Coach's Wednesday News Conference

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7/29/08 Training Camp Practice Photos

Transcript of head coach Eric Mangini's news conference before Wednesday's afternoon training camp practice:    

Yesterday we waived Darnell Bing, we released Andre Woolfolk, we signed Ron Girault, safety, we signed Brandon Renkart, linebacker, and we moved Rudy Burgess to defensive back.

Leon [Washington] will not be practicing today. He was our overall off-season award winner. Part of that program is you get a certificate, non-transferrable. People have tried to buy them [laughter]. You get a certificate for one practice off during training camp.

It's not that this practice is any less important than the others. It's just how important the off-season program is, and the fact that he was able to distinguish himself in what I think was our most competitive off-season. You're trying to add a competitive element to everything you do. For him to stand out the way that he did in the off-season, I think it's a very good indication or reason why you're seeing him have the camp he is having. I think he has had an outstanding camp so far.

I talked about 'Brick [D'Brickashaw Ferguson] yesterday. He was the big-person winner of the off-season awards. I think he's having a very good camp as well. So it definitely carries over into the next phase, and that's why it's so important to Mike [Tannenbaum], me and the organization.

Tonight my family is having a function at the St. Elizabeth House in Hartford [Conn.]. The St. Elizabeth House, I've talked to you guys before, is the homeless shelter that my father did a lot of work with. He used to get together with guys from his office and they'd go over and they'd put on cookouts during the summer for the residents at the facility. It was something that I got involved in — I was young at the time. I would help him out, bring stuff over, things like that. He'd put together clothing drives, toiletries, socks, just different things the shelter needed.

So tonight what we're doing is having the first annual cookout in his honor. The reason it's today, it's the anniversary of his passing. So in talking to my mother about it, it's always a tough day for her and for the family, but my thinking was that it's a celebration of his life, not of his passing. What better way to celebrate it than to get — I wish I could be there — but to get the family together and to do something for other people.

We don't have anything set up where you can donate, but if you just could remember those people in need, take a second to help them out, whether it is something as small as some socks or toiletries. There is a pretty dramatic difference between where a lot of us are and where a lot of other people are in terms of their luck and their situation. In honor of him, if you could remember someone else or help someone else, that would mean a lot to me personally.

On if this is a tough day for him…

It's always tough. It's been 21 years, but you don't forget. And the commitment that I have is to remember through doing things that honor the things that he taught me. So that's how I celebrate his life instead of his passing.

On Chris Baker's progress…

I think we're making progress, but like with any injury, you don't want to rush it. You want to make sure you're going through the whole process. It's very important to us to have a protocol in place for injuries so we can make sure that when we do put the player back on the field, he's got the best chance to be successful and we have the best chance to make sure that he's not just successful, but also you don't have a setback.

There are a lot of layers that go into it: Being as thorough as possible, having baseline tests, having a criteria for returns, all those things we've researched and we've studied. It's never an exact science, but you try to make it as exact as you can.

On if Baker has had any setbacks…

No, not really. He's been great, he's been great in meetings, he's been great with the rehab. He's working at it. But you just have to be patient with these things and make sure that when you do transition back onto the field that you're in a good place.

On if David Harris and Laveranues Coles will practice today…

I'm honestly not sure about that. Some of these things, what happens is you try it, you see how it goes early on in practice, and if it's feeling OK, you keep moving forward. If it's not, then you transition back out. So I wait with John [Mellody] until as late as possible to get that final determination.

On the injuries…

Both are legs.

On if Coles' ankle injury is the same as last year…

No. The ankle? Are we considering that leg? No, it's up higher.

On if the injury is "north of the ankle"…

Yes, north of the ankle, south of the hip [smiles].

On if Matt Chatham's injury is also a leg…

Yes, he's south of the ankle [laughter]. But Chatham's isn't anything related to the previous injury. It's new.

On why they moved Rudy Burgess to DB…

Noel [Mazzone] coached him. Noel's pretty much coached every college athlete at some point or the other or has a friend who has. He played multiple spots. He played on offense, he played on defense. He's got good speed, good transition and good strength. I wanted to look at him at defensive back.

He's played more receiver than defensive back, but I wanted to look at him more from a versatility perspective to see could this be a player that could play on [special] teams, give you some depth on offense, give you some depth on defense. It gives him, I think, the best chance to make the team, to have multiple roles. I thought the sooner we started that process ... now in the preseason games you could potentially do both with him, see how he handles it and how he responds.

On the depth of the wide receivers…

Numbers-wise, it's actually down from normal camps. The decrease in numbers kind of changes things. But we have a very competitive group. You want to make sure that all those guys are getting enough reps to sort it out. Sometimes you have guys that aren't as competitive. You get a sense of where it's going early. You don't make any final determinations, but you get a feeling. I think it's a really competitive group.

I like the way each guy stands out at different times. [David] Clowney, between OTAs and here, he's done a lot of good things. Wallace [Wright], yesterday I thought he had a really good day. He's shown up at different times. I think Brad [Smith] continues to develop. Chansi [Stuckey], he's another guy that's got some versatility, but he hasn't really had a ton of looks missing last year.

So it's a good young group. Marcus Henry — throw him in that mix. He brings a whole different quality with his size. We have all different levels of sizes and all different levels of roles. Then they keep making cases for themselves, so you have to be able to sort that out.

On recruiting Calvin Pace and if he thought he would be such a hot commodity…

With the amount of 3-4 teams that there are now, the bidding for those types of players has increased substantially. And he's a unique sort of 3-4 guy because a lot of times those guys tend to be not as fluid as your typical outside linebacker would be in the defense. They have to have the size to deal with tackles, to be able to control the tight ends and all that stuff. I think he was sort of a unique mixture of different traits.

