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Jack Del Rio's pre-game News Conference: With Extra Joe Zelenka!

Here's the weekly Jack Del Rio press conference.  Lots of interesting stuff here, I really enjoy the tangent about 3/4ths the way through about long snapping.

"New Orleans Saints on tap.  A team that's won three straight, a team that was in the NFC Championship game last year.  They are playing well in all three phases, I think; it's been part of their winning streak. Defensively, they've been very stingy getting after people, getting the ball back for the offense.  Offensively, no sacks the last four games, only four on the year for the quarterback. The quarterback is Drew Brees whose is a tremendous football player.  He was formerly with the Chargers and they were able to acquire him and he has been a big difference-maker for them down there. He played in the Pro Bowl last year. He's done a great job directing their offense.  Reggie Bush, the former first round pick, he's their leading weapon.  He gets the ball in a lot of different situations. They hand it to him, they screen it to him about 10 different ways. They give it to him on reverses. They throw it to him.  They play him at wide receiver, they play him at running back, they play him just about everywhere.  So obviously everything that we're going to do this week will revolve around Drew Brees and Reggie Bush and making sure we know where they are, and that's not it.  They have a big receiver, (Marques) Colston outside. He has five touchdowns; he had three of them last week.  (David) Patten, who we've seen before, formerly with the Patriots, has done a nice job the last few weeks making a bunch of plays in the passing game.  So, a big challenge for us.  Their O-line makes it all happen. To not have your quarterback get sacked at all, you know you're playing well up front, so they're doing a nice job.  I think they're a good football team. They're very aggressive in their approach. They fire zone, they bring man pressure and add people. They all-out blitz. They're very aggressive in their approach and they've got some good people in their front.  Will Smith, a Pro Bowl defensive end, and Charles Grant out of University of Georgia a couple years back, a very good football player. They've got an active front.   Field position will be very important this week as it is in most ballgames, but in particular this week going down there, playing in the dome, Drew Brees and their offense, certainly field position becomes very important for us.  So obviously we need to have a good effort in all three phases to have a shot."
"We made a roster move. Tony McDaniel has a broken wrist and is getting placed on IR. It's a shame to lose him, a good, young player. He was banged up with his knee a little bit early. His wrist was sore but we didn't think it was anything major but they did the test and found out that it in fact had a crack. So we brought in Grady Jackson to add some depth along our defensive line. He played well in the game here when Atlanta came in the second week of the season.  A big, strong guy more known for being a run-stopper, and so he'll help boost our defensive line."

 (on the reports on Marcus Stroud)

"There is really nothing for me to report.  I have not been notified by the league of anything going on.  Obviously Dan (Edwards) prepped me a little bit walking down on the fact that I may be asked that question, but I don't have anything to say at this time. I have not been given notification from the league."

(was Grady Jackson's signing related to Stroud's situation?)

"Certainly Tony McDaniel breaking his wrist, Grady being available makes a whole of sense to be able to keep your D-line strong."

(will Jackson play this Sunday?)

"Yes, he'll be available."

(will he be a part of the rotation?)

"We'll try and get him up to speed as quickly as possible. He's played a long time in the league, it's just a matter of having him understand what our terminology is, line up on that guy there and control that gap there.  We can simplify it a little bit for a tackle but we'll get him up to speed as quickly as we can."

(is he simply a nose guy that lines up over the center or can he play when you've got good tackles?)

"He's a little different in what he's strongest at compared to our guys. He's built a little different. He's a big, thick guy, it's hard to move in there. So he's going to spend more time A-gap to A-gap where we'll get our guys out there a little wider. But we'll play to his strengths and get him in here and let him learn our system and how we do things and get him up to speed as quickly as possible."

(what's your message to your team when it comes to playing without a key player?)

"You know how we've approached it the last few years. Things happen, you have to be able to adjust.  One man's misfortunate is another man's opportunity.  As a football team, we must carry on and that's our approach. We plug in the next guy. We work hard to have depth. We work hard to cross-train that depth and make them understand the need to be able to play multiple positions. I think you saw the other night in our game against Tampa, how many guys were asked to do things that they didn't go into the game thinking they were going to do. I think that you have to do that, you have to have the flexibility to move guys around and cross-train them so we work hard at that, and we're not going to blink. The bottom line is you have to go compete.  In this league, being able to fight through adversity is part of what a good team has to be able to do if it wants to have a good year."

