The players said they had fun, was it fun for you?
MT: Iíd like for them to have fun, but itís not a prerequisite. Itís a good thing. We had a very productive offseason as far as Iím concerned, considering what you can get out of this considering it is shorts football. I got to know them a little bit. Iím sure they felt like they got to know me. We were able to do some different things, look at some people in some different spots. I was able to get an understanding of what some of those guys are Ė not under duress, not under football circumstances Ė just their personalities and how they come to work on a day-to-day basis. I saw what they are willing to do, how they interact with one another. All are important elements as we build a football team. From that standpoint, it was very productive.
What did you tell them as you said good-bye?
MT: I told them when you have a good offseason and you do what you set out to do, not a lot needs to be said. I didnít say much. I believed that. It was a productive offseason. Casey Hampton
, heís getting married in a couple of weeks. So I let him break the team down. Basically, thatís all that was said.
What was the priority? Was it getting the system in place or getting to know the players?
MT: It was multi-tasking. Like all the times you come together, that was the case. We wanted to focus on implementing all three phases, getting a foundation from that standpoint. We wanted to acquire some recall, so as we go to camp, theyíve done it, weíve got video of them doing it, and then they have to go do it again from there. We wanted to implement all three phases. We did that. We wanted to hit situational football, some things that are critical to winning games and some things that define winning football. Iíve been selling the point to them that when you watch highlight shows, itís all about situational football: Third down football, red zone football, backed up, coming out, situations involving special teams. We wanted to give that its just due. I thought we did that instead of just going out there and saying every situation is first and 10 and playing. We wanted them to be aware of the unwritten rules of the game that are part of situational football. How you play the game in third down is different than how you play it on first and 10. How you play in the red zone is different than in open grass. We wanted to give that its just due, address that, and I felt we did that. I wanted to get a sense again to get some insight into these guys as individuals, how they approach their work. Does their love of the game translate into how they perform and how they prepare? Whatís their overall attitude when they take the field? We wanted to create a little artificial adversity if we could. I knew the schedule was different. I knew it was different than what they did in the past. But I thought taking them through that would give me some insight into who they are. I was pleased with that. I got an opportunity to look at many guys play different positions. I know that some were more of a story than others, the center position being one of them. But we moved a bunch of guys around. The corners played nickel, the corners played dime. The safeties played nickel and dime. Deshea Townsend
played some safety. Linebackers flopped around. Wideouts exchanged positions. Tailbacks played fullback. Thatís kind of been something that weíve impressed upon them all offseason, the more you can do and are willing to do, adds value. No job is too small. Thatís one of the things we wanted to get done. In a nutshell, thatís what we focused on, the guys playing multiple positions, getting our scheme implemented and getting to know what they are about from a football character standpoint.
Do you have a starting offensive line right now?
MT: No, weíre not going to base decisions off of what happened out there in shorts. That would not be smart.
You have to start somewhere, though.
MT: Yeah, we do. Itís in pencil, just like every position is in pencil. You define guys in this game when they play it in pads. I like what I saw out there, but Iím not making decisions on what I saw in this offseason.
Whoís penciled in at center?
MT: Chukky (Okobi).
What about cornerback?
MT: Right now itís Ike (Taylor) and Deshea.
Ike has been running first team pretty much all along. Is he secure there?
MT: If he performs at a high level. No jobs are secure. This is not a security business. If they are looking for security, they need to find a new line of work. They have to play and perform. I told those guys that Iím going to base my opinions on them on what they do on a day-to-day basis, not their reputation or resume. I mean what I say when I talk to them in that regard. People want to establish depth charts at this time of year. So be it. But they change. Iím not worried about who the starting center is or who the starting corners are. Iím worried about acquiring guys and letting them fight it out at Latrobe in the preseason.
What about free safety?
MT: Ryan Clark
Free safety, center and cornerback are still up for grabs, though?
MT: There are known position battles that are talked about, but there are also unknown position battles that are going to develop because weíre going to go into this with no preconceived notions and base our decisions on what we see at training camp. Whether people are looking for comfort, whether they find comfort, or whether their jobs are mentioned as being up for grabs, I hope that they arenít (comfortable). I hope they understand what weíve been saying to them, that weíre going to base their jobs on what they do, not what theyíve done or what their reputation is.
Howís your quarterback been?
MT: I thought he was very good. Heís a tremendous competitor. Of course heís a very talented guy. He communicated very well with his teammates. Heís kind of a ball junkie. I didnít know that about him. But he talked ball on a day to day basis. I was very happy with him.
