NEW YORK (RUSHPRNEWS)JULY 24, 2008 – Q: Is Kiwi going to start off with just one practice a day or is he..because, coming off of the leg injury..? A: Oh, I gotcha, I don’t know if that’s been determined yet. I think a lot of that is going to depend on how these guys get examined when they come back into camp tonight or tomorrow. That’s a good question.
Q: Same thing with Clark?
A: Yes, that’s my impression, that they’ll be evaluated as they go through camp and even evaluated on a day to day basis. You know, it’s not like a blanket, â€˜Ok you’re going to go one a day for the next two weeks’, it’s kind of being evaluated on a day to day basis. I don’t think that will be determined until these guys show up, you know because they’ve been out of touch for the last couple weeks.
Q: Does Gerris start first at weak side linebacker..is he the first guy up?
A: Yes, just because he’s been here and he’s familiar with the system and just based on that type of merit, I don’t think there’s anybody else more deserving of it. But, he knows he is fighting for a job, he fully understands that and so do the other guys who are competing with him.
Q: Was it fair to say that last year with Kawika Mitchell, is it fair to say that was going to be a fight before Gerris got hurt?
A: I think absolutely. And he was having a good camp, you know he tweaked his knee in camp, I think it was our first 9 on 7 drill. Although, I thought Kawika had a good Spring, and obviously he had a very good year for us, but yes..
Q: I mean that wasn’t in your mind, well, it’s a done deal when you signed Mitchell?
A: Oh, no, definitely not that way, and not even coming out of Spring ball, although I thought Kawika had a good spring, but so did Gerris.
Q: But sometimes, coaches say they want this guy to win the job, you know, I mean, Gerris has been here, he knows the system, he’s a fairly high draft pick, and I know its not a preference thing, but do you want him to win it, because this is what he’s developed to do?
A: That’s a fair question, One, yeah, he was drafted by the franchise, so you’re hoping for guys like that to have success. I don’t know if I’d say that strongly that we want him to have the job. We want the best player to have the job, you know what I mean, the best performer in the preseason, but sure, you’re partial to the guys you draft, I mean that’s why you draft them. And drafting a player is an entire franchise decision, you know, so you feel every bit a part of it as a position coach, just like the personnel people do and the GM, head coach and all that. So, yeah you’re hoping Gerris is what we expected him to be when he came out of college, but you know you want the best player to get the job.
Q: And when he was drafted, I remember you and others said this guy is going to be a starter, not a back up type of guy..
A: Yes, I can remember him distinctly coming out, playing at Georgia Tech… my evaluation of him, I thought he would be a good NFL player and I still think he will be.
Q: What’s Clark’s status?
As far as health? Oh I was just mentioning it, I think it will be evaluated when guys come in and report for camp tomorrow. But, he’ll be practicing. I’ve talked to him over the summer, he’s been running and so we anticipate him lining up at the first practice. Absolutely.
Q: What about Kiwi and his health?
A: I think all these guys, these question mark guys are going to be re-evaluated coming into camp tomorrow, as far as how much and how often and all that stuff.
Q: Tom mentioned something about him pushing the trainers to be more than a one a day guy, do you anticipate him being at least once a day from the get go?
A: Oh, yes, they’re all..I don’t think anybody is sitting out tomorrow, or I’m sorry, Friday. They’re all going to practice. But, you’re right, there are some guys they’re going to keep an eye on based on off season surgeries, that kind of stuff. But, yeah, nobody is sitting, no everybody will be out there at the first practice Friday morning.
Q: Now, you would say the weak side spot, you have Gerris and Clark..is there anybody else realistically in the mix?
A: Well, just from an experience stand point, not really, because we kind of view Tank Daniels and Zak DeOssie as SAM linebackers and Bryan Kehl is a rookie, although we think he is going to be a very good player and he had a good Spring. He’s very smart, athletic and big and, but just coming in for the start of camp, yeah it would be Danny Clark and Gerris.
