Opening statement: **"Injuries today … Jonathan Dowling did not practice today with a back. Brian Leonhardt did not practice today with a concussion. Latavius Murray was limited today. Neiko Thorpe was limited today with a hand. Menelik Watson did not practice today with a foot and an ankle. Tarell Brown was limited with a foot."
Q: Has Latavius Murray been cleared to play in the game? Has he passed?
Coach Sparano:"He's passed, yes. He's cleared to do his stuff in practice right now. We'll see where he is tomorrow."
Q: How does he look compared to last week?
Coach Sparano:"He was able to practice, yes. He was able to do much more."
Q: Is he cleared to play?
Q: Derek Carr has 27 passes on third down that have come up short of the stakes. Is that just an issue of a young quarterback developing or does the scheme have to be set differently?
Coach Sparano:"It really just depends on the route. It depends on the coverage. It depends on the technique that's played out there. There are a lot of factors that go into that, a lot of factors. Honestly, it really just depends on a lot of those factors. The coverage can dictate how deep a route is run. A technique can dictate how deep a route is. It shouldn't, but it can. In other words, that doesn't have anything to do with Derek; if we break a route off short because of a specific technique that's being played against us. Those things could all be reasons why. Pressure could be a reason why. I think Derek right now is, I actually just looked at this right now, I think he's the fifth most pressured quarterback in the National Football League right now. He's been pretty efficient versus the pressure, but pressure is going to make you get the ball out of your hands faster at times, too. Some of those things are reasons why. That's what I would tell you. There's no routes in our playbook, I think [offensive coordinator] Greg [Olson] mentioned that, or someone did, maybe Marcel [Reece], there are no 1-yard routes in our playbook."
Q: Justin Tuck said to expect a bloodbath on Sunday. A lot of these players haven't been a part of this game, but have you addressed how big this game is and what it means to the franchise and the fans?
Q: What have you said?
Coach Sparano:"Listen, I think any time two teams, and I've been part of it a long time, are this close in proximity to one another, it's deemed that it's going to be a rivalry. I think that part about it, that's fun. To have a game like that right now, at this time of year and be able to go into that situation in our place, with our fans out there, that's exciting. I know it's big for the organization, I get it. I know what the record is over the last several years, since 2000 or whatever that is, since the team moved back here. You've got rivalries, but you have to make sure that when you're in a rivalry, that both teams show up. That's the intention."
Q: In a sense, would you say a win would help rectify the season?
Coach Sparano:"I'm not really worried about that at all. A win would be very nice because it's a win. A win in this football game would be very nice because it's a win. Obviously it's a big game and anytime you get an opportunity to win a big football game, the next game, that's really important. From our end right now, we're just concentrated on us trying to make ourselves get better right now as a football team, and going out there and playing the best football that we can play when we get out there on Sunday. We're well aware how good of a football team they are. We're well aware how physical they are and it is going to be a physical game. There's no question about it."
Q: Their style of play, in that they've been a hard-nosed team that likes to run the ball and play tough defense, seems kind of in line with the way you like to coach, too. Do you like playing against teams that have similar mindsets and philosophies?
Coach Sparano:"Yeah, yeah I do. That sets the stage for a good tug-of-war out there. It'll be fun. You turn the film on, you watch them play, they're a physical football team, no question about it. Defensively, offensively, that style of football that they play, the style of football we play, we're a physical football team. It'll be a good test. It'll be a good game."
Q: Are you reminded by fans who are out there, who may be 49ers or Raiders fans, just the magnitude of this game?
Coach Sparano:"I'm going to answer this the best way I can without getting myself in trouble. It was a good question. All due respect, when I wake up in the morning I don't see a lot of fans at that point. When I walk in and when I walk out of the building, I don't really see a lot of fans. But, I will say this to you: I am well aware of the importance of the football game. I've been a part of Jets-Giants, I've been a part of the Cowboys and, at the time, 10 different teams. I've just been a part of a lot of these. Cowboys-Redskins, that type of thing, it was a big football game. I understand the magnitude of this. I understand how big of a game it is for our organization, for our team and for our fans. I do, I really do. There's no greater feeling for me than two weeks ago when, as I said, at the end of the ball game, I went out into a restaurant and saw Raider fans smiling from ear to ear. That's a great feeling."
Q: Would this win mean more than just a normal win?
Coach Sparano:"Any win in our league is a great win. It really is. It's a great win. Would it mean more? Sure. It's a big win. They're a good football team. To beat a good football team, that would be really special. Any win on any day is a great win. When it's a rivalry win, yeah there is a little something more to it."
