Opening statement: **"Injuries today, the update there: David Ausberry, foot, did not practice. Khalif Barnes, quad, was limited today. Vincent Brown, hamstring, was limited today. Keith McGill, groin, did not practice. Marcel Reece, quad, was limited today. Carlos Rogers, knee, did not practice. Justin Tuck, knee, was limited today. LaMarr Woodley, bicep, did not practice. Usama Young, foot, did not practice. Austin Howard, neck, was limited today."
Q: How did the players respond in practice today? Did you like their approach?
Coach Sparano:"I liked our approach. I liked our effort in practice today. Our effort was really good out there in practice today. We practiced very fast. I did not love our execution out there today. We have to do a little bit better job from an execution standpoint right now. We're trying to get ourselves better out there every single day. We have to do a little bit better from an execution standpoint, from a penalty standpoint, in practice."
Q: What's the sense on DJ Hayden? Is he going to need all of this window or is there a possibility that he'll go this week?
Coach Sparano:"There's a possibility. As far as needing the whole window, we're taking it day by day right now with DJ. He had a good day today actually. He took some reps out there today. Last week was really limited to mostly scout team work. This week he took a few reps in there with the defense, with Carlos [Rogers] not practicing today. Carlos not practicing today was really my decision."
Q: Was that more of a precautionary thing?
Coach Sparano:"Yeah, that was really my decision."
Q: How about LaMarr Woodley, is that injury serious or not serious?
Coach Sparano:"It could be, yes. We'll see."
Q: Usama Young, is that the same thing? You indicated after the game that it could be not good?
Coach Sparano:"Not great, so we'll see."
Q: Do you guys intend to place him on Injured Reserve this week?
Coach Sparano:"I'm not going to put that out there right now. We'll see what we do here in the next day or so."
Q: With Woodley and Justin Tuck being bothered with injuries, is there a chance that Shelby Harris could get promoted from the practice squad?
Coach Sparano:"Well, we'll see what happens. We're going to go into practice this week. Tuck was out there today. He got some work in there today. LaMarr did not practice today, but Benson [Mayowa] got a lot of work out there today. We'll see what we do by week's end here. We have a couple more days here to worry about that."
Q: What did you see from Benson?
Coach Sparano:"I thought Benson did a good job in the ball game on Sunday to be honest with you. He played a bunch more plays than anticipated because of the injury situation. He went in there and I didn't think the game was too big for him at all. I think he went in there and performed well. He did some good things against the run, which is, when you think about him, he's a little bit lighter player. More of a pass rush type player, but he went in and competed really hard in the run game as well. I thought he did some really good things."
Q: You have prepared teams to play against Mike Pettine's offense, and you coached with him at the Jets. When you see that team and their approach, does that reflect his values and philosophies?
Coach Sparano:"Sure, they do. Mike does a lot of the same things that the Jets are doing right now. That's just natural. When you look at them and you look at what the Jets are doing, there are a lot of similarities there. Mike has always done a really good job. I have the utmost respect for him and what he's doing down there with that football team right now. When we were together at the Jets, he's a really smart guy that gets the most out of his players. They play hard and that's what Cleveland is doing now, they're playing hard."
Q: Would you say you have similar philosophies in football?
Coach Sparano:"I would say so. I would say that's pretty accurate. We're both hot-blooded Italians with similar philosophies. Mike's come from a football family. I have kids that are coaching right now. My entire family is a football family. It's really similar situations. Both of us kind of get after it a little bit and coach with a lot of energy and a lot of passion, and aren't afraid to challenge and confront or do those types of things. I think in our game right now, that's necessary. You have to be able to challenge, you have to be able to confront problems and situations when they occur. He's done a good job of that in his situation there. That's what we're trying to do here."
Q: They're coming off of a loss to a Jacksonville team that I'm sure they thought they could have or should have beaten. Do you take that stuff into account at all?
Coach Sparano:"You have to watch the game obviously. You go through the game and it's part of your breakdown. To be quite honest with you, we added another game into the breakdown after that game, just because it didn't look the same as the other games. What I mean by that is, it looked different on film. All credit to Jacksonville. Jacksonville played a heck of a football game. They overcame a bunch of turnovers and were able to win a football game there. It just one of those things where you watch the tape and you put it in the breakdown, but we added another game in addition into the breakdown as well. I don't think that's the way Cleveland played. Certainly it's not the way Cleveland has played over the last several weeks. It wasn't even close."
Q: One of the surprises from Cleveland this year has been the production of their quarterback. What do you see when you look at him?
