Q: You don’t have back your two starting receivers and Derrick Ward, three prominent players. Has anything happened up til now that makes you feel more or less confident about those losses heading into a new season?
A: Well, I think until you play, when it counts, it is hard to know. But based upon what we have seen, we feel pretty good about some of the guys that have been given a chance to step up, whether it is Ahmad Bradshaw at running back or Danny Ware, receivers – so many young receivers look good. The biggest problem, I think, has just been some of the injuries perhaps slowed down some of the work or progress that we were hoping to make. But what we saw was pretty good. So, again, the next step is are they doing the exhibition season and then when the lights are on and it counts, can they do what they are showing now? But right now we are not displeased at all. I think, if anything we feel a little bit better about where we were with the big question marks that you were referring to. It looks like there is some physical ability there to do the things necessary to move the football and give our team a chance to win.
Q: Has the performance of the receiver group this offseason demonstrated that there isn’t a need to bring in an established veteran receiver?
A: It’s hard for me to speak for others, but just from our coaches’ standpoint, I think we feel, again, until you do it for real, it is hard for me to say, "Hey we are all set; everything is fine and dandy." But based upon what we have seen in practice – which is the first step and the only thing we can judge them by, I think we have some quickness, I think we have seen some speed. I think we have thrown the ball down the field some, made some plays. The next step will be when we go against somebody different and can they maintain that poise? Can they continue to show that athleticism that they displayed? And then the big step when we go for real, are they going to continue to do the things that right now it seems like they can do.
Q: Beckum is a different kind of player than you have had. Effect of him being limited in OTAs and mini-camp due to injury?
A: It is hard. You hope that they can recover. But I think we have seen over the last couple of years when a guy has missed this period and missed part of training camp – Steve Smith didn’t really contribute until the end of the season. Mario Manningham didn’t do much at all last year for us. It is hard to make this time up when you have missed it and you keep your fingers crossed, you hope he is a quick learner, you hope that he can maybe develop more quickly than the average guy. But history shows that if you don’t go through this time period or you miss much of camp, it is hard to be ready and contribute during your first year. And so that is why – he is one of the guys - …..but you see a guy – Mario, he is showing some things that we thought he could do which we never saw last year. Now all of a sudden he is doing it because he is actually practicing. He is actually learning. It is one thing to hear it in the meetings, it is completely different to actually experience it on the field; learn, "Oh, this is what you meant." It is like the light goes on. It didn’t necessarily fall into place for him in the meeting, now it does. So he is one of the guys you say, "Hey, maybe we got a guy. Maybe he can do what we thought he could do." So it is disappointing because we thought Beckum would be a guy that we would put out in space maybe and prove a difficult matchup for defenses. And I don’t know. He missed this whole time. It certainly sets him back and you don’t want to say he can’t do it, but he will be one of the unusual ones if he can.
Q: Were you putting in new things for him because he is a different kind of guy than you have had?
A: No, not really. Plus it would be a chance – you are always looking to put your best 11 matchup – who matches up best for you, gives you your best chance. And putting him in space – I hate to ever compare – but it kind of gives you a Dallas Clark kind of guy if that makes sense….. Is it a linebacker? You would like he is going to be quicker and hard to match up with. If it is a secondary guy, then he is bigger and strong. Maybe you could run the ball a little bit more. He ought to match up pretty well blocking. So that is what we are anxious to see. We know, like Steve Smith has proven, he can play inside and he is hard to match up. You are always looking for more than one guy or they start ganging up on that one guy that can do it. So we were hoping that he could give us that – be one of those guys for us.
Q: When Tom talks to the team for 18 minutes after practice and you are sitting there listening, are you sitting there going, "I hope these guys pay attention"?
A: That is exactly what you are saying. I thought he spoke from the heart, I really did. And I thought he addressed the things that needed to be said. I kind of like when he does that because I’m thinking, "You know what, he is hitting – he is right on the mark with some of the things that he is saying." We feel good about where we are at but we also know that if we don’t have those guys back health-wise and guys aren’t in the right frame of mind, or in the right level of conditioning, then we are not going to make the progress. And if we don’t – as we are talking about this, there are some young guys and some different guys that have to step up and play for us. And all of the potential in the world means nothing if you are not out there practicing and doing it. So he talked about being confident but also understanding the work that is necessary to deserve that confidence.
Q: It is almost like, "It is there for us to take, we just have to take it."
A: Well, it wasn’t quite that way but in essence that was probably the thrust of the message. We feel good about the players that we have. We feel good about the character. Let’s invest the time and the energy that is necessary. We have worked hard, our attendance has been good. The attitude has been good. But that can all dissipate quickly in the next six to seven weeks if you don’t continue on with what has been done so far.
Q: You talked a lot about throwing the ball down the field. Is seems like they might be quicker to get down there, but the window is smaller. How do you handle that with your quarterback as far as down the field accuracy?
A: I think it is the same with any throw. It is, "How do you get open?" And each guy is different. And I think we have talked about it. A Larry Fitzgerald is going to get open and catch the ball his way. When I was with the Oilers they were all little and they all got open and Warren Moon had no difficulty throwing them the ball. But you have to create your separation. And so you are not going to create it with strength and jumping up over somebody not necessarily. So can you create it with your quickness, with the sophistication of your movement and the way you set your routes up? Again, knock on wood, this spring a couple of guys showed some things. And that was encouraging to see. Can they do it against somebody else? It remains to be seen. But there is no reason why they can’t. That is what is encouraging. I think they will be able to do that. Now, it is a different kind of a throw if you don’t have that kind of separation? You don’t get the distance from that defender. It is a tougher throw because you are not as big a target. And you are maybe not able to go get the ball just because you are bigger and stronger – like a Plax reaching up and grabbing it. You can’t do that so you have to do it a different way. But I think we feel – and I’m saying the same thing over and over again – that these guys look like they had the quickness and the speed and now we have to make sure that they progress in their sophistication of their route running to give them a chance to get the separation so that the quarterback can feel good about throwing the ball.
Q: So when they don’t get that separation, do you tell your quarterback -- Plax sometimes didn’t look like he was open – there was a guy there, but he was open – one on one. But you tell these quarterbacks that they have to be careful?
A: No. It doesn’t take long to figure out who you can still throw the ball with and they will go get it and who is not going to be strong enough to get it; who can you throw behind and is he quick enough to adjust and to come back and get the ball. I think you will know pretty quickly who is going to do that. And as you throw – that is what I tell the receivers, "You have got to understand, it is not just me and Sully and Chris deciding, ‘hey, this guy can do this,’ quarterbacks are formulating opinions, too. And they see the guys that do it in practice, "Hey, I can count on this guy" or "He doesn’t fight for me, he doesn’t make the play when you are covered like that." So it not just me saying, "Hey, we can call this or we can call that." He is making those same decisions. So it is so important that you do things in practice in a way that earns the confidence of the quarterback. Because there is no question that it influences their decision.