Q. Ken Whisenhunt recently sat down with your scouting staff, giving them
his ideas of the kinds of players he likes at each position. Is that
dramatically different than what you’ve been looking for?
A. “No, one of the attractive elements to our decision to go with Coach
Whisenhunt is we felt like the plan that he had talked about with respect
to offense and defense, that we had many of those pieces in place in terms
of our personnel. We really feel like in many respects it’s a plug-and-play
type of approach. We feel like we have some talented players and with a
good plan that our players believe in and a stress on discipline and
execution, I feel like we’ll be a much better football team.”
Q. How would you characterize the free agent market?
A. “I think that there are always opportunities out there. We’re going to
take the approach that we’re going to try and fill as many needs as we can
in free agency and then take the additional approach that we’re going to
draft the best players available. That’s generally been our approach over
the last several years. It’s worked very well for us, and I don’t see that
Q. Do you anticipate things will happen like last year, when you had some
free agents visit and then signed them before they left?
A. “It’s possible. I’d say that was a unique situation. I’m not by any
stretch of the imagination going to guarantee that we’re going to approach
it that way. I think Edgerrin James added a unique element to our approach
last year. It was an opportunity to address our running game with one of
the best backs in the history of the game. And we wanted to jump on that
opportunity. If we’re in position where we can do something similar with a
player who carries as much impact, then I think we’re poised to do that.”
Q. Leonard Davis, the perception that he could be leaving, accurate?
A. “I think that that’s a possibility but we’ve also left the door open to
re-sign Leonard. He stated he wants to return, he wants the opportunity to
continue with us and play for a coach like Russ Grimm and be under the
guidance of Ken Whisenhunt. We feel excited about a lot of the things we
have in place, and I think he shares that excitement with us. What we
didn’t want to do with Leonard, obviously, the situation with him from a
cap standpoint was large, and we didn’t necessarily want to get back into
that area with him.
“We wanted to have an opportunity to see where the market would be for him
and to work with him during the course of that. I’ve indicated to his
agents, Ryan Tollner and Bruce Tollner, that we do have an interest in
talking with him and seeing if we can get something re-established with him
during this period of free agency.”
Q. Will they get back to you if they get an offer from another team?
A. “I know that him returning under those conditions is not a guarantee.
But we’re trusting in the fact that he sees this as a good home for him and
his family and that he would give us an opportunity first before making a
decision to move on.”
Q. Hard question to hear, but it’s about the decision to make a coaching
A. “I mentioned three areas earlier that were a concern to me personally,
that was having a plan that our entire team believed in, and obviously Ken
presented such a plan with the personnel we have in place. I think it’s the
right direction for our team. He’s had great success. He did a marvelous
job with the development of Ben Roethlisberger, and with our young
quarterback I think that’s going to be key.
“The other two things for anyone who has watched us closely over the years
is that we have not been a very disciplined football team in many respects.
We have not executed as well, and I think having studied teams like
Indianapolis, New England, Pittsburgh, they’ve done an excellent job with
respect to those three areas. And I feel like this time we have the
opportunity to move forward and to satisfy our objectives in those areas.”
Q. What was the thinking behind having players involved in the interview
process for a head coach?
A. “Having the players involved in the interview process is something that
Michael Bidwill and I conceived. The objective behind that was to give the
coaches involved an opportunity to see the desire level of our players. It
was not that they were part of the determining factor in terms of who we
were selecting. It gave them an opportunity to really express their
opinions about our team, about the kind of areas they felt like we needed
to address. I think more than anything we wanted them to get before the
candidates and give the candidates the opportunity to see that we have
quite a few football players on this team, like Anquan Boldin, like Adrian Wilson, like Matt Leinart and many others that really want to be
“In other words, give them something to believe in and I think they’ll run
through a wall for us.”
Q. Just how debilitating was that loss to the Bears?
A. “Obviously it was a disappointment and it took a lot out of our football
team. I was actually more disappointed not in that game, but in the two
previous games that followed. We played Green Bay and
we didn’t play as well as we needed to play. We came back against Oakland
and didn’t play as well.
“I felt like we exemplified to many people what kind of team we had in that
Bears game, that we were capable of playing good football. The fact that we
lost our air in the second half really was really was not as big a factor
as not being able to bounce back from it in the two subsequent games. I
felt like we should have won those games. We should have been more prepared
than we were. I feel like our team is a much tougher team than that.
