Bill O'Brien quotes: August 31

Head Coach Bill O'Brien
(opening statement) "We're still in the process of making some roster moves, so nothing is official yet. I'm sure there will be an official announcement on all these moves at some point. The one thing that is official is that we did make a trade with the Denver Broncos to acquire offensive tackle Chris Clark. He's here in the building and we'll get going with him right away. One of the things I'll tell you about this day, and I was just thinking about this as I was walking down here, these days—these cut down days—are very difficult days because as I've said over and over again to you guys, these guys have worked extremely hard. They've worked, obviously, on the practice field but also in places where you don't really see them: in the weight room, in the meeting room, here on the weekends. I'm here quite a bit on the weekends and a lot of these guys are here on the weekends. It's just a tough day. Obviously it's tougher on them than it is on us, but the fact of the matter is we've got to get down to 75 today and eventually down to 53. That's the nature of the business. I reapply appreciate all the efforts of the guys, once the official announcements are made, all of the efforts of these guys and what they've done here in our organization."

(on seeing T Chris Clark in practice last year against the Broncos and this preseason) "Yeah, I see him as a swing tackle. I see him as a guy that is a smart guy, veteran player. He was a guy that was undrafted coming out of Sothern Miss. He's from New Orleans, so he's familiar with this area. He's got some relatives that live here. He's a guy that I think will bring some toughness, bring some experience to the position. We'll throw him in there and he'll play in the Dallas game. We'll see him at tackle. I think he's had some experience in the past, especially early in his career, on the inside as a guard, but primarily he will be used at tackle."

(on if he has the offensive line depth he's looking for with the addition of T Chris Clark) "I believe it's better today with the addition of Clark. We'll let that play out and see how it goes, but obviously we made the trade with the belief that it would help our depth there. I still think it's a work in progress. I think that some of the guys that played in the game yesterday played well. I'll talk about a few guys. Kendall Lamm played at left tackle. For a guy that hasn't been here very long, to start the game, I thought he did a decent job. Certainly there are some plays that he wishes he could have back, but he did a decent job overall. I thought Greg Mancz did a good job. I thought that guys like (Chad) Slade and I've talked about (James) 'Brick' Ferentz, those guys went in there and did a decent job. Overall, the depth is getting better, but it's always a work in progress."

(on how he plans to handle the fourth preseason game with his team personnel) "I would say it will be pretty similar to the previous three. I would say you will probably see more of the younger players playing a lot more in this game. We really haven't sat down yet because of all the moving parts between last night and what's going on this morning and specifically talked about pitch counts, reps, things like that. I would see it being similar, slightly different in some ways. Maybe as the week goes on, I can fill you in on that better."

(on if it feels good to come out of the first three preseason games healthy) "Yeah, absolutely. There is nothing more important than the health of the team. Obviously, losing Arian (Foster) was tough. You don't replace Arian. Hopefully he'll be back sooner rather than later. He's working very hard to get back. Overall, the injuries have been down for us and I think that's a good thing. There is probably a little bit of luck involved with that. Also, I think the level of conditioning that these guys came back with—98 percent of these guys came back in fantastic shape. I think that helps; it helps to be able to play fast and not get in the way and not fall down and have things happen to you because you're not in shape. But yes, there is nothing more important than the health of the team, so hopefully that continues."

(on the running game and the lack of breaking tackles) "Running the ball in this league is very difficult. It really is. I think our running game, at times, has been decent, but it's too inconsistent. We just need to really go back to work on that tomorrow, the next day and then obviously when we get back in preparation for Kansas City down the road, hopefully you'll see some improvement on Thursday in the Dallas game. I think there have been times where we see glimpses of what it can be, but we've got to be a lot more consistent."

(on how difficult it is to make cuts and how Hard Knocks affects that process) "I don't think it changes how you do it. I think in the end, you always revert back to just being upfront and honest. What I try to do and what we try to do when we speak to the player about releasing them is, 'Look, we're releasing you today. Here are some things you need to think about to get better and to continue to try and chase this dream of being a pro football player.' I think we're very upfront about that, but I think you bring up a good point. It's not the easiest thing when you have a robo-cam in your office and they're filming that conversation. I don't think it makes you any more careful about what you say, but I think it also important to make sure you're very upfront with the player, very direct with the player. It's not a long conversation, unless the player wants it to be. I'll answer any questions the player wants. Usually the conversations are brief, but it adds an element to the discussion, that's for sure."

(on one week left of filming of Hard Knocks) "It's two separate discussions. I thought the Hard Knocks people have done a really good job. They really have, but being mic'd up and having cameras around all the time, as a coach and obviously as players, I don't think that's the easiest thing. I think as it's gone on, it's been a decent experience, but I'm looking forward to September 8 when they're not here anymore."

