Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur met with the media before Wednesday's practice to talk about TE Alex Smith being named the fourth captain for Week 1, his thoughts on QB Michael Vick and the Eagles, how Brandon Weeden can improve upon poor plays, and more. Keep in mind that Shurmur met with the media before practice; a little later, we'll have some notes on injury-related news from during practice.
Opening Statement - TE Alex Smith Named 4th Captain for Week 1
(Opening statement)- "Good morning. Before we get started, as you know we have three captains for the year and then every week the captains will bring to me a suggestion for a game captain, which they did. I’ll try to announce that fourth captain in this press conference on Wednesdays. This week’s game captain will be Alex Smith. I think they chose wisely. When you’re looking for players on your team, you’re looking for guys that are passionate, productive and durable and he’s been all those things. He plays on special teams, he plays on the line of scrimmage and in the backfield on offense. He’s a tough guy. As a coach, I’m pleased with their first selection for the week so that’s what we’ve got. Otherwise, there’s been a lot of talking and predicting, everybody’s got their cracks in on what everybody thinks they’re going to do this year and how teams are going to be. It’s here and it’s Wednesday of the Philadelphia week, the first game of the season so just like every week when I get here on Wednesday, we’re working on preparation for the next opponent which ends up being Philly."
(On if he will have anyone special address the team Saturday)- "What we talk about in meetings is between me and the players. I think I have my way of motivating them. I guess the big announcement today is who the fourth captain is."
Not Commenting on the Joe Haden Situation
(On if there has been any indication that Joe Haden will play this Sunday)- "Let me just make this very strong point, that is a league issue and if I did know anything about it I can’t talk about it. I’ve said that all along so at this point I’m not going to comment."
(On Mike Holmgren saying on the radio that Joe Haden has already has an appeal hearing)- "With all due respect, what I would say to you is if you have a follow up question it should be for Mike."
Talking About Michael Vick & The Eagles
(On what makes the Eagles a good football team)- "I think it starts from the top. I think they’re a strong organization. It starts obviously with Jeffrey Lurie on down through Andy Reid and the coaches and the players. I was very proud to have been there. I was on Andy Reid’s first staff and I’m very proud of my time in Philadelphia. I would like to think I had a small contribution building that team into a consistent winner and they just do it. They find a way to win consistently, they have good players, they’re well coached and they’re very strong top down."
(On Michael Vick’s big play ability)- "I think he’s a superstar in this league. He can have a bad play, a bad play and then all of a sudden it’s a touchdown. I think that’s what makes him extremely dangerous. He can do it with his feet from outside the pocket, he throws the ball extremely well. I don’t think you can underestimate and you have to be able to do this as a quarterback in this league, he can beat you with his arm in the pocket. I think that’s what makes him very, very dangerous."
(On if Vick is a one of a kind player)- "I don’t know. I was not around him. He kind of came around on the scene in Philadelphia after I was already gone, but I’ve admired his heroism, his style of play since he’s been in the league. When you look at it, he’s very dangerous guy and I think from that standpoint I’ve got a huge amount of respect for him."
(On the speed of Philadelphia’s receivers and how important it is to get pressure on Vick)- "I think pass rush is important regardless of the quality of the receivers. We know that they’re very dangerous guys, DeSean Jackson, (Jeremy) Maclin. I was there when DeSean burst on the scene. I was there when Jason Avant was a rookie and you can’t underestimate what he is as a receiver. In my opinion when I was there, he was one of the toughest guys on the team. He’s a four-phase special teams guy as a receiver and he’s a leader. We need to get a pass rush because I know they’re fast, I know they’re talented and I know they all catch the ball well."
(On him and other ex-Eagles caches being able to sit around this week and guess what Andy Reid is going to do)- "I think that’s easy to say. I think you can overdue that. I think what’s important is that we watch what they do on film, we evaluate their personnel and then we try to do what we do and match it up the right way. I think that can be overstated and then you get into that he said, she said and I know they’ll do this so we’ll do this. I think that more times than not you screw yourself up and I don’t know if other coaches believe that, but we have to play the Eagles to some degree by just watching them play and forget the relationships. I think that’s the message."
(On the challenges of facing Eagles defensive line)- "They’re very talented. They’re schemed to rush the passer. You just look at the way they’re lined up, wide-nine techniques, they crowd the ball and they get after you. What we’ve got to be able to do is first of all, we’ve got to be able to block them, whoever they put out there. The way they’re structured, they’ve got eight guys that can get after you."
(On what stands out about Jason Babin)- "He’s got a big time motor and I think this scheme fits what he’s good at, which is rushing the passer. They’re relentless and reckless. We know that and we’ve got to do a good job of blocking them."
Comparing 2011 Browns to 2012 Browns
(On what about the team this year is better than last year)- "We’re going to see. Everybody has their opinions of my team. I love my team and I cannot wait to see them compete so that’s where I’m at so we’ll see where we’re better."
(On if he believes that his team is better than a year ago)- "We’re going to find out. This is the time of year when we put our reputations on the line and we go out and we compete. At the end of the game and at the end of the season, we’ll see where we’re at."
(On if he is starting to see some tangible evidence that this year’s team is tougher than a year ago)- "I felt like we had a tough team last year. We had a physical team. Our guys battled their fanny off all year. Now we’re we talented enough? No. Did we play well enough? No, but I feel like that’s the direction. You always want to get bigger, faster and tougher and I think we’ll see. Like I said, if you don’t sense my enthusiasm then you’re missing it. I’m looking forward to putting our guys out there."
