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Transcript: Mike Smith news conference


Head coach Mike Smith addressed Roddy White's superb play, as well as the concern with special teams during his Monday news conference

Opening Statement:

"After watching the tape from yesterday's game, I'd like to reiterate a couple things. We talked about mental toughness, perseverance, and resiliency. I think it was very evident when we watched the tape, whether it was a pass interference call, a blocked punt or a 14 point deficit in the first five minutes of the game. I thought that our guys really fought through that and some teams would maybe fold their tents in that situation. I thought that our guys really did a good job and in this League, if you're going to be successful you've got to know how to handle adversity and that was the big test for us yesterday."

On where he feels the team is after the first quarter of the season:

"We're three and one through the first quarter of the season and I think we've had three very, very tough games. As you know, they basically all ended on the last play of the game. They've been hard fought, tight football games. I like where we're at statistically, some of the things that we're doing on the offensive side of the ball where we're third in the League, I think, now in time of possession. We lead the League in interceptions. We've had eight interceptions by seven different players. I think that says a lot about the depth of our defensive team. I like the way that our guys have never quit. They've stayed true to our system in terms of how we do things. I think that that is a good start. We've got a lot of things that we've got to get corrected."

On WR Roddy White and his process of maturing over the last few years:

"Roddy has a great skill set in terms of what you're looking for in a wide receiver. I can't speak for what Roddy was in his first couple of years here. I can speak since I've been here and our staff has been here, he's been nothing but a pleasure to coach. He is a guy that comes out, he's very competitive, he's very passionate, not only about catching the football but he's a guy that doesn't mind mixing it up and blocking. I think he's one of the top receivers in the National Football League."

On what the formula is to get everyone on the same page as a team:

"I think it's not really about me, it's about the players in that room and it's about General Manager Thomas Dimitroff, Owner Arthur (Blank), and President Rich (McKay). We've put together a plan of how we wanted to build our team and our guys have bought into it. We're going to come to work, we're going to have fun, we're going to be communicative and we're going to work hard. I think that the guys understand that. I think that you can work hard and have fun. I think those things can go hand in and hand and I think the guys from the very beginning have seen that it works. It's the foundation and it's our conviction as a coaching staff and as an organization. They know that's the foundation that we've put in place to make us a better football team."

On the mistakes on Special Teams in the first four games of the season:

"It's a big concern. We've got a lot of concerns but you cannot have mistakes on special teams plays. As Special Teams Coordinator, Keith (Armstrong) talks to the special teams guys all the time about, that one play is their series. It's not like you're going out there and having a 10-play drive on offense, or a three or four or five-play drive on defense, it's one play. You've got to go out there and it's 40 yards of field position. We cannot have punts blocked for touchdowns. We cannot have punts returned basically 70 yards and set the offense up inside the five-yard line and we cannot have penalties. They are spot penalties. We had a spot penalty yesterday off of a 27-yard kickoff return and we started the drive on the eight-yard line. Then we're kicking out of our endzone and have a blocking assignment error and a guy comes scott free. Those are things that we address each and every week and we have got to be more effective and efficient on special teams. It's really one third of the game. There's going to be somewhere between 25 and 30 special teams snaps in a football game. They're very, very important because they either involve points, either you're putting points on the board or trying to keep points off the board or there's a large chunk of field position that exchanges hands. On a punt you're looking at 40 yards, on a kickoff there's a large chunk of field position taking place. It is a concern that we have to address. I thought that we did some things very well yesterday in special teams. But the one or two plays, when we have 22 or 23 opportunities to play a special teams snap you can't have those mistakes and those are things that we've got to address."

On the stripping of the ball from 49er's CB Nate Clements by Roddy White:

"Roddy has an extra gear. We've seen it when he's catching balls. That's situational football. That has been talked about, when a receiver has to become a defender, he's had guys that have tried to strip the ball from him numerous times and he understands how to do it. He was able to run him down, get in stride, and punch the ball out. It's something that we work on. Wide Receivers Coach (Terry) Robiskie works on not only on the offensive side, but we also talk about it because there are going to be times that they're going to have to play defense, just like defensive guys are going to have to play offense go up and get the football. It was a big time play by Roddy. The longer the play went, I felt better and better about it. You see this thing happening and you're going 'oh man, this might be a good outcome' and it was. We got the ball out with OG Havery Dahl. We talk about our offensive linemen always running to the football. Harvey was running to the ball, we had a number of other guys down there running basically 50 or 60 yards. This is a big man getting down there and it's a scrum and he gets the ball. It was the play of the game, there's no doubt about it."

