Head Coach Hue Jackson. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Q:How did Chris Johnson look, first time he's been out here in a while?
Coach Jackson:Good, he moved around good. Looks like a corner, it's good to have him back out here doing some things. We're going to bring him back slowly and make sure we get him totally back up to speed but he looked good for the first time moving back around. Veteran player, love to have him back.
Q:A lot of receivers on that 'did not participate list' - how much of a concern is that?
Coach Jackson:It's a concern but still I think we'll get a chance to get some of these guys back, towards the end of the week. Am I concerned about it? Yes, any time you don't practice I think it's tough but I think we'll be okay. I think if the guys keep working at it by the end of the week hopefully we'll have some of these guys back.
Q:Who's most likely to be back by the end of the week?
Coach Jackson:Hopefully all of them. We'll see, we'll just take it one day at a time and go from there.
Q:How difficult is it preparing for a quarterback that you haven't seen a lot of film on other than maybe in the NFC title game a little bit? Caleb Hanie is not a well known guy.
Coach Jackson:He's well known to us. We've dug up everything we can on him and we've seen him, he's a good player and he'll do a good job for the football team. Obviously, we know they're going to run it and they're going to throw it and bottom line we got to play good sound, fundamental defense. That's the most important thing.
Q:Has [Jason Campbell] he started throwing at all?
Coach Jackson:Jason?* *Not yet, I think he tried a little bit and it just wasn't there, but I think he's getting there. I mean, it's going to take some time but he's working at it I promise you that. So, I'm really excited about the potential of him coming back here at some point and time.
Q:Is this the best defensive team you guys have faced this year?
Coach Jackson:One of them, yes. I think they're really good. They've got some star players with [Julius] Peppers, and [Brian] Urlacher, and [Lance] Briggs. I mean, my gosh, and this guy [Charles] Tillman he gets his hands on every ball that's known to man. You look up and he's knocking it out or intercepting the ball. I mean, they have some really fine football players on this football team. So again, it's going to be a tremendous challenge but we're looking forward to it.
Q:Speaking of challenges - it's another week and another featured back that you're up against, another good offense?
Coach Jackson:Oh man, isn't that the truth. This guy Matt Forte is a really good football player. I mean, in that division there are some really good backs. Obviously with [Adrian] Peterson and then this guy; this guy is dangerous. Not only can he run, he can catch, they can throw it to him, hand it to him. I mean, obviously, Mike Martz does a great job at creating opportunities for these guys to get the ball in space and he knows how to score touchdowns. So again, another tremendous challenge for our defense but that's the way it is in the National Football League. Week to week it's always going to be somebody else, just like I told Jared [Veldheer] last week it was Jared Allen this week it's Julius Peppers. Here we go, we got a job to do and we have to get it done.
Q:Any chance of [Darren] McFadden or [Jacoby] Ford playing this week?
Coach Jackson:Again, we'll see. Obviously they weren't out here today in uniform. I think Darren was out here standing around so that, again, that's improvement for him. Again, we'll see as we move through the week.
Q:How's Darrius Heyward-Bey?
Coach Jackson:Darrius was out here today too. Obviously, he didn't practice, he didn't participate, but he was out here in spirit, moving around a little bit. So I think he's better than what he was and hopefully we'll get him towards the end of the week.
Q:With the guys playing on the field and the match up also between coaches, how much are you looking forward to the chess match so to speak between you and Lovie Smith?
Coach Jackson:Hey, I don't know if it's a chess match. I think we kind of know exactly what we're getting from each other. I mean they're a strong, solid, football team and we think that we're becoming something here and we're working at it each and every day. I have so much respect for Lovie and Rod Marinelli, who's their defensive coordinator, who I know personally. They do a good job; I mean these guys have won five games in a row. They're taking the ball away from everybody and turning it into points and we got to do a great job at taking care of the ball. We have to get some turnovers from them and play good Raider football.
Q:You've created a buzz, you're 6-4 atop your division. How important is it to go out and play in front of the home fans and give them - 2-3 at home is one of the plights to hear?
Coach Jackson:It's very important; I mean we have to protect our house. Haven't done that very well, if we do at home what we've done on the road we'd be sitting pretty good right now. We haven't done that very well so our fans have done a great job at coming out and supporting this football team and this football team's got to play better at home and that's the bottom line.
