Tag:Five Questions
Posted on: October 22, 2010 6:20 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2010 6:54 pm
 

5 Q's (or more) w/ Cincy WR coach Mike Sheppard

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The Bengals were supposed to have one of the best receiving corps in the league. With the addition of Terrell Owens – no matter what you think of him off the field, he can still produce – joining Chad Ochocinco, rookie WR Jordan Shipley and rookie TE Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati successfully fulfilled its offseason mission in providing weapons for QB Carson Palmer.

Why, then, are the Bengals struggling on offense?

This week, we talked to Cincinnati receivers coach Mike Sheppard, who’s been in the organization for the past four years and who previously was the head coach at New Mexico and Long Beach State. We asked him about the addition of Owens, why Ochocinco has scored only once this year and what it’s like to be a Hall of Famer.

1. CBSSports : Coming off a loss and a bye week, you’re one of those teams that – and there are probably 10 teams out there like this – you’re not sure what you’re going to get out of them every week. You just don’t have any idea. Where are you guys right now?

Mike Sheppard : From my standpoint there’s still an adjustment with a lot of the players together. It looks like we have some better players, but in the passing game, in reality, Palmer is throwing to only one guy he’s seen before. Terrell, for all that he’s achieved, he’s still new here. We have a rookie tight end and a rookie slot receiver. For anybody, there’s always that adjustment period. We’re still going through it.

CBS : Obviously, you can’t put a number on how long that lasts, but you’d like to think – we’re in the middle of October – that at some point soon, that adjustment will get to where you want it to be.

Sheppard : Yeah, I think so. It has to happen soon. Everybody is aware of it. Everybody is working hard to continue to play together and learn each other better. Sometimes you can’t construct the experience in practice that they’ll see in a game. It’s a matter of playing together. I think we get a little better each time. It’s a matter of being able to put it all together.

2. CBS : There was a lot of talk in the offseason about Owens and whether anybody wanted him. For a long time, nobody did want him. I know he worked out here(in the offseason, and he was just OK. But now that he’s been here, he seems to be playing well.

Sheppard : He’s been great for me.

CBS : Tell me about that whole thing. I know there was some trepidation in the organization about signing him. It was between him and Antonio Bryant, and you guys signed Bryant originally.

Sheppard : The decision there was more about youth. They’re both good players. At that point, that was that decision. In the beginning, we all felt (Owens) would make us better. That’s been true. For me personally, he’s hungry. He listens. He wants to do it your way. He’s like Chad in both of those guys have had some success doing things that are instinctive. He’s been a hard worker. He’s been a player for us. So far, it’s just a matter of getting that experience with Carson.

3. CBS : How disappointing was the Bryant thing? The team sunk a lot of money into him, and he never got healthy.

Sheppard : All of us were. Not disappointed in him, but disappointed he never kicked that (injury). Now, he’s a football player. He has the right approach. He went hard. He talked, and he backed it up. He would have been an excellent addition if he was physically the player he was in the past.

4. CBS : Chad Ochocinco is struggling a little bit. He’s not getting the ball thrown to him as much as T.O. What’s going on with him?

Sheppard : If I’m not mistaken, he got 12 balls thrown to him in the first game. You look at that, and maybe it’s not so true. He’s had some chances. But things tend to come in bunches. In his case, he hasn’t had the same opportunities that he had that first game. Those are things where it’s a lot more about the opportunities. Everything has to be right to get the ball, not just have the play designed to go to you. It has to be right with the style of coverage they play. Sometimes we call the right play and get the wrong coverage.

CBS : Chad has been one touchdown away from breaking the club record for touchdowns for, like, six weeks. It’s bizarre he’s not scoring touchdowns. It just seems a little odd, because it’s been so prevalent the past six or seven years.

Sheppard : If you look at it, you’re going to be hard-pressed to remember any throws in the end zone to him. He’s the straw that stirs the drink here. He’s the guy that everybody knows we’re going to attempt to get him the football. They start with him (defensively). A lot of it is because they’re aware of Chad and what he’s doing.

CBS : The only one I remember is when Chad was going across the back of the end zone, and it was tipped or he missed it or something like that.

Sheppard : That was a hard deal, because the throw was supposed to go the other way. It can come back to Chad late, but the way it worked out was it was more of a quick scramble by Carson, and as Chad started to come open, Carson had to throw it before he knew where (Ochocinco) was going to be. So, he just took a guess, and it was a little bit overshot.

5. CBS : You went back to your high school last week because you were inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame. Now, when somebody asks you if you’re a Hall of Famer, you can say that you are. Sheppard: It’s such a great honor, especially when you know how many people that were around you that were better than you. You know? Sometimes I think to myself if it isn’t more a recognition of professional achievement as a coach in the NFL.

CBS : You said all three of your kids were there …

Sheppard : Actually, all four were there.

CBS : But that’s got to be a pretty cool to be recognized for something like that.

Sheppard : It’s a great honor. It’s almost embarrassing from the standpoint that really, deep down, you ask how many others are more deserving than you. But yeah, no one will ever appreciate that honor more than I.
Posted on: October 15, 2010 4:27 pm
 

Five Questions (or more) with Anthony Armstrong

A. Armstrong had a big impact last week for Washington. He's seen here catching a 48-yard TD pass (AP). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

You probably didn’t know about Redskins WR Anthony Armstrong before last Sunday when you saw him make that outstanding fourth-quarter 48-yard leaping touchdown catch to get Washington back into the game – a game the Redskins eventually would win in overtime against Green Bay.

