Head Coach Hue Jackson. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Q: How's Darrius [Heyward-Bey]?
Coach Jackson: Darrius is fine. Obviously, we're still going to take precautions with him but he's moving around, walking around and looking like Darrius. Neck brace on; I call it the 'sympathy neck brace,' but no, he's doing good. That was a tough shot that he took, but he's a tough young man and I'm sure as fast as he can get back out there with his teammates, he will be.
Q: Coach, can you talk about the battle of the Jareds? I mean [Jared] Allen's the hottest defensive end in football right now and you've got a guy in his second year from a Division-II school. No one has handled him like that all year…
Coach Jackson: Well, I mean this young man – as I told you guys, I said earlier in the week, he'll battle. He's what a Raider is, what a Raider is truly all about – Jared Veldheer. I mean he went out there with a plan. Again, great credit to his coaches. They prepared him, he watched a lot of tape, we gave him some great looks in practice and he went out there and got it done. I mean to me, that's what pro football is all about. You play against the best and when you're able to go out and hold your own, you start realizing that you're starting to become something and Jared is. He's done a great job all year, so I'm not surprised. I know everybody else is by what happened yesterday, but he did a tremendous job.
Q: How do you simulate Jared Allen in practice? Who was on the other side of him doing that?
Coach Jackson: Yeah, you have five guys rushing at him at one time [laughs] and see if you can block one. No, we had quite a few guys over there I mean from Trevor Scott to Lamarr Houston; everybody worked at helping each other get better. So, we even take some of our guys that start and have them rush just to try to simulate the look the best we can for the game and so our team obviously did a great job of helping Jared prepare for Jared Allen.
Q: Have you been able to communicate with the league like you said you were regarding the penalties?
Coach Jackson: I did. I've had some dialogue and I feel very comfortable about it and where it is and where we have it at now, and we're going to move forward from it. I wanted to have an opportunity to say what I felt, I did, and just as the league always does, they'll do what they need to do and we'll move on from there.
Q: When they call the personal fouls, you can't simulate that; you know, full speed and everything. How do you communicate with players on those? I mean, sometimes, things are going to happen during the game but how are you going to work to curb those types of penalties?
Coach Jackson: Well, that's coaching. When a guys gets a personal foul, to me that's a direct reflection to coaching and it's direct reflection to the player having poise and discipline. So there are some things that I do understand and I do respect in this league, there's no question. But sometimes, this is football and sometimes a hit happens like this or an arm gets in a particular spot, not by choice but just by the nature of the sport and the players are doing everything. I know that they are. I know we're coaching it to do things the right way, but sometimes it's just not going to come up that way. That's the nature of this sport and that's just the way it is.
Q: Hue, you're going to face a Bears team that will apparently have its backup quarterback, Caleb Hanie, and the other guy has a broken thumb. How do you look at that? Chicago's been playing very well of late and as a coach, how do you address this?
Coach Jackson: Well obviously, Jay Cutler, in my opinion, is one of the better quarterbacks in this league and definitely one of their best offensive football players. But still, Caleb Hanie is a really good player. This guy played in the NFC Championship Game and almost won the game for them, so I expect a real good football team to come in here, in our stadium. They're a 7-3 football team. Lovie Smith's done a great job. They play real good defensively. They have good players; it's going to be a real good game. But, we have good players too. We look forward to playing.
Q: What does Hanie do? What are Hanie's strengths and weaknesses?
Coach Jackson: He can throw it, he runs with the ball, he has all those qualities that you look for. That's why he's the backup on this football team. He can make all the throws; he knows their system; he's been around Mike Martz; he knows how Martz like's to distribute the ball and spread the ball around; he can turn around and hand it to [Matt] Forte as many times as he'd like to. So, they have a good offensive football team. I'm not saying that they're not going to miss a beat. Jay Cutler is Jay Cutler – he's a really good player, but Caleb Hanie knows how to run their system and knows how to play within their system.
Q: Yesterday, you talked about the letdown in the second half and it's becoming not an exception, but a trend here. Have you thought more about that situation?
