HEAD COACH LOVIE SMITH
"I've been doing this awhile and I kind of look forward to this Monday press conference a little bit. We've talked three times since we played last time. We haven't made any cuts or anything. What are we going to talk about today? We had a practice today. We had a great time Saturday night. I've seen the guys in sweaty uniforms in a different environment, but to see all of our guys dress up, that's how we travel. When we travel, you'll see guys in coats, not all ties, but like you would on a business trip. To see all of our players this weekend with their beautiful spouses and wives was pretty special, for a great cause. But it is about football and today, we had a good practice. In an ideal world, in training camp, you want to hit every situational ball. One situation that is going to come up that you don't get the chance to hit an awful lot, is when it rains and pours, wet ball drills. That's what we were able to get in practice today. It stormed, which was good. We had an excellent practice, but we realize what's coming up. Our roster is a lot larger right now than it will be starting tomorrow. That's a part of our game. We have a lot of players that have helped us get to this point that won't be with us going forward, but hopefully they can get on (a roster) somewhere else. We don't just look at it like getting down to the 53-person squad. It's about the 69, with the 16 practice squad players and the one international player. That's what I'm looking forward to. We won't practice tomorrow but well be back at it Wednesday."
How difficult are some of these decisions as you look at the depth of this roster?
"It is difficult, but in the end there aren't hard decision to make. It's a hard decision if we start making those decisions at the start of training camp, but now we've gone through the off season, training camp, preseason. In my first meeting, guys show us who they are. We're watching everything that you do, so everybody's had a chance to do that. Now, we'll make informed decisions based on all of the information you can get, off the field, on the field. I'm excited about where I think we'll end."
What have you learned most about your team since the start of training camp?
"What we wanted to see was improvement. I talked about the situations we've gone through, all of them. Anything that I think you need to do to prepare for a season, I think we've gone through and what I've learned is that the guys have taken to it. They've been sponges. They've done everything we've asked them to do. We competed in every way, tough training camp practices, long meeting hours, and guys buying into is how were going to do things. It's not a whole lot of compromise to that. This is how were going to do it and we need you to get on board. That's what they've done, veterans, rookies and all."
Are there any positions that you hope to address after roster cuts, like tight end?
"This will be our approach throughout. We're going to set our roster, but were always looking to improve. Improving our ball club is constant. Are there areas where we know what we have here but, yes, we're looking to see who else is out there, available too? That's a part of it. We have an excellent personnel staff working tirelessly behind the scenes. In the end, we'll know what we need to do."
How difficult is it to sit young players down and tell them they're no longer on the team?
"That's tough. You feel for guys. I'm looking forward to all of the conversations because we all started at the same spot, and when you signed up for this, you knew this was a part of it too. It's never any fun when you tell someone that we're going a different direction. If they've done everything they're supposed to do and they can play, there's 32 teams. I haven't only been at one team. If you're a good coach or you're a good player, there will be a spot for you somewhere."
What's your approach on how many running backs will be kept on the roster?
"I'll just say we do have a plan. We're a running team, just look at who we have on our roster right now. When I say we're a running team, I'm not giving you anything. The team that we play to open up the season (Indianapolis Colts), right here at NRG stadium, they're a running team too. Their best football player may be their running back (Jonathan Taylor). There's a lot of ways to do it, and we're going to look at all of the different ways that you can run the football. When I say run the football and be physical, it's not like we're going to run the ball every play this year. Whether we win or we lose, eventually it's going to come down to the passing game, our quarterback, Davis Mills, completing passes to our receivers."
How confident are you that QB Davis Mills can be the guy long term?
"I don't think you can find an interview that I've done - it's not gray, it's in black and white. I believe in him for a good reason. I love him leading our team. We all had to perform this year. I have to do my job. Every coach, every player has to do that, but we like the way were going. Just like every other team around, it doesn't matter what happened last year, we all have to start over again. I like the way we're starting off. It does come down to the quarterback an awful lot. Everything you can do as a young quarterback, he's done and he's ready to take that next step. We're going to give him all the tools that we think are necessary for him do to well and that's not just offensively. That's how we play defense and special teams."
Do you think RB Dameon Pierce has done enough to be the starting running back?
"I don't have a mask on on how I feel about things. Dameon Pierce has played good ball pretty much since he got in the facility. He's a good football player, right amount of power. He'll make you miss in the open field. He can catch the ball. He can do a lot of things that NFL running backs do."
Is RB Dameon Pierce going to be the starter?
"I'm telling you that's what I think about him right now. You want me to tell you if he's a starter or not?"
Since you named DB Jalen Pitre as a starter, is RB Dameon Pierce going to be a starter?
"I've told you about Jalen Pitre, that doesn't mean I'll tell you about everything else. If I was going to tell you, I would've come out here and said that. We're not naming any more positions. Since Jalen Pitre has been in the starting lineup the entire time that he's here, that's an easy one. With our running back position, I think you can see why we'll kind of wait for that."
Do you think with one less preseason game it makes it harder to evaluate players?
"No, I think three is plenty. You look at how teams used the four, back in the day, four preseason games. Most guys use three preseason games to really evaluate. I think three is plenty. We have all the information we need. We didn't need any other scrimmages against people to find out. With the training camp practices you have and the three preseason games to me, and the offseason, that's plenty for the decisions we need to make."
Are you going to reorganize your offensive line after seeing what OL Kenyon Green can do?
"When you have a healthy group and have healthy players, how do they perform, how do they compare to the rest of the guys in the group. I think it's as simple as that. Kenyon (Green) is a first round draft pick for a reason. He has first round talent and there have been times when he's been out there we have seen a lot of that. He's healthy right now, ready to go, so we'll go from there. We don't play for two weeks so we've got a little time before we play. The starting lineups and all that will eventually come out. Indy (Indianapolis Colts) probably wants to know the starting lineups too, but we'll keep some of that to ourselves until then."
Does the injured/reserve list play a factor on you shaping your roster?
"Yes. Some of the players are good football players and play good ball for us and they're injured right now. How we work those numbers to keep them on the roster, all of that goes into the 53 and that's what we're working on tirelessly on right now. In the end, we'll get that all worked out and the players we feel like we need to win this year, not just short term, the long term for the entire year, that's what we'll go with."
What are some of the lessons you've learned in the past that can help you build a roster this year?
"What I've learned is that we kind of know the rules early on and numbers we have to get down to. You let the players know early. 'Guys, eventually we have to get to this. Everything you do from now on, we're looking at.' Nowadays, we video everything the players do. What I've learned is there's a gut feeling you go with, backed up by information, and we grade everything. We see them in every environment. In the end, I don't think the decisions are that hard. It becomes clearer when you just let guys start playing. Rookies you don't know, you let them come in and you just start comparing them and they kind of tell you. It's not my first rodeo and that's what I felt going into hard cuts. In the end, it's pretty clear on what you need to do."
How are you organizing the secondary with the additions of DB Jalen Pitre and DB Derek Stingley Jr.?
"I think they're both talented players that have a great intellect for football and they get it. They've picked up everything quickly. We've been pretty basic on what we've done in the preseason, but with everything else, that's what I've seen from them. They're football guys. They're hungry. A lot of rookies are hungry and our rookies really are. Just don't think we're going to be limited with what we do with them. I don't think we're going to have to adjust what we like to do based on the amount of rookies that we play. If we play a rookie, we're saying he can take everything and he's ready to go, and I think we're going to have a few that will be in that position."