“Going through the injury report, Jon Stinchcomb (back) did not practice, Marques Colston (thumb) was limited, Jeremy Shockey (hernia) was limited, Aaron Glenn (ankle) did not practice, Sedrick Ellis (knee) did not practice, Mike McKenzie (knee) did not practice, Antwan Lake (groin) did not practice, Kevin Kaesviharn (back) did not practice, David Patten (groin) did not practice, Chris Reis (hamstring) was full, Jonathan Goodwin (hamstring) was limited. The following are roster moves that we have made here in the last 48 hours, these three players were put on injured reserve: cornerback Tracy Porter, kicker Martín Gramatica, and fullback Olaniyi Sobomehin. We waived tight end Buck Ortega from the active roster and we signed the following four players to the active roster: defensive end Jeff Charleston, kicker Taylor Mehlhaff, tight end Sean Ryan and defensive tackle Montavious Stanley. We signed to the practice squad cornerback Darrell Hunter and linebacker Pago Togafau and released from the practice squad William Kershaw and David Roach. Some notes on practice, it was a little bit of a different schedule. Because of the Monday night game we went later today, obviously, and in a more reduced fashion. Most of it was base, first and second downs.”
What was your thought process behind the Mehlhaff/Gramatica transaction?
“It was two-fold, and I think I mentioned it yesterday. Martín is getting another examination this afternoon and we felt it was best to put him on injured reserve because he’s going to be out for a while and Taylor was the guy that we were most familiar with. Obviously we drafted him and he competed in training camp. He kicked today and did fine and he’ll kick for us on Sunday.”
Did Gramatica re-injure himself in the game Monday?
“It was different than what he had had before. He felt some soreness the next morning and he’s going to have it looked at. He’s had a sports hernia – I think two – prior and he’s going to have it examined again later today.”
Is the goal with Shockey and Colston still Carolina or maybe are you a little more optimistic?
“I’m more optimistic. I was pleased with what I saw today and I saw more than I expected to see. Both of them actually took reps and moved around well. We’ll see tomorrow how they feel, especially when it comes to Jeremy. But Marques looked good.”
When did Colston get his cast off?
“His cast was off the end of last week. We put a brace on it now – a splint – and he feels pretty good.”
Has he been catching passes on his own prior to today?
“He has only had the cast off for a few days. Today was the first day where he was catching balls from Drew.”
So there is a chance for both of them to play this week?
“I think so. I wouldn’t have said that before practice, but after what I saw today, I’d say there’s a chance.”
How big a lift would that be?
“Those are starting players. Any time you can bring a starter back on to your team, it helps.”
How big is the mental aspect for Tracy Porter with his injury? Obviously he was having a decent season…
“He was having a good season. He was having a real good season. Obviously we’re disappointed for him. I think the key now is for him to get healthy and to stay in the mix here as far as what we’re doing meeting-wise and staying on top of his position group. He was playing at a high level and that’s encouraging.”
What does his injury do that position now?
“We still have obviously Mike (McKenzie) and Randall (Gay) and Jason (David) and Usama (Young), and Aaron Glenn is working his injury. There are still guys that have experience and have played, but in Tracy’s case, he was playing well.”
Has Jason David worked himself back into an important role on this team?
“He has played already more snaps than you would think and he has done a good job. We’re going to need all of these guys. With the amount of nickel that we see during the course of the season, we’re going to need all of these players we’re talking about. They are all going to play.”
As a coach, how concerned are you about Mehlhaff stepping in in his first game? Would the fact that it’s his first game change what you might think about doing?
“That’s a fair question. Any time you’re starting a rookie in his first game – much like we were Carl Nicks a few weeks ago or some of these other players that are just getting playing time, you take that into account. And yet we’ll have a yard line that we’ll feel pretty comfortable with before the game and we’ll apply it. If we’re at that yard line, then we’re kicking it and if we’re not, then we’re punting it or going for it. I think he’s a confident young player that has played in big arenas before at Wisconsin and I think he’ll handle it just fine.”
Did McKenzie have a setback or were you just giving him a day off?
“It’s much like it was last week and really the week after Denver, we’re really not two days removed yet from the game and so we rested him today.”
I know Gramatica’s injury played a part, but is this a move that you think will improve your production at that position?
“I hope so. And there are a few of these moves – not just in his case – but I’m hopeful that any time we’re making a roster move here or a practice squad move, I think we’re all hopeful that it improves us in some way, shape or form.”
Is Oakland a team that because they have so much potential could be very dangerous?
“I think they are a dangerous team. They’re physical; they have been very consistent and played very hard. When you watch the tapes and see the games, they had a chance to beat a Buffalo team that everyone’s talking about now and very easily could have won that game. Aside from their opening game, they have played extremely well. I think in our case, our focus is certainly on what we’re seeing scheme-wise from Oakland and then what we have to do to improve. I think we’re smart enough as a team and mature enough as a team to understand each week that it’s a good opponent that we’re playing, and I think Oakland is a good opponent. They have talent on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game and all those things become factors when you’re talking about playing someone. We have to mindful of what we’re doing and on a short week, be ready to play, understanding that they’re coming off of a bye and that’s just the way the schedule is. We have our work cut out for us.”
Is that a main concern that you’re on a short week, they’re on a bye and they have a new coach?
“I can’t control their schedule. What I can control is our schedule and making sure that we’re rested and ready to play on Sunday coming off of a short week. That’s what we have to be mindful of.”
Does them having a new coach at all affect things?
“I know Tom (Cable). He and I were graduate assistants together at San Diego State when we first got into coaching back in 1989. He’s someone that’s a good friend and I’m sure that he’ll do a good job of getting these guys going. I think they have a great staff. Obviously, any time you make a coaching change in-season there’s some turmoil but I think Tom and that staff there will handle it just fine.”
