Opening Statement: **"Today, injury-wise: David Ausberry did not practice with a foot; Vincent Brown was full today with a hamstring; TJ Carrie did not practice today with an ankle; Chimdi Chekwa did not practice with a hamstring; Gabe Jackson did not practice with a knee; Keith McGill was limited today with a groin; Jamize Olawale was limited today with a shoulder; Carlos Rogers did not practice with a knee; and Justin Tuck was limited today."
Q: This is not an ideal week to be short on cornerbacks going up against this team, I assume.
Coach Sparano:"No, not an ideal week, but we'll be fine. We've got plenty of time before we play the game, so we'll see where we are here at the end of the week. But we're well aware of where we are at that position right now."
Q: Is Gabe Jackson's injury serious?
Coach Sparano:"I don't know if I would classify it as serious. Whether or not he plays this week, we'll see how it goes toward the end of the week here. We'll have to gauge it tomorrow. So he did his work with the trainers today and we'll see where he is tomorrow."
Q: Is Jackson's injury a sprain?
Coach Sparano:"I'm not going to get into all that."
Q: Khalif Barnes would be next up in that spot?
Coach Sparano:"Yeah, it could be Khalif. Yeah, it could be."
Q: Peyton Manning struggled his rookie season and today said that experience was his best teacher. Do you believe for Derek Carr that going through the ups and downs is going to make him a better quarterback in the future?
Coach Sparano:"Yeah, I think so. I mean, sure. I think anytime you get this kind of experience, it beats the heck out of the other kind of experience where you're just sitting on the sideline and there's an unknown there, when all of a sudden you're called in there and you have to do it. I think that Derek's experience right now in game situations, game management situations, the things that he's seeing, that he learns from every week – I think that's a huge, huge value. As I said the other day, if I were watching this as a fan, if I were watching this as an opponent – any of those things – that would concern me down the road. In other words, that this guy is getting the kind of experience and he's playing at a level that he's playing at right now. For a young quarterback right now – I don't know how many young quarterbacks there are in the league at this point, but I think he's playing as good as any of them right now."
Q: How do you keep the morale up?
Coach Sparano:"Honestly, these guys are really good professionals in the locker room there. We've been really positive. I'm really truthful with them; I think that's important at this point. I think you've got to hear the truth. Sometimes people like hearing the truth, or they say they like hearing the truth unless it's about them and then they really don't want to hear the truth. Our guys hear the truth every single day, and the truth is that our football team is getting better, and that's the truth. We haven't won any football games yet, but we're getting better and we're getting closer and closer to doing that. I know, see, you guys – 'Where are getting better? How are we getting better?' Look, I looked at the last four games and I looked at the previous four games. I know where we're getting better. If there are 25 areas, we're better in 20 of them right now. OK? Better. Is it good enough? Obviously, it hasn't been good enough. So telling these players the truth right now, knowing that they're getting better, they're having some successes in different points in time during the course of some of these games against good people, I think keeps the morale up. Anytime you get competitors in an arena and they get a chance to compete at a high level against a good football team, it's easy to keep their morale up. It's part of their job, too. But it's also part of mine."
Q: You were on the Dallas staff when DeMarcus Ware was there, I assume.
Coach Sparano:"Yeah, I was there when we drafted him."
Q: He appears to be having a pretty solid year this year, and they're bringing him with Von Miller. Are they running these guys off opposite sides or the same side? How are they using them?
Coach Sparano:"They're playing them on opposite sides. Occasionally, you could see them maybe on the same side, but mostly opposite sides. Obviously, if they're on the same side, it's a little easier to grab them. When they're on opposite sides, it's hard to decide where you're going to help and who you're going to help on, so that makes it a challenge. One guy's got – whatever – nine sacks, the other guy's got eight sacks right now; they have 25 sacks as we speak. They're two outstanding rushers. DeMarcus Ware is a phenomenal person, first of all, and he really has been a great player. He was a great player for us in Dallas and I know how dynamic a pass rusher he is. You can see his maturity, and then Von, I've always had a lot of respect for him as a player. They're two dynamic players. It's rare that you'd find two on the same team like that, so it's going to be a heck of a challenge for us."