(on his language during Hard Knocks) "There's nothing wrong with my language. It's how you're portrayed. I mean, they make you look like you swear a lot, but really, in reality, I don't really swear that much."

(on if Hard Knocks has been a better or worse experience than he expected) "I would never say that it's been negative. I think that there have been a lot of positive things about it. I'll give you a few examples. Some of the things that are positive about is the players that have been mic'd up, mostly veteran players, when you listen to them mic'd up, you can hear the mentoring that's going on. The leadership that's going on the field. When you hear J.J. Watt talking to Christian Covington or Vince Wilfork talking to Dan Pettinato or you hear Nate Washington talking to Jaelen Strong. For me, that's been a pretty cool experience to hear that because you're preaching that a lot. You're talking about leadership and how important that is. I think for that, it's been good. That's been a good experience. I think that- look, I know that back in the day Coach (Vince) Lombardi said when the cameras are at his practice, the players, they gave great effort and they were very intense in practice. I think there's something to that. I think when the players know they're going to be on national TV, we've had some very, very competitive practices. We've had good practices. Maybe we probably would have had that anyways, but I think that added to it. I think the things that are tough are when you're in a team meeting. These are things that you hold dear to your heart. When you're in a team meeting and you're talking to your football team, these are things that, you know you just know that you really don't want them going too far. But in the end, you've got to coach your team and it's out there for millions to see. You're not careful about what you say, you try to be yourself, as you can see, and I think I've been myself on this show. I think the players have done a great job of being themselves, but those are the difficult things that you're saying 'ah, did I say it the right way there?' and things like that. But I think overall, I would say it's been fairly positive."

(on if there are still competitions and position battles going on) "No question. Absolutely. There are spots all around. I think there are spots – I wouldn't say at every single position. I think there are some things that are obviously already determined, but I think at certain positions there are definitely battles. When I say battles, I'm not even talking about starting battles. I'm talking about like the decision between the fourth and fifth corner or the third and fourth safety. You know, all those different things. How many of those positions are you going to keep? How many inside linebackers are you going to keep? Things like that, so yeah there's definitely a lot of competition left."
(on if the competition to win a spot can be swung in the last preseason game) "Look, every opportunity they have to go out there and play and show us what they can do, we evaluate a broad stroke but we also evaluate, 'Hey what have they done for us lately?' No question. I think that, not that the whole thing can be swung in one game, but it can sure, if you go out there and play really well, or you have a horrendous game, obviously it doesn't help you too much, but if you play really well, it probably in the end could help you."

(on using the tight end more often and how it's gone during the preseason) "You know, these guys have really gotten better. I know Griff (Ryan Griffin) had a touchdown catch. I thought it was a catch; they ruled it wasn't a catch, but I thought that was a heck of a play by him. I do think that we've tried to involve these guys more. I think we need to continue to do that. I think it comes down to coaching and playing and we have a pretty good idea as to how to use tight ends, and we have to continue to develop that as part of our system. I believe it's farther along than it was last year."

(on his early assessment of S Lonnie Ballentine) "He did some decent things. He made a play on special teams which was a good play, good tackle on special teams. He almost intercepted a pass. He read the quarterback, almost intercepted a pass and was able to break up the pass on defense, made some tackles. So he showed up, did some good things. It's a big week for him to keep working and keep coming and hopefully have another good game against Dallas."

(on CB Charles James' performance at running back against New Orleans) "When you look at Charles James, there's really a lot to like. The guy has a tremendous amount of energy, very bright guy, just brings a lot of what I call 'juice' to the practice field, to the game field, to the locker room. I mean you could see when he scored a touchdown, the official came over to me and said, 'Coach, the players aren't supposed to go out on the field and celebrate,' and I'm like, 'It's three minutes to go in a preseason game, and they're celebrating because they love this guy. So I mean you should have seen the 12 men on the field that you missed about four plays ago,' that's what I said back to him. I'll probably get fined for that. Can we strike that from the record? I already got a letter for wearing Under Armour; I don't want to get another letter. So I think there's a lot to like about the guy. He's a very competitive guy. I think he does a lot of good things at corner, on special teams, and then obviously at running back, the play was called back for holding, and there was a holding on that play, but even if there wasn't a holding on that play, I think he probably would have scooted the edge and been down the sideline there. He's really making a name for himself."