(on keeping the team's energy up after a gutty win, avoiding a letdown?)

"Last week was the concern from that standpoint.  We're coming off Monday night and the opportunity against the Colts, the defending champs and all the hype and all that, that was the big one.  Last week going to Tampa after that outing on a short week was the biggest concern on that front.  That's a concern every week for me to get our guys up. I also recognize you're not always going to play at an emotional high. That's where preparation comes in and a good solid approach and a good consistent approach, and so those are the things that we stress, but I had more of that concern last week based on all the factors we had going against us.  Right now I think our guys understood it took everything that we had Sunday. We emptied our buckets, we have to fill them back up and get ready to empty them again."

 (on the excitement around the Saints now?)

"It's growing.  They didn't start off well but the team kept plugging away and now here they are seven weeks into the year, only a game out so I think the excitement is building again. We expect the crowd to be into it.  It'll be a very loud atmosphere.  It'll be a challenge for us to go in there and function.  My family and friends down there, they love their Saints.  It doesn't matter if they're 0-8 or 8-0, they're going to be there and they're going to have fun. That city has always been very supportive of their team.  They love their Saints down there."

(any chance of 14 or more plays being scripted for the start of this one?)

"Yeah, we just elected to script 14 last week.  After that we left that plan and got into the rest of our game.  Every week takes on its own personality.  Everybody is different in how they approach it. We don't go down the line with a set number of plays. We actually do it a little bit different. But Dirk (Koetter) and the offense, they're working hard right now to put a plan together and we'll do what we think we need to do to win."

(what have you seen from Quinn Gray since Sunday's game?)

"He's been in here with his head in the book and watching film.  The positional coaches and the offensive coordinator spend more time working with the quarterback and their positions than I do as the head coach, but certainly I'm apprised of what's going on and I know that he's been working at it.  We're another week along in terms of him being there taking the snaps and us planning around things we think he can do well, so we'll just continue to work at it."

(will David Garrard be able to play next week against the Titans?)

"We'll see.  He's set to start jogging this week. As soon as he starts jogging I'm going to wonder if he can take snaps. But he does start jogging this week and we'll just see.  Obviously he was off to a great start; we're anxious to get him back but we have to be smart about it as well."

(injury update on Brian Williams)

"I'll have the list after practice.  I know Brian specifically is still a little bothered with the hamstring. He'll be limited at best today and we'll just see how the week goes."

(do you see Aaron Glenn in any nickel back role?)

"The guy's been in the league for 14 years, played at a high level. He's got starter ability on defense but in terms of being a gunner or chasing the ball around on special teams, that's not going to be his strength right now.  So we're just playing to the strength of our roster.  It's good to have depth like that where we can call on a guy like Aaron Glenn.  It'll be Aaron obviously (if Brian Williams is out) and Aaron did a nice job stepping in, made a big play and made a couple of other big plays in the game."

(why are the Saints better now? Are they doing something different now than they were in September?)

"They're protecting the football better. They turned it over. They're minus-nine in their four losses and I think they're plus-one or even, or something like that, when they're winning.  They turned it over a lot to start the year and I think defensively they're playing a little better, not that it was bad.  I think the turnovers kind of make it all go bad, but they're playing better football in all phases. They're throwing the ball better, they're not taking sacks, they're not turning it over, they're playing better defense, they're just playing better and certainly they've won the last three so they're feeling pretty good about themselves."

(how do they play better after McAlister went down?)

"I don't think you try and explain that.  I think you just understand where they're strong, what they're capable of and get prepared for their very best.   Obviously they're not as strong of a football team without Deuce (McAlister) because he's a heck of player, but you do what you have to do with the guys you have and they've been able to do it well enough to be happy the last three weeks."

(is the personality of your team one that they are athletic and they do what they have to do to help the team win?)

"That's been the personality to begin our season. I think clearly we've been a team that's played unselfishly and have been very hardnosed, competed the entire time regardless of how it felt or what it might have seemed like, and I think without that we would not have the same results.  So certainly that's one of the things that makes me proud."

(were you aware that all three players who made touchdowns last week were inactive the week before?)

"Yeah, I'm scouring my inactive list from last week trying to see who might be in there that's going to score a touchdown this week."