Why would you have known about Armstrong before that very moment, anyway? He played collegiately at West Texas A&M, a school I’m sure you don’t follow. In 2006, he played with the Odessa Roughnecks of the Intense Football League where he finished THIRD on his team in receptions. If anybody knows anything about the Intense Football League, please raise your hand. He moved on the next season to the Dallas Desperadoes of the Arena Football League. Then, he had stints on the practice squads of the Dolphins and the Redskins. He wasn’t exactly a household name.

Although he’s 27 years old, he’s still classified as a first-year player. “The normal rookie,” he says, “is 21 or 22 years old. I’m 27. It’s kind of weird, but I take it and go with it.” He’s tied for fourth on the team with seven catches, but he’s averaging an amazing 26.9 yards per reception. Plus, he has that highlight-reel touchdown catch. We spoke to him this week about his minor-league stints, his part-time job in a jewelry story and whatever the hell the Intense Football League was.

Previous Five Questions (or More):

Oct. 8:
Patriots LB Rob Ninkovich

Oct. 1: Kent Babb of the KC Star

Sept. 24: Texans WR Kevin Walter

Sept. 17: former Bengals, Titans DT John Thornton

Sept. 11: Seahawks RB Leon Washington


1. CBSSports: Before last week’s game, there probably weren’t very many people outside the Washington area that had heard your name before. But then you came out with that leaping TD catch that made such a big impact. Because I know you toiled for so long in the deep minor leagues, what was last week like for you?

Anthony Armstrong:
It ended up being a pretty good week (laughs). Going into that game and of course getting some extended playing time and having that big touchdown that changed the momentum, coming out of that game was huge.

CBS:
This was your breakthrough game, though. Did you ever think something like this would happen to you?

Armstrong: I’ve said for years if I could just get the opportunity or get the chance to compete, I could show I had the ability to play the game. Just being able to have that type of performance, it’s one of those things that just shows that I do have the ability.

2. CBS: So, what the heck is the Intense Football League?

Armstrong: It was just an independent brand of arena football. It only had six teams at the time, I think. It was a way for me to get back into football after I had missed a year rehabbing an injury. That was going to be a way to get some tape. I was successful down there, and I kept graduating to the next level. I kept getting promotions.

3. CBS: I’ve talked to plenty of guys who have played in the AFL and AF2. In the AF2 especially, those guys are making like $50-$75 a game. What did you get paid, and how do you survive on that?

Armstrong: It was only about a couple hundred dollars a game. It wasn’t very much at all. I wasn’t really in minimalist mode, but every bill I paid was the minimum possible you can pay. I kind of lived off the land almost. I couldn’t do too much, because of the money.

CBS: Did you have another job?

Armstrong: When I was there in Odessa, I didn’t have a job. When I left and went to the Dallas, I started working at a jewelry story. I would practice in the morning and I would go to the jewelry story at the mall and work from 3-9 p.m. Those were some long days.

CBS: Were you a good salesman?

Armstrong:
I did well. My first December, I sold a four carat diamond heart solitaire to a guy. It was just something I had to do to pay my (rent and utilities).

CBS: How do you get yourself through a day like that? You’re so far away from the NFL, and you’re working in a jewelry story to make ends meet. How do you keep going through all that just to play football?

Armstrong: Football was my ultimate love. I realized I’m more happy when I’m on the field and when I’m in watching meetings and watching tape, When I was in Dallas, I knew the Desperados were connected to Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. I felt that was going to be a good way in. But I was also preparing to say I could play Arena Football League for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to do that, but that was my plan B.

CBS: Is there anybody else who played in the Intense Football League that made it to the NFL? I can’t imagine there would be.

Armstrong: 
Not off the top of my head. I think there might have been some guys who were in NFL Europe and were trying to get into the league that way.

4. CBS: I think people are surprised with the Redskins. People were thinking they were going to win five or six games this year – maybe seven – but you guys are 3-2 and are tied for first in the NFC East. I imagine you guys thought you had better potential than most everybody else, but what do you think of where you guys stand right now?

Armstrong: We knew what we had going through OTAs. We knew we had the ability to be good on offense and be solid on defense. We’re still in a growing process. We still haven’t played a full football game. We’re still learning the offense and the defense together. As the season goes along, we’ll be able to jell and play better down the line.

5. CBS:
I read your interview after the game last week when you mentioned on the TD catch that you drank Red Bull and it gave you wings. Then, I saw one of Red Bulls’ competitors sent you some of their product.

Armstrong: Actually, it was a shipment from Liquid Lightening. It’s kind of funny. I didn’t expect it. It surprised me when I pulled up to the park, and security said I had a package waiting.

CBS: How was it?

Armstrong:
It didn’t taste too bad. I might have to get some more.

CBS: Is it strange that you now have this power where people – and companies – pay attention to what comes out of your mouth?

Armstrong: It is weird. You just get to know the effects of marketing and product placement. I was a marketing major, so I understand how that works - get your product in your right hands and that’s how it gets blown up.

CBS: You also took your NFL fine for wearing your socks too high. I guess you’re trying to run the entire NFL gamut in one week, huh? Touchdown catch and a fine.

Armstrong:
I guess I want to be very efficient and get it all out at once.

CBS:
But I bet if you knew a few years back when you were playing in the Intense Football League and working at jewelry store that you’d have to take a fine in the NFL after a touchdown catch,  you’d be OK with it.

Armstrong:
Well, shoot. I’m not trying to throw away my money. I’m going to do my best to get that money back.

