or catch something that you didn't get to see because your time is cut short."

How much work have you done with Dennis Norman in practice?

"None. From training camp, I've probably had a handful of snaps with him in there. But Dennis is a solid, veteran player. It wasn't too big for him at all stepping in there. We got five or six (snaps) on the sideline before the last few plays and there's no concern from a snap standpoint there. It's just a lack of reps. We'll make sure we have that squared away this week."

The Chargers are 6-1 on the road this season. What do you attribute that success to?

"I think over time when you have the same group of guys here, you develop a mentality, a toughness and an ability to go on the road and play well. The best thing we've done is just focus. Our trips have been the same for the most part every trip. The schedule is the same, the routine is the same and guys approach them as we should, as a business trip. We go and take care of business."

How special is it that you've had so many backups and young players step up and contribute during this run?

"It's been awesome to get the contributions from so many people. Obviously you wish some of them didn't have to because we've had some unfortunate injuries to some guys. I think it's a credit to our staff's ability to prepare and coach guys and have them ready enough if called upon to go do it. Then ultimately it's the guy, the individual being the professional, knowing that I may go 10 weeks and never even dress. Then in the 11th week I may be needed on kickoff to run down and make the tackle that ultimately could change the outcome of the game. We've got a lot of true pros in the locker room and a lot of hungry football players. I think that's what it takes. When you get called on, are you hungry and ready to go out there and play at a high level? That's been the case for a lot of our guys."

You've said this is the most complete unit you've worked with. Why do you feel that way?

"I think first, again, there's a lot of familiar faces in that locker room, guys that were rookies, one and two-year players and now we're all here in six, seven, eighth year. I think that's the first thing. I think we've got a great group of veteran leadership. Then we just have guys that hate to lose and want to win. You combine that with a steady, consistent preparation and you can formulate a nine-game winning streak. Now we'll have to stay focused to keep that going."

Do you feel snake bitten at all at center with the two big injuries?

"It's unfortunate. I really hate it for (Scott Mruczkowski), just playing at such a high level and regardless of when or how everything is going to shake out with Nick (Hardwick) coming back, you hate to see a guy go out with an injury like that. It's just been a year of ankles for our guys up front. With Clary and Nick and Mooch and (Ogemdi Nwagbuo) over there on the defensive side. It seems to be something every year, but every team deals with it. We're not the only one that has. It's unfortunate, but fortunately we have guys who have been able to step up and play at a high level when somebody does go down."


On preparing for the Titans on a short week:

"It's pretty tough, but the great thing about it is they're coming off a short week too, so it makes the competition even, makes the playing field even. But it's always hard from a physical standpoint, to play two games in the same week. I'm pretty sure the fans would love if every team played two times a week. But the reality is it's a tough sport and it's pretty brutal on the body, but again, the playing field is even because they have a short week as well. Being efficient is what's most important. People say 'practice makes perfect,' but no, 'perfect practice, makes you perfect.' And so that's the mindset you've have to have. There's no one that's healthy right now in the league. It's just the nature of the beast. It's just important to pay attention to the details and keep on practicing with a high intensity and that transfers over to wins whether that's in the end of the season or the beginning of the season."

On red zone defense success:

"We have to take our hats off to other teams. It's not just about us. They do a good job of moving the ball. They get paid a lot to make plays, so they go out there and are effective. So teams are going to move the ball on teams. Look at our offense, we move the ball on teams, and teams are going to move the ball on our defense. But the key to it is to keep points off the board, and, or, you could look at it as we need to have one more point than them, so we need to do whatever we can do to have one more point than them, and we were able to do that, that's why we've been able to win so many games, we've been having one more point than the other team."

Do you have an edge on the Titans?

