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Sparano Talks Injuries, New Acquisitions, More


Opening Statement: **"Injury report today: Khalif Barnes, he has a quad, he did not practice today; Derek Carr, ankle, knee, and he was limited today; Keith McGill, a groin, he was limited today; Sio Moore, ankle, was limited today; and Marcel Reece, quad, was limited today. That's the injury report."

Q: Can you go into the decision of placing Nick Roach on injured reserve?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, obviously it was a hard decision to make, one that we felt at this particular time was in the best interest of the team. But, after consulting with our doctors and other doctors at this point in time, it was a decision that we needed to make, so we had to move on, and unfortunately that's what we did."

Q: Have you seen something like this before, someone having a concussion and going on injured reserve?

Coach Sparano:"I've only witnessed this one other time and it was my previous life and that is it happened one time to me. In this situation here, with Nick [Roach], it's been, if I'm correct, right around 45 days, maybe 46 days since we had Nick. So, an awful long period of time and the indications at that point there weren't getting a whole lot better."

Q: Was it a case of it would take a couple of weeks or that they don't know? Is it possible that he would have these symptoms the rest of the year?

Coach Sparano:"I don't know that I had that feeling in the conversations that I had, but it was certainly going to take a little while longer and it was open-ended at the end of it."

Q: How much of a blow is it to lose him?

Coach Sparano:"It's certainly a blow, no question about it. Nick [Roach] was one of our defensive leaders. No question about that. He's a guy that we rely an awful lot on. But, it's one of the body blows that goes on in our business. Every week, every team suffers the same thing. That's what I call them, I call them body blows. We haven't had Nick for quite some time, we've had to make other plans. We've obviously signed a couple of the linebackers here right now, with bringing in Jamar and Ray-Ray. We've had to move on in that situation, so it's hard whenever you lose a veteran player like that, but Nick Roach is one of the classiest men and one of the best pros I've been around."

Q: Jason Tarver said in training camp that for the first time in a long time there was depth at the linebacker position. How would you describe the state of the linebacker group right now?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, be careful right? Well, today it was pretty good. Actually, getting Sio [Moore] back out on the field today, even though it was in a limited basis, was good. Adding two linebackers that are young players, that are out there, that both kind of have different job descriptions right now and different skill sets for us, that was good to see. I thought they moved around really good for their first day out there. So, I mean it's our job to get them ready to play and up and moving, but we walked out on the practice field today with five or six linebackers. That hasn't happened in a long time."

Q: How did Sio Moore look?

Coach Sparano:"I thought Sio looked good. He looked good for being out there for his first day and did some things. We were really careful with him today, but hopefully we'll just see how tomorrow goes and when he gets back in here and we don't have any setbacks."

Q: How would you assess the way Miles Burris has played at middle linebacker for Nick Roach?

Coach Sparano:"I think that Miles has done an outstanding job right now, stepping up into that position. You've seen the statistics throughout the several games that he's played, he's been in and around a lot of tackles. It's really a different job for Miles. He's one of the guys that when we look back, as was stated before, and we thought we had all this depth at linebacker, that we felt really good about because Miles can do a lot of jobs. He can play three positions out there, you can plug him in any place. Now we've had to settle him down in there at one position recently, and I think he's done a really nice job for us that way. He's responsible to get us lined up, he wears a lot of hats out there right now, so I think he's done a good job."


Q: How did Derek Carr look today? What has been your assessment of him through four games?**

Coach Sparano:"Well to answer the first part of the question, I thought Derek moved around well today. I've seen his progression for the last several days, through his treatment and then through practice the other day and then practice today, so I thought he got better today and moved around better. We'll see what he's like again tomorrow. As far as the second part of the question goes, my assessment is that he's getting better and better every week. He's getting better and better command of what it is that we're doing offensively and what [offensive coordinator] Greg [Olson] and [quarterbacks coach] John [DeFilippo] are doing with him upstairs. I think those guys have done an outstanding job with them. This guy has got real leadership qualities and some of the quarterbacks that I've been around that have been really good quarterbacks, have those kind of qualities, and Derek certainly has them. I think he learns well from his mistakes. He's not afraid to get criticized. He's critical of himself. Those are all good qualities to have in a young quarterback right now. So, he'll continue to grow. He's had some bumps along the way here, bumps in the road, and he learns from them. But, we're happy with what he's done."

Q: He's got to be a rookie but at the same time be a leader. How does he handle that?

Coach Sparano:"I had a good conversation with him about that actually, the day this whole thing went down, I visited with him and we got a chance to talk about that. I said to him, 'This is your football team, you're the quarterback. We don't have time for you to be a rookie right now. This team needs you to step up and be that leader. Don't sit around and wait to do that.' Derek's DNA, he wants to go out there and do that, he wants to be the leader. So, just by the way he goes about his business in the classroom and out on the field and how hard he works. We had a really good conversation and he knows that he has to wear that hat. He knows that comes with the position and he's excited about that."

Q: His yards per attempt is pretty low. Would you like to see more things downfield?