Coach Jackson: No, I have – it starts with me. I have to, as the primary play-caller and probably the emotional leader of this team, I have to make sure that I'm on my A-game at all times. Not saying that I'm not, not saying that I'm not looking at it, but I have to go back at halftime as I addressed them about making sure that they finish – Coach Jackson has to make sure that he finishes. Like I told you guys, everything with this team starts with me and I don't push that on the players. They're playing and for some reason, we have not been able to score points in the fourth quarter. I mean we had a field goal attempt that got blocked. I mean man, are you kidding me? Somebody doesn't want us to score in the fourth quarter yet, but we're sure going to try. It's not from a lack of trying; I will tell you that. I think the players are working hard and we know it's an issue, I know it's an issue but I'm not going to make it too big an issue. Look, I'll trade all that to keep winning. Let's just keep winning and once we put this thing together – as I said, we haven't played a whole football game yet; two halves. When we do, we've got a chance to be something special.
Q: Hue, are you anticipating having Darren McFadden back this week?
Coach Jackson: Honestly, I don't know. I don't know; I'll know more as we move through the week just like always. Like I told you, I'm not going to speculate on if we are or if we're not. I mean I know we're getting closer to having him back. I know people probably think we're hiding him or something; we're not. If he could be out there, trust me, he would be out there and it's not because he has some other injury or anything like that. That's not it. I just think people heal faster than others. Some things take time and that's what we're dealing with here and again, I'm not putting him back out there if he's not 100 percent ready to go. I don't want a 70 percent Darren McFadden. I think that's unfair to the player and unfair to this football team.
Q: So what about [Samson] Satele? He had a concussion. Are there normal, progressional things he has to go through?
Coach Jackson: Yes there is and I think he's pretty close to being cleared from that. I think Sammy will be fine.
Q: I guess Taiwan Jones left with a hamstring yesterday?
Coach Jackson: Yes he did.
Q: You run [Michael] Bush 30 times in consecutive games now. Are you concerned with that workload or you just think, 'No, I can just keep feeding him?'
Coach Jackson: Can I give him 30 more? Yeah; 30, 60, 90 – that'd be 90 in three games. That'd be pretty good. No, he's done a good job; Michael has, and obviously Taiwan did have a hamstring and we'll see where he is as we move forward in the week. But, Michael's done a great job. I don't look at the number of carries. I get a feel – again, being on the sideline, you get a real good feel for the player. I didn't think Michael was tired or he didn't have the energy to get it done. He played well; he played really, really well. Michael's done a fabulous job for this football team.
Q: You talk about the offense and some of the struggles in the fourth quarter. On the flip side to that, your defense has been on the field and really a one score game five or six different times this year in the fourth quarter and they have been able to come through in almost all of those accounts. Just talk about their ability to come though and hold those leads…
Coach Jackson: Absolutely, it's called finish. That's part of finishing. Sometimes the offense's got to do it, sometimes the defense has to do it, and you just account it. The defense has probably done it more than the offense has. A year ago, it was probably the other way around, and that's okay but that's why it's called a football team. The team wins the game and not just one individual side because in that being said, there were still some first downs made by the offense to push the ball back down for field position purposes so the defense could play pretty good defense. So we understand, we really preach and speak that we win as a team we lose as a team. Whether it is offense, defense, or special teams, we all have to do our parts.
Q: Coach, can you talk about [Lito] Sheppard a little bit because he led you in tackles. He was almost like an outside backer there on running plays. He caused [Tommy] Kelly's interception, he had a sack, he was tremendous. Can you talk about him?
Coach Jackson: He is a good player. I told you guys, he has a veteran presence. He knows how to play, likes to play, has that fire, and that's what you look for, and I love guys that tackle. I mean he likes to tackle and there is nothing - that's what this game is all about when you play defense. I don't care what position you play, you have to be able to tackle. I watched Stanford [Routt] yesterday come up and make a play tackling. That's what this thing is all about. This football team is growing and it's happening before our eyes, and I am very excited about where we are headed.
Q: Marcel Reece has been a strength to your offense. How valuable is his versatility for the team?
Coach Jackson: Very much so. I mean the fullback position yesterday had eight touches. That's how valuable he is because it does take a little pressure off of Michael Bush, it does take a little pressure off Denarius Moore. Again, we have another guy in the backfield that is a fullback that you can turn and hand the ball to, you can line him outside and throw it to, and he can make some unbelievable plays. I mean he popped out there on a run yesterday, and I am like, 'How did he get over there?' He is now running down the boundary; that's what kind of skill Marcel has and we haven't even tapped into what he can do yet because we are finally getting him back to totally healthy. But, he is very, very valuable to this offensive football team.
