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Transcript: Head Coach Mike Smith post-practice interview


How did the first practice in full pads go?

"I thought that the effort was definitely there. Again, the first time you go out in pads, the first time we've practiced since late December or January 1st, so there were a lot of things that we've got to correct, but the effort was there. Just getting the feel for being in your pads is the big thing this first day. We had some high pads (pad level) and I think we'll see tomorrow that it will even go a little bit smoother."

Is there a higher energy level when practicing in full pads?

"Oh of course, always when you have your first padded practice the energy level is higher and ramped up. It's really the first time that these guys have played football, albeit we weren't tackling today. It's the first time that they've really played football with their uniforms on. It was a fun, spirited practice this morning."

How does the goal of remaining injury-free conflict with having physical practices?

"It is very conflicting because you have to go out and you have to work and have contact against each other. The thing that we talk about all the time with our guys, we preach it to them, is we've got to make sure we take care of one another. If anybody is in a compromising position we need to make sure that we lay off. There were a couple of times today that I thought we had some guys in some positions that we probably shouldn't have hit them. We will address that with them, we did after practice and we will do it in our film study as well. We've got to make sure that we don't hit somebody when they are in a defenseless position. The other thing we're doing is that we're trying to stay high, there will be no cut blocks until Friday night when we have our scrimmage."

How was LB Sean Weatherspoon's energy?

"Sean is a very passionate player and I think it showed today. He made a couple of nice plays on the ball. He had a really nice interception. His head is swimming, it is new for him but I really like the energy level that he came out and played with. That's what we've got to have across the board. I think our guys have always come out and been contagious with their energy level."

Do you like to see Sean come out and hit hard?

"He didn't know. When he made that hit he thought we were in a thud situation, we weren't really in a thud situation. But he's learned it from day one to day two, not only from me talking with him but some of the guys that were wearing the other color jerseys talking to him. That's all part of it, we'll make sure that they know what the tempo is in practice."

Do you call that a thud situation when the players are allowed to hit one another?

"When we say thud, we're not taking him down to the ground. We're thudding him up, just giving him a little pop and not trying to wrap up and take him down to the ground."

Has your philosophy changed through the years being here or has it stayed the same?

"I think it's been very consistent. We're going to be a physical football team that controls the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and I think the only way that you can do that is to get out there and have a physical training camp. Now, we're going to try to be as smart as we can. The one thing that I think is different from year one and year two is that we have familiarity with one another. They know how the sequencing of practice goes now. I think that's probably the only difference. It's still a very, very physical camp. This week especially. This is going to be the longest stretch where we will go consecutive days in pads and I think that once we get past this week it will ease up for everybody."

What happened to RB Jerious Norwood?

"Jerious has a hip flexor that he tweaked yesterday in practice. We kept him inside today, again with regards to the other injured players; you saw WR Brian Finneran was back out on the field today from his back spasms. CB Dunta Robinson, we kept Dunta out again today with tightness in his hamstring. We, with our older players especially that have got some age on them, we are going to be very cautionary in terms of getting these guys back out there."

Was the hip what Jerious injured last year?

"Yes it was. No, it's not the same injury but it's in the same general area, but it is not the same injury. He'll come out and try to do something this afternoon based on how he felt with his treatment in the training room this morning."

Does RB Antoine Smith move up as a result of Norwood's injury?

"Antoine moves up and so does RB Dimitri (Nance) both of those guys will get some more reps. Of course it gives RB Jason Snelling a little bit of a bigger workload as well. We feel really good about all those running backs. They all have a little different skill set. When you start talking about Michael and then Jerious and then Jason, and then Dimitri and Antoine. It's a very diverse group that gives us a lot of flexibility in what we can do in terms of how we want to present offensive plays and strategies to them."

Can you talk about Antoine Smith's evolution since coming in late last year?

"Antoine was a late addition to our roster, so he was basically just running cards last year because he came in and was on our practice squad simulating the opponent's offense. He's had a chance to learn our system. Running Backs Coach (Gerald) Brown has done a really good job I think, not only with Antoine, but with all those guys. I think he's got a chance. He's got that third down shifty niftiness. He's not the biggest in stature but I think he's just short, I don't think he's a small back."

How do you feel about having WR Harry Douglas back?

