Coach Zorn’s press conference today seemed, at least to me, to me more about content and less about charming, quirky phrases. (Although there were plenty of those — plenty of “violent”s and “heroic”s and so on.) It’s been instructive, watching Zorn learn to control his natural candor sometimes, learn to realize when something he’s saying might be misconstrued, learn to criticize players without throwing them under the bus. And all of those new traits were on display today.
On the relatively low scores the team’s been putting up:
“We’re trying to score 40, but it seems like … even on that third-and-one, when we tried to get Mike Sellers the ball. And bless his heart, he tried to handle the ball, but we always talk about, as quarterbacks, to running backs and tight ends, you’ve got to keep the ball in the core. And what I mean by that is, don’t put the ball so above his head, like he has to actually extend his arms, because it’s tough. They don’t get to catch a lot of balls like that. We’re always trying to put the ball here, at his face or at his shoulders.”
“But we missed that, and we had to kick the field goal. So we’re missing out on four points, we missed out on maybe eight points in that game in my mind.”
[There’s a back and forth as to how many points were left on the field, and it is pointed out that the team is 27th in points in the NFL.]
“I would like that to change, but I don’t want to go into our meetings and say ‘Guys, we’ve gotta rise up, we’re 27th! Come on, men!’ It can’t be like that. It’s just got to be that we’ve got to press on, and at some point, I’m hoping that we develop a higher level of point production because we’re better. Maybe we are only that good right now. I don’t feel [that way], but something’s not happening.”
On Shaun Suisham:
“I think that his kickoffs are a matter of him controlling the location of the ball. I think when you see a ball really spinning, I think that kicker has actually mis-struck the ball, getting a little bit too much – or maybe too less – of the ball. I think that’s all he’s doing.
“I didn’t even talk to him after the kick, because … you don’t necessarily have to rip a guy for that. He knows.”
On Mike Sellers:
“I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that our running back position was going to be more of a community position, and we put him in some third down situations, and then in other situations to spell Clinton, that helped us. And it was more for protection than for getting him the ball. There were a couple of times when Ladell should’ve been in there or Clinton should’ve been in there – like the screen.
“We were gonna use him on third down, but nobody knew I was calling the screen. So I called the screen and Mike’s in there, and everybody’s going, ‘Oh no! Mike’s in there!'”
“But it was really vintage what we used to do with Mack Strong. Mack Strong was our third down back, and you’d think, ‘Oh no, you’re throwing the ball to Mack Strong?’
“Absolutely. He’d put on 22 yard gains, and he loved it, and I thought it was wonderful that Mike had so much success yesterday doing different things.” [And let me interject here that Coach Zorn doesn’t get enough credit for “absolutely” as one his pet words. He has this way of delivering the word — “ab-so-LOOT-ley” that makes you really agree with whatever he’s assuring you of.]
On the pass protection:
“We have to be able to run, and we have to make sure we have enough protection to throw. We need to mix. I’m not revealing anything with that.”
On Clinton Portis’s health:
[The questioner explains how beaten up Clinton said he was, up to and including blood running down his arm after the game. Zorn mimes crying, then stops.]
“Clinton, he is banged up, truly. I’m not even trying to make light of it…” [he pauses and considers] “I guess I was. No, he really is interesting because … I told him yesterday, ‘The only thing I feel bad is, you did so well but you don’t like to practice.’
“He said, ‘Coach, I love to practice.’
“He really knows and is listening to what his body’s saying. And the trainers, they’ve got him in high gear with his treatments. He’s getting them all and he’s doing the right thing. So he is trying to get back, he did make an effort to practice last week. I think as little as he did practice, I think every one of those reps that he gets helps.
“I didn’t know about the blood trickling down. I think that’s … I don’t know. Was is squirting out, or…?”
Dan Steinberg explained that Mike Sellers had blamed the FieldTurf in Seattle for the contusions, and Zorn sort of shrugged, offering a terse summary of the situation.
“It is plastic grass, so there’s going to be some burning.”
On Clinton Portis in general:
“I think he’s effective on all three downs. You can get him the ball on first down, and he slashes or runs these cutbacks. If you give him the ball on third down, third and short, he knows how to get the first down. Usually you like the big running back, but he can get the first down.
“In the passing game, he can pass protect. He’s a violent pass protector. I think that’s unique to a running back of his size and his ability. Here’s the other thing about Clinton that people don’t really see. If he goes that way and a pass is thrown [to the other side of the field], if you’re a defender, he’s gonna get somebody, so you’d better keep your head on a swivel.
“Because if he’s over here and the pass was thrown over there, at some point somebody’s gonna get knocked down, because he’s gonna bring the hurt. The play’s not finished for him.”
On Malcolm Kelly:
“He did great. I thought he did what we asked him to do, he didn’t make any mental errors. I put him in a bind on one play where I called that pass that was in the end zone – I really called it into the boundary, and he got stuck running out of real estate.
“I wish I had that call back. And the call before that. There was two calls down there that I thought … it wasn’t a bad call, it was the timing. It was third and 10 down there inside the red zone and I … you know, I saw it twice today and I’m irritated even thinking about it right now.
“And then I put him in a bind there. But here’s what he did: when the ball was thrown to him, he caught it. And he was not intimidated out there. In fact, he did a nice job intimidating himself….
“So you know, maybe we can continue to get him more involved as we go along.”
And the quick injury rundown:
We’re waiting on MRIs on London Fletcher and Andre Carter, and will know more later. Kedric Golston has a bone spur in his foot, but Zorn is hopeful he’ll be available Sunday. Anthony Montgomery should be back, and Zorn suspects that Cornelius Griffin will also be able to play.