Coach Sparano:"They move him a lot. They do a bunch of different things with him that way. They run an awful lot of boot and play-actions to get him out of the pocket and have him throw the ball on the run. He's throwing the ball down the field quite a bit right now. When you look at them, they're actually the top team in the league, as far as ball traveling in the air. Meaning, where the ball is from point A to point B, that ball is traveling in the air the most in the league right now. Whether or not they're the top in the league in big plays, they're up there. They've have a bunch of big plays. Most of that has come from their run game. They're throwing it down the field and they've got two guys that can really run. Their tight end is an outstanding football player. He's a matchup problem."
Q: Do you have to prepare for the fact that they might use Johnny Manziel in some specialized way?
Coach Sparano:"You have to prepare for it. I was on with them today and they were asking me about the Wildcat and all of that good stuff. No different. We have to prepare for Johnny to come into the ball game. Just like we had to prepare for [Jets QB] Mike Vick to come into the ball game against the Jets. Obviously, they could have a special package for him. When you get a player like that, you want to try to get him involved a little bit. At this point in the season, special packages are a way to do that."
Q: Derek Carr seems to be a pretty unflappable guy. Is that something you saw when you scouted him and how rare is that for a rookie quarterback to have the poise that he has, considering the circumstances?
Coach Sparano:"I wasn't, at the time, directly involved in the working out process. At that point, [offensive coordinator] Greg [Olson] and 'Flip' [quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo] and Dennis [Allen] had gone out there and done those types of things. I was directly involved in the draft process and the draft room and those sorts of things. I knew what we thought of him. We felt like he had great poise and he was mature beyond his years at this point. That's one of the biggest things that we felt was a positive about him. This kid is really mature. That's proven to be factual right now. He's a guy that comes to work every day, works hard to get better, studies the game well and really doesn't get phased by too much. He's a pretty poised kid."
Q: He's always positive and optimistic. How much does the team feed off of that, especially at a time like this?
Coach Sparano:"I think when you say a time like this, I am assuming you mean that because we're where we are right now. There's 10 football games left right now. There's plenty of reason for us to be positive here. We're not going to, as I said to the team, that's not something that we're even thinking about. We're not settling for it. That's something that could be planted in their head if they fall into the trap, which they won't. That being said, I think it's really positive when a young guy walks out to the practice field and goes out there with the intention to get better. Whether it's young, whether it's veteran, he goes out to the practice field with the intention to get better and has a little fun doing it as well. Just shows the competitive side of him. There's something to be said for that. I don't care whether you're 6-0 or 0-6, it's good to see those things. Sometimes when you're 6-0, they can take it for granted, too. They can go out there and not do those things and just think that we have this great ability and we'll get by with it. Our team practices the other way. They practice hard trying to dig themselves out of where we put ourselves."
Q: Have you gotten more immediate contributions from this rookie class than you think you might have gotten when they were first drafted?
Coach Sparano:"That's interesting. I had a conversation with [General Manager] Reggie [McKenzie] the other night and we were talking about that, and I started to look back at the two drafts that I have been part of here. And you really start to evaluate those drafts. A lot of credit has to go to Reggie and [director of player personnel] Joey [Clinkscales] and those guys upstairs. When you start to evaluate it and you start to look at the kids right now – Derek Carr. You look at all of our picks right now from this year – TJ Carrie and where we picked TJ Carrie right now and his contribution, 'Jelly' [Justin Ellis] and Gabe Jackson. The list just goes on and on and on – Khalil [Mack]. With all those young kids that we drafted, now you're going back to the year before and all of the sudden Menelik [Watson] is making the kind of contribution that you want and those things are starting to come around. We really feel pretty good about that. A kid like [Mychal] Rivera, those type of kids. [We] really feel good about where those young players are right now and where they're headed. Obviously, what those kids need is they need a little bit of success right now and a little bit of validation that way."
Q: Has Mychal Rivera hit a little bit of a lull in terms of the tight end production?
Coach Sparano: "I think Mike has done a good job right now. I don't think that that's a factor in whether or not he has had the kind of catches or not. Obviously, you've seen a couple of drops that Mike has had. Mike would tell you that. Other than that, we have all the confidence in the world in Mychal Rivera. I think he's an outstanding football player and he is a guy that the quarterback really trusts out there. It's just a matter of time here before you start to really feel him and he starts to get involved into the mix too."
Q: Monday you said you had a decision to make at right tackle. Are you any closer to that decision?
Coach Sparano: "No, not right now. Khalif [Barnes] was limited out there today. We're not a whole lot closer and this point. It's really just one practice day. Khalif did finish practice and took the kind of work that we wanted him to take today, which was a good step."
Q: You mentioned David Ausberry on the injury report. Is that a serious injury?
Coach Sparano: "We'll see. Right now, we're still kind of waiting a little bit here to see how that thing falls out. I don't think it's going to be great news at this particular time."