"I don't really look at it as we had an edge. I think we've just been efficient and taken it one game at a time and we look at it as another football game. Again, they're a hot football team, and they're looking good, and they really can run the ball and we're expecting a great match-up with those guys, but we have to go worry about ourselves and take care of our business and make sure and look at the bigger picture of things and right now our focus is obviously on the Tennessee Titans and going out and trying to get a first round bye in the playoffs. We understand the importance of it, so we're still playing for a lot. Again, it's still a football game and we play this game to do one thing and that's win, and we're going to go out there and try and win a football game. "

How great is it that so many guys have been able to step up for the team this year?

"Well, I think that's a tribute to the coaching staff. They do a good job of getting everybody reps, from the starter to the back-ups. Everyone gets reps and everyone prepares as they are a starter and everyone is held to the same accountability. I think we have to take our hats off to the guys as well because they accept the challenge and they see that it's an opportunity, and they're learning from the older guys and they're going out there and stepping up and making plays. Because it's a number of different guys that make plays every game, and it's different guys, not the same guys, so that's just good to see. It shows that we're focusing more on being a team, and not one player being the superstar. We haven't been an 'I' team around here. We haven't had very many "I" guys around here this year, and I think it's been paying off. Obviously with our record, it's been doing something right for us."

Does the dislike of the two teams from a few years ago still apply?

"They definitely took a cheap shot on Merriman. They're a physical team, though -- they thought they could punk us, and we obviously aren't going to get punked. We're going to do the same thing. They're a physical football team, and we like to believe we're a physical football team, so it's going to be one of those ones where we are going to punch them in the mouth and they're going to try to punch us back, and that's just how it's going to be. I personally know that Merriman definitely has to be a little heated because I believe that's when he originally hurt his knee. He hurt his knee in that game. So I'm pretty sure that he has some butterflies, and obviously that's my brother so we're going to support him and we'll be behind him as well. So I already know going into it that it's one of those weeks that you prepare for a dogfight, because of the type of guys they have over there. They got some competitive guys. Big, strong, physical guys that get a little nasty and we'd like to think that we're that way too, so we're looking forward to it."

Can you clarify what "Punked" means?

"Punked means basically to try and intimidate someone. They're trying to intimidate us. That's Jeff Fisher style of play, that's the type of football he plays. That's how he coaches. He wants tough guys. He wants guys that get out there and get physical and get nasty and get after it and try and intimidate the other opponent. You have to respect a guy for that."

Will there be any Christmas spirit on the field?

"I don't know if there is going to be any hugs and gift exchanges going on. There might be some elbows and knees going on but it'll be fun. Again, we look forward to the challenge. We've got Chris Johnson, who's obviously leading the league in rushing and a hell of a player, the fastest back in the NFL. One of the best backs. So we look forward to the challenge on our side of the ball. I know the offense is going to come into play, but we pose the biggest challenge, which is stopping Chris Johnson and the offense and Vince Young and those guys, and that's a challenge we look forward to."

How do you do that?

"Going out there and playing together and understanding that it takes 11 of us, not one or two of us. It's going to be 11 of us on every play. Because with a guy like that, you have to be responsible with your gaps, or your holes, whatever you guys want to call it. Because if he gets one little crease he can go the distance at any play. We've obviously seen him do that plenty of times this year. Again, it's the challenge we're looking forward to. Like, I don't think we played a good game this week on defense. We didn't play a quality game, so the best way to forget about a bad game is to come back and play better the next week, and that's what we look forward to doing this week. We have a great challenge, and we know this is one of those games that helps us start building momentum and get back together and get back on the right track going into the playoffs."

What was the experience like with the loudness of the crowd in the third quarter?

"That's the loudest I've heard Qualcomm. If we could keep our fans like that and just keep on believing , it's a weapon, and hopefully people realize that. That's why they kept getting the penalties, it was so loud out there that they just kept on screaming and screaming and screaming, and it's a weapon. It can really hurt teams, so that's the type of momentum we need, and that's the type of crowd we need, and the atmosphere going into the playoffs."

