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Doug Marrone: "We can continue to get better"

Posted Aug 27, 2013

The Bills head coach talks about the recovery of EJ Manuel, how he looks at putting together the final 53 man roster, and his discussions with safety Jairus Byrd.

HC Doug Marrone

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Opening statement:

Today we were hoping that it would be a slower day. It would be good for all of us. Yesterday we had a lot of stuff to cover. It’s never spread out along. All of the sudden you get so much stuff and you have to pick and choose what you want to go with. It’s kind of difficult.

Q: We saw Tashard Choice step out, did he come back and practice?

A: Yeah, he came back to practice. He just had a…couple guys ankles just got stuck a little bit. I wouldn’t even call them sprains. They came back.

Q: Can you outline how that third running back role will be decided?
A: I think right now you look at, obviously Zach Brown and Kendall (Gaskins) we’re looking forward to seeing how they play along with Tashard on Thursday. Obviously C.J. (Spiller) has been excused and he’ll be back with the team on Sunday. I think it’s important. I think it’s the same thing, what you’re looking for is some diversity from that position, as far as what’s the style of runner? Is it change-up type of situation? Obviously you know the style of C.J. and then we’re looking for them to complement our special teams. I think that’s the big thing. The one thing, like I said before, you’re looking for X amount of phases from special teams, from the offense and from the defense. That puts a lot of pressure, or I shouldn’t say pressure, that gives you the decision making process of who dresses and who doesn’t. So, if you dress, if everyone is healthy and you dress a third running back and you’re not getting phases on special teams from your second or third running back, it puts you at a little bit of a disadvantage and then you have to look for the numbers. So a lot of times if you don’t fill those spots, those ideal numbers for example in a special teams from an offensive standpoint, a lot of times you find yourself dressing extra defensive players to fill that role.

Q: Crezdon Butler lined up with the starters today at cornerback. Can you talk about what you’ve seen from him?
A: Both him and (Justin) Rogers have had some injuries during camp. We know that when we see them play in games, both of those players have played well recently. I think both of those players right now; we’re looking at along with (T.J.) Heath still in the mix with that corner position to see how they do. So both players played well in the last two weeks, Rogers and Butler.

Q: Have you had any thought with carrying an extra cornerback on your roster with the injury to Stephon Gilmore?
A: I think what you have to look at, and I think people sometimes will get concerned with the one position and look for numbers in one position, is that you kind of have to look at it from the overall team. Meaning that you don’t want to say, ‘Gosh we have this injury, let’s keep extra player at this position’ and maybe lose a good player, someone that you like at another position. The numbers thing, I know exactly where we want to go with that right now and we’ve had those discussions, but honestly I don’t want to give that information out because then people will start looking at our roster. Say strategically this is not a very smart thing for me to do, but that’s a good point by you. I think you have to evaluate the whole roster before you make the decision on keeping an extra.

Q: What have you seen from Matt Leinart so far?
A: I’m probably right now more concerned about what we’re going to have the ability to do on Thursday with him in this short time, than I am about exactly what they can overall do. So we’re just trying to make sure the things that they’re comfortable with. They’ve expressed that they’re comfortable with some of the schematics that we run; obviously they’ve done them before, so we just want to pick the right ones that they feel comfortable with and then watch them really play and see how he performs out there.

Q: Will Jeff Tuel start Thursday or will Matt? Have you decided?
A: Well I’m going to answer this question this way. All of our players are going to be ready to play, but we’re going to be smart about it.

Q: I want to talk about Matt Leinart.
A: Yeah I want to make sure, With Kevin (Kolb’s) situation not being a short term situation, I want to see both of those guys. That’s my goal. Absolutely. I have not made a decision of which one is going to play first.

Q: What do you hope to see out of them?
A: Perform. I just want them to perform. Really at the end of the day, I think we’re all going to be looking for the same thing. Who is going to be able to move the offense? Who’s going to perform? We know that we’ve got the effort; we’ve got the time put in by those guys. They’re dedicated; they’re both two very good professionals. Really at the end of the day you’re looking at the performance.

Q: Can you provide an update on what EJ (Manuel) has been doing?
A: Yeah I have no problem. Like I told him, I said I have no problem if he comes out and works out when the media is out here. That’s what he’s doing we don’t need to hide it. He’s coming back and he’s doing everything he can. He’s progressing, I believe it’s seven or eight days after the procedure and he’s 100 miles an hour right now.

Q: What’s the update on Marcus Dowtin?
A: Yeah, it’s just an ankle. I expect him to play on Thursday.

Q: How prepared do you think this team is given all of the adversity?
A: In addressing the adversity situation, I think we’re fine. I don’t see a problem with the adversity situation. As far as what we need to do to become a better team, we still have work to do and it’s a work in progress. I think to say here we are the first week 110-percent, we’re exactly where we want to be, I can’t say that right now. I really believe we’ll still be a team that as we go forward as the season goes on.

Q: How has Erik Pears progressed during camp?
A: Outstanding. He really has. I’ve seen him really make a jump, especially recent days. He gets a lot of great work. Obviously going against Mario (Williams) and the defensive ends on our team, I think that he’s really upped his production from what you’ve seen when he’s played here in the past. I really think he’s going about it as a pro, he works extremely hard. I work with that group, and I really see him. The funny thing is people look and they’ll say ‘gosh, this guy has been here six years or eight years and he is what he is.’ A lot of times, those players, they can continue to get better. I see him as a guy, even though he’s a veteran, he’s really got a lot better, especially in these past couple of days.