(on NT Christian Covington flying under the radar this preseason) "You're right, he's a very active player. In the 3-4 defense, he's a little bit undersized for the nose position. Romeo (Crennel) has done a pretty good job so far of keeping him on the move. I think there are other roles for him in certain situational types of third down, different things that we can use him that we're going to use him in the Dallas game again to see if we can, see him in different roles is what I'm saying. But he made a lot of plays. He's very active, he gets off blocks, great kid. You talk about a hard-working, really good, mature beyond his years type of kid. It's been good to work with him."

(on if there have been any other new guys that have done something to impress him) "There are a couple guys that I think, and I always try to not mention too many, but Keith Mumphery's had a good camp, I think he's come in here, he's another guy that's very hard-working guy. He's done a lot of good things. There are a lot of things he needs to continue to work on, but I think he's had a good camp. There are some young linemen that I mentioned, like I said before, I thought Kendall Lam went out there and played a good game for starting at left tackle. That's not an easy thing to do as a rookie undrafted guy, came in there and held his own. I thought that was good. Greg Mancz has done some decent things. Defensively, we've all talked about Kevin Johnson, but you look at what he did yesterday downing that punt inside the 5-yard line, very good play. There are some guys that have done some really good things."

(on if he'd like WR Keith Mumphery to be the returner) "I think that's yet to be determined, although I'll say this, I think the guy's gone back there and been very adequate in what we're trying to ask him to do and he's confident about doing it. He's definitely made a name for himself in doing it."

(on if camp overall has met his expectations) "It's funny, you think about those questions, and nobody's going to stand up here and tell you they had a terrible camp. I mean no head coach is going to sit here and say, 'We had a terrible training camp.' It's not going to happen. I do think that we had a very productive camp. We had a very competitive camp. We covered a lot of situations that we really didn't get to last year, because last year was more about getting acclimated with our systems, and making sure the players were comfortable with what we were doing. This year we covered many, many more situations: two-minute situations, end of half, overtime, special teams situations. So I think we're farther ahead. I think we had a very competitive camp. I think the guys understand our belief in how important it is to compete on the practice field. Now, with all that being said, it's got to show itself on the field. We know that, and we understand the business that we're in. We've got to be able to go out there on the 13th and the rest of those games and play well. But I think as you look at our camp it's been productive and very competitive."

(on OLB Kourtnei Brown) "Kourtnei Brown's been active. He's a guy that's been knocked down quite a bit in this league and he's come back and he's had a good camp, and he's definitely in the discussion of making our football team. He's got a big week like a lot of these guys do. This week's a big week for a lot of these guys. Kourtnei's made a lot of plays. He's been able to rush the passer. He's done a decent job at taking the ball away obviously with the interception in the other game. I think he's done some decent things."

(on WR Jaelen Strong's progress during training camp) "He's improved every week. I think that he's taken the coaching to heart. He's a very talented guy. He's big, he's strong, he's a very instinctive player, he makes contested catches. I think that he's improved every week. The key for Jaelen is—the key for every rookie, is to keep improving. Somebody asked me this question after the game last night, the key is like all of these rookies at some point are going to hit a wall and they've got to be able to climb over that wall. All these guys, Jaelen, they all have to just continue to improve and if they can continue to improve, they'll be in good shape."

(on if there was a point in preseason where he thought WR Jaelen Strong made that leap) "I think you'd probably have to ask him, but in the beginning, the one thing that I liked right off the bat was that he came back in shape. I was concerned about that him after OTAs. He came back and he passed the conditioning test. I think that really got him off on the right foot. Again, improvement is the key."

(on what he's seen from DT Tevita Finau) "Big T is a very, very tough guy, very hard-working guy. He's come in here, it's a little bit of a different defense sometimes than the ones he's been used to playing in, but he's worked very, very hard, and again he'll go out there this week and work hard again."

(on receiver, safety, and inside linebacker being positions up in the air at the start of training camp) "I can tell you that DeAndre Hopkins will start at receiver, no matter what personnel grouping we're in. That's a guarantee. At the receiver position, I think there's still some competition there. Inside linebacker, I think that position is very competitive, very competitive. There are some guys that have played really well, had good camps. Off the top of my head I can think of five or six guys that have had good camps at that position. Safety it's kind of the same thing. There have been some guys that have really come on strong. Eddie Pleasant's had a good camp. Quentin Demps, who we just brought in a couple weeks ago, he's made plays. Then obviously you have Rahim (Moore) and Dre (Andre) Hal and those guys, and Lonnie (Ballentine) is in that conversation. There's been a lot of good competition there and that'll carry out throughout the week here."

(on how many positions on the 53-man roster are still up for grabs) "I think there are at least 10 spots that are still competitive."

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