Head Coach Hue Jackson. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Q: You guys are sold out. What does that mean?
Coach Jackson: Let me tell you – it means that these fans are truly believing in what we're doing and I just thank the city, I thank the organization, I thank everybody for again continuing to support this team. I hope we can, as we continue to move on to Chicago and Detroit and the other teams that we play, that those games are just as important too and I hope our fans will continue to keep coming out supporting us. We know we've got to put a better product on the field. That's what we plan on doing but I'm so excited that the games are sold out.
Q: How aware of it are you in the middle of a game because you have a lot of things happening? Is it something that you're conscious of?
Coach Jackson: No, I am because our fans – they let us know. They let us know when it's going good and they let us know when it's going bad, so we recognize that and they have a right to. They've done a great job of supporting us and we've got to do a great job of giving back by the way we play. Today, I think our guys worked extremely hard. I was very happy with the pace of practice, the tempo of practice and I think we're gearing up and getting ready.
Q: How's Carson [Palmer] been coming along?
Coach Jackson: He's done a great job. He's had two really good days; three really good days of practice. I mean he's running the offense the way I think the offense has to be run. I think he's doing a great job.
Q: [Michael] Bush has had some of his biggest games in games Darren hasn't been able to play or been nicked up. How do you think he's played this year?
Coach Jackson: I think he's played well. I mean he's in a tough spot; he plays behind arguably, in my opinion, one of the best running backs in this league. But, I think Bush is a really, really good player himself and it's good when you have two of them. In case one can't go, you have one you can lean on, but I think he's done some real good things this year. Obviously last week a couple of weeks ago, he rushed for 99 yards so he has big game capability. He knows how to play and you've seen it here during his career here. If he has to play, I feel very comfortable with him playing.
Q: When you went to [Darren] McFadden and talked to him about the plays that he liked to run, did you ever do that with Bush?
Coach Jackson: You better know I did. Yes I did. I mean I've almost been to probably every skilled player to find out what it is that they like to try to put them in that comfort zone and that mode for them. Then, you've got to piece it all together. Sometimes that's the hard part but that's what you do and Michael has told me what he likes to do. If he's in there, that's what we'll do.
Q: Talk about players stepping up saying, 'It's time.' Is it time for Taiwan Jones to step up if McFadden can't go and he's going to be the complimentary back for Michael?
Coach Jackson: Honestly, it's time for this whole team to step up and yeah, he needs to. But, I think this whole team needs to. We are – like I said, we're in the thick of this thing and we need to play really good Raider football. I don't make any bones about what we need to do. I've told our team what's gone on for seven games hasn't been good enough, in my opinion; it isn't and what we need to do is go out and play the way I know this team can play. I think we've gotten better but the consistency on how you have to play pro football week in, week out – day in and day out – practice in practice out. I expect more from this team.
Q: You drafted Jones. There were some eyebrows raised like, 'Well, you already have these two backs. Why would you grab another one?' Is this why?
Coach Jackson: Absolutely. I mean I don't think you can ever have too many good ones. Obviously, you can't have seven on your team because you just can't carry them just for the number at different positions on the football team. But you need good runners because if you look around the league, there's a lot of guys that are kind of bruised and battered right now. I just think you've got to have those other kind of guys that can make special plays and Taiwan Jones is one of those guys.
Q: For so many years, the Broncos were identified with Mike Shanahan and that style of offense. The stretch and cut play-action; defensively very aggressive. What do you see from them now with John Fox is the head coach and what they're trying to do?
Coach Jackson: To me – I know people don't share the same thought I do but I think defensively, they're one of the toughest teams that we play. They get after it, they have really good players, they play hard, they're well coached, and John does a great job. On offense, they're going to have his identity which they're going to run the ball. Regardless of who is the quarterback is, they're going to run the ball because I think he truly believes in being physical. I think he believes that that's the way the game is won and I respect that. But, he's done a great job with that football team. I know they wish they had a different record – the record doesn't say that but when I look at the team from a year ago, this team is stronger, plays harder, finishes plays, and they're good.
Q: How has Lito Sheppard looked the past couple of days? Is he ready to play quite a bit if need be?
Coach Jackson: I think if he needs to play, he can. There's no question about that. I mean I don't – again these new guys that we brought in here, they've done a great job of staying in shape. I think they all felt like there was going to be an opportunity somewhere at some point in time but he's in shape, he's made some plays out here, he looks like he belongs. I mean he's a pro and that's what you expect. That's why you put those kinds of guys on your football team.
Q: Say you get Marcel [Reece] back full-go on Sunday, what do you expect him to do and what can he do for you play-calling wise?
Coach Jackson: Well obviously, Marcel's a unique match-up problem for most people. There are different things that you can do with him and he has the ability to still block, run and catch but he's a little different. He's that hybrid guy. But if he's healthy, which he's been all week; he's been out there practicing – we'll do some things with him to create some opportunities for him and for this football team.
Q: You're in the middle of the three-game stretch against the division. You're very keenly aware of the AFC West and the rivalries. Are the players fully aware of the rivalries and the history? Not just the importance of the game, but the rivalries and history?