Q: Jairus Byrd didn’t seem that happy in his press conference yesterday. Can you shed some light on your discussions with him so far?
A: Sure. I would say this and I think it’s important and I hope that everyone can respect it. My private conversations with players, I like to keep private. I’d rather them, if they want to bring it up they can. I will not. I will go ahead and comment on him. He’s been very, very professional with me. That’s the one thing I appreciate from Jairus. I think that, again, every player when you’re not talking about contracts, not just him but every player that I’ve ever dealt with, it’s a tough situation for them. The decisions and the things like that that go on. At the end of the day, the one thing that I have seen from multiple players, multiple teams, different types of situations, is that when they go on the field and when they’re around the coaches and when they’re around the team they’re truly professionals. He’s been outstanding with me. I’ve had no issues whatever.

Q: He was taking third team reps in the portion of practice we saw. How much time will it take for him to get back?
A: I don’t know if we want to categorize it as third team reps, even though you’re correct, that’s where he is taking some reps. What we’re doing is, like everyone else, we’re just working him back in. Individual, making sure he gets back, there. We’re putting him there because if we put him in a more competitive situation, he’s so competitive he might just go and make that play instinctively. We’re just trying to bring him back just like we would any other player. That’s why you see him out there doing that. We’re just bringing him back to get ready to play.

Q: What do you make of Matt Leinart’s career arc?
A: I really don’t look at that. In other words, I’m trying to look at what he is now, what he is today. I think it’s the same thing of what I do with all of the players. In other words, someone’s past history, whether it be positive or negative, I want to see how he produces with what we ask him to do. That’s how I judge him because I think if you go the other way you assume or they play a vision in your mind of how this player is supposed to play and then he doesn’t for some reason, you’re like ‘we’ve got to get another player.’ I don’t think you can do that. That’s the way I’ve always done it. I’ve had a player in this league that was so and so, maybe a cast-off. The team, previous team, really didn’t want him on the team. Really didn’t play that much. The word around the league was “I don’t know, I don’t know if this guy can play.’ Well I do my due diligence, our scouting department does their due diligence, we bring the player in, he’s a starter for us, he’s a leader for us and he becomes the highest paid player for his position. How do those things happen? I think they happen because you go in there and say ‘Whatever has happened in the past is the past. Here’s an opportunity, take advantage of it.’

Q: Has Stephon had his surgery?
A: Yes and everything went well. No problems.

Q: When EJ comes back, how many full practices are you going to need for him to be able to make a decision about if he can play in the opener?
A: I think I’ll know a lot from that right on the first day he comes back. Meaning that he goes out there that first day and he practices we’ll see how, for lack of a better term, rusty he may be that he may need more. The thing that I look at is when you’re young and energetic you can go back out there and do the same thing. That’s why one of the ways we’re training him right now mentally is getting him as much work as possible. Now he started the physical work, which is good. As soon as he can get out there and get in to start throwing again, that will help in the process. I think to answer your question, the first day he’s out there doing anything, I’ll have a good feel for how long it’ll be.

Q: Has that day been scheduled?
A: It hasn’t been scheduled yet because we’re still pushing. I mean truthfully, we’re still pushing. Like I said before everyone here is a little bit different. Right now, he’s telling me he’s ready to go, but obviously he’s not. That’s the mentality of EJ. I’m excited about it; I’ve watched him do footwork drills and cones. I’ve watched him ride a bike. You talk to the kid and you’d think he’s starting on Thursday.

Q: The date or number of days you would need him back doing those things?
A: I think there’s two things that you look at: A.) The number of time he needs to go play and then B.) The number of days for that preparation. I think there’s two things. I think that to give an example, if we were playing New England, obviously we are the first week, and the doctor said ‘you’re not going to get him on that field until Thursday and then he’ll be ready to play on Sunday’, I would be concerned about doing that. If they said ‘we can get him on that field on Monday or Wednesday’, I would see how he played and then make the decision. That’s how I feel about that situation.

Q: Do you have a set in stone number of practices that a player has to complete before you consider playing him in a week leading up to a game?

A: I think that depends on the player. I really do. I think I’ve had some veteran players that made this mistake before that have not practiced and we put them in the game and they did not play well. I’ve had some players that obviously that could not practice during a week and go in and play. I think that it really comes down to the player and the responsibility of the coaches, that if we do put him out there than we have to be able to hold him accountable for what we’re asking him to do. Meaning that what you can’t do as a coach is say that if a player gets beat, you can’t sit there and go, ‘Well he was injured, he didn’t practice and that’s going to happen.’ That’s not fair to the club nor is it fair to the team. I think each player is different.

Q: Any other injury updates from practice? I know Torell Troup was getting looked at a little bit.
A: Yeah, I think what we saw was Torell was just a little tightness in his leg and he is fine. Kyle (Williams), the same thing that happened to Choice, with the ankle. He’s fine. Really that was it. Just held some other guys, just holding them back; it was a full pad practice.