Is right tackle one of the positions thatís a known or an unknown?
MT: In what area?
Is Willie (Colon) pushing Max (Starks)?
MT: Absolutely, but Willie is pushing a lot of people. Willieís been one of the guys weíve moved around quite a bit because we want him to get into a position to fit into that top five. We want to see where he fits in. If heís capable. Willieís played some tackle. Willieís played some guard. Willieís even played some center. Willieís going to push a lot of people.
Youíve got some uncertainty at that offensive line position, some things undefined. Are you confident that will get worked out early or is that something that will take some time at Saint Vincent?
MT: I kind of like uncertainty at this time of year. These guys are in the business of responding to challenges and answering questions. Thatís kind of the underlying theme in football. I donít mind the uncertainty. I like the uncertainty that we have at corner because I believe we have some good candidates. I like the uncertainty that we have at free safety. I like the uncertainty that we have on the offensive line because we have some candidates.
Are you happy with your overall depth now that youíve seen this team for a month or will you still be looking to add veterans?
MT: Iím always shopping for guys that can help us win. I just think you have to have that mentality, whether or not you do it is one thing. But youíve got to keep an eye open because itís the nature of football. To think the men that weíre working with right now are the men weíll win with would probably be naive. Things happen in football, injuries, etc. You always have to keep an eye open for depth at positions and we do.
What were some of the things you learned about your team?
MT: They like to work. They really do. Of course Iím talking about the majority. They like to work. They like to compete. They enjoy playing football in whatever form you present it to them. They love competition. Thereís a healthy camaraderie on this football team. Itís a close-knit team. It really is. When you look at it, itís kind of indicative of a team thatís been built through the draft as opposed to a team thatís been built through free agency. Thereís a closeness to this football team thatís a little better than teams Iíve been associated with in the past and thatís probably where it comes from. The vast majority of these guys were drafted here and were raised as professionals here. Thatís been a pleasant surprise, something that Iíve been excited about.
Do you think (Lawrence) Timmons will be ready for the start of camp?
MT: He better be (laughing). No, he will.
Did he try to go at all this week?
MT: He did. We slowed him down more so than him. We want to make sure that he is healthy and ready to go. Like everybody else weíve talked about, heíll establish his role in Latrobe and we donít want to slow that down in any way.
Given that heís been unable to do much here on the field, does that make it that much more import to get him signed by the start of camp, to get him on the field as early as possible?
MT: It doesnít make it more important. He has to be there. They all have to be there. Thatís just the nature of the game. If you did a study of guys who missed part of training camp their rookie year, the results would not be good. He understands that and not only him, but everyone thatís unsigned.
Is LaMarr Woodley further along than most rookies at this time?
MT: You can talk yourself into thinking that he is, but the reality is that heís played football in shorts. Heís looked great in shorts. Weíll see what he looks like when the live bullets start flying.
You said they like to work, will they like training camp? Is that going to be more work this year?
MT: I donít know too many active players that like training camp. They probably endure it. I did tell the group today that itís going to be tough. Iím not apologizing for that. Iím going to put that challenge out there to them. In a lot of ways, it represents the journey that weíre going to face this year. Itís not going to be without its ups and downs. Itís not going to be smooth sailing. But weíve got to deal with it like champions if we want to be champions. Iím looking forward to training camp. Iím sure they are too. But Iím sure at times they wonít. Thatís part of it. Thatís what NFL training camps are about. They are not supposed to be pleasant.
You going to heavy on two-a-days?
MT: Probably a little heavier than they are used to. It will give them something to whine about.
What would you like them to do with their time off?
MT: I want them to enjoy themselves, prepare themselves and to not be the guy. Thatís the message that I gave them this morning. Enjoy yourself because itís been a great offseason. The break from us has been well deserved. Prepare yourself because what you do between now and July 23 are going to determine your readiness in terms of winning jobs, competing and us putting a football team together. And not being the guy is simply not being the guy in headlines this time of year. Anybody in headlines this time of year is not what weíre looking for. Donít be the guy thatís a distraction. Be the guy whoís doing what he needs to do. Fly below the radar and prepare for what weíve got coming.
What will you do with your time?
MT: All of the above. For me vacation is doing what I always do, but not having to do it. Iíll be here for the most part. My wife will probably get me down south at some point. But I mean that. Vacation for me is leisurely doing
Posted Jun 14, 2007