Coach Sparano:"Yeah, obviously through the evaluation in the last week here, we're well aware of where we are that way and with what we've completed and how far and how long and how many yards after the catch, and where we are there, all those things are areas that we have to improve in, but pushing the ball down the field is something that we feel like we can do with Derek [Carr] and certainly something that we'd like to do here going forward. Him completing passes and all right now is a good start. We're getting the ball completing, now we've got to do something after we catch the football a little bit, with some of those things, and at the same time be able to push the ball down the field a little bit more."

Q: How have you broken down the coaching of the offensive line since you're the head coach now?

Coach Sparano:"[Quality control coach – offense] Justin Griffith has been with me since I got here, and Justin has done a nice job understanding my system and the way that I go about doing things. I have a lot of confidence in him. There have been some periods out there where I've gone over in special teams period and had to be involved in that period there, where Justin has done some of the individual stuff and then Mark Hutson, my tight ends coach as well, having Al Saunders on the staff to be able to bounce around with some of those skill positions, giving Al the tight ends and 'Hut' [Mark Hutson] coming over and helping out a little bit too in some of those individual periods. But, the core of it I'm coaching and certainly I'm in the run game and those things, still my portion of the game plan and all that. So, I spent six hours yesterday drawing run game pictures."

Q: How much does the lack of opportunities running the ball been a factor?

Coach Sparano:"Honestly, and this is not an excuse, you'll learn that I don't really make them, but it's been largely due to the fact that we haven't had the opportunity to do that. If you really take a look at us right now, we've played about six quarters in two-minute offense out of 16. In order to do that, you're just not running the football, and you can't go out there and run the football. For us to line up in two backs when we're out several scores and start handing the football off like that, I mean, that doesn't make good sense. So, we've got to get out there and try to give ourselves a chance to get back in the football game. Obviously, it's something that we need to do. My history says, and if you go and look back at it, the number of rushing attempts, number of completions, and you start adding those things together and look at the win-loss ratio, it's pretty high, number of rushing attempts, number of completed passes. It's pretty high in this league."

Q: You also brought in a new wide receiver this week in Kenbrell Thompkins. What does he bring?

Coach Sparano:"First of all, I know where he's come from and I know several of the coaches over there. I know how he's been coached. But he's a player that I've played against before and he jumped out at me. I think he brings a little bit different skillset. He's a big kid that can really run, a smart guy out there on the field, and has been a pretty solid player, a good pro. So we're excited about him. We've just got to get him up to speed here as we go along here. It didn't take very much for Vincent [Brown] to get up to speed a couple weeks ago, so we'll get him up and ready to go."

Q: What improvement have you seen from Menelik Watson from training camp up until now?

Coach Sparano:"Early in training camp, I thought Menelik started really well, then there was a lull in training camp there. Then I thought he picked it back up and really in the last three weeks, he's really done some good things. Prior to us heading out to New England, he had a good, solid week of practice and then the Patriot week and in London, had a good solid week of practice. He's getting better and better. He's still a young player. When you look at Menelik based on what happened last year, you really have to treat him like a rookie in your approach to things. You're starting all over again with him and he's really done a good job that way and I think he's getting better and better each week. He'll have his hands full this week, it's a big challenge. We'll see what happens here as we get going here towards the end of the week with Khalif [Barnes], but he'll be involved in the game."

Q: Last week, Denarius Moore was inactive. Does he get a fresh start with you, or is he still a bottom-of-the-depth-chart guy?

Coach Sparano:"I'm going to let my eyes do the talking here and continue to evaluate and do those type of things. To me, right now we're talking about moving on and we're talking about starting with a clean slate and all that stuff, and I believe in that. One thing that Bill Parcells drilled into my head, literally, is that you start it off with a clean slate and you let your own eyes do the talking for you and kind of believe what you see. So I'm going to go out there and that's the way I'm going to approach it."

Q: In general, are you optimistic that Derek will play on Sunday?

Coach Sparano:"In general – and I'm not avoiding your question, OK? – but I'm really just worried about tomorrow. He did some work out there today and I kind of want to see what he's like tomorrow. I've made some statements before in some of these scenarios and then the next thing you know, you guys show up to practice out there and all of a sudden that player hadn't been out there. I don't want to do that in this situation here, but he had a good day today."

Q: What are your impressions of Latavius Murray? Are you happy with Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew or would you like to see more out of Murray? Coach Sparano:"I've been really happy with both Darren and Maurice and really pleased. Again, unfortunately we haven't had a chance to really ride those guys a little bit. We want to get to that. We want to get to a point where we're doing that. But Latavius I've been impressed with because he's been really unselfish. He's done a really good job on special teams for us in several areas. He's worked really hard in that area. When he's been given the opportunity to go in football games, whether it be preseason or regular season, he's been solid in protection and he's run the ball hard. He gives you a little different dimension because he's a bigger type of a back certainly. They all have different skillsets and he's a bigger back that can push the pile a little bit."

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