Head Coach Pat Shurmur -- August 5, 2019
Opening Statement: We had our first morning session, which is good. You play at 1, you play at 4, you play at 7, so youíve got to get used to practicing at all different times. Partly the reason we practice in the afternoon for the first couple of weeks is so we can do the installations, the walkthroughs, and then the practice. Now that most of the installations are in, weíll go back and flip the script and practice in the morning. I thought it was good. I thought they ground through it pretty well today. They fought through it. Theyíll get used to practicing this way now until the end of camp. With that, Iíll take your questions.
Q: Corey Ballentine seems to have made his mark early in camp. What is it about him that has impressed you guys? Heís gotten a lot of opportunities.
A: He is getting a lot of opportunities, and I think heís made steady improvement since the spring. It took him a little while to get going because of the accident he was involved with. But heís made steady improvement. Heís a very competitive guy, he gets his hands on balls, he has good instincts, heís working as a returner, and we feel like heís getting a little bit better every day.
Q: Weíve talked a lot about guys coming from a small program. What is it about his position that allows that jump to be made from Division II to the NFL?
A: You make a good point. A small college quarterback, thereís so much on the plate for the quarterback. Not that thereís not a lot on your plate when you play corner, but some of the natural things about playing the position can show up quicker. I think heís made some really good strides because of that.
Q: One of the reasons heís getting so many opportunities is because Sam Beal is out. With Beal missing all of last year, how valuable is the time that heís missing right now? Does he need to be on the field this preseason in the games?
A: Certainly, itís always better to practice than not. His challenge right now is to get himself healthy so that he can get back out there. Itís unfortunate that heís missing time, but when he gets back out there, heíll just have to catch up quickly.
Q: How does (Jon) Halapio look to you this summer? Has there been any drop-off or catch up with him?
A: No. I think he sort of caught up in the spring. He looks good. Heís playing hard and playing well. We like what heís doing at center, as well as Spencer (Pulley). Theyíre both doing a good job.
Q: Has Halapio solidified that starting job?
A: I think heís done a good job to get maybe the first look. But I feel just as comfortable playing Spencer as I do Pio. I think theyíre two very good players. Spencer played at the end of the year and did a really nice job. I think in our scenario, weíre fortunate that we have two guys that can snap the ball.
Q: Do you find yourself looking at the centers and maybe gravitating to them a little more given your background?
A: I do. I sort of gravitate towards the guys that direct things. So I sort of watch that, whether it be the centers or the quarterbacks. You have to have strength and mental strength through the middle. I think those guys do a good job with it. There are times when I think I see something and they see it differently, and sometimes theyíre right. I think itís good. Thatís part of this training camp setting, too, is getting as many pressure looks as you can, as many different fronts. You try things out on defense. We had some B-level plays that we tried to run today to see if they can become A-level plays for us. Thatís part of it. Along the way, everyone learns to react. I think our centers have done a good job of directing us to this point.
Q: To go back to Halapio for a second, given how well heís played so far this summer, in your mind, is it almost hard to remember how serious his injury was?
A: I try to forget the seriousness of guysí injuries. Unfortunately, he got rolled up, which happens a lot to guys. Unfortunately, he missed (the season) but weíre moving on.
Q: How much does him being a more powerful guy, a bigger, stronger guy, work towards his advantage and fit with what you guys are trying to do? It seems like thatís sort of the offensive line that youíre trying to build.
A: This is a big manís game. Bigger is always better. But you have to be smart and do all of the other things that are necessary to play the position. Yeah, if he can carry the weight and play at a high level, thatís a good thing.
Q: How do you see DeAndre Bakerís confidence sort of manifest itself on the field? People talk about players being confident, but from an actual playing standpoint, how do you see that with him?
A: I think heís getting more and more confident within the system. The next phase is when we start playing the games Thursday, out there against another opponent. Then weíll see if he can take the next step. Heís a confident guy in general, which is part of his charm. But heís starting to get more and more comfortable playing the position, so it shows up a little more.
