Heading back to LA led to a bunch of USC questions for coach Carroll. He took them in stride and and spoke highly of his time in Southern California. He also spoke highly of Southern Cal’s returning NFL team assuring us that the beating the Rams took on Monday does not mean the Hawks can take them lightly. The major takeaway from this presser, of course, was the status of Russell Wilson. Coach Carroll informed us Russell made it through the walk-through and was expected to practice and be ready for game day, also reminding us that the great performers always make it work even when they are not 100%. And even though the offensive line has suffered some setbacks, Coach still believes they are making improvements.
One more note for all the fantasy owners- Thomas Rawls will start this week!
We’re back at it again, this is fun stuff. We’re back in the regular season here with a division game coming up. Big trip for us, going down south for the first time, playing in Los Angeles for the first time in the division. There’s a lot of fun stuff about this matchup and we want to play really good football. We have a lot of getting better to do and it’s really obvious. We’re going to dig in in a number of areas and try to clean things up and improve our game. We did some things that should have helped us more in the game and we had situations that we needed to take advantage of and we didn’t get that done, so we’re going to get better. That’s what this whole season is. Working to get better every week, and we’re going to try to do that this week. Rams come off a tough game last Monday night. It didn’t go the way they wanted it to go, but they’re coming home and they’re going to be all pumped up and we know that. We have a lot of respect for this team, we’ve had them in the division for all these years and we know how difficult they are. We’re going to plan accordingly and see if we can put together a really good game and get this thing going here in week 2.
Going back to LA, what’s that going to be like for you playing in that building?
It’ll be fun. It’s a great place to play whenever you get to play there, whether it’s the Olympics or football or baseball or whatever. It’s a great place and it always has been. So it’s just great to go there.
You guys made some roster moves. Why the decision to let Tharold Simon go?
We had a chance to pick up a guy we thought could help us more on special teams. We also saw that Neiko [Thorpe] can play corner. We got good looks at him, we’ve seen him over the years and thought he would help us.
A couple of things that surprised you the Niners were able to do against the Rams defense?
They did a lot of really good stuff. There’s not many things they didn’t do well in the game. They ran it, the quarterback was protected and he scrambled well, they played really good defense, and they kept the running game under control which is a big task against the Rams, and the Niners were so complete. What a fantastic first game. I’m sure they’re really fired up about it.
Is Russell [Wilson] still on track to practice today?
Yes. He went through the walk-through right now and he’s just fine, so he’s going to practice.
Also brought back Will Tukuafu, what do you expect from him?
We’re going to bank on his experience. He’s been with us and he’s been through a lot in protection and route running, all of the things the FB position calls for. We took a look at a young guy last week and knowing Will might be there for us, we wanted to go with the experience.
How is Russell [Wilson] looking? How is he feeling?
His attitude is as charged up as you can imagine, as always. But he’s excited to prove he can get back. He’s half-crazy about proving it. He’s good, his attitudes great.
Obviously you’re not taking the Rams lightly after they struggled last week, are there times in your career you can remember when a team struggled one week and came back strong to play you?
You really don’t take teams lightly in this league because they’re too good. We don’t ever do that. This is a really difficult team, and for whatever reason the Niners had their way in the first game, but these guys were 4-2 in the division last year. We know that., and we’ve had difficult games with them because they are tough to handle. We have a lot of respect for them.
How tough a matchup is it for J’Maarcus [Webb] going up against the Rams with Aaron Donald?
It’s tough against anybody. They’re gifted, they have guys in all their spots, backups that can run and rush too, they’re linebackers are faster than they have been in previous years and more athletic. They cause problems, and no one person is going to feel the brunt of that, it’s going to be the whole group and we have to do a nice job.
When you first saw DeShawn Shead, did you think corner?
To tell you the truth, John [Glenn] had seen him play corner in college and thought that was his best position. We did that with him, but with his size, I thought he would be able to play safety. But whenever he would play safety he would go back and play some one-on-ones and we would make plays. After a while we realized he had a knack for playing outside and has a better feel for it. He’s very productive there. So I’m giving John credit, he knew that all along. He had to talk me into it and he was right.
How much do you like the stories of practice squad guys working their way onto the team?
Those are great stories, I love raising guys up in the program and getting to know them well and understand them. If they stay with us it’s because they’re the right kind of guys, and you know you have a feeling for the guy because he made it through the draft picks and the other guys with more claim coming in. Those kinds of guys are the guys we’re always looking for.
DeShawn Shead, Jeremy Lane, and Richard Sherman all had good games last week. How important is it to have guys on the outside that take pride in getting dirty and making plays?
It’s crucial in any position when guys have the feeling and the confidence to sense that as a group they can play so effectively. They get their attitude right and start to prepare with high expectation of what they can do and it just feeds off of itself. It’s really important, and we’ve always stressed our corner play and it’s always a hallmark of our team here in years past as well, and we count on that as we structure the rest of what we do. We’re counting on those guys to be really effective players that can hang out there and live out there and survive out there successfully. It’s crucial to the overall scheme and everything we do.
What do you remember most about the skepticism that greeted you when you took the job at USC?
It was obvious. It was heavy. They even waited a couple days to hopefully quell the storm because they knew it was coming. But I’ve had a lot of people over the years say ‘hey, I was one of those guys that thought you were going to be a bum.’ And I’ve got some pride after we proved them wrong. But there was a lot of scrutiny. And at the time, I didn’t care about that at all because they didn’t know who I was or what I was going to do. They just had an opinion on it and I had a chance to prove it which was great.
