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BRIAN BILLICK WITH THE MEDIA

Thursday - 11/22/2001

Q: How are things going with the gag rule? I mean, is everybody taking it in stride?

The very first meeting that I had with this club three years ago, I told them we were not going to be a team that commented publicly on each other. On Monday, if I’m not mistaken, I simply reiterated that. Can (the media) still talk to the players? Can you still talk to the coaches? Has anything changed?

Q: So gag rule is a misnomer in your opinion, right?

Obviously.

Q: Update the injury report with Duane and Ray…

I can’t tell you more right now until we get through practice. Today we’ll make sure we don’t put them at risk. We’ll work them through it a little bit, and test them a little bit. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow and push them a little more in the latter part of the week. So, the goal is to just ease our way through this practice.

Q: How is Todd Heap?

He’s fine. But I guess that’s easy to say when it’s not my finger.

Q: Michael McCrary’s news was obviously different than what you learned on Monday and told us. Is it a little bit shocking to you?

No, because I was just lying to all of you. I knew all along. We were hoping that when they got in there, the doctors wouldn’t find as much as they did. They wanted to see how the post-op went and if the swelling went down. But, it became apparent by Tuesday that this was going to be it for Michael. It’s a major loss. You feel worse for Michael than you do for anybody. But as you see with team after team, it’s incredible. It’s that time of year. Everybody has somebody of substance that they are going to have to work around and we’re just going to have to do the same thing.

Q: What are you going to do with your defensive line, now without two defensive ends?

Well, there are a lot of things we can do. We’ve got to do a little creative. I know a lot of people are floating the 3-4 idea out there, which is a legitimate perspective. I don’t want to lay out what our plans are right now for Jacksonville, but there are a lot of things we can do, and given our personnel, there’s a lot of options that way. That’s an intriguing possibility, along with a number of others. But with guys like Kelly Gregg and Adalius Thomas, Shannon Taylor has continued to progress. There are a number of things we can do.

Q: Are you preparing for this weekend’s game expecting to face Mark Brunell?

Yeah, I think you have to assume he’ll play. You’d have to think after the week off that he’s going to be ready to go. We’ll adjust, obviously, if Quinn is in there, but you have to just pretty much expect that Brunell’s going to play.

Q: Can you talk about Adalius Thomas’ progression?

He’s excited about getting more opportunities. All of those young guys are. Alvin Porter had a great game for us. Shannon Taylor came in and played well. Kelly Gregg played very well, along with Adalius. So, the enthusiasm and excitement they bring about realizing now that they are going to be a viable part of what we do. It kind of livens up the pace. So, it’s kind of exciting.

Q: Adding Danny Kight has not produced the results you wanted…

That, you like to be a little bit better, but look at it each week. Anytime it’s not kicked out of the back of the endzone, I get pissed off. But if you watch game after game, the best of kickers…I watched Mitch Berger in Minnesota, who’s as good as there is, and that thing in coming down on the 10, on the five, on the four. So that’s the way she is, I guess, and we have to cover better. I’d like Danny to be a little bit more consistent, but he’s doing ok.

Q: What do you think of the end of this rivalry with Jacksonville? It has not been as heated as Tennessee, but it’s still a rivalry.

It hasn’t been as heated, because it hasn’t been as close, because up until last year, they pretty much just kicked our ass. And so that tends to change the temperament of a rivalry as well. But I have a lot of respect for that program, their people and their organization. And for it not to be in the division is unfortunate, but we’ll deal with it. I don’t know that the players focus on that. I don’t know that the realignment thing is real to anybody yet. It will dawn on them next year, oh geez, we don’t play these guys twice.

Q: Fred Taylor going down for them. Is it comparable to Jamal going down for you guys?

Yeah. You can see coach Coughlin has done a great job adapting, expecting to have a different profile, but when you lose your top running back and your top tackle, a situation we’re certainly familiar with, you have to adjust. And they have. Their running game is not as strong as I’m sure they hoped. They have to rely heavily on the pass, and they’ve been good at it.

Q: Are you pulling back the vertical game to protect Elvis?

Only in a sense of ‘how can I help?’ Anytime you have a sack or an interception, as a coach you have to say, ‘how can I help prevent this?’ And you look at all aspects of it. And it’s in conjunction with the quarterback, that’s what one of the strengths of Elvis. I’m excited about where we are going to go from here. And there will be some things that do structurally to try to help minimize putting him at risk because we may have done that in the first half of the season. Will it be a noticeable change? I doubt it.

Q: What gives you reason to be excited?

Because I have a great deal of faith in Elvis Grbac. I have a great deal of faith in this team. I like the way the line is progressing. I like the way the young backs are running hard and carrying their pads. I like that Todd Heap is back and continuing to get a little bit healthier. I am just excited about where we can go from here.

Q: This hasn’t been a storybook continuation from last year for Elvis after he threw for 400 yards. Is that playing on him?

