(on the teams’ success intercepting passes)
Well, we’ve got a group of guys that I think really have a knack for getting to the ball. Obviously (Antonio) Cromartie is one of those whose got eight [interceptions]. We do have a good pass rush. We are able to pressure people. In a number of our games at home we’ve been able to get ahead, then obviously you get in situations where they have to throw the football. Those types of situations have been helpful. I think for the most part we have guys that have a knack for getting to the ball.
(on if opposing teams are playing more cautiously because of that)
No, I don’t think so. I really don’t. I think people pretty much go do what they do. I think people tend to look at someone else and say they wouldn’t tend to throw that ball and take that chance.
(on if they are peaking at exactly the right time)
I think we’ve improved as a football team. At the start of our season, we played some pretty good football teams. Chicago was 100-percent healthy and playing pretty good in the opener, coming off being a Super Bowl team. Then we went back-to-back on the road against New England and then to Green Bay. In Green Bay, it basically came down to a play with two minutes left in the game that decided the game. I thought we played pretty good in that game in a lot of areas. There is no question that I think we’ve played better in the last few months. I think there is a newness here in terms of staff and players and getting everything coordinated. I think we’ve revamped the wide receiver position because of some injuries and because of the Chris Chambers trade. I do believe we’re playing better than we have at any point during the year, but I think we can improve a lot more in the next month.
(on the difficulty of crossing several time zones to play away games)
We have done a good job of going to the east coast. I’ve been on the west coast with a number of teams. I think one of the keys is we do come in Friday. We get in pretty late Friday night, around eight or nine. Then we have a full Saturday. I think our guys get a pretty good night’s sleep on Saturday night. We have a big emphasis of getting up early on Sunday morning, getting up earlier than you normally would and getting ready for that early kickoff.
(on RB LaDainian Tomlinson’s yearly success)
He’s a great football player. He’s a great athlete. The guys I’ve been around like him have been fortunate to avoid injuries. They’re great runners. They just have that sixth sense, and they have the ability to know when to duck or when to get down or when to get out of bounds. They’re able to keep their bodies out of harms way. If you stay healthy like LT has, he is a talented guy. A guy who has played as much as he has understands the ups and downs of an NFL season. It didn’t start great for him or us. People always want to speculate that it’s because he didn’t get any carries in the preseason or all that. As you get through it, we’re 12 games in and you look at his numbers. He’s playing like LT.
(on Cromartie’s success)
He’s an amazing athlete. He’s a guy that really does have a knack for the ball. He’s got great jumping ability, great closing speed. He’s got the long arms. He can really catch the football.
(on if he is surprised that many teams are moving away from using a fullback)
I think there are just trends in the league, and you have to stay on top of them. There are so many eight man fronts where people say we’re not going to let you run no matter what. In some games, it’s harder to have a true fullback. There is certainly a place for one, and Lorenzo Neal is playing at a high level. He gets his reps. We’re trying to do some different things formation-wise to help us and help him. It’s an important part of what we do.
(on Neal’s success)
Obviously he’s physical. He’s a unique guy. He’s such a good athlete and so strong. Just the mental approach he takes and the mental toughness he has [lead to his success].
(on the difference for the Titans defense with and without DT Albert Haynesworth)
On any team, when you have a dominant player, a Pro Bowl type player, and all of a sudden the guy doesn’t play for three weeks, it does affect your team. We went through it when Nick (Hardwick), our center, was out. It’s not anything against the guy who replaces him, but there’s a reason those guys go to the Pro Bowl.
(on the difficulty of replacing an injured starter)
For us with Nick Hardwick, it was all the things he brought with him along with his physical skills, the leadership and experience. All the things players like that bring to your football team.
(on Haynesworth’s effectiveness last week while only at 80-percent strength)
I was afraid you were going to say that, because he looked pretty good to me. He played awfully well.
(on TE Antonio Gates and how limiting it is for an offense not to have a weapon like him)
Every guy brings different skills. We’re fortunate to have him. When you have a Pro Bowl type player at a position, you’ve got to use his abilities and it gives you chances. There are guys that don’t have his skills or abilities that are really good players in this league. We use Antonio in a lot of different ways because he’s a unique guy. That doesn’t mean you have to be a player of his abilities to be successful at tight end or to have success at that position.
(on if he is surprised by Gates’ success, having not played college football)
Well, unfortunately the first couple of years he was getting established and playing, I was coaching against him. Once we played him and I got to see him in person, you just knew that this was a very, very unique guy. You watch a lot of things you watch him do and start coaching other guys do those things that he does because he does them so naturally. It’s just instincts and understanding body position. I think a lot of it is his basketball background. A lot if it is that it’s just the way he plays.
(on if the emotional aspect of maturing as a quarterback in the NFL is more difficult than learning the football fundamentals)
There is no question about that for all young players, but particularly for a young quarterback. There was a time when there weren’t a lot of people covering every single play you had. Now there are people who on TV who get actual coaching tape and study every single play. They have access to all the replays. You can go play 65 plays and play at a high level for 62. They can show three of your poorest plays on one of these shows and make it look like you were horrible in the game. That part of it has been added to the position. For any young player, playing at a high level over 16 games is a tough challenge. It’s a mental challenge and it’s a physical challenge. These guys get banged around. They get hit and beat up. We were behind in a couple of games early, and (QB) Philip (Rivers) took a beating in a couple of the early games competing and trying to find a way to get back into the game. It’s a challenge I think, and it takes guys a while to learn how to play for 16 games.
(on if he has noticed improvement in Vince Young’s play of late)
There is no question. We went through a stretch with Philip where he played three games really well and then we had a game where he struggled. People ask what happened. Well there are going to be ups and downs. If as you go, like with Vince right now, you’re on a rise and you can see it happening like last week, I think what you say is that this is a work in progress and when it gets to this point where it’s consistent every week, it’s going to be very special.
(on his impressions of Chargers backup QB and former Titan Billy Volek)
Billy has been outstanding. I got here, and obviously there are a lot of things that we’re doing that are the same and there were some changes. It’s a process getting to know people. Billy has been unbelievable. Over the last six weeks, he has been throwing the ball as well as anyone I’ve been around. He has got a strong arm. He has got a quick release. If we were in a situation where he had to play, I would feel very good about it.
(on if Volek could be a starter in the NFL)
I was coaching in Oakland that day he threw [for a lot of yards]. I always ask him how many yards he threw for. He said, “I don’t know.” I ask him, “Was it 490?” He says, “No, it was 492.” So I was on the other sideline that day. It seemed like every time they needed the play, he threw the ball deep and it was completed. He certainly looked like a starter that day.
Transcript courtsey of the Tenessee Titans