HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN**
How did you decide to pick NT D.J. Reader as the player who had to catch a punt to end practice early today?
"I usually try to pick someone that I think, I have confidence that they may catch it, but I know there's a chance they may drop it. So if he drops it, we're going back to practice. If he catches it, we're going to move on to the next phase. He did a good job. He's had a good camp. He's a young player, so that's usually what I try to do there."
Why did you feel comfortable ending practice early?
"I think that these guys really work hard. I think that it's been a productive training camp. We've gotten a lot done. We've worked very hard against two teams. I'm not saying it's been perfect. We've got a long way to go, but it's about 115 heat index out here right now and I think they were busting pretty good this morning. It was time to call it a day and reward them."
What do you want to see at Sunday's game against the Cardinals that you haven't seen so far?
"Just a continuation of improvement. I'm not going into a game saying 'I need to see this, I need to see that.' I just need to see a continuation of trying to take the ball away on defense, securing the football better than we did last week on offense, win the penalty battle, play good special teams, win the field position battle. I want guys to go out there and really play well and be productive because we're still evaluating guys. We've got a lot of tough decisions to make over the next ten days or whatever it is, so I want guys to go out there and play well."
How do you balance your evaluation of the defense and the offense?
"I don't necessarily look at that as a balance because that's all important. I think that if a guy goes out there and knows what to do and knows his assignments and can execute the call and then we can go make plays then that's all going to work together. If guys go out there and they're not sure what to do and maybe they're not executing the call the right way then we're not going to play well offensively. I think it all kind of goes together."
Why was WR Braxton Miller on the sideline?
"He'll be alright. Just a little rest day today."
Is there any update on C Nick Martin?
"No update on Nick."
How is the special teams unit doing?
"I think we're improved. I don't think we're where we need to be, but I think our coverage units have definitely improved. I think there's still some things we need to do to be even better there. I think our return game definitely needs to improve. I think we have some guys that can return kicks, punts and kicks, and we've got to do a better job of fielding the ball, blocking for him, understanding the type of return we have on. I definitely think it's better."
You spent some time working on coffin corner punts today, can you talk about that and where you guys are with that?
"I think that's one thing that Shane (Lechler) does really well. We've got some good gunners that can go down there and down the ball. That's what I'm kind of saying when it comes to field position football. If we have to punt the ball from the 50 yard line and we can down the ball inside the 10, then I think it's just going to be hard to drive the ball 95, 90 yards on our defense. I think that's something we're doing a good job with and we'll have to continue to do a good job with it."
What have you seen with G Jeff Allen and can you comment on his toughness?
"Yeah, he's a smart player, he definitely has toughness, very, very good pickup for us in the offseason. He's got leadership qualities, he comes from a winning organization in Kansas City, obviously. I just really like the job he's done so far here."
How do you balance the gameplan while at the same time not trying to show too much for this upcoming game?
"There's no balance there. There will not be any exotic things shown ever in the preseason. There's absolutely no balance. It's just about going out and playing smart, fundamental and good football. There's a huge difference between the preseason and the regular season and the playoffs. They're just three totally separate things. This is not a dress rehearsal for anything. I mean, we have 90 players on the roster, some of them are injured. Obviously, 30-plus of these guys are not going to be here. Only 53 guys are going to be here for that game week in Chicago. There's just a lot of differences. I don't look at it as the dress rehearsal and we've got to come out here and have a gameplan for Arizona. We'll have a little gameplan, we'll try to go out there and try to execute it to the best of our ability, we've got to coach well, we've got to play well and then take the next step after we evaluate the Arizona game."
OLB WHITNEY MERCILUS
What have you seen from the other linebackers?
"A great group of guys who are tough, ready to go at all times, very talented as well and hard workers. It shows out on the field. Linebackers are just making plays left and right, wherever the ball is at."
How deep is this group compared to some of the other groups you've been a part of?
"It's pretty deep. It's the deepest I've seen in a while and it's good to have that type of depth and guys who can go. Their motors run 110%, they can run all day, and so it's good."
