Opening statement: "Thursday's injury report: **"Injuries today: Khalif Barnes did not practice with a quad; Vincent Brown did not practice today with a hamstring; Derek Carr was full today; Keith McGill did not practice today with a groin; Sio Moore was full today; Marcel Reece did not practice today with a quad; Justin Tuck did not practice today with a knee; Usama Young was full today; and then Benson Mayowa was full today with a little tendonitis, patella tendonitis."
Q: How did DJ Hayden look out there?
Coach Sparano:"He looked good yesterday, got a chance to run around, and then today I thought the good news is we came in here today, there was no setback, there was none of that this morning, and went back out there today, was excited and did a good job in practice today. So we're just, like I said, we're trying to gain some small successes with him right now and it's a couple days in a row here, so we'll see how it goes here tomorrow with him. We'll see where we are."
Q: He said yesterday that he thinks he's ready. Of course he's going to say that, but is there any chance he could play in this game?
Coach Sparano:"I'm not sure of that right now. We'll sit there and we'll talk about it here as a coaching staff. But he's missed so much time, what you have to be concerned with is really there's a difference in being ready to play and being in football shape and ready to play. He was in pads yesterday, which was good. We were not in pads today, obviously, so he's really had one padded practice in an awful long time in that type of shape. I think those are all things you have to consider right now. What you don't want to do is put him back in a situation where he's not ready and something else happens."
Q: Are there any concerns over Justin Tuck's injury at this point?
Coach Sparano:"Obviously, he hasn't practiced, so you always have concerns about it. It's serious enough for him not to practice at this point. But Justin's a good pro and he's working hard on getting himself ready to play. We'll see. I don't really need to see an awful lot of Justin Tuck right now to make that decision, and we don't have to make that decision right now. We'll see where we are here tomorrow."
Q: Was he worse off for going back into the game?
Coach Sparano:"No, I don't think so."
Q: It was a few years ago when Darren McFadden had one of his really big years and the coaches went to him and asked what plays he likes to run, and then cut the plays to only ones he likes to run. Did some of that go on last week?
Coach Sparano:"No, not really with Darren. More when we came here – when I say we, I mean [offensive coordinator] Greg [Olson] and myself – one of the things that we did was we really catered – or tailored, I should say – the game plan within the run game plan a little bit more to Darren's strengths at the time. That has been consistent pretty much through. We ran the ball really well a year ago, and in spurts this year, have run the ball well, but just not enough and that type of stuff. I don't think we've done anything different there. What we've done is we've looked at what he, Maurice [Jones-Drew], Latavius [Murray], have done well to date within our scheme and just try to incorporate a few more of those, a few more plays like that and format them differently or do some things that way. We've been able to do some of that and each week I'm up with a new little different wrinkle that suits those guys' skill sets."
Q: What are McFadden's strengths?
Coach Sparano:"I think first of all is his speed, but the guy can really run. I think he's got good vision, sees things really clear, and one of the things I really believe is when you get down there inside the 5-yard line, since I've been here and he's had the ball in that range and in that area of the field, he scored touchdowns. I think that's a strength. The other thing I think Darren does well is he protects well. He's not afraid to put his nose in there and protect, so he's not a player that you have to take out in those situations, which gives you the speed on the field in third down. He's a pretty versatile player that way."
Q: At the start of the year, Maurice was kind of in that primary back role and Darren was coming in more sparingly. I know that Jones-Drew has been injured some, but has that flipped now?
Coach Sparano:"Well, yeah, it's flipped a little bit just in that Darren came in and Darren did a really good job when Mo was out in the couple games that we've asked him to get involved in. But there's still very much a need to have both players out there. So, my point there is there are very few running backs in our league right now that are one-trick ponies, they're the only show in town, and I think that you have to have – with the way the game is played right now – two guys back there that can share the workload and do that so that you can keep the number of snaps down, particularly when you're seeing as much pressure as you're seeing in our league from protection standpoints and those things that wears on those backs. We need both of them and getting Maurice back and getting Maurice involved last week, and he being productive, was a really good step for our team."
Q: At least media-wise, McFadden has kept the same outward attitude whether he's averaging three yards per carry or five yards. Do you see any difference in him at all when he does get the payoff, or is he still the same guy?
Coach Sparano:"No, I think he's pretty much the same guy. I just think there was a couple of opportunities in the game the other day when Darren got out there to the second level and just got nicked one way or the other in the leg area there where he kind of was upset that he didn't kick out of it and make the big, long run. But that will come, there's no question about it. It will come. Every time he gets a ball, there's the threat of that big, long run happening, when he gets the ball in his hands. So I don't see any difference in Darren from the time that I've gotten here until now, [attitude-wise]. He's always been really positive, upbeat about what we're doing. I think he likes what we're doing in the run game and what we're asking him to do that way. He just, right now, he's got a lot of juice to him right now and that's been really good."
Q: Are you happy with the push you're getting inside defensively?
Coach Sparano:"Again, I thought in the game last week, we had some good push inside there at times. The pocket closed. C.J. [Wilson] did a good job of stepping up in there a few times and pushing the pocket. I thought Pat Sims had a couple of good pushes – 'Jelly' [Justin Ellis] and Antonio [Smith]. Antonio forces people to double team him quite a bit. You've got to get two hats on him, so they're kind of turning their protection to him a little bit in some situations like that. So that's been really good, but again, we've got to win some more one-on-one matchups. Would I like to see it better? Absolutely, I'd like to see it better, particularly on third down. We just got off the practice field out there on third down and when it's an emphasis the way it is for us right now, you're never satisfied. So I always want that to be better."