Q: What did you see in Carson [Palmer] that you didn't see three weeks ago?
Coach Jackson: No turnovers. No turnovers; I mean that's what you have to do to play the position. As I said yesterday, it's not about the yards or the touchdown passes. Let's not give the ball to the other team. I thought he did a tremendous job with keeping the ball away from the defense and getting it to our guys. I mean a 74-percent completion, a touchdown, and he'll tell you there are still a couple of throws he wish he had back. He was grappling with me about a seven route he missed because he doesn't miss those, but that's what I am talking about. These guys are chasing perfection, and he is one of them and this whole football team is. We just have got to keep doing it to get better.
Q: Do you see in other words, obviously everybody knew he hadn't played. He hadn't practiced, comes in here has a very tough couple of weeks. Now, do you see a smoothness or an adaptability that he didn't have and you sort of knew or hoped he had?
Coach Jackson: Oh, I know he has it. We have a big time NFL pro quarterback who plays here and has all that, and then some. So, I'm not surprised. I mean the guy – how about the throw to [Chaz] Schilens in the corner, the catch and the throw. I mean he checked that play and that's what everybody doesn't know. That wasn't a called play; I called a play and he looked over at the defense and said, 'Okay, that's not there Coach. I got you.' He checked the play and all of a sudden, they ran out, and they really checked into the right defense truth be told. But, he made an unbelievable throw to Chaz and that's what Carson is. That's the beauty of him and he is doing a great job, he really is. I told him he is 2-0 right now; you have to keep that going.
Q: How closely do you have to watch or do you watch the workload and what you have put on Tyvon Branch? I mean he is out there every snap on defense and on special teams, he is so good you don't want to take him off the field if you can help it because he can do that too. But running the 60 yards and then going back in again, it's tough. But is he like a wind up toy?
Coach Jackson: Yeah, he is like that energizer bunny. He just keeps on going. He doesn't want to come out of the game, he doesn't. Again, he is just another young player who is playing at a very high level for this football team and I think I have said way before this season, I think he is one of the breakout players in the National Football League. I don't think he gets enough credit because he plays really well for us week in and week out. He plays every snap, he doesn't complain, he loves to play, he loves to be involved in tackling and pass defending and all that, so I think he is doing a great job.
Q: Back to DHB [Darrius Heyward-Bey] for a minute – what is the next step in terms of his medical process? Does he have any sort of procedures or x-rays or anything?
Coach Jackson: Yeah well, I think we are beyond the major part of it. Now, I think it is more of a 'Let's see how fast we heal' and exactly where he is because obviously he had that head, back issue and a concussion. So, we need to get him past those things. Obviously, there are procedures when you are dealing with a concussion that you have to go through, so I think he is at the normal stages of that and then I think it is more let's see where this soreness exactly where it is located within his body, and go from there too.
Q: Do you think he might play this weekend or no?
Coach Jackson: Knowing our medical staff, there is a good chance because they are very good at what they do. But if he doesn't, I wouldn't be surprised at that either. We are just going to take it day by day and see where it goes.
Q: Coach, you say 'next man up' all the time but with a scary injury like that, doesn't it shake you guys up a little and maybe cause you to lose focus for a minute?
Coach Jackson: The football team? Well, it could. I'm not going to deny that; I think it could. Any time you see one of your teammates laying out there and you are not sure. Again, I was able to go speak to him; everybody wasn't. I knew he was going to be okay. Everybody else doesn't know and as a player because you hear some players comment, that could be them and that's hard. The thought of that that could be you laying out there, so yeah, I think certain things go through a players' mind. But, I think they also know that this is our profession. This is what they have chosen to do and you will play away all the time from, anything can happen. You hate to see that. That's the hard part of the sport, but that is the sport.
Q: Back to back quarterback sneaks just before halftime. The last one with no timeouts; how gutsy was that…?