Q: And you would try to split the reps for those guys?
A: Yes, absolutely. And even early in camp, when you have three practices every two days, you’re trying to actually try and spread them out amongst thirds, because otherwise you just wear guys out before the preseason is even over. But, yes, they’ll be splitting reps, absolutely.
Q: Old fashioned competition, huh?
A: Yes, which is wonderful and the nice thing is, the players understand that and there is no hidden agendas and no, like you mentioned, like favorite or you want one guy to really get the job and here’s the guy we would go to if that didn’t happen, that’s not that case at all. It’s wide open and Danny Clark came here to win a starting job and Gerris Wilkinson every bit sees himself as winning the starting job. So, it will be wonderful competition. Great problem to have.
Q: Do you have three lined up in each spot?
A: We do, yes. That’s how we’re doing it, exactly. And I think, you know, they all know, we talked about this in the off season, that if you’re not a penciled in starter, you have to be able to play more than one position, because when you get into the season, you know, there have been times where we’ve dressed as little as five linebackers for games. Usually six or seven, but the fourth linebacker has to be ready to play two or three positions and the first and so on. So we try to do that right now, we don’t wait until the season and then we say these guys have made the team and we are going to teach them a backup position. They try to digest it all as they go through and that’s really critical. And guys that can do that, their stock is valued more.
Q: Michael Strahan gone. Kind of a little leadership void left behind. Is Antonio Pierce, in your mind, kind of the natural guy if he hasn’t already to sort of step up and become the vocal leader of this defense?
A: Yes, and kind of like you said, in his own way and in his own role, he’s been doing that since the day he was here, even the first year he was here he assumed that role. Because, as you know, as the middle linebacker position kind of lends itself to that. And Michael had a very unique and fantastic leadership style himself and that’s a void that will not be filled, in it of it’s own right. But, yeah, Antonio has been like that since the first day he’s been here and I’m sure, he is, even in his subconscious mind he’s going to assume a greater role in that area. But, he’s a fantastic leader already just because he’s as competitive as anybody you’ve ever coached and he’s a good player and he assumes leadership responsibilities and welcomes it.
Q: Your team plays so much with a chip on its shoulder. He’s a guy that’s had a chip on his shoulder most of his playing life, so kind of he’s a natural fit for that..
A: Yes, and that’s his whole thing. He for whatever reason, can’t seem to get rid of that, which is good. It’s his edge. In his mind, that is his edge. Going back to being a free agent instead of being drafted coming out of college and all that, but he definitely plays with a chip on his shoulder.
Q: Do you expect to see Kiwi, you know he had been interrupted because of his broken leg and all that, but you expect him to step on the field Friday and he’s a linebacker and so, in his head the adjustments that he made and the tough growing pains last year will pretty much a thing of the past?
A: Yes, and he was out there in the Spring. I see him just picking up right where he left off. It’s really a shame that he got hurt, because he was getting so much better, and we got so much better. Just think of all the…it would have been the last seven games at least, let alone the playoff games, he would have gotten a lot better just with playing experience. But, even when he went into Spring practice, he was different. It wasn’t as foreign to him and stuff was coming back. Just getting the physical reps is really valuable for him as well. I’m sure Steve addressed he’ll be doing the third down pass rushing stuff like he’s been doing all along, but he’ll be a lot further ahead and I expect him to pick up right where he left off. He was getting better every week as a SAM.
Q: He was just starting to get it?
A: Yes, yes I do agree with that. There were games where, especially in the run game, he was playing as physical as anybody we’ve had. We knew going in that the pass coverage stuff would be the foreign stuff, because he’d been a pass rusher, but in the run defense he had been as physical as anybody we’ve had. And he was getting much better and enjoyed that part of the game….Ok…thanks guys.
Wide Receivers Coach Mike Sullivan
Q: A guy going into his 13th year, like Amani, does a part of you want to see that he is still good at this age and is still as fast as he was?
