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Spurrier Speaks on the Day Before Camp
Q: What needs to be different from year one to year two?
A: We hope to be better organized. We hope to be fundamentally sounder than last year. That means secure the football, don't carry it loosely. We'll go over things like that. We'll try to stay onsides on offense and defense and try to be fundamentally a better team. Until we do it it's only talk. But we'll try to coach better this year. At times people say Patrick really struggled against New Orleans last year. But we had some bad plays on. When you don't have many good plays on against what they're doing and the quarterback can't get to a good one, the coach has to take responsibility for that. We're going to try to get to good plays. We have the players who can execute.
Q: Last year you were putting the team together and Patrick had the long holdout. How much difference will it be to be more settled in that regard?
A: It didn't work out last year for a lot of players who we thought would be here for a while and lead us to a championship. We didn't realize Patrick was our best quarterback until late in the season. We've added a lot of wide receivers from last year and we've been able to practice with all of these guys. Laveranues was here the first day. Patrick got about 80 percent of the snaps in the offseason. Patrick is much, much more prepared to play right now than at any time last year.
Q: Can you see him still getting that many snaps?
A: He'll still get most of him. But we also have to get Rob Johnson ready to go. He knows our offense very well. It seemed like a couple years ago they brought a player in late in the preseason to be their quarterback. That's not what you like to do.
Q: Doing anything different this summer?
A: We'll go out there and practice similarly to what we've done in the past. We'll have referees out there more to make sure we're playing by the rules. We'll try to emphasize doing the little things correctly like taking care of the ball and run with it correctly. Again until we prove that we smarter it's all talk.
Q: With Hue as your offensive coordinator will you wander to the defense more or still be the quarterback coach?
A: I'll still call the plays. I'm the playcaller. Mr. Snyder didn't hire me to be the organizational chief. But what Hue has done is allow me to have more time with the entire team. And also Hue meets with the line coach and receivers coach to make sure we're all together with the terminology and what we're teaching our players. He's done an excellent job making sure our players know what to do. We've had more meetings as a staff. Sometimes I'm not there with them. Hue's done an excellent job. George Edwards same with the defense. But the terminology is the same there.
Q: You've had a lot of time to look at these guys, but now that you get the pads on what are some of the things you're most anxious to see?
A: Again, defensively we only lost one player who went to Denver and he's hurt right now. We're looking forward to getting Jeremiah Trotter back at full speed. Defensively we have a solid group of guys. What we need to do is have more big plays. We didn't have a lot of defensive scores or turnovers, although we were good at not giving up yardage. Offensively maybe the biggest thing besides the quarterback are the two guards we have in. Randy Thomas and Dave Fiore. We really struggled at that position last year. Sometimes you don't realize what a weak link can create for your entire team.
Q: You've added a lot of talent, but a lot of jobs won't be open. Where will the most intense competition be?
A: That's a good question. I don't have the exact answers as to how it will all play out, if someone gets hurt or some player come out of nowhere and plays well in the preseason games. But there will be competition at the safety position. There could be some for the fourth, fifth and sixth wide receiver. We have seven or eight players here who are really good. Other than that I don't know where the most will be. And running back. Trung will get the first shot there. Ladell Betts is much better prepared to play. Kenny Watson and Chad Morton. Chad is a very good running back and kick returner.
Q: Could you see keeping all four of those guys?
A: It's hard to dress out all four tailbacks. We'll have to see how that plays out. Three tailbacks with one being kick returner and a couple fullbacks is about all you get. We'll see how that plays out.
Q: What did you learn about the NFL from last year to help you this year?
A: Everyone asks me that and I don't have the exact answer. But what I learned is that you lose in the NFL the same way you lose in college and high school and Pop Warner. If you have more turnovers and are in the bottom of the league in turnover ratio your chances aren't very good. If you can't punt the ball, get it off, can't kick field goals--our kicking game wasn't solid. We juggled quarterbacks. Hopefully we've strengthened things, like pass protection. You can't throw without solid pass protection. What we've all learned is that we needed better players. If you're struggling --and 7-9 is struggling--then you need to get better players or coaches. Mr. Snyder said we need to get better players so we did. He did his part so now it's up to us players and coaches to prove he's right and get the job done.
