Once again, there is no good news about Jimmy Graham. He is on the depth chart, but it doesn’t seem he is expected to play. Thomas Rawls will play, but his number of carries will depend solely on how he feels. During the conference Coach Carroll still held on to his previous optimism for the offensive line, even though two days ago he admitted there were some on-going position battles. This press conference, obviously, took place before it was announced that Germain Ifedi would not be playing. We can look forward to a current update on the state of the line at Friday’s press conference. The major takeaway from today’s conference is that Coach is extremely confident in our defense, which is great to hear considering we are taking our patch-work offensive line into battle against Ndamukong Suh and Mario Williams.
Well, [the] long awaited first game is finally here, and this one we have looked forward to throughout the off season and we’re really thrilled about getting going. Everybody’s fired up about the NFL season starting and we’re no different. There’s a lot of energy about it, look at all the people in the room today. Good day. Way to go.
Jimmy Graham is first on the depth chart. Is that a sign of anything?
You’re going off the depth chart? Depth chart’s an unofficial depth chart.
Are his chances any better now than they were Monday?
His chances are the same. They’re good.
What does he need to show you this week that you haven’t seen the last couple of weeks?
Just more of the same. The comfort to go full out in everything that we’re doing, and responding to those days feeling really good about it. Us feeling good, and him feeling good as well.
Has he had a problem responding to the workload so far?
No. He has not.
You guys are going up against a very good defense of front first thing, and the interior of the [offensive] line is all new. Is that a good thing going up a team that presents a challenge early?
They’re loaded. They’ve got terrific personnel, so it’s going to be a great challenge for us. Hopefully all of the work our guys have done against our guys will help us. But they’ve got some really notable players up front. Mario [Williams] and [Ndamukong] Suh, those guys are fantastic players, so it’ll be a challenge for us and hopefully we’re ready.
How do you feel about your offensive line?
We’re ready to go. We’ve had a terrific off season of work coming together, Camp has been great, they worked extensively against our first guys at really high tempo and they carried it out. We’ve run the ball well in preseason, we had one game where we gave up some sacks for miscellaneous reasons, but other than that I thought they did a real consistent job of protecting. I think we’re ready to go. There’s still dome first things that have to happen. Germain’s [Ifedi]going to have his first chance in a regular season game and I think he’s going to show you that he’s ready. He’s shown us nothing but that.
Was there a point in camp when Bradley [Sowell] really took the turn and you saw that he could really be that guy?
He was pretty consistent throughout. There wasn’t a defining moment, he just kind of outlasted anybody else that wanted to take the left tackle spot. He was very consistent, he had an excellent off season with coach [Chris] Carlisle and the guys in the strength and conditioning program. He looks better than I’ve ever seen him on film, so I’m really fired up. It was a great acquisition for us that he was able to get to this point this soon.
When you face a player like Ndamukong Suh, how do you game plan for that kind of force?
He’s an incredible player. We have to make sure that schematically we’re right, and that we’re focused properly, we study him well, and know him well he’s a really powerful player. He’s consistently really aggressive at the line of scrimmage so we have to make sure that we do things well and we’re in the right positions and that we help properly and all of that. There’s no question he draws your attention and our guys know that.
They [The Dolphin’s defense] have a reputation for mixing things up. Germain [Ifedi] is a guy who we saw in practice play right on the edge. Is there going to be a conversation this week about trying to avoid that extracurricular stuff?
No. No extra conversations.
Adam Gates was saying that when he watches Russell Wilson now there’s no grey area, it’s clear that Russell knows why he’s doing what he’s doing. Is that a fair way to put it based on what you have seen this summer?
Well, I’ve seen that for a long time. I don’t think it’s just all the sudden we saw that. We’ve seen that for years. He’s just continues to improve and like most player can keep getting better, Russell has continued to do that. I think the finish to last season, the second half of last season, he couldn’t have been sharper. So he comes off of that, and has added to his awareness and his command and continues to grow. It’s such a complicated position that there’s so much to keep gaining and he continues to do that. I’m glad coach recognized that.
You had mentioned at the end of last season kind of a master’s class for Russell. How did that go this off season?
Not as well as I had planned [laughs]. My curriculum was a little bit scattered. We’ve done a ton of talking, it’s been a great off season, but I kind of had it pictured differently. The timeframes didn’t allow it throughout. We couldn’t go past the timeframes we were already using because we’re restricted. So we had to just fit it in when we could. But since we’ve gotten to camp, we’ve worked and all that we’ve been able to spend a bunch of time hanging out and talking ball. It’s a great conversation, we’re really deep into what we’re doing and it’s been fun for me, I think it’s been fun for Russ. We just continue to grow together and hopefully I can share with him what I have to offer. He’s a very aggressive learner, he wants everything he can get and its really fun to work with him on that.
