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Coach Sparano: "It's hard on a Thursday game"


Opening Statement: **"Injuries today: David Ausberry did not practice with a foot; Derek Carr, today, was limited with a quad; TJ Carrie did not practice today with an ankle; Jonathan Dowling did not practice today with a back; Gabe Jackson was limited today with a knee; Carlos Rogers did not practice today with a knee; and Miles Burris was limited today with a hip."

Q: How was Gabe Jackson moving around? Are you optimistic?

Coach Sparano:"He's moved around pretty well in the last couple days. We haven't really done a lot of things full speed, so we'll see." 

Q: When do you actually know for a Thursday game?

Coach Sparano:"It's hard on a Thursday game. It really is, because you have to back off of some periods, you've got to do some things. You've got to pick and choose what you're going to do fast and what you're going to do at a little bit slower pace right now so that you're not wearing players out a little bit that way, but at the same time, getting your work in. That's hard with injuries at this point, because you don't really see them open up a whole lot. Right now, we've just really had Gabe working with the scout team, so we'll see how it goes."

Q: You came in about 10, 15 minutes earlier than scheduled. Is that something you determine on the fly as practice was going?

Coach Sparano:"It's something I made an adjustment to this morning. Quite honestly, they practiced fast today, but I also predetermined this morning that I was going to shave a period or two off from practice today just to give them a little bit of a rest and to get them off their feet a little bit more, give them a little bit more time to study it, too."

Q: The last game against the Chiefs last year, what do you recall from that game? Jamaal Charles made a lot of plays, how do you stop that from happening this time?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, they had some big plays. Honestly, I mean, that game there is a little bit of a blur to me. But I did watch the game, spent some time watching it. We didn't tackle great in that game. They had some explosive plays against us. It was a complete different game from the first game that we played at Kansas City. I just, honestly, chalk that up to a team that was playing really well at the time and we didn't play very well on that day."

Q: Dontari Poe seems to be pretty effective in that interior line. Can you talk about the challenges of stopping a guy like that, who has that pass-rush ability on the inside?

Coach Sparano:"He's a real handful, he really is. What's hard is that when you have a player like that in the middle and then you have two edge rushers on the edge like they have, you get into some single match-ups. It's hard to put two people on a player like him when you have Tamba [Hali] and you have [Justin] Houston outside. Those guys are – that's really a tough deal. He gets freed up and he has speed and power for a big man. You might say, 'No kidding,' but that's not normal. It's something that I'm excited about when I watch 'Jelly' [Justin Ellis] play a little bit. He has speed and power, he has some get-off, and that makes it hard for centers to block him. It's hard to block him in a one-on-one situation that way, and when they get you singled up, he kind of has a two-way go. So you've got to do a good job of closing the space on him and really, I think it's critical that against players like that that you try to win on your first step – early – because if you play a player like that cautiously, he's going to get you on your heels and that's not a good thing."

Q: You went up against Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware a couple of weeks ago. How do these guys compare?

Coach Sparano:"Very similar players. Yeah, very similar. Similar in a lot of ways. They can put pressure on you from the outside. They both play the run well and they fly around; their motors are good. So they are challenges and you've got to know where they are all the time. A little bit different from Denver, they move these players quite a bit. You'll find them both on the same side. You'll find them over the right or over the left side playing on the same side at times. It won't be in bas, but you'll see it in sub quite a bit, and that's a little bit different. Denver, we didn't really see those two guys on the same side of the ball a lot. When you're putting two of them on the same side, you have the same issue that we just spoke about. You've got two of them over there now, so got to figure out a way to handle that plus any of their other exotic pressures that are coming from the other side."

Q: Marquette King is on pace for about 102 punts this season. How much has he developed over the last couple of years and as his punting numbers pile up this year, does he do less kicking at all during the week, or is that not even a concern with a young guy like him?