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Posted on: October 8, 2010 11:48 am
 

Five Questions (or more) with Rob Ninkovich

R. Ninkovich had a breakout game last week vs. Miami, intercepting two sacks and tallying a sack (AP). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

New England linebacker Rob Ninkovich had his breakout game last Monday in Miami. Before the Patriots special teams took over the game, Ninkovich was a dominant force in the middle of the field. He intercepted Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne twice – the first two picks of Ninkovich’s career – and he finished the Patriots win with four tackles and a sack.

After a two-year career at Purdue, the Saints drafted him in the fifth round in 2006. He played only three games before suffering a knee injury. The next season after hurting his other knee, the Saints waived him. He soon caught on with the Dolphins. Despite playing a few games, he was soon released and signed to Miami’s practice squad. Then, the Saints re-signed him but soon re-released him.

Eventually, he caught on with New England, and in Week 2 of the 2010 season, he started his first game. But if you hadn’t heard of him before last Monday, don’t worry. More than likely, most other NFL fans you know hadn’t heard of him either.

Previous Five Questions (or more) With …

Oct. 1: Kent Babb of the KC Star

Sept. 24: Texans WR Kevin Walter

Sept. 17: former Bengals, Titans DT John Thornton

Sept. 11: Seahawks RB Leon Washington


1. CBSSports.com: Obviously, it’s been pretty quiet in New England the past few days. But even with the Randy Moss stuff going on, you guys also have a bye this week. I assume you wouldn’t want the bye so early in the year, but what are your thoughts about having it in Week 5?

Rob Ninkovich: Obviously, it’s a long season. Anytime you can get a bye week maybe halfway through the year, that can help you a little bit. But it’s just the way it is. You have to deal with it. Get through the first four weeks and do the best you can in the first four games, get a break and finish strong. It’s just one of those things where some guys have it early and some later. You just have to deal with it.

2. CBS: The team is 3-1 and tied for first in the division, but I think many people are saying the Jets are the team to beat in the AFC East. Still, are you guys happy with where you are, considering where you stand in the division right now?

Ninkovich: You really can’t be happy. In this league, every team is so good, and you just have to get through each week. You have to win and keep winning. We’re just focusing on the next week, which is a big game for us. The last time we played Baltimore, it wasn’t the best. With us having this bye week, it gives us extra time to prepare for the Ravens. Every week, we’re focusing on whoever is in front of us.

CBS: I wonder this. Because everybody seems to be on the same page in New England with what you guys say to the media and just the attitude you have being coached by Bill Belichick, what’s the atmosphere like in New England for a player?

Ninkovich: You come in and do your job. That’s the number one thing. You do what’s asked of you. You do everything to the best of your abilities. You don’t complain. You don’t say nothing. I like that. That’s the kind of person I am. I’m not really a big talker. I don’t need to say anything. I just go out and do what I’m supposed to do. This atmosphere is that everybody is working for one goal. That’s to win the division and go far in the playoffs and get to the Super Bowl.

CBS: Is it different than other locker rooms you’ve been in?

Ninkovich: Yeah. Definitely the expectations are high. If you lose five games here, it’s a bad season. With the expectations so high here, you have to be able to play at that high level. It’s just one of those things where you just do your job.

3. CBS: It’d be silly if I didn’t ask you this. But so much attention has been paid to you guys the past couple days because of the Randy Moss situation. It’s a bye week, so maybe you haven’t been distracted by it. But with so much talk about Moss and whether he had incidents with other coaches, what’s the locker room been like the past few days?

Ninkovich: We’ve had a couple days off. I really didn’t pay attention to it. I wasn’t looking at it that much. With this business we’re all involved in, it happens. You have to accept what happens. You have to accept that roster moves took place and move onto the next week. You can’t worry about other people. You just worry about yourself.

4. CBS : On a personal level, what was the Miami game like for you? It was kind of your breakout game, and after having been in the league for a few years, getting waived by a few teams, what was it like to have a game like that?

Ninkovich:
It felt great. Especially playing against a team that I had been at and had been on the practice squad and they didn’t think I could play. It’s always good to go out and play well against a team that didn’t really want you. I’m happy I went out there and played well. That’s a huge win for us as a team. All three phases were playing really well. At the end of the game, it’s like a surreal thing. It didn’t hit me until later that I had a pretty good game.

CBS: I was talking to Kevin Walter of Houston a few weeks ago, and you guys have similar paths. Guys who didn’t come into the league with much fanfare who have been waived by a few teams before breaking out. Walter has been really good the past few years, and I wonder how you keep fighting through what might be a negative perception about you whether you can play in the league?

Ninkovich: It’s believing in yourself and continuing to work hard and doing what you have to do to prepare. Every year for me, I go into training camp and I know I have four games so I can show these coaches I can play and do well. My first year, I had a setback with an ACL injury. I was playing defense for the Saints, and I had an ACL tear and that took me out of my rookie year. My second year, I had another injury to my other knee. Then I was in Miami with (Bill) Parcells, they wanted me to move to inside linebacker. It was not something I was a fan of, but I took it in stride. It’s been a crazy world. You keep working and you keep grinding. Hard work pays off.

CBS: Because you had been in New England last year, was it easier coming into camp this year?

Ninkovich: Much better than last year. Last year, I came into training camp a week into training camp. I was already a week late. It wasn’t the easiest thing learning the playbook. This year coming into OTAs and minicamp, it was definitely easier being able to get into the playbook. I was pretty excited and I knew it was going to be a chance for me to be a big part of the defense.

5. CBS: Your dad was – or is – an ironworker in Chicago, right?

Ninkovich:
Yeah, he still is.

CBS: I read somewhere where during a summer in college, you worked with him as an ironworker. Is that right?