Four years ago, Russell was one of five rookie quarterbacks to start week one. What did you see in him that allowed him to step in right away?
It was a combination of things. One was his makeup, his own self-confidence. The way he handles things. The way you know him now. He so sure of himself, he will get things done, whatever he is challenged by. It started there with his character. Then, he had terrific natural ability. Arm strength, arm talent, release and all of that kind of stuff. Very strong arm. So that was there. I loved his movement. You guys have heard me for years saying the quarterbacks that move are the toughest to defend. Then we learned of his ability to perform in difficult situations and come through. So it was his character, his athleticism, and his ability to run and move that made him such a great package. If you remember, I was pretty cautious with him early on. I’ll never get over the fact that he missed the chance to win that first game against the Cardinals. We were on the road and we had three chances from the ten or something. If that would have happened, it would had helped move everything along faster. It would have helped me too unfortunately. We waited until week seven or eight when we played to Chicago to really cut him loose. I think I’ve learned something from that experience.
What did you learn?
That I might have been a little bit too protective early on. I wish I would have seen the signs a little sooner. I wish I would have responded to what he was showing and cut him loose a little sooner. The Chicago game is so vivid in my mind, what he did to get us back in really showed an elevation of quarterback play. Everybody was trying hard, and everybody played well in that game but Russell took over the game. And it was in the game that I remember saying to Bev [Darrell Bevell], ‘cut him loose don’t hold him back, let him go’. You could just feel it. I wish I would have felt that sooner, he would have been better earlier.
What’s the risk there with a young quarterback? Is it not wanting to shatter their confidence?
Yeah, I think so and it’s any position, but the quarterback position is so far out there, and there are so many opportunities to mess it up and make mistakes and fall back and take all the blame and all the stuff that goes along with that. It can make it harder for them to focus and keep making progress. It’s not unlike any other young guy that we play, we try to help them be successful early so they can start to build up confidence to avoid what could happen where they get kind of crushed and they drop the ball or they miss the play that loses the game and now they have to live with all that stuff and they’re just trying to get going. You try to keep that from happening until they’re mentally stronger and prepared with enough backlog of successes to build from so that they can with stand whatever the pitfalls may be because they’re going to happen for sure. Russell is a very unique player, very unusual talent in his makeup and confidence. You go back to the Wisconsin thing, he went up there and won camp over and won the team and had a great season. I just wish I would have bought in as much as he was telling me I should.
Does all of that mean he is more prepared to play in a game where his mobility is lessened?
Yes, I do I think that. I think the really great performers find a way and they don’t have to be 100% to operate at a high level.
What does LA mean to you as far as what you do there and what you have done?
Nothing but fond memories. We had a great time down there. We were so lucky to be there, USC was such a blast. We had so many good times, and were able to connect with so many good people. It was just a treasure. So it’s just the fondness, we’ve been gone for a while now, and I still feel connected to all the sports that are down there and what’s going on in the community. It’s been a lot harder to carry on all the work we’ve done down there as the years move along, but I always feel a responsibility and when I can return to help, I do. So there’s still a connection.
This will be the second time you guys face Case Keenum. What did you see from him last year?
He did a lot of good things last year, we saw him be very successful against us in particular and other teams too. They just had a really hard start the other night, but that didn’t look at all like the kind of play that we played against, and we don’t expect that to be what we see. We think he is a really experienced guy that knows what he’s doing and knows what to do with the football, and I would think he is going to jump right back.
Why do the Rams match up so well with you guys?
I don’t know. We have not played them well the last few times out. We’ve had some good games against them, but maybe not as many as other teams in the division. I think Jeff [Fisher] does a great job. They’re well coached and they’re tough. They make things happen. They have a lot of talent. They’ve taken advantage of their draft opportunities. They have a lot of guys on this team that can play ball, I think they’re as talented as anybody we play.
Was there a turning point at USC where you felt you knew it was going to work?
Oh yeah. It was when we went to the Orange Bowl and played Iowa. We went there with Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu and all those guys, and that was a great Big 10 team at that time and we owned that game. By the end of that second season we felt like we could play anybody and beat anybody.
Do you think your program would have been as successful if there was an NFL team in LA?
I don’t think that would have made any difference. It shouldn’t have made any difference because as great as the fans were, they didn’t play. It was the guys on the field that played. I think we would have had the same opportunity. I think it might have enhanced it. But the field would have been worse [laughs].
Is there any update on [Germain] Ifedi?
Yeah, he’s still hobbling a little bit, but he’s making progress. It’s going to be a challenge for him to make it back this week. We’ll see what happens.
After watching the film, what was your overall takeaway o the line and how they played?
We’ve got areas to improve. We did enough to play good in the game and win, but there are areas to improve and I think we will get better. I think the transition for J’Marcus [Webb], he did a good job with three days to jump in there and do it, but I think he’s going to steadily improve. [Justin] Britt played really well Glow [Mark Glowinski] played well, he did some nice things. I think we can all play better as a unit.
How does that compare to where you were at this time last year?
We’re ahead of last year.
Will C.J. Prossie practice this week?
He’s going to practice yes.
How did Jarran Reed’s first game go?
He was really solid. He did exactly what we hoped he would do. He was solid technique wise, he was tough at the line of scrimmage, he didn’t give any ground at all, and was physical throughout his plays in there. He did a real nice job for his first time. It was good.
Is Thomas Rawls going to get more work this week?
Yes, Thomas will start this week.