You mentioned you wanted to do something similar on the defensive side of the ball with Earl [Thomas]. Did you?
Not as much either [laughs]. My curriculums fell short of my expectations, but that’s me being an optimist you know. It didn’t quit work out. But in like fashion, we continue to talk about stuff and we’re hanging out together to make sure we’re staying abreast of what’s happening. It’s really fun to be with these guys after these years. They’ve grown so much and they see so much more than they used to, they communicate on so much of a deeper level that it’s really a joy for a coach to work with our guys and communicate on that level. It’s a big part of our team, we’ve got a real serious group of guys that are really experienced and they’ve been with us for a great while and we can bank on that.
With Earl [Thomas], at this time last year he was just getting from injuries, how much ahead is he now?
He’s had a terrific camp. He’s been on it, he hasn’t missed anything. There’s no restriction to his preparation at all. He’s really on his game and excited about playing. He hit the play opportunities that he’s had really well in the preseason, which hasn’t been many, but he’s hit them all and he’s had great practices. I know he’s really confident and fast and ready to go. He’s well ahead of where he was.
You have a lot of rookies on the team, why do you get jazzed and energized about that talent?
It’s always worked out for us, and we’ve had good background, good experiences, and have good memories. It’s really fun to see these guys come along, and also the older guys help them. They really reach out to them and that’s a big part of the relationship in this locker room that I think is really going to be crucial for us as we move forward. The young guys are going to see things for the first time sometimes and they’re going to have to be brought along and helped sometimes on the field, and sometimes in the locker room and sometimes when we’re traveling. Our guys have a big role to bring them along. All of that is good stuff. And just the young excitement and enthusiasm about the game. These guys are so pumped to go play, and that has always added to the overall mentality.
Kam [Chancellor] was talking about the defense and how so many of these have been together awhile. How much have you started noticing their ability to communicate and work together?
Like the quarterback, I’ve watched the communication level just become more intense, deeper, more poignant, less words more understanding, they don’t have to say so much they just know. We can recall experiences that have happened. I was talking to Sherm [Richard Sherman] about something that happened three years ago this morning, just a play that applies now. That fluid interaction is really valuable. The clearer they are, the better they can communicate, the faster they play. We’re dedicated to playing fast and keeping our guys at the edge of their ability level and the communication level is hugely valuable. We’re as good as we’ve ever been in that regard.
Is there any more ease in having a home opener verses an opener on the road?
It’s nice to be home, sure. It’s nice to open up here and have the 12s be ready to go. Like the week leading into it, you get that since of digging in a little bit, so it’s always nice. But in another year, when the openers on the road, you ask me the same question, and I’ll say it’s no big deal.
You excited to see Maxie [Byron Maxwell]?
Yeah. It’ll be great to see him. Our guys think the world of Maxie, so it’ll be fun to play against him.
Was there ever a point in time where you thought you would be able to keep him?
Yeah, there was a time. There was a couple phone calls right at the end of it where we thought maybe there was a chance. But he did what he needed to do and he got a beautiful contract and that was great statement to what he had done before to get that done. So we’re proud of him and happy to see him get what he wanted.
You talked about the master class for Russell, what about you? How do you get better every year?
That’s a good question. I would like to think that I am in constant search of whatever I can grab onto that’s going to help me. Whether it’s catching a glimpse of a play that’s on television, might be high school play or college play or whatever, to the depths of expressing what it means to be a great teammate and what it takes to find your best and uncover the potential that you have. I’m an open book for drawing information, I’m trying to get as much stuff as I can. Either you’re competing or you’re not. For me, that’s how I do it. We’re fortunate we have a lot of people come through here, we go places, we’re seeking out people to help us understand more and I think that’s a crucial aspect of competing. You have to be on it. I try to illustrate that for everybody here. I want to be the guy that’s the hungriest to learn. I try to pick up as much as I can, and you never know where it’s going to come from. Sometimes it comes from what’s going in in the political scene and how people handle situations, and issues, and decision making. There’s so many things.
What were some of the particular sources you drew from this off season?
I talked to really cool guy that wrote a book named David Brooks. He wrote a book about character. That led us to reconnect with Angela Duckworth again. They had worked together. That took us to some really good places. And I had an opportunity to study with an old friend of mine Dr. Harry Edwards, which was very meaningful. Its helped us maintain and develop a perspective about what’s going on. On and on, there’s millions of things.
What have you gained of value from the political campaign this go-around?