Do you expect a lot of changes to their system?
“I think it’s hard to do that in stride. I think there will be points of emphasis I’m sure that you’ll pay attention to, but I think they’ll do a good job.”
What do you see in JaMarcus Russell?
“You see someone who I think has a great arm. He can make all the throws. He’s a winner; he proved that when he was here at college at LSU. He’s very confident. He’s big with good vision and I think he’s a tough sack. Those are good traits to have at quarterback.”
Did you look at anyone other than Mehlhaff for the kicker’s job?
“He was the one guy that as we ranked those available – obviously we have experience with him and we feel comfortable and confident in signing him. Ryan Pace and Mickey Loomis and everyone in the front office create what we call a “short list” and we’re constantly paying attention to that short list in the event that we have an injury so we can make those decisions. We have a short list now at every position and basically it’s who is available and the order that you would want them at every position. Taylor was at the top of our short list and he just so happened to be a guy that we’re familiar with.”
Having interviewed for that Oakland job a few years back, does it surprise you that the situation there became so bizarre?
“St. Louis made a coaching change mid-season and Oakland has done that. It’s not the first that that has happened in our league; it has happened a number of times. I think Al (Davis) knows what he’s looking for in regards to leadership and what he wants from his head coach and like I said, I know Tom Cable real well and I think Tom will do a great job in that role. I think Tom will step in and with the support of his staff – we have a lot of respect for the coaches on that staff, a lot of us know those guys – and they’ll have a real good plan in regards to what they want to do. To your initial question, is it a surprise? It has happened before and I’m sure it will happen again in our league. To some degree, it ends up being a result-oriented business for all of us.”
Do you scratch your head at the false start penalties at home?
“It’s frustrating and we have to get it corrected. We’ll get it corrected. When you do that, your percentages of having any success on that specific drive diminish and you start beating yourselves when you do that.”
Is that the one thing that sticks in your craw?
“That’s one of them that bothers me because that’s a focus penalty. There are certain penalties that are maybe easier to take, but if you’re jumping offsides, obviously you’re not focusing enough on the snap count and the play. That’s a mental error.”
Last week the players ran after a false start in practice. How do you correct it this week?
“First off, we don’t shy away from a snap count; that’s something that has to be an advantage. We ran because we jumped last week. Today we were pretty clean, so that was good news.”
Have you been a lot more frustrated with finding the right kicker since you’ve been here than you ever thought you would be?
“In fairness to John (Carney), really the last year-and-a-half because I think he did a wonderful job for us in 2006. When you reflect back on the signing of (Olindo) Mare, that did not go like we had hoped and I think Olindo would tell you the same thing – it didn’t work out. We’re hoping now with Taylor coming in here that we can get some stability there and some confidence going. We’re playing a lot of close games and they’re settled by field goals. We’ve seen that already and we see it each weekend when someone is hitting a game-winner. You want to have that confidence that if you get to this yard line that there’s a good chance that you’re going to get points, be it either a touchdown or a field goal, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
Have you monitored that New York Giants situation?
“There are a few teams playing with more than one kicker right now because of young guys that are hurt. The Jets are the same way. We pay attention to that closely and that gets back to the short list and gets back to who’s available and who could be available. I think that’s fairly common in our league.”
What are your thoughts on the direct-snap runs that we’ve been seeing from some teams this year? Do you expect to see any of that with Darren McFadden this week?
“It presents problems for defenses because it’s a different package. Two years ago, we had a little bit of the same preparation with Michael Vick when Atlanta was beginning to do that some. It’s kind of like an unbalanced formation offensively or an empty backfield; it’s an aspect that you have to practice against and then gameplan accordingly. It’s just one more aspect of something that you have to defend. It basically allows a team to make you take part of your preparation and devote part of your practice to that because that aspect is in offensive and that itself is a challenge. Whether they run it or not is another thing. You have to be prepared for it. We saw a similar version of that two years ago with Atlanta and we’ll have to be prepared for it with Oakland.”
Did Colston and Shockey do anything during the team portion?
“Yes. They got some work and I was encouraged. I was surprised.”
With the way Reggie Bush has been returning punts, do you continue to juggle him and Lance Moore?
“There’s a little bit less juggling. He did a great job the other night. He’s playing well. He has really made a difference. It’s rare that you’ll return two punts for touchdowns and lose a game, and that’s the thing that’s disappointing. But he’s playing well and he’ll continue to get those opportunities. Those are touches for him to have and the guys did a good job blocking for him. One of the goals that we set out at the start of the season was to improve our return game – both punt and kick return – and I think you have to credit Greg McMahon and Mike Mallory; they have done a great job. That aspect has changed dramatically. Just taking Monday night’s kickoff and punt returns alone, that was a real positive.”
How are you addressing Reggie’s ball security issue?
“We have talked about and Reggie has paid close attention to how he’s carrying it. Tiki (Barber) went through a little bit of this in New York and when Tom (Coughlin) got there, I thought they did a great job of correcting that problem with Tiki and he became a pretty secure ball-carrier. I think Reggie paid attention to that. He’s very coachable and understands that the last thing we need are explosive plays that come with a price. I think that’s something that you’ll see him correct. He’s carrying it higher.”
Is it tough for him to be as athletic that way?
“You adjust a little bit, but again, the tradeoff is worth it.”
When you have a quarterback playing as well as Drew Brees, is there even a thought of any direct-snap runs in this offense?
“I think it’s something depending on who you are, but I don’t think it’s something for us right now based on our personnel. I’d prefer to snap it to Brees as many times as we can.”