Q: You have 17, 18 new guys who will be starters or backups. In this day and age is chemistry something you need to work on? A: All these players have been here in the offseason, minicamps, coaching sessions. Certainly I believe one-third of the team will be new players. Our team has changed a bit. But the chemistry, we've been working at that since our first minicamp.
Q: Who's the most impressive in the battle for the third string QB?
A: I hate to get into that now. Gibran was a draft pick and we think he has a big-time future. Brad was the Heisman runner-up. He's mobile and he gives you different things. We'll see how that works out.
Q: At what point last year did you think you needed to get more speed or better players?
A: At the end of the year....You got your team and this is your team and you do the best you can with it. I'm proud of our guys for hanging in there. We won our last two, but those teams weren't the top teams in the league. We did manage to hang in there. At the end of any season you evaluate where you are and what you need to do to improve your team. Mr. Snyder was aggressive with free agents and that's really improved our team. But we have to go play and prove that.
Q: What plans do you have for sifting through your defensive line candidates?
A: I'm not sure how they have those guys lined up exactly. We do expect Dan Wilkinson to report today. We're trying to renegotiate his deal. Regan Upshaw, Renaldo Wynn, not know who will start there next to Dan. We expect to have 6-7 players rotate and play a lot. Bruce will be in the mix also.
Q: How is Ladairis Jackson?
A: He's back, we'll bring him back slowly for the preseason. During two a days he'll only practice once a day.
Q: What is acceptable to you this year?
A: You don't ever put an exact number on it.Certainly we expect to have a winning season. Our goals haven't changed since last year. We thought we had a team that could win the division. I was wrong. Philly was a lot better than everyone expected last year. They've lost a lot of players to free agency. Whether or not they're as strong time will tell. The Giants were a playoff team also. The Cowboys should be improved. Our goals will start with winning the division. I'm not saying we're going to, but that's our goal. If we don't do it we'll be disappointed.
Q: Was personnel the hardest thing for you to catch up with?
A: You could say that. Obviously a lot of the Florida players didn't work out as well as hoped. Taylor is the only one here now. Robert Gillespie who played in Europe is here too. Just finding out who your players are and go from there. I was encouraged the way Patrick came around, from the middle to the end. He's a wonderful young man to coach and he has a chance to be a big-time player.
Q: How will you handle Trotter?
A: He'll be limited also.
Q: Anyone else?
A: All those coming off knee injuries. Bruce Smith got his knee cleaned up in the offseason. Any player that had surgery will probably go once. And we're not going two a days every day. We do have two a days Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Then after that it'll be once on Thursday and two on Friday and go like that.
Q: How much time will Patrick get in the preseason games?
A: You play that by feel. Certainly you like to protect him when he's in there. He's a tough young man and preseason games are practice games and you try to prepare for the season. We try to win. But we found out last year that maybe our backup players were better than the other teams backups. But once the real guys started they weren't quite as good. How much Patrick will play, I don't know. He's not a 10-year vet so he'll go play, make some audibles, make some mistakes and learn from them. We'll try to balance it to where he has the right amount of time.
Q: Do you think you overvaluaed the preseason last year?
A: We maybe got misled a little bit in the preseason. It seems like the other teams didn't play their starting defensive guys. Then when the real season started it seemed like we were overwhelmed a little bit. We're going to try and win the games. You just have to play and try to win and play everybody. Any time you keep score, you're supposed to try and win it.
Q: Will Barker get your first shot at punter?
A: Yes, he and Bartholomew are here. John Hall is our kicker. Bryan and Brent are going at it for the punting position. Bryan is an excellent holder and he's fully recovered from his broken nose. He said he's going to wear the same old facemask.
Q: Who would be your next holder if Bryan doesn't make it.
A: I don't know who that would be.
Q: You were frustrated by the little mistakes last year, did you look back and say there were things you could have done differently?
A: We did a few things differently. We stuck 10 dollar fines on guys who jumped offsides and things of that nature. We enforced it. And we had fewer offsides and jumps and illegal procedures. Hopefully we emphasized it and will continue to emphasize it. We fumbled way too many times.
Q: When did you start the fines?
A: In the minicamps. It went into a pot for the players. Guys have been much better.
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