Q: It seems like C.J. Conrad has gotten a lot of reps. Is that because you know what to expect from (Rhett) Ellison, (Scott) Simonson and Evan (Engram)?
A: Yeah, I mean they need their work and theyíre getting their work. But heís a guy that we need to develop, and younger guys can take those reps. Theyíre so valuable for young players. We talk about Beal being out and Ballentine getting his reps. The young players getting reps, it helps push them along in terms of their development. Heís done a good job with them. I mentionedÖ We talked about him a couple days ago. Heís tough, heís competitive, he catches the ball when you throw it to him. Heís got good traits, now he just needs to develop.
Q: What did you see from (Joey) Alfieri maybe in his college film before you guys claimed him over the weekend, and what do you think he can bring to your linebacker corps?
A: We liked him as a college player, and certainly when he was available. Heís an edge linebacker for us, a guy that we were looking for. He went to Philly, and theyíre more of a four-man front. Maybe not quite a fit for them, but a guy that might be a little bit better fit for us. We liked him in college. He was available, and with some of the time that some of our guys are missing during training camp, it would be a good way for him to get in, get some reps and get evaluated.
Q: Youíre a few days out from your first preseason game. How anxious are you to see what the team looks like against someone else?
A: I want to see us compete against another team. I understand itís the first preseason game. Yeah, Iím anxious to see our group. I feel like weíre improved, and it would be good to see them play well on Thursday.
Q: Any update on (Brian) Mihalik?
A: Yeah, I think he got a burner. I donít know much more until I go in there. It seemed to be settling down as he got away from it.
Q: Do you see (Cody) Latimer as a focused guy with almost an obsession to get back after what transpired last year? What have you seen from him thus far?
A: Heís a pro, and heís working hard. We can play him at all of the positions. Heís kind of a veteran, steady presence, and he is working really hard. He wants to be a part of this team very badly and heís trying to improve each day.
Q: Whatís the point in having Sterling Shepard wear a yellow jersey if heís going to be thrown the ball in traffic and be hit from behind by a cornerback?
A: Well, there are times where people donít do it exactly the way we want it. So, then you correct them. The fact that heís wearing a yellow jersey, you should be alerted to the fact that you donít touch him. To this point, there have been a couple of times that he got touched. Heís fine.
Q: Is there an upside to throwing to him if you know that he canít catch?
A: Yeah, the one-handed catches. There is an upside. Heís out there running routes. I think because of what it takes to play receiver, heís able to do those things. Anytime weíre practicing, we have to be smart. Thatís the fine line between trying to get your work and being smart so that we can all make it to game day. I can understand the questions there. We just try to continue to be smart with everything we do.
Q: I think thatís the first time weíve seen (Aldrick) Rosas on the main field during practice, in live action during practice. Is that a long time to wait for him, and is that because heís much more of a sure thing this year than last year?
A: No. We do our live kicking before you guys arrive. So no, thatís definitely not the first time heís been out there. Unfortunately, itís the first time that you guys have seen it. No, itís not too late to wait, because weíve been kicking live all through (camp).
Q: Since we donít see it-
A: Heís been kicking great. Heís been kicking great. Iím not trying to be funny here. No, thatís not the first time that heís been out there live. Yes, heís been kicking very well.
Q: How would you assess (Paul) Perkinsí camp?
A: Heís doing a good job. Again, the next phase of this is to see him now in game action. I think thatís where all of those guys are that weíre trying to get evaluated, to see how 2, 3, 4, 5 stack up. That can be said about a lot of groups. Now theyíre pretty much in shape and ready to compete for a portion of a game. Now they need to go out and we need to see how they respond.
Q: Will you have Golden (Tate) with you tomorrow? I think tomorrow is his appeal. Will he be in the city?
A: Yeah, heís going to go to the city tomorrow at some point during the day.
Q: After practice?
A: Yeah, itíll be after practice. He may have to leave practice a little early, but itís kind of an important thing that he needs to go do.
If those guys click and can block for Barkley, look out.