On if he knew the Dolphins and Bill Parcells would be interested in Pace as well…

Yeah. A little hunch.

On the tight ends group…

I think it's been great. We've had some good work with that group. Bubba [Franks] has been getting a lot of work in the offense. Dustin [Keller], he's been getting a lot of reps. I really like what Jason Pociask has done.

I think it was Bill [Parcells] that always talked about how pivotal the third training camp was for a guy, because they really have two years to understand what it means to be a pro football player. They've had two years to go through the process, and at this point they should be pretty close to who they are. At least you should see the arrow pointing up and not flat-lining. I think he's done a nice job.

On if Pociask is more of a true TE than Franks and Keller…

What Jason gives you, you can put him in line because he's big enough to do that, and he's played in the backfield. He played there some in college, played there for us at different points. Now when you put that "12" personnel group out there — one back, two tight ends, two receivers — you can form all the typical formations from that group. But now you put him back in the backfield, it's like "21," a two-back offense.

The nice thing is, you don't have to show it early. You can motion him across shallow so it looks like he's going to stay 12, then he can pop back in the backfield. Now you can form 21. It's a headache as a defensive coordinator when you're facing that because the two-back rules are different than the one-back rules. The two-back rules, where you have a single tight end in the backside, the two receivers on the other side is what we call slot. Those rules are different than a one-back slot formation. So you can change a lot of communication with just that one player depending on where he ends up.

On if Pociask and Baker are the only two that can play in the backfield…

I think Bubba [Franks] hasn't done much of that. I think it's something he could do and has worked at. With Dustin [Keller], it's a little bit different, because now when you put him in the backfield, it's like when you face some of those 21 teams that have the really good pass-catching fullback. You have to deal with the running game, but you also have to deal with covering him out of the backfield and the different things you can do with that. For him to have the ability to do both, it's a different set of problems when you also incorporate the fact that it's totally different formations.

On Brad Smith's third training camp…

For Brad, this is his third year as a receiver. Now he's worked at both receiver and quarterback. But again, you're looking for the progress as a receiver as his primary spot. What Brad has done a good job of over the two years, he's carved out a role on special teams and he's carved out a role as sort of a specialty player on offense. Now he is developing as more of an every-down player on offense.

It's not that different than Jerricho [Cotchery]'s progression. Jerricho started as a teams guy, did a lot of work there, didn't say boo, got a little role on offense and suddenly he's a starter. So the path is different for each guy.

But Brad is on a very good path. I told the team this morning — I really feel this way — we don't have to go out and be perfect because that's unrealistic, we just have to go out and improve a little bit each day. And if each guy improves a little bit each day, if the team collectively improves a little bit each day, then we're going to be a lot better over the course of training camp and even over the course of the season. I think that's the best way to summarize Brad Smith: It hasn't been perfect, but he gets a little bit better each day.

On comparing Smith's performance during his first training camp…

It was tough. It was tough for him. You're used to having the ball in your hands every single play. Nobody's jamming you. You're not reading stuff, running full speed with someone covering you, having to adjust your route. It's a different way to see the world. You weren't out on the perimeter blocking defensive backs or cracking on safeties, covering kicks. I thought he did a great job with all that stuff. I remember one of the early preseason games, we threw him out there as gunner on the punt team. He was a bowling ball with butcher knives. I mean, he was rolling.

On whether he had noticed Ron Girault while Girault was with Kansas City…

We liked him. Really the same thing with [Rudy] Burgess — we liked him as well. Sometimes that happens. Every team is dealing with different pressures. You lose two guys at one spot, you have to fill that. Who are you going to move out? Even though you may like a guy, with the limit the way it is, someone unfortunately has to go. So you're always looking for guys that you had a feeling for, when they become available, to give them an opportunity and see what they can do.

On what he liked in Girault when he worked out before training camp…

Mike and I met with him some before that. I liked the person a lot. I liked the time we spent with him. I thought he'd be a great guy to give a chance to. He built up his career in college. Those guys usually have a way of finding a home.

On Kerry Rhodes' "quiet swagger" on the field…

I've never heard Kerry described as quiet [smiles].

On Rhodes' leadership on the field…

Kerry is a fun guy to be around. The one place where you don't want him to be quiet is on the field. As a leader in the secondary, he has to get those calls communicated across the board. He has done a good job of developing as a pro. And that was a big part of why we extended him when we did.

He has a lot of ability. He has excellent ball skills. He's a good blitzer. He has a lot of things from the physical side. But then in watching his development, he's becoming more and more of a pro each day. And that's really the highest compliment you can pay a player. Those are the guys that understand how important film study is, how important the integrity of the defense is and how important communication is.

Those are the guys that will work to get the other guys on the team better while they're improving themselves. I see more and more of that in Kerry. That was a big part of why we extended him when we did.

On what Rhodes needs to improve…

He's consistently working on bringing in his hips. As a linear guy and a taller guy, transition and explosion are very important. It's the same thing with tall receivers and tall cornerbacks. The ability to break down and burst, you've got to have a really low base, a compact base. The taller you get, the harder it is to maintain that position. So that's something he has worked on.

When you do get that, you have a really explosive backpedal ... "form" I guess is the best way to say it, because it applies to all the different things that you do. He has explosion. We've seen that in his blitzing. But you need to be able to explode out of your backpedal as well. And he's conscious of that, working on it.

On if explosion is something a player can develop…

Yes, it's technique-based. You've got to train it and train it and train it and train it. I know I've used this before, but Teddy [Atlas] talking about Cus D'Amato" "You got to do it so much that you can't mess it up if you want to." That's what Cus used to tell Teddy about fighters: "Train them so much they can't mess it up if they want to."

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