TENNESSEE TITANS HEAD COACH JEFF FISHER
Q: Can you give us a feel for what has contributed to the tough start?
JF: Well, I mean certainly we are disappointed. We had the first three….obviously we look at the first three games as being games where we were one play away from reversing the outcome and it didn’t happen. And then we did not play well at Jacksonville and last week we played for a half and things slipped away against a good Colts team. So we’re trying to heal up and just stay the course and practice and just try and improve as a team. Hopefully the wins will come.
Q: One thing that people have focused on is the struggle you guys have had stopping the pass. How have you seen that with the loss of Albert Haynesworth?
JF: I don’t believe it’s been the fact that Albert’s not here. We’re still getting pressure, we’re still handling the run, and we’ve got a good rotation going inside. Yes, you’re going to miss good players like Albert, but we’ve got a good rotation inside, so I wouldn’t attribute it to the fact that he’s not here. It’s been an unfortunate combination of things where we’ve had either some difficulty in communication or somebody’s eyes were wandering or just little things. And then of course we’ve been without Cortland [Finnegan] and Vinny Fuller. Vinny’s an integral part of our nickel package. But we expect his return here in the next couple of weeks. So really if it was one thing in particular, we’d fix it. It’s just been a combination of things and we’re just trying to grow through it.
Q: Where do things stand quarterback wise? Will Kerry Collins start in this game, or are you considering other options?
JF: Yes. I’ve not waivered off of that. After the game I indicated that Kerry is our starter. I put Vince [Young] in because when you get behind and get ahead, it makes sense to get your backups some playing time and that was the reason. It was not a move, per say; it was just simply that. So Kerry returns as our starter.
Q: How have you noticed teams defending Chris Johnson, who obviously leads the league in total yards from scrimmage? We’ve seen a couple huge plays from him. Are you getting different looks from opponents on how they’re trying to contain him?
JF: Yeah, you’ll see that each week. They understand that if he gets the ball in his hands, he’s a missed tackle away from going the distance, so people are more aware of it. You see more zone defense than you do man-to-man. And of course people are going to be concerned about his whereabouts on third down.
Q: How would you describe the feeling on your team with the emotional swings that you’ve been through and not yet breaking through? How would you describe the character of the team?
JF: They’re handling it well, if that’s at all possible. We deal with it. We put the loss in perspective, and move on and come back and bring energy to work on Wednesday. And they practice well, they prepare hard and they believe each week that we’re going to get turned around and that’s really all you can do. The only thing I can ask more of them is just a little bit more production on the field on Sunday, but off the field, on the practice field, in the classrooms, they’re doing their jobs.
Q: If I could ask you to put your hat of the competition committee co-chair on: I saw Chris Mortensen had something where the committee was considering looking at influence of players on officials‘ calls, and I just wanted to see if you could comment on that and if that was accurate?
JF: Well, I can’t comment because I’m not aware of the report.
Q: It was a tweet.
JF: That’s a cartoon character as far as I’m concerned.
Q: If I remember correctly, when you guys drafted Chris Johnson there was some criticism about another running back and you had a pretty steady situation there. How did you know that he would be the type of guy that he is and that you would be able to use him?
JF: Well, we saw so much tape. It was obvious to us when you start evaluating a player like that. In Chris’s case, you know this is not a track guy playing football; this is a football player with track speed. He just…we just felt like his understanding, his ability – flexibility – to change positions and do different things, his vision…It was just that we felt like he was going to really excel at this level. We were fortunate; he had a great rookie year and thus far he’s off to a great start. We just need to get him some more help and we need to play better around him.
Q: In terms of what you see from the Patriots, you haven’t played them in a couple seasons. How different do they look offensively and defensively?