Ninkovich:
For two weeks, I worked the night shift. Ironworkers, any type of blue-collar job, I have a lot of respect for guys who do that, and my father is in that group. He works seven days a week. He doesn’t get vacation. If he wants to get a week off, he has to make sure he works a couple extra weekends so he can get the money. With me doing that in one summer, it really opened my eyes. It’s not something I’d want to do for forty years or fifty years. My dad always said that it’s fun while you’re young, because you’re making money.

But when you’re 50 and it’s 20 degrees below zero and you’re sitting on an iron beam, it’s not much fun. He said come do this for a couple weeks, and it was a good experience for me to see what my dad has been doing for the last 30 years.

CBS:
What did you do?

Ninkovich: We were putting up a bridge. I was pretty high up there. We were in these big tall lifts. What they do is have a big beam, and they tie two ropes on the end. They have two guys on the side, and all these guys are trying to get the beam in the right spot. You have to have great communication, because it’s very dangerous. It’s very intense. You have a lot of stuff going on. You could lose a finger. You could fall and die. It was eye opening to me.

CBS: Compared to that, football must seem easy.

Ninkovich:
Football is you going to college and getting your degree, and you keep going if you’re good enough. I knew I didn’t want to be an ironworker for the rest of my life.

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Posted on: October 1, 2010 3:26 pm
 

Five questions (or more) with KC Star's Kent Babb

Kansas City's defense is one reason why the team has started the season 3-0 (Getty). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Kent Babb has covered the Chiefs for the Kansas City Star for the past three seasons. Finally, he's getting to cover a football team that actually is successful.

We talked to Babb this week about why the Chiefs have performed so well, why coach Todd Haley is different this season, how QB Matt Cassel responds to criticism and the death of Kenny McKinley.

Previous Five Questions (or more) With …:

Sept. 24: Texans WR Kevin Walter

Sept. 17: former Bengals, Titans DT John Thornton

Sept. 11: Seahawks RB Leon Washington

1. CBSSports.com: I think everybody is surprised to see the Chiefs start 3-0. Is this something that anybody could have expected? How did you think they’d do before the season started?

Kent Babb: I thought they’d win six or seven games. I thought if they got off to a really great start and upset San Diego, then maybe they’ll win eight or possibly nine. Never in 100 years did we think they’d start 3-0. No way in the world. But that’s what happened. I don’t know why that is. I think a lot of things have gone right. Todd Haley has coached extremely well. Somehow it’s just happened. People are crowing about how they saw this coming. I don’t think anybody – even the people in the organization – would have thought they’d start this well. There’s just no reason. It’s insane to think they would start like this.

2. CBS: So much has been said about Haley and about how last year, he was so demanding of his team. But now he’s laughing and making players honorary coaches, and the team is responding. How much of an impact did it have that he’s kind of changed his coaching style?

Babb: Maybe some. Part of it is a response to what he did last year. I was like a lot of people in saying, ‘What is this guy doing?’ He was screaming at everybody and embarrassing players on the field. Now he makes the point that it was part of his strategy. I think it’s a couple things. I think that no person is ready to be an NFL head coach. That extends to Todd Haley. I think part of what he had to do was assert himself, because he didn’t take the traditional path to being a coach. Part of it – and he says this was on purpose – was because the team was so lacking in discipline and focus, he had to come and be a jerk for a season. He had to be a complete maniac. Once they understood that, he could take his foot off the gas. That makes sense psychologically. I don’t think the players liked him a lot of last year. But now it’s gotten to the point where players are understanding a little bit. I read a thing the other day where he’s always texting Brandon Flowers and saying, ‘Darrelle Revis is SO much better than you.’ That’s part of his mind game. But guys are starting to respond to it, because they think, ‘Nobody is this over the top.'

3. CBS: It’s hilarious to read your Twitter feed on Sundays because of how much you rip Matt Cassel. How is this team playing so well when they’ve got a guy who’s 25th in the league in passing? I know they lead the NFL in rushing, but the defense is OK and Cassel is running the show. How are the Chiefs doing it?

Babb: They did it the first two games just by the skin of their teeth. The last game, they made what could be the biggest adjustment of the year – scaling down their expectations of Matt Cassel. It was right when the second quarter began. They ran these short and intermediate routes instead of throwing the deep ball. They were throwing to (Dexter) McCluster, (Tony) Moeaka and (Jamaal) Charles and letting them do something with it. That’s how this team will score points. If you’re counting on Matt Cassel to lead you on these heroic drives, it’s not going to happen. For every one great ball he throws, there’s six or seven ones that aren’t. It’s what the Chiefs will have to get used to, because he’s not a great quarterback. They’ll have to rely on other weapons. They did that against San Francisco, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence they scored 31 points and, by the way, Cassel threw for the most yards of the season.

CBS: It’s easy for a national guy to rip on him, because he or she is not going to be in the locker room the next day. But you’re there every day. Assuming he knows what you write about him, how do you and Cassel get along?

Babb: With Matt Cassel – and this goes back to the New England days – these guys are trained to put on a good face. They never admit they read or see anything. I don’t believe that, because I think this team is very sensitive and very aware about what’s said about them, maybe more than anyone else. Publicly, they act like they don’t hear anything. Only occasionally does Matt Cassel show where he’s bothered by it. Before the season in a press conference, you could tell our questions were getting under his skin. It was a very bizarre few minutes. One of the radio guys asked, ‘What do you have to do to get the fans back on your side?’ You could tell Cassel was starting to hear it. I asked him, ‘You’re a guy who’s come back from some stuff. Do you relish proving people wrong?’ He got a little teary-eyed, and he pretty much said he only plays for his family and for the people who believe in him. The next question came but then he kind of walked out of the press conference. That’s the most real thing I’ve even seen out of him.”