(does that attest to the roster that guys are willing to step in and do what they're asked to do?)

"I think the biggest thing that it shows is that we're preaching throughout the week you never know, make sure you're prepared.  Your rep during the week might be a mental rep.  You may not even actually practice during the week at what we're going to ask you to be able to do during a game, and we need our guys to be able to visualize, study, know their assignments and be able to, when we count on them in a pinch, be able to come through for the team.  I do think you saw several examples of that last week."

(why do you not have captains with the patch many teams are wearing?)

"We select captains week to week and I tend to honor guys that are practicing particularly well, have a good message for the team, exhibiting the kind of leadership characteristics we're looking for. Everybody has their own approach.  We honor captains on a weekly basis and that's just been the way we do it."

(who do you like in the Colts-Patriots game?)

"It's a great mid-season game. I've got to pull for the Pats, right?  How could I go the other way?  The Colts are in our division. Come on Pats!"

 (what is New Orleans doing now that they didn't do the first three weeks of the season?)

"The number one thing is they're doing a better job of protecting the football.  They were minus-nine in their first four ballgames, I believe, and they've been much better recently protecting the football. I think they're just playing better, though. Aside from the turnovers, which obviously turnovers are important, but I think they're just playing better in all three phases.  It's a team that played well last year and fought its way to the NFL Championship game. They've rebounded and they're back doing the things that they're accustomed to doing."

(did they change their offense much as far as how they use Reggie Bush since Deuce McAllister went out?)

"No, not really in how they use Reggie. They don't pound Deuce in there the way they did.  Deuce is more of a power runner and (Aaron) Stecker is playing, he plays quit a bit, but they don't really try and pound you the way they did with Deuce last year."

(are they throwing more?)

"I haven't looked at the actual percentages. I know they mix like everybody. They want to be able to do both. They'll run it but with Deuce you knew he was going to line up in the I and run the power 10, 15 times a game. That was going to be part of what you had to deal with.  It's just a little bit different approach with Stecker.  Like good coaches do, I think you adjust to the personnel you have and put together the best plan you can and that's what it appears they're doing."

(what does Grady Jackson do for you?)

"Provides depth for our defensive line.  A big, strong stout run- stopper and a veteran guy who's played in quite a few battles over the years. He played good against us in week two."

(is Jackson a good guy; the Atlanta situation?)

"I don't care to get into Atlanta's problems. That's issues that he had, they had.  That's not our concern. He's a good football player.  A big strong guy who just wanted to come in here and help us win games."

(what did he do against your team in week two?)

"Played well.  He's pretty hard to move."

(are you concerned about his conditioning at all?)

"He's a big guy.  Like we do with all our big guys, we'll make sure he's part of a rotation. We're not going to ask him to go out there and play 60 plays.  We don't ask that of any of our big guys."

(is there a number of plays you like to see him play?)

"We'll see on the rotation."

(how many snaps do your linemen get?)

"Last week our defensive line, in all eight of them I think the least amount that anybody played was 20, and I think the most that anybody played was 40.  We'll use them as part of our rotation."

(how do players view long-snapping?)

"They're specialists. They have a job to do.  You love them when they do their job and you never worry about them. I think when you don't have one you realize how important they are."

(on Joe Zelenka)

 "Joe has been solid, he's been rock-solid for us.  He's done a nice job. He's been accurate and that's what you've got to be.  Actually last week we played against (Andrew) Economos who was here. We were grooming Economos to some day maybe have a chance to take over Joe, but Joe outlasted him, and Economos is in the league.  He's a quality snapper and we knew he would be in the league and it's just a matter of whether he'd get a shot here or somewhere else. Guys who are good at it...Kendall Gammon, I played with Kendall and know him, a big Pitt State Gorilla.  He did it forever and now he's writing books.  If the guy's good at it, he gets the ball back accurate, dependable, they tend to stick around."

(on centers at one point took on the long snapping role)

"Bruce Matthews did everything, right?  He played guard, center, tackle, snapper, short snapper, long snapper.  It's become more of a specialist position and less of a positional deal."

(when you came in were there already just long snappers?)