Update on JMJ and Lack of Depth at Linebacker
(On if James-Michael Johnson will practice today)- "We’ll see. In terms of injuries, I’m going to let what we give the league stand as my injury conversation for the press conference so we’ll see."
(On only having two reserves at linebacker and if he is concerned with the lack of depth at that position)- "We’ve got more guys than that. We’ve got lots of linebackers and the guys that have to play will do a great job. I am not concerned."
General Points on QB Brandon Weeden
(On what about Brandon Weeden gives him the most confidence that this won’t be too much for him)- "I’ve seen him operate here in the offseason, I’ve seen him operate in training camp, I’ve had a chance to interact with him on a daily basis for a very long time now. I’m very confident that he’s going to do a good job."
(On if Weeden has given him a wide-eyed rookie stare at any point)- "Nope. I think when you watch him play in practice there are times when he’ll make a rookie mistake. I haven’t seen the rookie stare though, that’s a good phrase."
(On the best thing about Weeden besides the way he throws the ball)- "I think there’s a veteran presence there even though he’s a rookie, which you need, because sooner or later you’re standing out there in the middle of the field, and it’s the crowd, and the opponent and you have to make a play. There’s just got to be something in you down deep that’s just going to help you do that. I think I see that."
(On if Weeden moves on quickly from poor plays)- "That’s one of the traits that you like to see in a guy that’s very competitive. We talk about the teaching process all the time. You don’t want to play anxious because that’ll help you make more mistakes, but you want to play fast. But, if you make a mistake, it’s very important that you’re willing to admit it, because if you don’t admit it you can’t correct it. Then you correct it, you forget about it and you move on fast. I think that’s the important thing when you’re working with a player, that that process works continually over and over. You don’t want a player that’s going to reel. We’ve seen it with quarterbacks and other players, how many times have you seen a guy make a mistake and then turn around and make another one? There’s something about the way these guys train themselves when you don’t want to see that. The fact that he can get rid of a mistake, because he’s going to make a few Sunday, let’s just face it. Every player out there’s going to make a few. Now they’ve got to limit the ones they make, so that we can win. When you make one you’ve got to get it correct, forget and move on."
The Importance of the Season Opener
(On if he’s seen a season opener shape an entire season)- "Just like we’re not in the prediction business, I think coaches obviously because there’s more build up to the first game, there’s more conversation about it. We as coaches play them one at a time. It’s very cliché - play them one at a time and add them up in the end. We can check the records, but I’ve been in Philadelphia, where we didn’t win the opener and we were in the playoffs. I’ve been there when we won the opener and had an average year. I think what’s important is, it’s awful nice to win the first one, because everybody wants to get on a roll, but the way you approach is you play your fanny off in the first one and try to win the game. If it doesn’t go the right way you get it correct and you move on. I think that’s the important thing."
(On how he feels about some predictions that the Browns will only win one game)- "I try not to listen good or bad to what gets said and written. I’m not concerned about that. Our concern is getting ready for Philadelphia."
Few Words on RB Trent Richardson
(On how Trent Richardson looked in practice on Monday)- "Trent practiced well."
(On if Richardson had any after affects)- "He looks great."
Managing the High Number of Rookies
(On if he has to help manage the rookies psychologically because they haven’t been through it before)- "Yeah, I think it’s important that we keep in mind. It’s a matter of record right? What, 15 rookies, 26 guys either rookies, first- or second-year guys. That’s a fun stat to throw around. We’ve got to keep that in mind as coaches. We’ve got to try to put them in the best position to make plays. I think it’s important for the most part my style is to stay calm. I think we’ve got to do that. Just like guys that have played a long time, on gameday their emotions tend to raise a little bit."
Analyzing the Browns' Defensive Line
(On if he feels good about the veterans on the defensive line and them helping the younger players)- "I do. I feel good about our defensive end position. Of course, Jabaal (Sheard), Emmanuel Stephens has done a nice job, and then of course (Frostee) Rucker, (Juqua) Parker, are two really veteran guys in my opinion. We all know what veterans bring to the group. I think they’re good players. I really feel like we’ve upgraded our defensive end position this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing them work."
(On if those players are situation players or two-three down guys)- "I think you can see any two of the four out there. If there’s only one out there, there’s a problem (joking). You can see any two of the four on any down or distance."
Andy Reid's Influence on Pat Shurmur
(On Andy Reid influencing him as a coach)- "I’ve got a huge amount of respect, and it’s a matter of record, for who he is as a person, as a man. I learned about this league working for Andy. I know he was influenced along the way like I was. When we came together, I learned about pro football working in Philadelphia for Andy. There are volumes of things I learned from him, because in Philly it was different than in some ways from the way they did it in Green Bay, where he was trained. You kind of shape and pick and choose the things that structurally are the way you want to do it. I learned a lot of good stuff from Andy."
(On how Reid has stayed in the league for so long when no one else really has been able to)- "I think there’s something in the question that points to his character. The man can persevere, I think that’s important. He doesn’t let the issues of the day build up on him. He just keeps working with his team. I hope I’m sitting here 14 years from now because I do appreciate that strength in his character and I hope I learn some of that."
(On when he talked about remaining calm and if that was something he learned from Reid)- "I think I learned to be calm a little bit. I don’t know, I’m a little bit of a hot head, I try to keep it from you. I think I learned to be calm when I was coaching the quarterbacks. I think you’ve got to be able to communicate in a way where you’re helping a player, and do it in a way where it’s constructive. There are other positions, and I don’t want to say what they are, where you can just absolutely lose your mind and the guys respond to it well, quarterbacks don’t. I learned that about myself when I had an opportunity to work with the quarterbacks."