Mentally, we’re tougher than that, and it should not have had as big a
impact. In fact, it should have been quite the opposite. We should have
drew on the positives of what we accomplished that game and how we lost it
and not have it affect us beyond that point.”
Q. Question about Louisville’s Amobi Okoye, who is only 19?
A. “To me, it’s amazing how these youngsters are growing up nowdays. I
don’t remember players being that big and that talented when I was in high
school. But you take a guy who, at his age coming in as a freshman, it’s
even more unbelievable. He’s an outstanding player, and we’ll have an
opportunity ourselves to interview him here. We haven’t done so yet. We’re
looking forward to judging his maturity level.”
Q. Is there an upside to taking someone so young, that you have time to
A. “I think the objective of all NFL teams is to try to bring in players
who can contribute immediately, and then if that’s not the case you have to
work with what you have. We don’t have the luxury, given the salary cap and
free agency, to bring a player along other than the quarterback position. I
think that will be a concern. It will be a concern to us as to how quickly
we think a player like that, given his level of maturity, whether or not he
can come in and handle the pressures of our game and respond. But so far at
the college level he’s done a great job in that respect.”
Q. You’ve drafted some good receivers. How do you sort talent out at that
A. “As at any position, we basically judged our players on their passion
for the game, their football intelligence and how physical they play. When
you look at a player like Anquan Boldin, he meets all of that. In our
opinion, Anquan is the standard now in terms of how we view other
receivers. And so, as we rank this class we’ll be looking at those guys in
those terms: their passion for the game, their football intelligence and
how physical they are with respect to carrying out there duties. This is a
good class, lot of speed and we’ll line them up accordingly.”
Q. Anquan slipped in the draft because of concerns about speed, what does
that say about the importance of the combine?
A. “I think it certainly throws a lot out the door in terms of emphasis
that teams, or general managers and personnel directors like myself put on
speed. I think there has got to be a balance. We’ve seen repeatedly – and
not just with Anquan – throughout the league where you have players that
don’t meet the ideal standard for speed, or the ideal standard for size and
yet they turn out to be great football players. We have a couple guys not
at the level of Anquan, but the way they play the game has compensated for
any lack of abilities, or any lack of size or speed that they possess. But
we’re more focused on people who make us better and have a passion for the
game, and I think that’s going to make us a better team.”
Q. Will you have a team effort on draft day?
A. “Absolutely. We’ve always approached it from a team effort standpoint,
understanding where we are as a football team. Our coaches and scouts have
worked very hard together, even in a short window of time, and we’re just
trying to understand concepts and needs. I think Coach Whisenhunt has done
an excellent job in articulating to our scouting staff and to his
newly-formed coaching staff exactly what we need, what we’re looking for at
those positions, and the type of player we would like to have in our
program. We’ve done a great job in organizing and making sure everybody’s
on the same page with respect to that.
“I view my role in particular when it comes to the draft and to free agency
as supporting the plan that he’s put forward. This will not be a dominating
approach from my seat. It’s more about working with coach Whisenhunt,
trying to put him the position where he can be the best coach he can be.”
Q. Leinart had two shoulder injuries this year (sprains in each one), does
he need to get stronger?
A. “Yeah, when Matt first came in I’m not sure how much weight lifting he
had ever done at USC. So I’m hoping that John Lott (new strength coach) and
a whole new strength program that we’re implementing will benefit him and a
number of others on our football team. But Matt’s a soldier and his
shoulder is probably near 100 percent, if not already. He’s anxious to get
in with Ken and Todd Haley and just kind of get underway with this stuff.
“I heard recently that he and Anquan were together throwing the ball
already, and there’s an anxiousness around our place and a lot of
anticipation about this season. We’re looking forward to progress rather
Q. Do you plan to use cap space to re-sign players?
A. “No question. My objective, and it has been over the last couple years,
is to use our cap room to solidify a strong core of players. And that core
could be anywhere from 15 to 20 players. We would like that group to be the
cornerstone of that team. And the whole thought process is to reinvest in
those guys, to keep and develop some continuity within that group. But we
want to be selective about who is in that group. We’re talking about the
Anquan Boldin- types, the Larry Fitzgerald-s, Adrian Wilson, those type of
guys that we think can make a huge difference for us in the long term. And
that’s where we’re going to continue to re-invest our money and make sure
we can keep those players together.”