Q: Is this a game by game kind of thing or do you look at any one area that you're not coming through with?
Coach Jackson: No, because if you go back and look, we'd been ahead in some of those games. We just haven't finished and I keep saying that and that's what we have to do. Trust me it's kept me up late at night trying to figure that out because if we can unlock that then we got a chance to really do something special so we will. We'll get it figured out, we'll get it ironed out, but we need to protect our home turf a little bit better than what we have.
Q:Are you surprised at Carson's improvement from week to week? It's been amazing.
Coach Jackson:No, I'm not. That's why I went and got the guy. I think the guy's a tremendous football player; I think he's growing each and every day. I think the sky is the limit. I think what he's got to do is just keep working. Again, it's a testament to him. I mean all of a sudden you've play four games now and just your body, you go from the couch to playing. At some point and time you're looking for him to slow down and hit a wall, not this guy. This guy just keeps working and he pushes himself right through it and on he goes.
Q:Your running game has been - you know going from Darren to Michael [Bush] - still been pretty consistent. What does it say about your offensive line as a group that they can have two distinctly different backs and still put up the numbers they put up?
Coach Jackson:They're playing well. I don't think the line cares who's back there running. They just want me to make sure there's a runner that's going to run and hand the guy the ball and let's see what he does. Obviously, that's a credit to the offensive line and to Michael Bush and to our receivers because they've got to block too and our tight ends. I mean they've done a great job so we have to continue to do so and that's the foundation of the football team. We like to run the ball, everybody knows we are and that's what we're going to do.
Q: Hue, can you expand a little bit more about the left side of your line because it's the young guys, Jared [Veldheer] and rookies?
Coach Jackson:That's what they are; they're the young guy. They don't know any better. They just go out there and play. 'Coach, tell me where you want me to go, tell me what you want me to do, that's my assignment, I'm doing it,' and they do it as well as I've seen guys do in a long time. Jared's had - this is his second year - he's doing a tremendous job and we drafted Stefen [Wisniewski] for that reason. We saw that in him, that the games not too big for him, he enjoys playing, he enjoys challenges, he wants to be good, he has that burning desire to be the best at what he does and he's done an outstanding job. Again, we're ten games into this thing, we got six more. One at a time and we have to continue to keep getting better because I still think we can play better than what we're playing.
Q: What's the approach against [Devin] Hester in the return game? Do you try to keep the ball away from him or are you willing to kick it to him and take a chance?
Coach Jackson: Well, let me say this to you, this guy can change games like that and I think we all know that and respect that. Right now we're practicing and as I told you guys last week, I wish we could put twenty guys out there on the field so when he starts one way, we have enough guys to tackle him but you can only play with 11 and I think he knows that too. So, we're going to figure out if we can squeeze at least one more guy out there at least to shadow him everywhere he goes and get this guy down. I mean I can't tell you exactly what the game plan is right this second, but I know we'll have a plan because this guy is as good as there is in football. I mean there are going to be times when you're going to have to kick it to him, you know, and there are going to be times when you might not have to kick it to him. So, we'll come up with the right plan to fit this football team so it gives us an opportunity to win.
Q:Have you ever seen a returner at his level?
Coach Jackson:Well, I mean I think we have a pretty good one here. If we can keep him healthy, I think he'll show the world that he has that kind of ability too. We practiced against the guy at one time when he's healthy that I think has some skill. I'm not saying he's Devin Hester. What Devin Hester's done in this league is incomparable by anybody's standards. The speed, the suddenness, the quickness, the ability to finish plays, Devin Hester is really good.
Q:Lovie Smith was saying that – we were asking him why do people kick to him at all and he said, 'this is the NFL, you can't go in there with your coverage unit and tell them this guy is too good you can't cover this guy.' Ae your guys looking forward to getting a shot at him?
Coach Jackson:I think our guys like the challenge. I mean,if you're a pro football player you want to play against the best and measure yourself. But as a head coach, I get to make that choice and that's what I'm going to do based on what it's going to take to win and I think our players will follow suit. Again, we have great respect for Devin, we have great respect for their football team but we think we're a pretty good team too and we're not going to run from a challenge from anybody and that's the way it is. But we'll be smart about the challenges, we'll be smart about the fights we pick, but we also understand and respect that we're going to put 11 guys out there also.