A: Amani Toomer is a pro’s pro. I mean, he played his best football in the playoffs. He’s a guy who we can count on to be consistent and I’m really pleased with what he’s done. And the thing about Amani is he’s still trying to improve and find little things about his technique and his game to get better out there at the OTA’s and the minicamps so we’re confident he’s giving us everything he has and will continue to try and improve and make plays for us.
Q: With Shockey gone, there are a lot of catches to be had out there and in the past he’s been the second and third option. Does it make it all that more important to develop a consistent third wide receiver this year when last year you were shuttling guys in and out?
A: Well, whatever the defense presents; Kevin Gilbride does an outstanding job spreading the ball around and if it means maybe we run the ball more because we end up doing something where we’ll play with more receivers and that creates openings, that’s fine; whatever helps us win and in terms of the receiver’s standpoint is as you mentioned with the competition, that does create some opportunities as far as whose going to be able to be that added weapon for us, whether it’s a third or a fourth receiver. We’re going to whatever we can to put points on the board. I know it sounds like a simple statement, but you know, if it means four receivers, great, if it means two receivers, great, if it means we’re in goal line, whatever, we just want to win. It’s all about the team and what we can do to have more points that the other guys at the end of the game.
Q: All the coaches talk about Steve Smith and how he really helped you guys in the post season, especially with Shockey out. Talk about where he is and what you want to see from him improve on in this training camp?
A: Very, very impressed and pleased with Steve Smith’s performance through the playoffs last year. I think the thing that jumps out about him is the stage is never too big. He enjoys the pressure, he enjoys the bright lights and he stepped up and made some big plays for us through the playoffs and in the Super Bowl. The thing that he needs to improve upon is really developing consistency and you know, we got him working some on the inside and some on the outside, really adding a little more to his plate. It will be important for him to use training camp to be able to handle all of that and continue to improve upon some of his techniques, some of his fundamentals, but really be able to grasp as much of our scheme as possible so we could put him in all kinds of positions.
Q: There are a lot of people that especially after the Giants drafted Mario Manningham sort of dismissed Sinorice Moss and figure he’s an afterthought here. I would imagine he is not an afterthought to you. What do you see out of him that makes you think that he could probably still be a part of this team and maybe help a little bit?
A: Sinorice has a speed and explosiveness that is unique and that is special and obviously he has had some injury setbacks, he’s had some things that have been disappointing for him I’m sure and disappointing for us. He had a strong minicamp and OTA’s and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do coming into this setting, as you know, as we start the 2008 season with his, as we said time and again, great competition at the position and seeing how that plays itself out. With his third year being in the scheme, I think he has a little better feel for the assignments and what we’re trying to do and being versatile and move around and play some different positions. That will certainly suit him well.
Q: I know some guys can get it pretty good, I mean Amani Toomer after his first three years he said he was lost at some times. He was trying to figure out what was going on. On the outside, it would seem simple; you run and you catch the ball, but are there a lot of things that are very hard? Can you understand why he might struggle for his first couple of years?
A: Well, I think the most important thing as a coach is to try to do exactly what you said, to try and simplify it. In other words, put it in a way that is easy to understand and I think if the receivers understand why they need to do a certain alignment or run at a certain depth or come across at a certain angle then it will make more sense and it’s not memorization, it’s just common sense. I think people learn in different ways and some by doing some by seeing, most by a combination of both, and so I think anytime someone is in a system more than a year, second year, third year, it usually gives them enough time to take it all in and learn from their mistakes and then hopefully take that next step to be a consistent performer.
Q: Did you read Plaxico’s book by any chance? I’m sure you’ve been told. He’s said some incredibly nice things about you. I’m sure it meant a lot to you to hear that how much he thinks of you.
A: Well, I think the world of Plaxico. I think he is a tremendous competitor, he’s someone that looks for sincerity and looks for people that are going to deal with respect and people who are passionate. And I think that’s something that..I mean I look for some of the same qualities as well in people and I think that’s maybe one of the reasons we’ve been able to connect so well.
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