Coach Sparano:"What's interesting is Marquette and I had a conversation about this not too long ago, and Marquette – which is a good trait in a young player, any young player – he likes to work. He'll go out there and he'll work, and if you're not watching him, he'd go out there and kick every day. You've got to limit that because of the number of kicks that he's had, and when you have your kicking day – whatever that day is that we're punting, obviously you spend more time on punt than you do on anything else, any other phase within the special teams – he's got to be ready to punt. We try to limit the number of kicks that he kicks during the course of the week knowing that he's going to punt in several periods during the week and then however many punts he gets in the ball game there. It's not something you set out to do, to have him on a record pace right now to make that many punts. He has bailed us out. He's hit some really good punts. At the same time, Marquette knows there are some things there and some areas that he has to continue to improve on. He's just a young player at that position right now that I think is really going to be a weapon as you continue on with his progress." Q: Are you still seeing good things from the veterans you brought in, in terms of keeping the younger players focused?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, I really am. I think they do a great job. I think that their wisdom is really good. I think their message to the young players has been really good. They've been a big help to me certainly, and I appreciate that. On a short week like this, a guy like Derek Carr really doesn't, for all intents and purposes, why would he know about playing on a Thursday night in the National Football League, or Khalil Mack about playing on a Thursday night in the National Football League. But there are some good people and some good resources to go to there. A guy like Derek has Matt Schaub sitting in the room who can tell him, 'This is the way you need to prepare. This is what you need to do during this short week. This is how I handled my preparation.' Same thing with Khalil. So, they've been really good about that this week and they've been good all year long, right now, so I've been really impressed with them because quite honestly, it's real easy to look down the road and when you're a young player it's hard. You don't look down the road, you kind of look at just what is in front of you right now, but when you're a veteran player sometimes you look down the road and you think, right now, we're where we are, we're 0-10. So you start to look down the road a little bit and they've done a great job of keeping blinders onto that and focusing on the now, which is something that I've asked them to do and sometimes you can ask players to do something and it could go in one ear and out the other. I think they hear me loud and clear and I appreciate that."

Q: Could that make it harder to replace a veteran guy with a younger guy going forward?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, I think so. I think it makes it harder. I know the natural thing is that when you get down, and again, listen, we're trying to win a football game on Thursday, but at the end I understand that it's natural, and I talked to the veterans about this a couple weeks back, it's natural that as you get on in something like this, people start to think about, 'Hey, can we see this younger player? Do you see that younger player? Do you do this or do you do that?' To their credit, those players, the veteran players on this football team, besides being great people and great for me, have been really competitive. You're not going to walk up to Donald Penn and tell Donald Penn, hey, you know, he's just not going to have that. The guy just goes out there and plays and plays hard and does his job every single week. I have a bunch of those players on the team, so it makes it harder to be able to do something like that. And really it doesn't make it – as long as you're seeing them go out there and play that way, it's not something that you're really interested in at this point." Q: Are there any updates on Derek Carr? Is he in the same spot he was yesterday?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, same spot. Took his work out there today, he just, we kept him limited. We'll see where he is tomorrow. I honestly wish I can give you more to that, but you've got to wait and you've got to see with these things and see how they are."

Q: Are you getting closer to making a decision on Rod Streater?

Coach Sparano:"Each day we're getting a little closer on making a decision, yeah, but we have not made a decision right now."

Q: How is Carlos Rogers doing?

Coach Sparano:"He's doing well. In fact I had a conversation with him this morning and he's doing better. I think some days are a little bit better than others, but right now we're starting to get a few more good days and we're starting to pinpoint kind of, I wouldn't say we know what the problem is, we just start pinpointing the things that he kind of needs - one way or the other, we've got to get through, we collectively, the trainers, Carlos, Carlos feeling like he's able to go out there and be able to do some of that stuff. So, we'll see. He's really working hard. I know that and I know it's killing him not to be out there right now. That's another sign of a great veteran player. I really like Carlos and I like what he brings to the table and he's been good with our young players that way, but I know it's killing him not to be out there."

Q: Was it a coincidence or something that was thought out when Khalil Mack's locker was put right next to Justin Tuck's?

Coach Sparano:"It's not a coincidence. No, it was something that was thought out. I know way back when, when we buried the football in the ground and there were changes made to the locker room, some people said, 'Oh, so they made a few changes in the locker room.' The locker room was looked at and looked at closely. I had a vision for people that I wanted around people and what you're trying to do is stimulate conversation within the locker room, and conversation where a young player might learn from somebody else and in that situation it was absolutely, 100 percent let's find a way to get him near Justin because that's a conversation that you want to take place every day. Those guys sit in there talking about football and Khalil being able to learn a little something from a veteran player like that, and that's why I did what I did."

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