"Going to be feeling a whole lot better when we get him through an entire practice. Harry is probably of our three post-op guys, the guy that is ahead of them and will be the first guy back to get into some full contact. We will continue to ramp all three of those guys up in terms of what they're doing in practice. That actually started today, Harry did some more things in today's practice than he did last week. As we go through this week we are going to integrate him into full practices."

What is another competitive position battle besides cornerback?

"I know everybody has talked about our corner position as being a big battle, but I think our defensive tackle there's definitely some very good competition there. I think when you add DE Jamaal Anderson into the mix as a sub-defensive tackle when he's going to reduce down in, it just makes it even more competitive. I think there's no doubt we have DT Jonathan Babineaux as one of our starters. We're certainly hoping that DT Peria (Jerry) comes back. DT Thomas Johnson and DT Vance Walker played, and I've been very impressed with DT Corey Peters through his time here so far, this was the first time in pads. I am very anxious to get up there and watch this practice and see how he performed in full pads. I think it's going to be a very, very competitive situation all through camp. We'll have also some flexibility in terms of how many tackles we'll keep on our roster, based on the ability to move Jamal Anderson in, in our sub-package. When we put our 53 man roster together that will be a very big discussion in terms of how we're going to do it and how many defensive tackles, defensive ends we'll keep."

On the kind of player Thomas Johnson is.

"Thomas started 11 games for us. Thomas is a very strong defensive tackle, probably our heaviest defensive tackle. He's got very good upper body strength. He is really more of a base player than a sub player; he's not a guy that will get a whole lot of snaps in our sub package. He is a guy that can penetrate and can make plays in the backfield. As we add Peria (Jerry) back into the mix later on this week and into next week I think it's really going to ramp up that competition."

What is the status of TE Colin Peek?

"Nothing new on Peek. Peek stayed in there. Like I said the other day, it's going to be a while. When I say it'll be a while before he gets back out here. Right now we're keeping him in, getting as much treatment as we can."

Is there any competition between WR Eric Weems and Harry Douglas now that he's back?

"I think Eric is a guy that has not only got value as a wide receiver, but he's a guy that has showed that he can be a returner in this League. Even though he doesn't have home run speed, he's a guy that gets the ball north and south when he's returning punts and kickoffs. He's also, if he's not our returner, he's actually one of our best gunners and our best cover guys as well. You want that third, fourth, and fifth wide receiver to be guys that can contribute on special teams and that's the thing that Eric does so well. He's probably one of our core players, if you had to say who our top five special teams players are you would have to mention Eric Weems. Harry I think is beginning to get back into it. Whether he's going to be a guy that's going to be in the mix in terms of returning punts and kickoffs this year, I think it's way too early to tell."

Discussing Defensive Coordinator Brian VanGorder during practice.

"Brian coaches with passion every practice. Again, it was a situational practice today that we spent a number of snaps working on third down and third down was our Achilles heel last year, so I think maybe that was one of the reasons we were coaching in that segment."

Do you think you need to tighten the screws?

"We need to be, and again you have that familiarity with each other, you've got to kind of change things up. I think it's important for the players to know what to expect but at the same time there's got to be a little bit of doubt. They can't know exactly what's going to happen in each move of each practice."

Did you do anything different with RB Michael Turner in training camp last year to keep him fresh?

"No, we didn't. I think that one of the reasons that Michael doesn't feel too bad on Mondays is because he is a very compact runner. When he runs, basically it's just shoulder pads and knees. There's not a whole lot of surface to hit. He's got a great low center of gravity. I think that takes some of the wear and tear off of him. Last year's injury, I don't think was based on a workload, it actually happened early in the season. It was a freak injury with his ankle and we weren't able to get him totally healed. I think Michael is really come into this offseason with the mindset that, 'hey I'm not going to be a one year wonder, I'm going to be a very productive running back and a very productive player for a very long time in this League'. He's a young guy, he's a very physical guy. I know Michael has talked about it last year, (2008) was a long season for him. He had to go play in the Pro Bowl, most carries, I mean he basically had 120 more carries in one season than he had in his entire career so he wasn't really used to the pacing of an offseason with a full workload. I think he has a much better understanding of that. He spent a whole lot more time this offseason working with our athletic performance group, (Director of Athletic Performance) Jeff Fish and (Head Athletic Trainer) Marty (Lauzon). We expect that he's going to really come out and play very, very efficiently for us."

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