There’s so much. How you handle the press, how you don’t handle the press, how you represent those who follow you [laugh], there’s been so much stuff it’s been a rich year. All of the primary stuff, all the people competing to keep their name alive in the whole process. I thought it was an extraordinary year for learning, and coming to appreciate how you want to do it and how you don’t want to do it.
Do you know Harry Edwards from your time with the 49ers?
Do you see any limitations for Thomas [Rawls] at all at this point?
Just in the amount of plays. It’s a second preseason game for him if you look at it that way. We’re trying to take care of him as we’ve said all along in every way that we can. So we’re just going to watch and see how he handles it. That’s all. Just see how he handles it. That is the only restriction, how he he’s taking the ringers of the game.
You talked about the experience of your defense. At USC obviously there’s a time limit on how long you can work with guys. Having guys like Earl [Thomas], Kam [Chancellor], these guys have been here it’s their seventh season. Does that allow you to do more as a coach? Or does it require you to do less?
No, it allows you to do more. It certainly does. It doesn’t mean that you need to do more though. Because sometimes you just stay with the basics, and stay with your stuff, but the depth of interaction, the experiences that we’ve had, allows us to really understand stuff in greater depth and it allows u to expand just because they’re open for it. They ready for it. They can do more. They can take advantage of their background experience. It’s an exciting relationship that we have in that regard. We can talk to our guys on deep levels about ball and they can respond in a heart-beat and they can make things come to life for us that we’re very fortunate to have. And you’ll see us do things over the course of the season that will take advantage of that. It should be clear down the road.
Do you give those guys more freedom on the field than you did before?
The freedom comes with the discipline. They know how to do their job, they understand it so well, they know the parameters and the boundaries of what they can and can’t do. That allows the expression of freedom to come out and the opportunity to improvise to an extent. That comes from discipline, and repetition, and great practice, and great experience. Just think of it in the world of performance. As dancers get better and musicians get better they take themselves into different realms of freedom and improvisation that really allows them to express what they’re all about. Hopefully in our world here, that’s what happens. That’s how you see [Richard Sherman] play, how you see [Kam Chancellor] play, [Bobby Wagner], those guys are incredible at understanding the game and they start to see things and make things happen because of their awareness and depth of understanding. There’s nobody that expresses better than Michael Bennett. Mike’s a really good illustration of that. I think Michael and Richard are probably the two guys that show you that the most. They lead us and take us into places where we realize maybe we can coach that up some and make something out of that and make it a part of the fundamentals of what we do.
When it comes to the tailback spot, do you have a general philosophy? Do you want one guy to take it over the way Marshawn Lynch did?
No, basically I don’t think that. I think you get a couple of guys and you get it going so that you can feed off those guys. I thought those days at USC really showed that when we had multiple guys that could play with different strengths, and sometimes one guy was more effective on a day than other guys, so we never played favorites, we just played the guy that was hot. I think the ability to mix guys gives us more flexibility, and a higher level of play too. But I really do appreciate the guy that needs to be out there and stay out there to keep digging, and gets more instinctive as the game goes on. I’ve got that understanding too. But I think all-in-all during the course of a long season like we have, it’s better to have guys that can feed off each other and I’ve always enjoyed that. I have no problem with it.
With so many rookies are you relying more on your veteran players for leadership?
Whether I was or not, it has happened. We have such a great core of guys, that they have really taken to this season and the preparation for this season to really be on point, and be at their best, and welcoming the new guys that came in. They’ve been incredibly obvious in their willingness to help guys learn, so I think it’s just a natural thing with really good people like we have and they’ve done a fantastic job.
Marshawn was such a big part of the team for so long, is it a different feel without him? [question based on answer]
Can you elaborate on that?
Prepping for the Dolphins offense, how much are you looking at from last year?
We’re looking at everything. We go all the way back to the super bowl that year. We looked at everything we could look at. We have the good fortune of the off season, so we looked at everything and try to anticipate and match up with their personnel and they’re other coaches that they have added to their staff. That’s kind of the puzzle that you work at. It’s a fun kind of study, and we’ll see what happens.
What conversations have you had with Jeremy Lane? What are his plans going forward for the national anthem?
Really, we’ve talked some about it. He’s really clear on what he did and what he was trying to express and I think it’s very simple. We’ll leave that up to him. He’s understanding the responsibility of it and shouldering it.
Is it any concern of the team that it will be 9/11 when he could do this again?
Not specifically for that. We have a concern that this date is coming up because we’re Americans and it matters. It’s an important day. But not specifically to that.
Is Jarran Reed still on track?
Yes, he’s going to practice today, he’s fine. Well, he’s got to make it through the practices though. He has to survive the practices, but he’s fine going in.