What's been your experience with the third preseason game in regards to the intensity it brings?
"Every game we treat like it's a regular season game. For the third preseason game, everybody says the starters are going to be playing a little more, which is true, and to just see where your team is at and things like that. That's all we're going to be focusing on, to just win this game and see what we have out there."
How much is the third preseason game a simulation of a true game?
"We're actually game-planning a little bit more than we have the last two games, so we'll know what we're facing against, what the Arizona Cardinals like to do a little bit more versus the other teams and stuff like that. (We'll) just take it from there."
Are you trying to throw some more complicated defensive schemes out there?
"I'd say we're still just playing vanilla defense, vanilla offense, just not showing too much and just going out there and trying to show the coaches exactly what type of talent is out there. It's just pretty much an evaluation process."
The defense has been forcing a lot of turnovers, do you want to save those for the regular season or do you take them when you can get them?
"We're glad to get them when we can get them. You practice that day in and day out, and when it shows in the preseason it's going to show during the regular season. You've just got to continue that as a mentality, trying to take that ball away."
You guys practice how to capitalize on turnovers, it doesn't just happen all of a sudden.
"Definitely. During practice, we practice that. The ball is on the ground, somebody's scooping it up and scoring. It's just a conditioned mentality."
QB BROCK OSWEILER
Where do you think the chemistry with the receivers stands right now?
"I think the chemistry is getting better every single day. Whether we step on the practice field or we're stepping on the game field, every single time that we're together, running routes and throwing, our chemistry is growing, we're getting better. I think the timing of the routes are getting better, I think the receivers are understanding when I want to get the ball out versus man, versus maybe a zone coverage, where I want them in zone coverage. Obviously, I'm learning the body language of each wide receiver with every single day, when he's going to come out of his break, how he likes his football, where he likes his football. Like I said, every single day we're getting better."
Is there anything special you've done to help build that?
"We've been out here grinding every single day. I think you've pretty much seen what we've been doing during training camp."
What have you seen from TE Stephen Anderson?
"Stephen's done a tremendous job, especially coming into a tight end position in the National Football League that he's not necessarily used to playing. I think he's done a tremendous job as far as learning how to get off the line of scrimmage, get open in space, get open versus a linebacker, get open versus a safety. Stephen's one of those guys that comes into the building every single day and he's going to give it his all. He works extremely hard, he studies very hard, which is always great to see in a rookie. He's somebody that I have a lot of trust and a lot of faith in."
Have the injuries along the offensive line affected the way you prepare?
"Not really. Injuries are one of those things that are constantly going to pop up throughout a season. Obviously, you hope to limit them but injuries are part of the game. I think the biggest thing is having that 'next man up' mentality. All those guys who are playing currently are doing a hell of a job. They're all working very hard and we're all getting better every single day."
Within the game, how is the communication between you and Offensive Coordinator George Godsey?
"It's getting better. If you look at the way we broke the huddle in San Francisco, got to the line of scrimmage, compared to how we broke the huddle against the Saints, got to the line of scrimmage and snapped the ball, I think you'll notice a big difference. We were getting the call in quicker, I was getting to the line of scrimmage, I was making my MIKE (linebacker) points quicker and we were getting the ball going. As long as we can constantly improve in that area and kind of speed things up with every single week and just keep getting a little bit better, we'll be all right."
Do you expect more of that this week with the possibility of additional playing time?
"I would say so. Once again, it's just a comfort level. San Francisco is really the first time that I've run this system in a game atmosphere, so of course against the Saints it's going to get a little bit better. I expect it to be even better this week."
In your dealings with Head Coach Bill O'Brien in one-on-one settings, is he seem the same as you thought he was going to be?
"I didn't really set any expectations for what Coach O'Brien was going to be. I wanted to come in with a blank slate, an open mind. That's exactly what I've done. It's an honor to be able to come to work every single day with him because he's a hell of a football coach, he's a great person, he really cares about his players and his staff. You see it on a daily basis. He's somebody that, not only is he a lot of fun to work with and he creates a great atmosphere here, but he's somebody that you can learn a ton of football from as well."