Good morning. Dallas Cowboys week. It’s exciting. In the division. They’re a very, very good football team with outstanding numbers on either side of the ball. They had a couple close games coming into the Oakland game and then I think they felt that they solved some of their problems. They got back on track in all three phases. In (Patrick) Crayton, they have done an outstanding job with the punt returner aspect of the game and the kickoff return with Jones has been outstanding. The running game has been very, very good and, of course, last weekend it was excellent with long runs against Oakland. They had a lot of big plays against the Raiders. They’re a physical football team and one that does not give up many points. So a division leader comes in here in December, and it’s an exciting time of the year, and we look forward to this game with the Cowboys.
Q: We know the records have changed with these two teams since the last time they met. How different do you think these two teams are now?
A: The difference is they’re 8-3 and we’re 6-5, that is basically what I see. Going back over with our team the first game, I thought for us to go into that environment with all that had been postured all off-season with the opening of the new stadium, for us to have a defensive score and to force and recover a fumble with our kickoff coverage team, and to have the +4 in the turnover area, and neither team had very many penalties with four. The score at the end of the half and at the end of the game, with the long drive at the end of the game for a touchdown was certainly indicative of a quality football team with mental toughness and all those things that we believe we are, and hopefully we can get back to that.
Q: How do you get them to play with the type of confidence they played with in that Week 2 game?
A: Well, hopefully it will gel. Confidence comes with persistence, difficulty, repetition, and finally with success. I think we will do everything we can to put ourselves in that frame of mind this week. We practiced well on Monday, quite well to be honest with you. I don’t have an awful lot to complain about with the way in which we practice. We just have to make some things happen on the field to go ahead and substantiate it, and that’s how you build confidence.
Q: Justin Tuck said his optimism and confidence are pretty high regarding the rest of the season. Do you think that sentiment is shared in the locker room by his teammates?
A: Well, we talk an awful lot about their spirits and, of course, naturally they are down. Everywhere they look they’re being beaten down. We are trying the best we can to get the spirits back up. What happened yesterday is over, and the only thing that you can take care of is in the moment. We have to make sure our preparation and everything we do in the classroom and on the practice field are of championship quality. That is where we are.
Q: Is it easier to do that given this is Dallas Cowboy week?
A: It certainly is an attention getter and an exciting time. I think the players will be excited to play.
Q: We haven’t talked to you since the second Eli injury was announced. Do you think it’s been a factor and how do you handle him with the injury?
A: Eli has always been the same; he has always been very consistent. He is very confident, and I think he does have some discomfort from time to time but you don’t know much about that. We normally figure that he takes most of the snaps and David might take a few snaps here and there. He (Eli) takes most of them and he keeps right on going. He has played right through it and, quite frankly, he pays very little attention to it. It does require a certain amount of maintenance time in the training room, but he is always going to do two or three more times than what you ask him to do.
Q: Do you not know about it because he’s not telling you?
A: I would think that he doesn’t share most of it. He may talk with Ronnie about it. But he’s not one to use it as an excuse, and neither do we.
Q: Coach, what is going on with Michael Boley and what is his status?
A: Well, he’s got his back wrenched and he’s a guy who hasn’t played a lot of games but he’s certainly in the mix. Think of the number of tackles he had two weeks ago. He’s just sore.
Q: How about Michael Johnson, D.J. Ware, and Hagan?
A: Ware will not practice, and Johnson will not practice. Hagan will be limited and we’ll see what he can do. Michael Boley will practice. Bradshaw won’t, but he may see some work on the side.
Q: Do you have any indication of whether Bradshaw will be ready for Sunday?
A: We are keeping our fingers crossed.
Q: Do you think that this is a make or break week as far as your team making the playoffs? Do you feel your team is up to the challenge?
A: We challenge ourselves every week, and that’s not lacking. I think that the players know. We point blank spell out every circumstance for them. I think they know exactly what the circumstances are and who the divisional teams are playing. They’re very well informed and they know what is at stake. We try and make sure that it is very clear to them what has to be done in order for them to win and where the circumstances lie. I expect that we will certainly understand that this week.
Q: Given what is going on with concussions league wide, is that playing into your decision into whether Ware will play?
A: I know they will go very cautious with him, and I think we will have to see.
Q: Have you made a roster move for Antonio Pierce?
A: We have not made one yet, no.
Q: What do you think of the new guidelines and regulations regarding concussions and head injuries?
A: I think that for a number of years, there has been a lot of attention and a lot of caution. You have to go through any number of a series of tests to get back on the field.
Q: Do you go by what the doctors say or by what the player tells you?
A: Strictly medical.
Q: The Thanksgiving game seemed to surprise you a lot. You talked about how well they prepared and then it did not show up in their performance. Do you think this is a wild card week, as in you don’t know what you will be getting out of your team until Sunday?
A: I’m not going to go backwards anymore. I just don’t think there is any sense in that. I will say this: I think the players will respond well and I really do think we will meet well and practice well. I think we will play well.
Q: This team seems to thrive in dire circumstances, with their backs up against the wall, although last year you got off to the great start and faded at the end. Do you think your team likes that and responds well to the pressure?
A: I think the generalization about last year, I’ve always argued with that. One game, yeah, the playoff game, I think everything else was right to the way we needed to and had to. I think that everyone else wants to talk about the dip and, quite frankly, from the inside, doing what we did with the players we thought were available, I did not see that. Those comments really strike home to me. I think there has always been a sense of just what has been said here. The questions about are players being aware? Yes, they are, they are very aware. Would you like to be quite in the situation it is right now? No. In other years, we have sometimes had to win one games within a couple of weeks to get it done, and we have responded and done that. I don’t think there is any question about where we are right now. I don’t even talk about the five-game schedule anymore; it’s all about one game. Just one game.
Q: Do you believe you have the players in the locker room to be a playoff team?
A: I think we have the players in the locker room, but we need to play better than the way we have been playing.
Q: You mentioned that they (Cowboys) had long runs against the Raiders, how are you approaching that?
A: We have to stop the run. Like I said the other night, football to me is the physical aspect of stopping the run and running the ball. I think that’s where we have to start.
Q: In past weeks, you challenged your veterans players to lead. Have you seen them do that?
A: We certainly do need more of that. I think also that we just have to play. The talk part of it, we have the locker room and the players who are in the position to say the right things, but I just think we need to play better and have a better example on the field. We will have a bunch of people catch fire because they are inspired by the way in which we are playing.
Q: Is that one reason why you would like to have Antonio Pierce stay around?
A: I think Antonio understands we don’t need a void there. We encourage him to be here as much as he can. He was here this morning.
Q: Did you Osi get upset on the sidelines (in the Denver game), and do you think he was trying to help rally his teammates?
A: I didn’t see it, and I don’t know much about it. If it happened, I’m sure that is what he was doing.