4. CBS: Can the Chiefs keep up this run of success? Can they actually contend for the AFC West title?

Babb: I say yes for three reasons. No. 1, the defense is pretty good. It’s for real. The other two reasons are their schedule and the AFC West. Basically, it’s set up for the Chiefs to win this year. San Diego has lost two games already, and they’re already two games behind the Chiefs in the standings after just three games. The Chiefs will come back to reality the next two weeks when they go to Indy and Houston. We’ll see what they’re made of. If the defense can keep those two offenses in check – even if they don’t win those games – maybe they’re sort of for real.

5. CBS:
You used to cover the University of South Carolina before going to Kansas City. When were you there?

Babb: For three years – in 2005, 06 and 07.

CBS: So, you must have gotten to know Kenny McKinley pretty well. I went to his funeral service on Monday and I’ve talked to other people, and everybody talked about how happy he always was. How he always had a smile on his face. What are your memories of him?

Babb: Mainly, like everybody else, I never would have thought anything like that would ever happen. All the stories are true. Anytime you ever saw him, he was in a good mood and telling funny stories. Even if the Gamecocks got beat pretty badly, he was the guy who saw the sunshine. This goes to show you never know what’s going on. Whatever you see, it’s not necessarily representative of what’s going on in their mind. It was a pretty shocking thing for me. If you lined up 100 people who may be a candidate for a thing like this, Kenny would have been the last guy picked. There’s just no way you could have predicted it. It’s just sad somebody who had so much at a young age can’t find a way out of it, that he suffers so much, this is the route he finds.

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Posted on: September 24, 2010 9:39 am
Edited on: October 1, 2010 2:35 pm
 

Five Questions (or more) with Kevin Walter

K. Walter has made a big impact on the Houston receiving corps (AP). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Kevin Walter might be one of the more underrated receivers in the NFL. Perhaps it’s because he was an afterthought in the 2003 Draft when the Giants took him in the seventh round and promptly released him. Perhaps it’s because, though he was solid in special teams with the Bengals, he never caught more than 19 passes a season during his three years in Cincinnati.

But after he left for Houston, Walter has showcased his potential. In the past three full seasons, he’s combined for 178 catches, and he showed how important he is last Sunday in the Texans overtime come-from-behind victory vs. the Redskins when QB Matt Schaub turned to him when Andre Johnson went out temporarily with an injury. He finished with 11 catches for 144 yards and a TD and was a big reason the Texans beat Washington.

We talked to him this week about his career and about how much his older brother beating him up affected his football career.

Previous Five Questions (or more) With …:

Sept. 17: John Thornton

Sept. 11: Leon Washington

1. CBSSports.com: Going into the season, there had been so much talk about Houston’s 1-15 record against the Colts. How big a game was that for you guys, and how do you not let one game overshadow the rest of the season when you’re actually preparing for the season?

Kevin Walter: No matter who it was against, it was going to be a big game, because it was the opening game and it was at our place. It was a huge game against Indy because they had owned the division the past few years. During our offseason, we talked about why can’t it be us, instead of the Colts or Tennessee or Jacksonville? Why can’t it be us? We knew it started with us executing and getting the job done.

CBS: Now that you’ve actually won, did that dispel some of the doubts that maybe you had? Or the doubts that other people had about whether you could pull that off?

Walter: People are going to doubt us all year. We haven’t been to the playoffs the whole time we’ve been here.  People will still doubt us. People will think these first two wins were flukes. That’s OK. We don’t care what people think. We care what people in this organization think. We’re doing a heck of a job.

2. CBS: So, what about Washington? You guys fell behind 27-10, and in the past, that seems like a game where you don’t come back and you just lose. I think people would have doubted you again if you had lost that game. But you guys did come back and you actually won the game.

Walter:
In previous years, we would have found a way to lose the game. This year, we’re finding ways to win that game. This is a new year. We stress that. We’re out there for 60 minutes, and we never give up. We were down 17 points, and we were fighting back all game. No one probably believed we were going to win that game, but we weren’t bummed out. We knew the offense was getting the ball in the second half.

CBS: How much does Gary Kubiak play in it? Every year he’s on the hot seat, because every year, you guys don’t make the playoffs. How much would it mean to you guys to get him to the playoffs?

Walter:
You want to play for Coach. We told Coach we were there to play for this organization, but he’s the type of coach you want to go out and bust your tail for. He takes care of us. He’s been in the Super Bowl. He’s been in the league for a long time. We’re out there playing for him.

Walter 3. CBS:
Speaking of never giving up, the same could be applied to you. I was working for the Cincinnati Post when you were with the Bengals, and you didn’t play a significant role on offense. But now you’re a 60-catch-a-year guy. Why did it take five years into your career for that ability to show up?

Walter: When I got the in league, I was a seventh-round pick by the Giants. I was cut, and I got to Cincinnati and I was on the practice squad for five weeks and then I played 11 games my rookie year. We had some great receivers in Cincinnati. Peter Warrick was there at the time, and Chad (Ochocinco) was there, and (T.J.) Houshmandzadeh was there. We had some guys. My niche was doing whatever role they wanted me to do. I played all four phases on special teams. But it was also about working on your craft. I was OK with that. I knew my role, but it was about getting better for each of the roles you had.

CBS:
But you must have thought that on another team, you could have a different role. Did you think you would ever showcase the potential you must have known that you had?