Coach Jackson: Gutsy? I mean everybody says that's gutsy; I don't think that's gutsy. That's easy. The ball is that far away from scoring. We have got a big, old, 6'5", 235 pound quarterback. Why not just let him go instead of reverse and pivot and hand it to someone deep? Plus, he told me he was the best in the world at quarterback sneaks so that's what he told me. So, I said, 'Let's find out.' I kind of jumped him for not making it the first time; making me look kind of dumb there. But no, he's good at it, he knows how to get his pads down, and we know how to get that ball in there. I know everybody thinks that's gutsy; I think that was the easiest call I made all day, truth be told. But no, we feel good about that one. That was a good one.
Q: Coach, you have said repeatedly that when the team wins, it's them; when the team loses, you. This far into your first season as head coach, you were so enthusiastic in Napa. Are you still loving it?
Coach Jackson: Oh my gosh! I'm having the time of my life. It gets no better than this. I mean we started off kind of hot, then we hit that lull, and now here we come and this is what the National Football League is. You go through those peaks and valleys and if you can come out of them very strong and get on a run here at the end, you have the chance for great things to happen, and it's winning time now, and I think our players understand that. As I told you guys before, our players, myself, we have made no excuses about our injuries, who we play with, and you guys know what has gone on with our team. But, we come out there and it is 'next man up' and we play. We don't worry about it and we make the right things happen and we have had a couple of games where we lost our way a little bit, but that's okay because we learn from that. We have done a good job on the road. What we need to do is start winning at home. When teams come to our stadium, that's got to be an advantage for us and not a disadvantage. Last few times we played there, that has been a disadvantage so we need to get back to winning here at home.
Q: Denver played on a Thursday night; KC is playing tonight. Are you watching the other division teams or are you just solely focused on…? I mean there is a division race going on. Are you checking on…?
Coach Jackson: You think I'm not watching? I got one eye over there and I am going to look. Yeah, I'm going to look, but it's not about them. I like to look just because I like football. I like to know what is going on within our division, but bottom line, it really is about our football team and what we do. We control our own destiny and nobody else does, and that's the only opportunity you want in this league, is on you. If you get it done, you get it done what you want to have happen; you attain your goals. If you don't, then it's on you and you can say you didn't do it. Do we have knowledge of what's going on? Yeah. Do I look to see what's going on? Absolutely but at the end of the day, it is me preparing this football team to get ready to play Chicago is the most important thing I can do.
Q: What do you expect about Jacoby [Ford] this week?
Coach Jackson: Again, we'll be day to day and see exactly where he is but when I saw him today, he was moving around, looked good, big smile on his face, glad this team won, and looking forward to getting back on the field.
Q: How did you reach the decision on [Richard] Seymour to play? Just a game time thing? Did you rely heavily on him because he is a veteran to tell you how he felt or how did you come upon that?
Coach Jackson: I have a great relationship with Richard and I trust him wholeheartedly. He knows his body, he has been playing this game for a long time, but I think what really motivated Richard was his teammates. Richard is the leader of this team and there isn't a warrior that isn't going to be out there with his guys when they are out there fighting. Like I said, he understands the time is now. It is winning time and there is no way in my mind that Richard is going to let those guys go out there and fight without him on Sunday. So to me, that is what a pro is. As long as you can go, you are going and that's what it is all about.
Q: Was it your call basically – 'Alright, we'll put you in on third downs?'
Coach Jackson: What we did was come up with a plan. Coach Waufle, the defensive staff; they let me know exactly what they wanted to do so that he could participate in this game. To me, whether it is five plays of Richard or three plays of Richard, it is better than no Richard at all.
Q: This is your second straight NFC team that you will be playing against. You have a couple more soon. In the years past, the NFC difference and the AFC difference used to be distinguishable. Is it that way anymore? I mean when you go up against an NFC team, an NFC North team specifically, is it a different animal or is it still pretty much the same?
Coach Jackson: It's a pretty good animal. That was an animal we played yesterday. No, they are. Those are very good teams. I mean they are even front teams that play with four down defensive linemen whereas you typically see in the AFC, there are a lot of 3-4 defensive football teams. But, there is a lot of good players. I mean again; Jared Allen and Kevin Williams – those are really good players. When we talk about the rushing guy we played last week, we're going to play another one this upcoming week. It doesn't get any easier, but that is the beautiful part of the National Football League. I know people used to say, 'well the NFC didn't play up to the AFC's level' – I don't believe that. I think the National Football League has done a great job. Parity is all around, just look around the league. You have to get up to play; I don't care what division you are playing with, what conference you are playing, you better get ready to play because anything can happen.