Obviously it's a very exciting time of year. For myself personally, for our coaches and for the players. This is really where you get the majority of your work done in preparation for the upcoming season. I'd be remiss if I didn't thank St. John Fisher, the staff here at St. John Fisher and especially Dr. Bain. I've been through a lot of these camps before. The coaches and I came in a couple of days ago, they were prepared, and they were ready. We tested the fields; we've been around the locker rooms. It's really, really a great situation for us as a football team to come here and train. Obviously as far as with reporting, we just really had one player that obviously has not reported, Jairus Byrd. I think everyone understands the situation. We're looking forward to him coming and we welcome him back. We understand with the Collective Bargaining Agreement that he has the ability to not be here right now and we respect that. We really do. We'll concentrate on the players that are here now and look forward to Jairus reporting in the future. We just completed our conditioning test which is part of our physical. I'm very excited about where the players are. They've shown that they've done a lot of work in this offseason. We did wind up releasing a player not too long ago, Chris Scott, and it's just unfortunate in this profession that we have expectations of coaches coming in and we didn't feel that Chris fulfilled his expectations to us, his teammates or his coaches. So, we let him go. I think that it's good to know, I think there's been a lot said about how do these practices go about. I think everyone has to understand that the first two days, Sunday and Monday, is an acclimation period. Our players will go out there and work, but there's obviously some rules that we can't be in full pads, shoulder pads, we'll be in helmets and we'll be out there getting loose and working extremely hard.
Q: What did you say to the players to set the tone for camp?
A: Honestly I talked to the players this morning. Our official report date was after midnight last night, so this morning we just wanted to get them set with the conditioning test, the physical, those things went on. This morning, Russ Brandon welcomed them to camp. We had a short meeting, we have another organizational meeting at 1 o'clock today and tonight, at 8 o'clock, I'll address the team on what our goals are and what we want to get accomplished.
Q: Do you foresee the quarterback position being a 50-50 split on reps?
A: We're going to split the reps and get looks at both Kevin and EJ with both crews, to see how they perform with that. We haven't really gotten in to detailed discussions about the preseason, but again that's another good point about how you want to make sure we evaluate them. Again, our goal as coaches is to make it fair for both players, not just at the quarterback position but for other positions of competition. Really it relies on the players to separate themselves. I can't even think of an instance where I was a coach and I was with a group of coaches, scouts or GM's where we said, "OK, we have these two players and we've been divided on that". I think that the repetitions will be split and it will be done fairly. I can promise you that.
Q: The team has invested more in EJ Manuel's future. How much do you hope he emerges and show's separation before entering the regular season?
A: I think a lot of times with a lot of discussion with the draft and younger players, a lot of people talk about future. Really the future for us as coaches and as a team is now. What I look at is really what players can we put on the field to win now. That's how I look at it. Who gives us the best opportunity to win? One thing that I've said before is the players know that too. The players, you have a responsibility to the players on the team that may only have one year on that contract. That may not be here that long. You have a responsibility to them, everyone else, our fans and the organization to really put the best players out there that give us the best chance to win. You can't succumb to speculation of down the road this player will be better here or there. I'm looking for who is the best player now.
Q: What is the status of injured players, specifically Scott Chandler?
A: We had obviously the report last night for where our players are. Really just Chris Hairston, who's on the PUP list, we're just waiting for clearance from the doctors. Really everyone else right now is full go. Which is exciting.
Q: Is there a chance Hairston will return soon?
A: I'm hoping that he comes back soon, again I'm not a doctor but I'm sitting there thinking to myself and that's the question I'm asking. He can come off at any time, so I think as soon as the doctors feel comfortable about it we'll get him out there and start working him in.
Q: How much is the Jairus Byrd situation going to affect the defense and how much of a learning curve will he have when he reports?
A: I don't know, I mean he's a professional so he's getting himself ready to go. If I was here last year I may be able to comment better on that, but again I haven't been around him physically in this type of setting.
Q: How big of an opportunity is there for playing time in the defensive backfield?
