We were just talking about how Rob Ryan said how important it was that Joe Vitt was back in his true role and coaching what he does best. Can you talk about that and what positive effect that can be?
"I would say Joe Vitt has multiple roles. He is such a fiery and passionate person. You can hear his voice from three fields away. The man loves football. He loves coaching, he loves teaching, he loves mentoring, and he loves having an influence on his guys. He is technically the linebackers coach and assistant head coach but in reality he touches everybody just because of his influence. We've all been here together since 2006 so this will be our eighth year together. I feel like we've been through a lot together and certainly after last year, he knows how important he is to our team and to the staff and the different roles that he has played. At the end of the day, you know that him and his role as that linebackers coach, putting those guys through those individual workouts prior to going to team periods. Guys just talk about his intensity, the level at which he coaches, and just how much he cares about the guys. You can feel that throughout the year with his pre-game speeches and all of those things we know and love about Coach Vitt. I think it's just everybody getting back in their comfort zone."
Can you talk about developing the relationship with your receivers? You talked about, in the offseason, how you, Marques (Colston), and Lance (Moore) and how it's almost routine. Do you like developing the relationship with these younger guys along with them?
"There's little nuances that just take time. It takes reps and it takes experience. A lot of times it's those young guys watching those veteran guys and something happens and they say 'well that's not the way it's drawn on paper'. That's why we sit there and we watch film together and you say this is the way we teach it but then there's that one look where you might do a little something different. It's just a matter of you seeing it and feeling it at exactly the same time the quarterback is and then it just happens. That's just time on task. That's just experience. Some of those young guys sit there and shake their head and say 'well that's not what we are taught' and we say 'well it's not always the way you draw it on the blackboard'. Then you work on it after practice and what's great is when all of a sudden it happens in a practice or a game a couple weeks from now and they do that adjustment, you hit them right where they are supposed to be, and then they come back and say 'that's what it's supposed to feel like'. It makes you feel good."
How did the first practice feel today?
"It was good. I think everybody was a little sore from that conditioning test yesterday but just to get on the field and start playing football was what we were waiting for."
What does your wristband mean?
"The guy who I train with, Todd Durkin, has a book called 'The Impact Body Plan.' He has a saying 'impact' and each letter stands for something so it's just a reminder of who we are working for."
You threw for 5,000 plus yards this year but your completion percentage was 63 percent which is probably the lowest in seven years but 63 is still pretty good. What does that mean to you or where do you need to be?
"I know there's those games, for whatever reason, depending on the coverage or the scheme you might have a lower completion percentage game but there's the opportunity for big plays and then there are other games where you say we should be 80 percent completions this game just taking what they give us and matriculating the ball down the field. I have goals for myself as to where I should be every time I step on the field no matter what. It's just like maybe a golfer every time he steps on a golf course. It doesn't matter what course he is playing or what the conditions are, he has a score in mind that he wants to hit that or below every time. I would say that for whenever I step on the course there's a mentality, there's a competitiveness, and its definitely better than 63.0 percent but it doesn't really matter as long as we are winning but I know that the higher it could be, it means we are getting positive plays and that's a good thing."
Can you isolate why it may have been lower last year?
"There's not an exact science but it wasn't where it needs to be. Probably for a lot of reasons but we will certainly improve on those."
It's not because you are in decline in your thirties right?
"I don't think so. I feel like I'm still in my prime, very much so."
It's a long way off but the fact you guys are opening up against Atlanta. Did you guys talk about that at all?
"That's the first time we've done that since we've been here. Obviously, they are a divisional opponent, one that won our division last (year and) obviously, a team that we always seem to have very close games with. It's always extremely competitive and it always goes down to the wire. I guess you couldn't ask for a more formidable opponent, especially opening week at our place."