JF: Well, they’re always a well-coached team and they’re always going to have something unique week to week, whether it’s subtle or significant, but there’re unique plans. Tom [Brady] is playing very, very well right now. I know they’re probably frustrated with their numbers, but he’s playing well. He’s moving in the pocket, making accurate throws. They’re an elite team right now and defensively they’re very, very solid and stout, well-coached. They don’t give up big plays. The formula is there and it’s continuing.
Q: You were 5-0 at this point last year and now you’re 0-5. Can you kind of surmise the difference between what’s happened the two years?
JF: Well, no. I mean, last year we got off to a good start and winning kind of breeds winning. We had games last year that in the start were close that we won. We had an overtime game that we won and it was just one of those things. You have to win close games. I think it’s obvious. It’s apparent. It’s the same thing we said throughout the offseason. You can’t just pick up where you left off. You just can’t assume that because you had a successful season that you’re going to repeat. You have to do it over again. Again, I point to the first three games. I think we’ve got two sets of games, two sets of losses. Three games that we could have won and didn’t for whatever reason. And then we’ve got two that we didn’t play particularly well. You have to let go of the past and dwell on today and bring a mindset to work and to the game that is a winning mindset. And that’s how you get out of it.
Q: How would one win against a team like the Patriots on the road kind of change your perspective and more importantly, your team’s perspective going forward?
JF: Well, this team believes they’re a good football team. We just haven’t played well together – as of yet – well enough to win a game. Certainly, a win against anybody right now would be good for us.
Q: Since winning breeds winning, and assuming losing breeds losing, how do you combat that?
JF: Well I think that’s a different assumption. I’ll make the case that I can prove to you that it’s a lot harder to be 0-5 than it is 5-0. I mean that’s evident. I don’t believe losing breeds losing. It depends. If you’ve got injuries and you have an inability to matchup personnel wise or you’ve got a club that just can’t matchup, then it’s hard to win games, but I feel like we’ve got a good football team and the wins are going to come.
Q: When you experience a stretch like this, are you concerned about the team becoming dispirited at any point during the game with any success the opponent might have against you? Is the tipping point such that you might become more vulnerable more easily?
JF: No, I don’t think so. I mean, I’ve got enough veteran players on this team. We’ve got quite a few players that have won a lot of games here and won a lot of games elsewhere. Your focus as a head coach, I think, has to go toward your younger players: the first year players and the second year players that only know [and] understand winning. Then you have to put it in perspective and try to keep perspective. The difference between winning and losing – it’s a mental exercise, but again, I think it’s important to realize and that our players realize, what’s happened the last five weeks isn’t going to have any bearing on what happens the next 11.
Q: You drafted a local kid, Ryan Durand, and he ended up on your practice squad. Can you talk about his development?
JF: Yeah, we were real pleased. He had a productive camp – real good offseason. [He] had played quite a bit in the preseason and was productive. We feel like he’s got a chance to become a good football player. Fortunately for him, he’s got a great mentor and [offensive line coach] Mike Munchak does a great job developing young players.
TENNESSEE TITANS RUNNING BACK CHRIS JOHNSON
Q: How important is it to grind it out against the Patriots who are going to come out and look to establish their dominance in this game?
CJ: It’s very important because we know there have been teams able to run the ball. Not get like real big gains on them, but been able to grind it out and get three or four yards. We know they know that, so they’re definitely working in practice to try to stop the run and make their defense better. We have to work even harder to try and continue to get good gains on them.
Q: When you had that big game early on [16 rushes for 197 yards Week 2 vs. Houston], did that surprise you?
CJ: No, it didn’t surprise me at all. I have great expectations. I expect myself to do things and make plays like that every game. I just feel if I get the ball in my hands, like every time, I can make big plays.
Q: What’s it like being in a game like that? What’s your mindset?
CJ: It’s like any game if you have 100 or 150 yards and you’re doing something good, the team is doing something good. Obviously the other team can’t stop what the offense is doing, so of course, keep feeding me the ball.
Q: How have things changed since [Week 2 vs. Houston]? Have you seen defenses concentrate on you more?