Walter:
When you’re in the league, you want to play. If you’re a receiver, you want to start. You go make plays and do the things you know you can do. But since I was a late-round pick, that shows you that you have to get your foot in the door. You have to know your role. I knew I wasn’t going to catch 60 balls my first three years. But when you’re the fourth receiver and then you get the opportunity to start, you better take advantage of it.

CBS: Andre Johnson overshadows every other WR in the league, not just on his team. But last week, after he went out with an injury, the coaches turned to you. How great was that for you to show that you could carry the load when the top receiver isn’t in there?

Walter:
I’m ready for as many opportunities as they want to give to me. Whether it’s one catch a game or 11 catches, like it was last week. They know I’m ready to help out. When ‘Dre went down, we all needed to pick it up. He leaves a big void out there if he’s not there. We need him out there. But everyone made plays. We all made mistakes, but you know what? Everyone that made mistakes also made plays. That’s all that counts.

4. CBS: I read somewhere that when Ochocinco did his stunt after one of his touchdown catches a few years ago – the one where he putted the ball with the end zone pylon – that was your idea. That true?

Walter:
Yeah, I told Chad about that. We were sitting in the receiver's room, and I had mentioned that. We’d always sit in that room and talk about what he could do for celebrations. That was one of the ideas. And he did that the next week, I think.

CBS: What was your reaction?

Walter: I laughed. It was a lot of fun to see that. People might think he’s a showboat, but he backs everything up and he works so hard in practice.

5. CBS:
OK, I know you have an older brother. How much did that influence your athletic career because I assume you were constantly getting picked on and because, compared to him, you were a runt? Did that impact your career?

Walter: It challenged me a lot. He’s six years older than me, and him and his buddies always picked on me when I was younger. We played football in the snow in Chicago. He was bigger than I was, and he took it to me pretty good.

CBS: Do you beat him in things now?

Walter:
Oh yeah. He was a golf pro for many years in Chicago and Jacksonville, I play golf all the time in the offseason. He was a real good golfer, but I beat him in golf all the time now. And he hates that. Hey, if he wants to challenge me to a fight … well, he doesn’t want to do that anymore.

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Posted on: July 30, 2010 10:07 am
Edited on: July 30, 2010 4:21 pm
 

5 Questions (or more) with Maurice Jones-Drew

Maurice Jones-Drew is the brightest star on a Jacksonville Jaguars team that's had some identity issues over the past couple of years. He's also a favorite of fantasy football players and a pretty good running back too.

CBS Sports had a chance to catch up with MJD, thanks to the fine folks at Gatorade and the NFL who are running the "Beat the Heat" campaign (go here -- NFL.com/trainingcamp -- and download the packet and Gatorade will donate $1 to charity to fight heat-related illnesses). So we asked him about the Jaguars' new stadium sponsor (Everbank), if the offensive line has improved this offseason, who he would take first in a fantasy draft now that he's an analyst and has to be honest, and what the hell will happen with Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens in Cincinnati.

CBSSports:
Alright, we'll ask first: Everbank, man. My family's from Jacksonville, so I'm a closet Jags fan and I was pumped to hear ...

Maurice Jones-Drew:
Wait, why be a closet fan? Might as well come out, man.

CBS: [Laughing] Man, I'm in North Carolina ... Gotta stick with my Panthers. Anyway, how important is this for you guys to pick up a name sponsor like that in terms of helping you contend as a small market team?

MJD: It's very exciting. I think from a front office standpoint, just with all the hard work they've been doing with selling tickets and trying to find sponsors. And obviously Everbank stepped up and will do a great job ... but as players, with all the hard work we've been doing, even though the last season didn't pan out the way we wanted it to, they see what direction we're going in and are interested in us, and that's always great to see.

CBS: Yeah, I  think it's tough for you guys, especially with such a rebuilt, young offensive line. How much growth have you seen from the two young guys, Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, during the offseason?

MJD: Those guys last year grew so much and this year, working out with them through the offseason, they've just done a great job of staying ahead of the game. And pushing each other -- I  think more than anything those two guys push each other ... they push the whole line, and it's great to see that.

CBS: Alright, lemme ask you this random one: Terrell Owens is joining Chad Ochocino in Cincinnati. What do you think about that pairing?

MJD: [Laughing] It's gonna be interesting, man. Really, we don't play them, so I couldn't care less about it, but I know a lot of people are talking about it. It's gonna be good to see how those two guys get along -- really, the way they portray themselves in the media is not how they act ... I've hung out with them before and they're totally different when they know the cameras aren't on. So they might put a show on for the cameras, but behind the scenes they'll do a great job of learning from each other and working with Carson [Palmer].

CBS: Cool, cool. The Colts are always talked because they're the Colts, Chris Johnson's contract got the Titans in the press this offseason a lot, and everyone's always chattering about the Texans "taking the next step" -- do you guys think you're an underrated sleeper-type team in your division?

MJD: We've kind of always been that way I  think. No one every gives us the benefit of the doubt, so we're kind of used to it. That's just how it is -- all we do is go out and play games. We can't worry about what everyone else thinks. When we start worrying about people picking us to be Super Bowl champs or picking us to do this or that, that's when we get sidetracked. We just worry about what we have to do and take care of our business and we'll be ready to roll.

CBS: Speaking of sleepers ... aren't you hosting a fantasy football radio show now?

MJD: [Laug hing] Haha, yeah.

CBS: If you're an analyst, you have to answer HONESTLY -- who's your top fantasy pick in the draft this year?

MJD: [Not laughing] Myself.