Coach Jackson: I don't get a lot of time to talk about the history of the rivalry. I really get a chance to talk about the game because we're so in it, but I think our players understand that if they truly don't understand the history and the rivalry, they understand this is the AFC West and if you want the fastest way to earn that 17th game, then you've got to win the west. So, we stumbled a week ago and now we're playing Denver and we've got to go play football.
Q: Hue, how important from a coaching standpoint is chemistry in that locker room?
Coach Jackson: Very. I think it has a lot to do with everything, but I think part of that chemistry is communication by the head coach to the players. I think if you're fair and you're honest – they might not respect it, they might not agree with it, but as long as you're honest with them and you tell them why you do things, why it's this way, why we go about conducting our business a certain way, they respect that. I think if you're phony and you don't keep it real with them, I think that's how you lose your locker room.
Q: With all the moves that you made recently with bringing guys in, have you had to address that with these guys just to let them know the page that you guys are all on?
Coach Jackson: That's just what I do and they'll tell you that. I tell them every time I make a decision because this is their football team and I let them know exactly what we're doing and why we're doing it. I think that's important, so nobody goes over to the laundry room and has a sit down where nobody knows what's going on, we don't have that here. We put it all out on the table, tell it how it is, and like I said – everybody might not like it, but I think they'll respect it because it's coming from the right place. It's honest, it's up front, and we don't hide anything.
Q: Have you been in places where you were coaching where you didn't see that happen and what happened to the locker room? Did it kind of get messed up?
Coach Jackson: I've been there. Yeah, I've been there and that's what I've learned from. I'm never going – as long as I'm here as a head coach, I mean I'm going to always tell our players what's going on. Now the things that happen between the organization and the higher ups that we have to keep to ourselves, we do. But the things that involve this football team, I think they have as much right to know as anybody else because this is their football team.
Q: When you prepare the team for the upcoming game, do you let them know despite Denver's struggles that this is not a game that you get ahead of yourself and think that it's like an easy win?
Coach Jackson: There's no question but there are no Denver struggles. You might think there are struggles, but I don't think they're struggling. They're a 2-5 football team that is a threat and I think in the National Football League, there are no easy games. Every game, you've got to play good on game day to win a game. So, we don't worry about that. I think we know they're coming in here and they're going to be chomping at the bit to play. They have a bad taste in their mouth from last week, we have a bad taste in our mouth from two weeks ago and we need to play football.
Q: Does Rolando [McClain] need to be able to practice tomorrow in order to play or is he a guy who can just…?
Coach Jackson: I think you guys know how I feel. I like to put players out there that are healthy and guys that can run around and move around. We've got one more day to kind of see where he is. I think he's getting better; I think there's a lot of progress that's been made. Is it as fast as I would want it? No, but I think he's getting better and we'll see where he is tomorrow.
Q: How has [Darryl] Blackstock done?
Coach Jackson: He's done good. No, he's done good. I mean Darryl's done a really good job. Obviously, Darryl's been around Chuck [Bresnahan] so Chuck knows him. He's done a great job on special teams so if that's the direction we have to go, we'll feel comfortable in doing that.
Q: Any lingering concern with [Sebastian] Janikowski?
Coach Jackson: Well yeah obviously there still is until I know that he's totally 100 percent, then I will always be concerned. But, I think we're a lot closer to him to him being 100 percent than not being 100 percent.
Q: Any kickers on speed dial just in case?
Coach Jackson: Absolutely [laughs]. Absolutely, just like last time. As you guys know, I'm going to make sure I do everything I can to make sure this team has everything it needs to play. The organization feels that way, Mark [Davis] feels that way, Amy [Trask] feels that way, and we all support that. So I feel very comfortable that whatever we need to do before Sunday, we'll be able to do.
Q: How far would you push this decision for Janikowski?
Coach Jackson: Obviously as long as I can up until the time we have to have somebody else on the team to play because he's that valuable. If he can kick, he's the guy I want kicking for this football team.
Q: So does he have to kick in the next couple of days for him to be able to go?
Coach Jackson: Oh absolutely, he would have to. He has to be able to demonstrate that he can do his job and like I said, he's much closer than what he's been. I feel very comfortable that there's a good chance that could happen but still, I thought there was going to be a good chance the last time. It didn't work out that way. We'll see how it goes.
Q: Is this a situation where you might have to get a kicker on Saturday anyway because he goes out there Sunday, warms up and aggravates it?
Coach Jackson: Yeah, that could happen but I truly believe in him. If he's out there, he's out there because he's ready to go. I'm not going to stick him out there if he's half-ready to go. This is a big game for us, so I've got to make sure that we have the best people out there to play.
Q: You mentioned Bush is in a tough spot. Did you give him like pick-me-ups during the season, try to tell him to be patient, and was he positive coming in?
Coach Jackson: Oh, he's been very positive. I mean that's just Michael. He understands that he plays behind Darren and I think he respects Darren and Darren's ability. I think he respects his own ability. Would he like to have more chances? Yeah, but I think he understands it's a long season and sometimes things happen. He's going to get his shot and when he does, he's got to know it. If this is this week, then he'll know it because he's a good player; really good player.