Q: How much does it help that you have a guy like [Shane] Lechler that can kick deep, high, wherever positioning?
Coach Jackson:I'll take Lechler and [Sebastian] Janikowski any day, I like our guys. I like our kickers because they understand what we're facing too and they play a role in that also. So they have to do their job and the coverage team has to do their job and we'll go from there.
Q:Would you like to weigh in on this historic Harbaugh Bowl?
Coach Jackson:Well I worked with one of them, John, in Baltimore and I know that football team and I have so much respect - I've gotten to know Jim now over the years and they're both doing a great job. I mean, it's going to be a heck of a football game. Obviously, Baltimore being at home and in their stadium and they're comfort zone and they're beds and all that, they'll be excited to play. But if I know Jim, he's going to go down there with his football team and it's going to be a slug fest, it's going to be a rough, tough football game. That much I do know. Now the outcome, the guys at Baltimore would probably kill me if I felt any differently about what the outcome would be and Ray I love you so don't take it out on me, but I think it's going to be a heck of a football game.
Q:Hue, if Denarius [Moore] can't go for whatever reason who returns kicks for you?
Coach Jackson:We'll see, obviously we have a kid by the name of [Bryan] McCann that's here and we have some other guys. I think we're going to be okay. We'll keep going through the week and see where these guys are and get them back out there.
Q:What's been the biggest challenge as a first year coach with this year's team? You've had a lot of injury problems, that's one thing.
Coach Jackson:We have and that's probably my biggest concern. As I've said, we don't complain about it, but this is not the same football team that started out here. But it is a good football team and I'm very excited about the potential of what we can be because the guys don't blink and again that's a testament to the coaches and the players. You guys have never once heard us complain about who's out there, who is, who isn't and we keep playing. I hear all these commentators talk about, 'oh this quarterback is out or that guy's out or this guy's out.' I laugh about it because that's part of the business. We don't worry about it, we just keep playing, we try to play right through it and we take our lumps about it as we go, but we don't worry about it because we understand that is the league and that's part of it and that's what you do.
Q:Going through the offseason with your plan of attack, then things come up as you just mentioned, injuries and such, how close to the personality of this team though is it that you thought you would see? In a lot of ways has the season gone they way you expected in terms of character and that thing?
Coach Jackson:Yes, no doubt about it. I mean, this team doesn't blink and I've always said that and I believe that, but I think if I blink they blink. And I'm not going to blink. I don't care - you know we have lost some players from here that were very good football players. We have some guys that have been injured that are very good football players, but like I said, I don't think our guys worry about that. I think our guys respect the men that are in that locker room and the coaches and they know they're going to be prepared and they know they're going to go out and play. I mean, that's first and foremost. I think we all would like to win a little bit more than what we have. I think we know we've let some opportunities pass us by, but the character, the spirit of this football team is here. I say it all the time and it still in Coach Davis' vision, you know, just win, the commitment to excellence, pride and poise. That's who we are. We need to get better at this penalty thing. We all know that and recognize that, but as far as the heartbeat of this football team, we think we're functioning pretty well. Now what we have to do is go finish this thing, play the last little bit, whatever this is, more than a quarter of the season left to get this thing done the way we want to and we're in prime position. We understand that and recognize that. But we know it's one game at a time and we're playing a very good opponent this week so we're looking forward to it.
Q: Is Ford still in his walking boot or is he out of his boot?
Coach Jackson: He's very close to being out. I think he's still in it maybe for one more day but I think he's going to get out of that thing pretty soon. I'm sure he'll be excited about that.
Q: Hue, all the changes that have happened with teams, the unpredictable nature of a lot of the games this year - it's almost like watching college football. Is a lot of that due to the fact that training camp was truncated and you had to shove in so much in such a short period of time?
Coach Jackson:You know, obviously, the lockout made it different and difficult and that's okay. But as I said before, every team has had the same set of circumstances. We have, we're all in the same boat. If you look around the league, whether it's injuries, whatever that's been, it's been the same for everybody. It's just who can manage it the best, who can finish the best and that's why the bottom line in this league is winning. It doesn't matter how you win, how you go about it or anything, just keep winning games. Stack up enough wins so you have the opportunity to keep playing later on and that's what everybody is concerned about. I think every coach around the league is talking that way but you can see there's a lot of parody this year around the league, everywhere. Obviously, I think that's what this league strives for.