CBS: Hahah, just making sure man, just making sure. Got any sleepers out there for the fantasy players?

MJD: I do man, I do. But you gotta listen to the show. I just can't, you know, give you all the news, because then people won't tune and in listen.

CBS: Fair enough. Let's talk about "Beat the Heat" with Gatorade and the NFL --

MJD: It's very exciting. Obviously Gatorade asked me to get out speak to other athletes -- pro, high school, collegiate, Pop Warner, whatever. It's an honor. And really, something I've tried to do my whole career is preach to people about taking care of their bodies -- your body's your resume in this business. So if you're always getting heat-related illnesses and things like that, team are going to shy away from you. So it's simple: drink water, drink Gatorade and hydrate yourself before, during and after practice.

And if you go to to NFL.com/trainingcamp and download the training camp packet, Gatorade will donate a $1 to charities to fight heat-related illnesses. And hopefully a lot of people will go out and do it, because it's definitely a serious topic. Whenever I was in high school, before Korey Stringer died, it was always like "Water makes you weak." And then he passed and it was a tragedy but it ended up being somewhat of a blessing because it opened up everyone's eyes to what was going on. So, I'm glad Gatorade took a stand on it -- it's definitely made an impact out here in Jacksonville.

CBS: Good deal, man. Alright, we'll get you out on this: what's the nickname of the new stadium going to be?

MJD:  I don't know about a nickname -- I think the phrase is going to be "We're on our way to the Bank."

CBS: "Take it to the bank?" I've heard stuff like "The Bank" and "The Vault" and stuff like that.

MJD:   Yeah, I bet it'll be "Take it to the bank." And we've got three weeks to be together so I'm sure we'll think of something ... gimme a couple days and I'll have something on Twitter.

-- Will Brinson

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow  @cbssportsnfl   on Twitter   and subscribe to our  RSS Feed .
Posted on: July 23, 2010 12:03 pm
Edited on: July 23, 2010 12:17 pm
 

5 Questions (or more) with Josh McDaniels, Part 2

T. Tebow (US Presswire)
Read Part One of our interview with Josh McDaniels here .

(Ed. Note: Yes, we are also annoyed that we got off the phone with McDaniels a few hours before Dumervil signed his extension , thank you for asking.)

CBS Sports : [Laughing a little] I'm sure you're gonna be sick of this question fairly soon, but, um ... Tim Tebow -- he seems to almost be the biggest story in the NFL sometimes. How early is he gonna see the field in 2010?

Josh McDaniels: [Laughing a lot] We're excited about having Tim here on our team. And he understands that he's got a lot of improvements to make and a long way to go to be exactly what you want an NFL quarterback to be in terms of experience and all those things. And he's got a solid player ahead of him in Kyle Orton , and Brady Quinn has also done some good things in the spring, so we feel like we've got a great group of QBs that are different in their own way, so it should be a very competitive situation.

Kyle's certainly out in front and had a great spring for us this year, but Tim's got some unique skills and there's certainly no boundary on what we may try to do with any of our skill players, and Tim may allow us to do some things a little differently. So we'll kind of see how those things unfold during the course of training camp and the preseason and I think that'll all -- how productive he can be and what other skills he presents us with -- that'll all … time will tell how we'll use different packages and that kind of thing. But he's in a competitive battle right now and he's got a long way to go and I'm sure he'll keep his head down and keep working, but we're happy to have him here in Denver.

CBS: Alright, reader Joe Schlobotnik submitted the top question on our Facebook page (Ed. Note: Go here and like CBS Sports on Facebook and you too can have your questions asked in interviews!) , and it fits well here: Tebow -- hypothetically if he's on the field -- would he be the type of guy that you'd want as the triggerman in the "Wild Horse"?

JMcD: [Chuckling] No, the Wild Horse is different -- it's a different element for us. It's a little different than the Wildcat and if we were using the Wild Horse package, which we certainly used some last year, it would certainly be a halfback back there and it would likely be Knowshon [Moreno] or [Correll Buckhalter ]. But like I said, Tim's got some different skills and that's what training camp is for, to really kind of poke and prod on your football team and to find out exactly what you're going to look like when you ultimately unveil it the first few weeks of the season and then grow from there. We're gonna experiment a little bit with a lot of different things in terms of our system, and we've made a lot of different changes both offensively and defensively and we'll see how Tim factors in.

CBS: Good deal -- one more Tebow question and I swear I'll stop. I've seen several local media members -- I believe mostly local -- who have tied your legacy as Broncos coach directly to drafting Tebow in the past draft. Do you think that's a fair statement or a fair approach to take?

JMcD: I'm not really concerned with my "legacy." I think any coach's or player's story will be told by how much they won, how much they didn't, how many championship teams they were a part of, did they happen to get to a Super Bowl and win one, or multiples. We're focused on trying to get our football team to play as well as we can and Tim is just one small part of that -- we know that. It takes 53 players on the roster and a ton of people in the organization, coaching staff and personnel department to make a team successful, and we're certainly not going to put that burden on one player, and I'm not worried about what somebody else says my legacy is. I know if we win, that's the best solution for all of us, that's the best medicine we can all have, and certainly that's what we're gonna try to do.

CBS: No, that's fair. People have used the word "brash" to describe -- I guess it's attitude -- do you think that being honest and direct, and if you want to use the word "brash," to the media, do you think that's something that benefits you as an NFL head coach in the short term or long term?