On the importance of every play:

"There is not much room in terms of wins and losses in this League. We, as a football team, understand that every play is important. I know it's a cliché but you just don't know what play is going to be the play that makes a difference. There is going to probably be five or six games this season that are going to come down to the last two minutes of the game and you've got to be able to step up and produce when the opportunity arises and that's what this team has done so far."

On calling timeouts to ice the kicker:

"We've been two for two on our icing. I don't know if you guys remember in the Pittsburgh game with 22 seconds to go before halftime, they lined up to kick it and we called a timeout. The kick hit the upright and we were able to take control of the ball and get another series, move down and kick a field goal. That was the first time I'd ever done it with 20 plus seconds on the clock. Then, of course, we did the same thing in New Orleans. I know that somebody's got the statistics out there that it probably doesn't help. I can just speak from the experience that I've had that is has definitely worked for us."

On whether he was concerned about the lack of pass rush in Sunday's game:

"We had one sack and I think that we had three other opportunities to get the quarterback on the ground and we didn't do it. There were some gaudy numbers, I think there was a nine sack game and an eight sack game yesterday, but going into this game, I think we were in the top ten in sacks produced. We definitely are working to get better with pressure, and we are looking to get it with our front four. I thought that DE Kroy Biermann did a good job yesterday; he had a number of quarterback hits. It's not always about the number of sacks. It's about affecting the quarterback and making him know that you are in the vicinity."

On whether he considers S William Moore the starting safety:

"I think that William has done an outstanding job in the opportunities that he's had. Obviously, he's had two interceptions in his three games. Some very big tackles, a forced fumble, a couple of pass breakups, and he's playing very effectively. William is learning, he's learning on the fly in terms of having to go out there and play because of an injury but it's a great situation to have, to have guys that are able to step up into a starting role and be productive. We will go through the week and see how the week goes. We wouldn't want to name our starter right now, because we don't want to give the Cleveland Browns a competitive advantage."


On how much he knows about Browns QB Jake Delhomme and how the familiarity can help them prepare:**

"He's a guy that's played quarterback in the division so we've played him twice a year. He is a veteran quarterback and he's familiar with us. It's going to be an issue where we're going to have to study him a little bit from what he did in Carolina because of the limited snaps he has there in Cleveland but there is familiarity there, that's for sure."


On the difference between Browns QB's Seneca Wallace and Delhomme:**

"I have not spent a whole lot of time watching the Cleveland Browns. I know a little bit about Seneca Wallace in terms of his ability to scramble and run so I really can't answer that. I know that their skill sets, at least when Seneca was coming out, are completely different than Jake's. It will create a different issue for our defensive coaches and defensive players."


On LB Robert James and what the team has to do with him coming off suspension:**

"Robert James is back on the practice field starting today and we do have a League exemption and we'll make decisions on how we will put our 53 man roster together here at the end of the week. We do have a couple of days of exemption when they come back off of suspension. I don't know the exact number on that."

On the game clock malfunctions during Sunday's game:

"I don't know the answer to that. I know it's frustrating, not only for the fans but also for the coaches. There were a couple of times where they had to stop play, I don't know really what the cause of that was."

On whether WR Michael Jenkins will be back for the game against Cleveland:

"I can say this, all 53 of our guys on our roster will be participating in practice on Wednesday for the first time this season. We don't have to give an injury report until Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. but I will give you guys that information. I met with the trainers and all 53 guys will, we will have nobody that will not participate in practice. Of course, we'll have guys limited based on the bumps and bruises from this game."

On whether there was more emphasis on passing due to circumstances in the game:

"Going into this game we knew that that front seven was a very stout front seven. LB Patrick Willis, probably one of the top linebackers in the League. LB Takeo Spikes, LB Manny Lawson, DE Justin Smith, we knew that there would be some tough sled. Of course, when you fall behind 14 to nothing with 55 minutes left to go in the ballgame, we kind of got into a situation where we felt that we needed to move the ball through the air. Again, our whole plan going into it is trying to be as balanced of a football team as we can be. When you're balanced it does not give the opposing team an idea of what you're trying to get done. We've been able to do that for the most part this season."

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