Q: With Brian Leonhardt having two concussions in two weeks, now you're down to Mychal Rivera. You have one on the practice squad that's still working out with you and you could use a lineman as an extra. Are those all possibilities for this weekend?
Coach Sparano:"Yeah, those are all possibilities. We have other people. We've used some linemen. Contrary to popular belief, I said this the other day, we used Marcel in that role. That's a little bit of Marcel's job description. You can see several guys in that position right now. We have some options there, certainly. We'll be ready on Sunday."
Q: Is it difficult to prepare for a quarterback like Colin Kaepernick who has so much speed and mobility when he's being asked to use it?
Coach Sparano:"Absolutely. You can't duplicate it in practice. It's tough to prepare for the unpredictability factor. It's tough when Colin does a great job of escaping, creating, extending, doing all those things. This guy can really run. It's a player that I really liked coming out. I really, really thought he was a talented kid coming out. Actually, I got a chance to spend a lot of time with him. He's an explosive player. He can really run, and the extension of plays concerns you, because when he can get out of the pocket and he can create and do those things. Then they have weapons. They have guys that can go get the ball for him. We have to do a good job of not letting him out of the pocket. We can't let him go that route on us. They do some things in the run game that allow him to get out, too, and run the football not different than a year ago when we did it with [Terrelle] Pryor and those types of things. They'll run some of that stuff, I'm sure. We'll be prepared for it, but it's hard to duplicate the speed."
Q: Tarell Brown seems like a real stable force back there. Can you talk about his impact on the secondary?
Coach Sparano:"Yeah, he's been really good back there. First of all, the guy goes out there and he gives you a solid day's work every single day out there in practice and that's important. I think he's played conceivably every single snap right now. I'm not sure that he's missed a snap at this point. He's been a durable player back there for us. I've been really pleased with what he's done. I think he's an outstanding pro. He really is a good pro, a good guy to sit and visit with when you're just talking about your football team a little bit and you want to pick somebody's brain. He's a good guy to sit and visit with that way. I like all the things he brings to the table for us. And I like the way he plays."
Q: With the guys you do have in the secondary, are you surprised there are only five interceptions by your team this season?
Coach Sparano:"I'm a little surprised in that we've had the chance to close a few more of those balls. We've had a good chance to make a few more plays on the football back there, and that's a big difference. I mean, it really is. When you really look at it, that's critical. The team we're playing this week – as you look at them, there's five turnovers in the last two games that they've had, but they're still on the plus side of that because they take the ball away at a higher rate; they have like 16 or 17 interceptions in the back end. From our end, making some of those plays when those opportunities came up could have been the difference in a game or two here or there, no question about it. But I like the fact that our guys are challenging people and I think we've just got to continue to challenge and we've got to stay the course and keep challenging receivers. I think those things will come. I think we'll get our hands on a few of those."
Q: You said you were impressed with how hard Carlos Rogers was working to get back into the flow of things. How difficult was it to put a stamp on his season [by placing him on the reserve/injured list]?
Coach Sparano:"It was a really hard decision to make. One, because I really think the world of Carlos. I do. I think he's a heck of a guy and I thought he was a good player for us, quite honestly. It is very rare that in a conversation, when you're talking about personnel, that Carlos' name didn't come up as one of your kind of better guys at that point. So that was very rare and it was a tough decision, but this is the time of year where you have to make those kind of decisions. Everybody's hurt at this point in time, at this time of year, and you have to have a spot someplace. That's just the nature of the business."
Q: Do you think it's a little crazy that fans are calling for Latavius Murray's number based on eight total carries over two games, or is it warranted based on the numbers he did put up?
Coach Sparano:"I mean, he has eight carries. Listen, I love the way Latavius runs the football. I like what I've seen, but I've seen eight carries. I want to see more of them. I'm curious, too. I'm curious just like the fans are curious. In other words, I see it in practice, I've seen it get better and better to the point where we tried to push the envelope here to be able to get him involved. Obviously, if I had seen that and it was that much better early, you would have made that decision earlier. This kid is just come along, come along, come along, come along – not different than a lot of our young players right now. All of a sudden, he's gotten his opportunity. The difference is Gabe Jackson, TJ Carrie – they've played a lot more plays. You've seen those things a lot earlier. Latavius was a slower process. You've seen this start to happen all of a sudden. He's a guy that missed an entire year the year before that and now he's got everybody curious right now. If all goes according to script this week, he'll get his turns and he'll get a chance to run the football and hopefully we'll see a little bit more of that."