Q. How did practice go for you today?
A. "Practice went well. We had originally planned to practice in pads, but we went through our first two periods in pads and then decided to take them off. They worked very hard yesterday and we've been going for a pretty good stretch here of hitting one another. We had two-a-days yesterday in pads so we thought it would be in our best interest to take the pads off the guys and give them a little rest."
Q. How are some of the position battles shaping up going into the first game?A. "I think there are a bunch of battles on the defense side of the ball. You mentioned cornerback, Chris Owens, and he is going to get an opportunity to play quite a bit. Also, with the defensive tackles, we are going to rotate and try to get a good look at them in different situations. We want to see what Lawrence (Sidbury) is going to be able to do as well. There will be a number of interesting things coming out of this weekend."
Q. Can you talk a little bit on Thomas Johnson?
A. "He is a very explosive player. He can really get off on the ball. He's one of our strongest and heaviest players. He's done a lot of really good things so far in camp."
Q. How are you feeling about substitution patterns?A. "That is a big concern. When you start the preseason and you have 80 guys on the roster, one of the biggest concerns is making sure you've got substitution patterns correct. That really is on us as a coaching staff, not just the players. It's on the coaching staff as well that we get the right guys out there. Not having 11 guys on the field is the one thing that probably irritates a coach more than anything."
Q. How is Michael Turner? He had an outstanding season last year, does it change the expectations?A. "I don't think so. Michael's expectations haven't changed one bit. He plays with a little bit more confidence this year because he knows he can be the number one running back. He's a guy who carried the ball 370 times last year, and I don't think his expectations changed a bit. In terms of what we do with him in the preseason, this year will be different than what we did with him last year."
Q. Today was the 19th practice of the year; could you grade it for us?A. "Well, I'd say it's the good, the bad, and the ugly. There have been some really good things, some bad things, and of course there have been some ugly plays as well. When you're installing and there's the volume of installation going on, that's anticipated. Our guys have worked hard though."
Q. You currently have Brent Grimes listed as number one punt returner on the unofficial depth chart. Is that position still open?
A. "Very much so. We are going to have to get a good evaluation with the punt returning situation. Brent will get an opportunity to catch them. So will Chandler (Williams). We know what Brian Finneran can do. He's done it in a real NFL game. We'll just rotate those guys through camp and preseason games and see how they handle it in a pressure situation in a real game."
Q. How much game planning do you do for the opening game of preseason?
A. "Zero. The first game is really not about our opponent. It's about us. We're going out to compete and win the football game. We've got a set plan in terms of how we want to look at certain players in certain situations. We haven't watched any film on Detroit. We are going to go up and do what we've been practicing and hopefully execute better than we have through camp."
Q. Chris Houston has had a few interceptions in practice lately. Is that an indication of him playing well?A. "Well, I think Chris has improved. This is his third season and he is a guy that I think will continue to get better. It's time for him to make that big step. In that third year that's usually what happens. Chris is gaining confidence and it's his second year in our system so we anticipate that he'll play sufficiently."
TRANSCRIPT:Head Coach Mike Smith talks about the preseason * NOTEBOOK:Smith gives Falcons a break from the heat * BLOGS:J. Michael Moore's blog posts from Aug. 12, 2009 * BLOGS:Reunion at Flowery Branch | Falcons PR Blog * VIDEO:Head Coach Mike Smith