A: The one thing I've said to the players many times is coachability and availability. When you're out there as long as you're available and coachable, you have a chance to get better and you have a chance to be a player that can help us win games. I think opportunities come up in many different ways. Whether it's a situation that we just talked about or whether it's a slight injury or something that goes along. We've all had scares about that before. I think the one thing that professional football players know and pro athletes know is that you want to be out there. You don't want to give up those opportunities because with the way the practice schedule is set, there are limited amount of reps that you can get done. You can't afford to go out there, not win on a rep and have someone take your rep for you.
Q: What is your philosophy in regards to contact during the camp practices?
A: My philosophy is it's obviously something that has been built over the years that we've been able to, myself as a head coach, we've been able to reduce the injuries based on how we practice, with the amount of contact we've had. Meaning that we've gone from a standpoint where some periods will be tag off, some periods will be bag, some periods will be contact. For us right now, the first, we'll work on tackling every day, in those drills that you have to do and look to do in a contact standpoint, we'll avoid that obviously with the players early on until we drill it and get a foundation. My philosophy is that when we go, we'll have a big scrimmage, next Monday night. That'll be a big scrimmage down the road, that'll be a live scrimmage. That will be the first look at saying, "Ok, who can really get it done in a live situation?" With the backs, goal line, short yardage situations are ones you want to go live. It's very difficult to have those periods without that live in it and then after that, pretty much what we said we'll be doing is things the right way fundamentally and then we take the contact in to the preseason.
Q: In regards to the live scrimmage, when you say live scrimmage, does that mean guys will tackle to the ground?
A: Yes, guys will tackle to the ground. I don't want to misrepresent what we're going to do. We're going to come in and warm-up a little bit and have some 7-on-7's, some 1-on-1 and then get in to a pretty good scrimmage.
Q: You released Mark Anderson. Do you feel you have enough pass rushers after Mario Williams?
A: Yes, absolutely. We feel that we have some good young players there. Jerry Hughes, Blatnick, also with Brown. We feel very comfortable about how that position is going to develop and we're excited for all of those guys.
Q: As excited as you are for your first camp, what concerns might you have?
A: I have no concerns, I really don't. We're professionals; we take pride in what we do as players and coaches. There are a lot of things going on around us, must of us have been through these types of camps. It's an exciting time for the fans to get a chance to get close to the team. It's an exciting time for this community which has really opened their arms up to us. We were in town and had a staff dinner the other night. The PGA event is coming in to town here, there's a lot going on. Don't ever think for a minute that we'll be distracted from what our job is.
Q: How confident are you that the players will be on tack as far as learning the scheme?
A: I'm very confident and I think is what I base that on is what we've done in OTA's and what we did prior to coming here. I think that I'm confident in our coaches ability to teach and confident in our players to pick it up. Know that the better we get at picking up, not only the concept and the schemes, but more important the fundamentals and the techniques. One thing that we'll give you some insight to what I'll be talking to the team about. I am one of those guys that I think the little things mean a lot. I'm a stickler to the little things and very repetitive to things I say because I think it's important. It's not because I think people around me aren't smart, I just want to make sure we're driving home the same point and it's crystal clear.
Q: Do you prefer earlier practices?
A: I like getting up and playing, I really do. I like getting up and going to play. I felt that way when I was a player. I know a lot of players that have been around, veteran players, felt that way. We want to get up early, get the chance to play and I think also strategically it helps us a little bit, as far as being able to go through the corrections afterwards. Go through the walk-throughs; make sure you watch all the film. I think you can do a much better job and don't feel rushed.
Q: Will you typically have a walkthrough later in the day?
A: Sure. What we're going to do is on the morning practices, we're going to go and obviously we'll practice in the morning and then we'll come back in the afternoon for a brief film session. Make sure we can look at that practice. At night we'll cover whatever we covered before with the film session and then we'll install for the next day. Then we'll also have a walk through at night.
Q: Are you allowed to have a morning walkthrough and a practice in the afternoon? A: That's correct.