JMcD: I think I just … try to do the best I can at my job and make the decisions that we feel like are in the best interests in putting the best team on the field. You know, that's somebody else is coining those terms and most of the people that may say things like that maybe don't really know me. And I'm not really concerned about that -- as I said, I'm focused on trying to win. And as I said before, if we win, I don't know that many people are gonna call you anything other than "successful," so, we're hoping to put a team out there that can do that and be competitive each week and we've got a long way to go in training camp to get ready for 2010.

CBS: Good deal. I'll get you out on this -- aside from the obvious names we've mentioned so far, give us one name to watch in training camp, whose performance in training camp you guys are anticipating might surprise the general fan.

JMcD: Well, there's a lot of players that are looking to improve. One player that really stood out in the spring because of his versatility, and because of some of the things he added to our defense is Nate Jones. We signed Nate as a free agent from Miami -- he can play inside as the nickleback, he played outside at corner, we moved him to safety … he's a very smart player, a very cerebral guy who fits in great with our veteran players in the secondary and we're really excited to what he may bring to our defense and how we can use Nate's skills to really improve our team.

-- Will Brinson

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Posted on: July 23, 2010 9:22 am
Edited on: July 23, 2010 12:18 pm
 

5 Questions (or more) with Josh McDaniels, Part 1

T. Tebow (US Presswire) Josh McDaniels' first season and a half as head coach of the Denver Broncos has been one of the more spectacularly bloggable things in recent NFL history: whether it's trading his biggest name stars, or starting 6-0, or beating his old boss, or confidence, or drafting Tim Tebow in the first round ... the list goes on and on.

Fortunately, we were able to speak with McDaniels about all of these things in a recent interview, thanks to the kind folks at Gatorade, the NFL,  and a group of charitable foundations who are partnering in the "Beat the Heat" program, dedicated to raising hydration awareness during training camp.

Read Part Two of our interview with Josh McDaniels here .

CBS Sports : Wanna ask you first -- you're working with Gatorade and the NFL on the Beat the Heat program. How big a factor is hydration awareness in your training camp preparation?

Josh McDaniels : Well, it's huge for us, and you're right -- the NFL and the Broncos have partnered with Gatorade on the Beat the Heat program. We certainly understand the importance of hydration and refueling our athletes in the summer months and really, that's the entire purpose of the program, to really focus on how to prevent heat-related illnesses and fight them. It requires us to constantly remind our athletes to hydrate before, during and after all their activities that we put them through in training camp.

And we have Gatorade all over the building -- in the cafeteria, in our locker rooms, in our meeting rooms, they have it at the hotel they stay in during training camp and we encourage them to drink as much as possible. And for any athlete or parent that wants to learn more about what we're doing with Gatorade, they can go to NFL.com/trainingcamp and for every download [of the awareness packet] Gatorade will donate $1 to fight heat-related illnesses.

CBS : Well, it's a fantastic program -- raises awareness and reminds us that football's on the way ... Speaking of which, you shipped Brandon Marshall to South Beach in the offseason and then drafted Demaryius Thomas in the first round. Can he step up and replace Brandon as a No. 1 option for you?

JMcD : Well, we certainly aren't going to necessarily place that burden on one player as we go into this training camp in 2010. Brandon's certainly a special player and he'll do good things for the Dolphins. But we have a pretty diverse group of receivers: DeMaryius certainly is going to add speed, length and size to that group and we're really excited about his future here in Denver.

We've also got some football players that were productive for us that are coming back: [Jabar] Gaffney , [Brandon] Stokley , [Eddie] Royal ... Brandon Lloyd had a great spring, Kenny McKinley is a kid that's up and coming, Matt Willis and certainly Eric Decker who we drafted in the third round too. We've got four or five players now who are over six feet tall, we're probably bigger than any wide receiver corps that I've ever been a part of in the NFL, and we're excited about some of the things we're gonna try to do with those big players.

DeMaryius ... we're gonna coach him hard and give him the opportunity to learn our system and be productive in it, but we've got some players -- along with him, that he'll be competing with -- that we feel also can be productive and hopefully there's a bunch of them that'll make plays for us this year.

CBS: One more thing on DeMaryius -- he played in Paul Johnson's system at Georgia Tech ... is him adjusting, especially in terms of route-running, because it's more simplistic there, is him adjusting to your system a big concern?

JMcD: It's certainly something that's gonna take some time for him to adjust to some of the things that we'll ask him to do. But he's a big receiver, and I think anyone would be lying to you if they said big receivers had a route tree that consists of 25 routes. We're not gonna try to do things that don't make sense to do with our bigger receivers and we certainly have some smaller receivers that aren't going to do some of the things that he can do. So, we're gonna try and put him in a position where he can use his strengths to help us, and we're certainly not going to shy away to try and work with him on improving his route-running in different areas, but, you know, we feel like he can be a productive player for us and we'll constantly try and improve every area of his game.

CBS: Alright, last season was a rollercoaster in terms of the way you guys started ... it was the story of the NFL and then obviously a disappointing finish. How do you manage expectations coming into 2010?

JMcD: Well, we're just focused on ourselves. We know we've got a lot of practice ahead of us before we enter into the regular season. And we're gonna try and take our football team as far as we can in the month of August and the beginning part of September before we start at Jacksonville. We can't really worry about the past and we can't focus too far into the future -- we're gonna try and take it day-to-day and we feel like we've put a solid nucleus of players in the locker room that will lead us this season and into the future and we're really excited about our opportunity to improve in areas we struggled in last year and we feel like we made some key additions both through free agency and the draft, and we're excited to see how it all unfolds this year.

(Stay tuned for Part Two of our interview with Josh McDaniels later today)

-- Will Brinson

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com