Q: Around draft day, there were a lot of comparisons of Khalil Mack and Von Miller. Now that you've seen Khalil play some and you've obviously studied Von Miller a lot, are there similarities in style in how they are used? Is that a fair comparison now?
Coach Sparano:"Yeah, there are similarities to how they are used. I think now with DeMarcus there, Von's been used a little bit differently. Where Khalil is more being used as a strong-side player in a strong-side situation for us, at the point of attack in a lot of situations – so with DeMarcus there, they can change that a little bit at this point. I think maybe the job description has changed just a little bit in Von's situation. I still feel that way. I still feel that way at this point, yeah."
Q: With all the snaps that DJ Hayden had the other day, it was kind of a crash course considering he only had five the week before. How did you feel about the way he handed the entire six-week wait in terms of getting his body right, keeping in it mentally and being ready to hit the field being able to contribute fairly quickly?
Coach Sparano:"I was really pleased with the way DJ handled the rehab part of it. I really was. Honestly, you put him in that situation so there's a time limit on the situation, obviously, before we can get him back. He may have been prepared to go out there a little bit earlier than that, but not much earlier than that. We needed the couple weeks to get him ready to go. But I've been more impressed with how he's handled things mentally. He stood involved in the meetings, made sure that his coaches got him his information and those types of things. I think all that has been really good. [Defensive backs coach] Joe Woods and [assistant defensive backs coach] Marcus Robertson have done a good job with him in that way. When he did get called into duty there, it really wasn't a problem mentally. DJ didn't have mental mistakes in the ball game. What he suffered from in the ball game the other day was either, we already rehashed the penalty thing, but fundamentally you don't get that time back when you miss that kind of time. Getting enough reps at in his pedal against speed, getting enough reps at specific techniques and how he's going to play this technique man-to-man wise, those are things that he hadn't been able to get. He's getting them now. He's getting better each day out there at practice."
Q: From the time he was drafted, it seems like he's built himself up in the upper body quite a bit.
Sparano:"He actually has. He's changed his body. That was something that we took note of when he reported in training camp, we reported it. Then I went back through it, I went back through all of the training camp notes during the bye week when this situation occurred here, and one of the things that I noticed was where he was body-weight was prior to this and where he was when he reported to training camp, and where he is right now. He's done a really good job that way, we've kind of been stripping him down and building it back up. He's a bigger, stronger player right now than he was prior to coming in here."
Q: Marcel Reece has had success in the past when used as a tailback. Is that something you might look at to get the running game going?
Sparano:"We can certainly do that. Marcel has had his hands on the football a couple of times. He's been limited the last couple weeks. To be honest with you, I felt like today he moved around the best that I've seen him move in awhile. He's a big back that carries the ball a little bit differently than the other runners that we have. In his opportunities last year, that was something he did a good job of. We'll see. We're just trying to get to a point where we can get enough carries to go around, period. Bringing one more guy into the mix at this point, although it might be great and it might be a spark, it is a thought."
Q: The 36-yard pass interference call the other day… Charles Woodson was on with the Denver media today and said that they should go back to 15-yard interference rules. For that kind of contact, it's just not fair. Would you like to see a change in pass interference rules? Do you think sometimes the reward is bigger than they should get?
Sparano:"Honestly, I'm not going to get too close to that. Charles has a lot more money than I do, a lot. What I will say on that situation is just that, I feel like as the game goes on, when I turn the film on now, I'm watching 190 plays every week. You're going through them several times. I can go through the game and watch it pretty clearly and see some things that maybe weren't called from our end. When I say that, I mean, fouls that we had. At the end of it, I feel like all those things even out."
Q: TJ Carrie injured his ankle, then came back into the game. Is his omission from practice just a sign that he was worse for the wear?
Sparano:"No, he wasn't worse for the wear. It wasn't a precautionary thing. We're just trying to get him through some of this right now and see where he is. We need to get TJ out there, but obviously if he's not ready to go out there we can't put him out there at this point. Today was a rehab day for him. We'll see where he is tomorrow and see if we can get some work out of him tomorrow. To play against the team we're playing, make no mistake about it, your defensive backs need to be out on the field. This quarterback through eight incompletions against us in two games last year. Eight total incompletions, out of 65 attempts. That's [87.7] percent completions. If you're not out there and you're not seeing it, it's going to be hard to play."