"I think in '85 it had begun to go where it's gone now.  I think there were less and less every-down players who were snapping.  We fill out these Pro Bowl ballots all the time and they always say we've got to select a snapper.  We're like `none of these guys snap.'  One guy is a snapper. One guy has an asterisk by his name, he does some snapping. Very few of the regulars now also double in today's era of specialization.  Very few guys are doing that."

(with Quinn, is this week any different than last week in preparing?)

"As far as Quinn's approach, it should be very much the same. We want him to work the process, go through his preparation and then make the proper reads at the line, whether it's run or pass.  There is an element to both that we ask our quarterbacks to do and get us in the right play and operate. We just want him to be on top of his game and ready to do his role."

(this far into the season, do you expect any kind of progression?)

"I think one of the things that really changes is all of a sudden all you guys want to talk to him.  That's something he has to deal with. He has to manage his time, and that's part of playing quarterback in this league.  You've got to be able to manage your time because if you are the starter, you're going to field requests to spend time doing that.  That's why I talked about what we want him to do is to continue to focus on his preparation and the process of getting ready and what that entails and the treatment and the scheduling and the tape, and making sure he's going through the game plan very diligently and then in practice taking the reps and making sure that mentally he's going through all the progressions and the reads as he's been instructed.  I think learning and getting through that and being confident in that, I think that does grow with time and with experience."

(will you script 14 running plays again this week?)

"I don't know what our opening script is going to be this week.  We'll see if it's 14 straight.  We'll see."

(do you have confidence Gray can throw the ball?)

"He made a couple nice throws in the game.  We're going to have to throw the ball at some point, but we also know we've got some talented guys that we like to make sure they get the ball.  So we'll put together a plan for New Orleans and understand that each week is different and we'll just do the best we can to put together a plan that we think can give us a chance to win."

(what are your options in defending Reggie Bush?)

"There are several options.  We're not going to put Grady Jackson on him, I can assure you that.  We'll try and avoid that matchup."

(is he as difficult a player as there is in the league right now to see where he is on the field and match-up with him?)

"I think, like many athletes in the NFL today, he's got some unique abilities and they move him around and so that is part of the challenge in preparation.  He's a good player, a very talented player, (but) he's not the only good talented player there is in the league.  So there are match-up concerns week to week in the NFL and certainly this week he is one of them."

(how do you compare him to Maurice Jones-Drew?)

"Both very talented, explosive playmakers. They're a little different in their style but certainly they're both good football players."

(how are they different in style?)

"I like my guy. I'm sure they like their guy.  They're both exceptional players.  They both were fantastic in high school. They both were fantastic in college. They broke all kinds of records and now they're both fantastic players in the NFL. You're talking about two really special young men when you're talking about Reggie and Maurice. The fact that they played for cross- town rivals in college kind of makes it interesting. I think they're both super-talented guys, both of them very entertaining to watch."

(did you have extra insight into Bush with your ties to USC?)

"I don't know if I would say that. Their running backs coach is now our running backs coach.  Obviously I was aware of LenDale White, Reggie, Matt Leinart - there was a group of them that Kennedy (Pola) felt great about. I asked Kennedy to come here before and he said, `coach, there's too much talent I just brought in here.' He said `I'm staying here, we've got to win a national title,' and I said ok.  I've been trying to get Kennedy with me for a while.  He's a super coach. He did a great job helping get some of that talent there, but I think everybody knew those guys were going to be really good players."

(are you going to be aware on game day of Fred Taylor getting close to 10,000 yards?)

"No, not unless Dan comes down on the sideline and tugs on my shirt. I'm not keeping a meter or anything on the sideline. We're just trying to win the game. Certainly I have a healthy respect for what that means, what that milestone means.  Obviously for a guy to be with one team throughout his career, to be able to talk about reaching 10,000 yards, that's quite an accomplishment. There's a lot of great players on that list. You look at the players that have made it to 10,000 yards, there are a lot of great players on that list.  So I'm really happy for Fred that he's approaching that number, and look forward to when he does pass it."

(what does Marcus Stroud mean to your defense?)

"Marcus has been a very active, big, strong defensive tackle for us for several years.  Last year he battled through the injuries and this year he spent the offseason really dedicating himself to coming back and being strong, and so he's battled and you can see the guy has done all he can to be there for his teammates.  A very active, athletic defensive tackle. There aren't many guys that are 310 pounds that can run the way he can run, make plays sideline to sideline."