My focus is on what it takes to beat Jacksonville. I am very comfortable with the players that we have and where we can go from here. Look across the League and see how many teams are having this discussion about ‘Gee we lost an important player. Where do we go? Gee this aspect of the ball, or the quarterback play, or the lack of the running game, or you are not getting the running…’ Across the board because it is a dead-even league right now. Everybody is talking about the same thing so to try to find a single thing to attribute it to, try to pin it on a single player or a single aspect of the game just isn’t valid. We’re all scrambling around trying to see who the last man standing is going to be, and it is kind of exciting to think about. It really is.

Q: Are quarterback changes almost becoming old hat to you? You’ve had a couple over the past few years in the middle of the season. Is it something you are getting used to?

I am used to [the media]. My job is to do what? It is to prepare this team both on and off the field. We handed out a scouting report on Jacksonville that talks about Jacksonville’s tendencies and how we can manipulate those tendencies. All I did Monday was hand out the scouting report on you all knowing what you all would talk about at this time of the year. The parts are interchangeable. I can go to Tampa, I can go to Minnesota, I can go to Kansas City, I can go to Seattle…You talk about how I get criticized as being an offensive guy being predictable and conservative. I can go from one town to the next and you guys as a group are predictable and conservative. You all have the same questions. So I am simply trying to prepare my team with a scouting report on what to anticipate from you all. And you know what, was I dead on or what? Was I right?

Q: Since Monday has the response from the media and the fans been about what you had expected?

Well I can only measure that by so much. I don’t want to offend anybody here, but to judge the fans’ response based on what you all write or present is a very dangerous proposition. I did the radio show. It was very lively last night. The problem with the radio show is that it tends to be the same five or six guys that call. So I know what 'Zim' and 'Doc' are thinking, the rest of Baltimore I really don’t know. So you have to be careful with that about making extrapolations from what the mentality of this town is. They were enthusiastic on Sunday. I expect them to be enthusiastic a week from Sunday when we come back to play Indianapolis, because this is going to be a fight to the end. Those that want to have at it, great. Those that don’t, move on.

Q: How does the coaching game change this time of year when injuries are starting to mount up and teams are starting to wear down?

It is how you fight through that. Are you going to let the circumstances dictate to you? Everybody has certain aspects of their offense, defense, special teams that are doing well and that are doing not so well that they are having to address. Are you going to let the emotions, and let [the media] and the questions that you have, which are all very legitimate, and the talk radios and the observations nationally…Are you going to let that wear on you? Are you going to let that wear you down? If you do then you don’t have much hope. If you hold it off as we’ve done before then you have a decent chance of coming out of this thing OK.

Q: Is Randall Cunningham in an awkward situation?

I think every back-up quarterback in the league right now with a team…He believes he can make a difference. If he doesn’t believe, then I don’t want him here. It was interesting, I saw in Minnesota that the rap on Randall is that he wouldn’t be a good back up and he would rock the ship too much. He came into Minnesota and was the perfect guy and then was called upon to play. Then in Minnesota when things didn’t work out as well and Jeff George went in and he diverted back to saying, ‘If my role is to be the back-up I’ll do it.’ He got slammed for being, oh you don’t care anymore. You don’t have any more passion for the game. He was trying to do the right thing and he got slammed for it which is what was irritating to me. Randall understands his role. He has been the perfect back up. When he was called to start he stepped up and took control, was a leader as well as producing on the field, and now he understands that he’s in the same situation to support Elvis. The energy that he brings to the scout team, the way that he’s challenging Chris McAlister and Duane Starks. That is what I brought him in here to do, and he’s been great that way. Is it awkward? Sure, because you always feel that you could make a difference.

Q: What is the status of Starks and James Trapp, and how important would it be to have those guys against Jacksonville?

We’re hoping that they’ll both be listed as questionable, and we’ll see how we get through today’s practice. Maybe not as aggressive as we will tomorrow and Friday and build up to it.

Q: Could it be any kind of advantage for Elvis to be on the road this week where if he has any kind of a slow start he won’t hear the “boos” this week?

I don’t know. Would I prefer to be at home? Yeah, to be honest with you.

Q: With the confidence you’ve expressed with Elvis and the offense, if they got off t a slow start would you consider making a change?

That’s why you have a back-up quarterback. That’s why you have back-up corners. That’s why you have a back-up offensive lineman. If any player gets into a situation where he is having difficulties executing his job and it’s hurting the team, I have to make a change anywhere across the board. That quarterback position is no different than any other, but I will caution you because somebody is going to write the opposite of what I just said. That is the nature across the board. It is not geared toward any one player. I expect Elvis Grbac to be my starting quarterback for a long time, to perform very well, not perfect. Unfortunately for a lot of people, if the man is not perfect, the man should burn in hell. I have a tough time with that concept.



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