On Titan's running back Chris Johnson:

"He's one of a kind, obviously. There's not too many running backs in the NFL running 4.2's and 4.3's like he is. He's a special player. He's definitely one of those gifted guys and again, it's a challenge that we're looking forward to. We play this game for a challenge. If it was easy, if we had Harry Hatchett out there running the ball, it really wouldn't be any fun. The fun part is going against the best. He's supposed to be the best, and we want to get out there and get our opportunity to go against the best."

On the physical nature of playing the Titans:

"For me, it's football. I don't even really care. You could cheap shot me all you want. I mean, I'm going to get you back, but I'm not one of those guys. It's football. We're supposed to be warriors; we're supposed to be gladiators. We have to understand that sometimes you're going to get hit in the face, or somebody's going to cheap shot you or do something out of line, but what can you do? You have to keep on playing. You can't cry about it, you can't go punch him in the face because you jeopardize your team. No, just keep on playing football and you'll get him back when you get a chance."

How do you get redemption?

"Winning. Winning is the ultimate 'throw it in your face.' That's what you do. If someone does something to you, when you win, that's all you need to do. You're good. You can smile."

Do you have to talk amongst each other and tell each other not to retaliate?

"Not at all. We have a mature football team. We don't see too many personal fouls. When we do, it's because it's usually warranted. You don't see guys out there acting out of line. We have a bunch of disciplined guys, a bunch of mature guys, that's not even going to go out there and engage in anything like that. We try to play the game the right way."

On the importance of a first round bye:

"I think that's the biggest thing, is to be able to get a little rest, to rest some of the players we have banged up. But a lot of people have players banged up. So honestly, no matter, if we had the bye or not, we still have to go out there and play. Even if we get the bye, we still have to go out there the first game and be able to play and be able to execute. If you can get the body 100 percent, or closest to 100 percent as possible for all our players, we'll be pretty tough coming out. I remember one game, I think it was the Cleveland game, we had probably like four starters out there on defense, maybe five starters, and then we would sub in, two or three starters at one time. When you look around like that, that has a little bit of uncertainty cause you're looking for a certain guy to make a call, but he doesn't make the call, you don't communicate with that guy, you're used to communicating with him, so you don't communicate at all. But now that we're starting to get healthy and everyone's starting to get back, we have Weddle and Luis back healthy and me and Shawne are going to start getting back healthy, I believe we can be dangerous if we take care of our business and work on the things we need to work on and be disciplined at what we need to do. We can be trouble."

How important is one week of rest?

"A week is huge physically. I think about for the last five weeks, on Mondays I was wearing a boot. And now I can walk around fine on Mondays. I was walking around on a boot on Monday last week. So look at seven days now and I'm walking around without a boot, no pain, and I'm starting to get back healthy again. A week is huge in this game. I don't know about the NBA, but in football, a week is huge. It's amazing what the body can do."

Have you seen Vince on tape yet?

"Vince is a friend, so I got to obviously check his highlight out, but I haven't seen too many of his games. But I been watching Vince since he was in college, and he's a special player, and it's good to see that he's back on track. I knew that he would, he just needed to get his opportunity again and I'm glad that he did. He's looking good out there and I'm happy for him."

How has he changed since the last time you have played him?

"He's just more efficient in the pocket. He's able to sit in the pocket and make some tough throws. I watched him yesterday make two incredible throws. So he added an element to his game, but that just came with maturity. He matured a little bit. He'sobviously an incredible athlete -- he can run -- but he looks good in the pocket and he's making some reads. It looked like they opened the field up for him, where before, it looked like only worked half a field, because it's an easier read. Now he's sitting back in the pocket and he can see the whole field and go to all three, four options that he has."

Would you welcome additional rest against Washington if Chargers clinched a bye this week?

"Of course. But we have a bunch of guys that love winning. We play this game to win. If we have to play, we have to play. If we don't, that's great that we get the rest, but even if a lot of your starters or some of your key players did get the rest, I know the backups would be ready to go. Those guys are hungry and eager to play at anytime."

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