CJ: Oh yeah, even going into that game, defenses concentrate on me by putting 8 or 9 men in the box, hoping we don’t pass, double teaming me and all that. A lot of guys are focused and keying in on me right now, but I can’t use that as an excuse. I just have to still make plays I can make.
Q: Does it feel like you guys are 0-5?
CJ: Of course it feels like we’re 0-5 right now, but we’ll get this team turned back around. We can’t sit here and be like, ‘We’re 0-5. We’re out of the playoffs – this and that.‘ We just have to keep playing hard and keep taking it one game at a time. It’s like if we win this weekend, we’re 1-5, so we can win five straight and be 5-5.
Q: How much does it matter to you to be mentioned among the top [running] backs in the league? Does it matter to you to be in that discussion?
CJ: Of course it matters. I feel like if you don’t care about being in that discussion, then you’re not going to be in there. I don’t care what anybody says, it’s always team first. But, everybody wants the individual accolades too, so of course it matters to be the best running back in the league. Of course I’d love to be in that category. I’d do anything to continue to be in that category.
Q: From last year to this year, what specifically have you tried to work on to be more of an elite back?
CJ: I just continue to work on the same things I worked on last year. I think the reason they were putting me among those names this year is more that it’s not a sophomore slump. I’m still doing the same things I did last year. Basically, I’m just trying to stay consistent and have a good year and I’m going to have an even better year this year. Just to show that there’s no sophomore slump, that I can still go out there and do the things I did last year even when teams are focused in on me to let them know that it wasn’t a fluke.
Q: You went to a low-profile school and your team is 0-5. Do you feel like you are getting the recognition your play has deserved?
CJ: I’m not worried about that right now. I’m just worried about us trying to get a win. All the individual accolades and all the notice – that will come as long as I do what I have to do no matter what our record is. At the end of the day, if I continue to do what I have to do then it will come.
Q: When you were coming out of college, there was a lot of talk about your speed and obviously, you’ve shown some of that. Give us some particulars. How fast are you and what kind of stats do you have?
CJ: I ran a 4.24 40 [yard dash] at the combine, the fastest time ever ran electronically. I guess I’m the fastest guy in the NFL right now.
Q: Has anybody ever challenged you on that?
CJ: They do, but they be playing around. They’re really not serious about the situation. I don’t think anybody is serious or ever really put anything up that they could beat me or anything like that.
Q: From a conditioning standpoint, are you heavier at all this year than last year in order to take more of a pounding?
CJ: No, I’m around the same weight. I like the weight that I play at, so I’m around the same weight. I try to stay pretty much around the same weight.
Q: Is that 200 [lbs.]?
Q: Do you think coming up here and winning in Foxboro this weekend hinges on you having a good game? If you run the ball well do you guys think you can win?
CJ: Yeah if we’re running the ball well, we’ll stay on the field. Like in the past games, we were running the ball well, but we had to go to the passing game because we fell behind. When we had the opportunity to get seven, we were getting three instead. So that was making us fall behind. If we can get seven points and stay even, stay close or stay ahead in the game, we’ll just continue to run the ball. If we can do that, we can win.
Q: If Vince Young were to play, would the offense change? When he comes in during practice, are the plays different?
CJ: No, the plays are the exact same. No matter which quarterback is in the game, the plays are the same
Q: Have you heard talk about when Vince [Young] is going to come in? Do fans and media talk to you about it?
CJ: No, I haven’t heard anything like that. Right now, they say Kerry [Collins] is our quarterback and I haven’t heard anything else as far as a quarterback change or anything like that. So, basically it’s all up to Coach [Jeff] Fisher.
Q: In terms of your running style: Is there a running back you’ve long admired or watched and modeled your style after?
CJ: Not really. I’d say I’m a special guy like there’s no one person I can sit there and say I really run like. I grew up watching Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders and those guys. I liked those guys coming up, but I can’t say there was one guy I really modeled my game around.