Q: How big a loss is Domenik Hixon to special teams?
A: Definitely a big loss. Such a great team player; very competitive, does everything we ask of him, whether it is offense or special teams. He is a return specialist but he is also is a very good cover guy on kickoff and punt. So you really have to replace four starting positions on the punt/punt return/kickoff/kickoff return.
Re: Mario Manningham and Aaron Ross as possible replacements. Where do you look to first to replace him?
A: You obviously look to who you have. And we do have a lot of talented guys that can do that. We always put a big emphasis early in the OTA's on guys catching punts. So we will have about eight offensive guys; eight defensive guys and we work them all out and have them catch. But Aaron obviously has the return experience and is something that he has always wanted to do. He has been bugging us to let him do it. This might be his opportunity. Mario is another guy. We have Sinorice (Moss). We have Chad Jones. Last year we had four guys that returned punts for us - Ahmad Bradshaw, Corey Webster even had to do it. We had three guys in one game. So you always have to be prepared to have some depth.
Q: Is Tim Brown a guy who can have a chance with you all?
A: He is another guy that you will look to see if he holds up size wise.
Q: What have you seen out of him that is promising?
A: Yeah, he has got real good quickness and speed.Q: Is it tough to include Bradshaw in that group this year because of the foot problems that he has had?
A: Obviously. As you come up with these guys you have to see the other jobs they have; their health.
Q: As a starter, it is difficult, I would guess, to have a guy to be a full time punt returner, but if a guy is a nickel back does it make it a little more....?
A: That is up to each individual team and each individual player because there are a few teams that have starters that do it. Right down the road - DeSean Jackson is their punt returner.
Q: You guys haven't done that.
A: Domenik did it last year to start the year off for us. But it is not the ideal situation but you put your best guy back there.
Q: Would Chad Jones be an alternative?
A: Yeah, he is definitely a guy that could do it. We evaluated him coming out of college. He didn't do it all of the time because they had a return specialists that was an all-American. But he did do it in the +50 situation.
Q: Have you guys put him back there at all?
A: Yeah, he has caught punts for us.
Q: How did he look?
A: He looks good. Obviously he has the baseball experience. So anyone that has baseball experience, they track the ball very, very well. So he is always in very good position.
Q: Is that still the first thing - ball security?
A: Oh, yeah. You have to be able to catch it with how far they are kicking now days. You have to make sure you are really secure on the catch, number one, because they are punting the ball to us for a reason. So we want to make sure we give it back to our offense.
Q: What about your punters right now? Are you seeing either take a lead?
A: No, they are really going neck and neck. They are really progressing well. So we have been happy with their development. This is a good session for them - the OTA's and then the mandatory mini camp and then the next progression for them is the training camp.
Q: If one can hold and the other is not as solid at that, does that make it ....?
A: No, they are both really doing well with the holding. That is probably the toughest adjustment that any punter has to make at this level - is getting the hold down exactly how the kicker wants it. And they have both progressed well. Lawrence (Tynes) has done a good job working with them exactly on how he wants the ball.
Q: Has your new punting coach (Jeff Feagles) been a help?
A: Yeah, he has. He has a wealth of knowledge that is important for us. And he is excited to do it. So it was good to have him out here the last couple of days.
Q: Are you a little surprised that he came back because he sounded like he didn't want any part of coaching? I know he is only kind of part time.
A: I think when you said the ‘coaching' at his press conference - he kind of put it in the realm of the day to day - the stuff that we do - the full time job. I don't think he is ready to do that. But he definitely enjoys teaching the art of punting. And that really developed with his son CJ when he taught him a couple of years ago.
Q: Directional kicking is such a science. And obviously Jeff perfected it after all of those years. You have two very inexperienced punters here, which don't have a lot of directional kicking background. How do you get that out of them?
A: We will get it, we have already started working with the directional aspect of it. And it is something that we think that they can do. Really the thing that we will ask them is, Jeff was putting it outside the numbers. These guys may put in inside the numbers. But they will at least give us some direction and allow us to cover the kick.
Q: So you feel confident that the punter is here right now?
A: Oh, yes.