Zorn Says He's Committed to Campbell
UPDATED (5:31 p.m.)...
DANA POINT, Calif.--Coach Jim Zorn said today that the Washington Redskins are not pursuing a trade for Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler.
The Redskins have been among the teams linked to Cutler if the Broncos opt to trade him because of his dispute with first-year coach Josh McDaniels and the club. But Zorn said at this morning's NFC coaches' breakfast at the annual league meeting that the Redskins are not among the teams that have expressed interest in Cutler to the Broncos.
Zorn said he has not felt the need to reassure his own quarterback, Jason Campbell, that the Redskins are committed to him. Asked if he has spoken to Campbell about the reports of the Redskins' interest in Cutler, Zorn said: "Not specifically."
But Zorn said he's made it clear to Campbell that the club is committed to him as its starter.
"I was talking to him about the upcoming season," Zorn said.
On other topics, Zorn said that the Redskins remain interested in re-signing defensive end Phillip Daniels and linebacker Marcus Washington but the two veteran free agents continue to explore their opportunities elsewhere as well.
Guard Randy Thomas is making good progress in his recovery from the neck surgery he underwent earlier in the offseason, according to Zorn, and should be ready to participate in offseason practices and full-contact practices in training camp.
Zorn said he'll take a slightly different approach in his second training camp as an NFL head coach this summer than he did in his first camp last summer as a rookie coach, being more careful to space out the team's toughest practices in an attempt to keep his players healthy and fresh.
"I'm going to try to regulate that," Zorn said. But "that doesn't mean this is going to be a country club atmosphere. We have to work hard."
Here are some excerpts of what Zorn said today:
Have the league's rule changes made quarterbacks overprotected?
"I think it's in balance. The only thing we've talked about in this group of meetings is to clarify what an official can throw the flag for. Quarterbacks are still going to get hit. There were some wicked legal hits on a quarterback that I saw last year, on our quarterback and other quarterbacks. So I don't think that's gonna change. It's just that as a quarterback sets his base and he lets the ball go, he's anchored on both legs and you get a 300-pound guy lunging or diving into a quarterback's knees--I think that's part of the game as far as being aggressive, finishing the play and going to the whistle. But the other part of that is, there are 32 starting quarterbacks in the National Football League and I really believe a lot of things ride on whether you can maintain your starter. I think the rule does a nice job in eliminating some of those severe low hits. That's all, so I'm in favor of it, obviously as a former quarterback but also as a head coach wanting to keep that same guy in there for all 16 games of the season."
Are the Redskins interested in Jay Cutler as reported?
"No, I think that was somebody's blog. I didn't even read it. But somebody had created a scenario. I haven't been involved with that."
If Vinny Cerrato and Dan Snyder came to you and asked if you were interested in pursuing Cutler, would you say yes?
"First of all, Vinny and Dan wouldn't come to me. We would always be together on an issue. I think every coach in the National Football League would go, 'Man, what is this all about? What if Denver approached us?' But that conversation hasn't gone anywhere except 'Monday Morning Quarterback' talk."
Have the Redskins expressed interest in Cutler to the Broncos?
"No, we have not."
Have you reassured Jason Campbell that he's your quarterback and you're not pursuing Cutler?
"I've had him in my office when all that stuff started. But I was talking to him about the upcoming season, not about the potential stuff, the created situation."
Did you talk to him about the Cutler speculation?
"Not specifically. Not specifically from the standpoint of, 'Hey, man, you're my guy.' But definitely, we just started talking about what we have to work on this offseason so that we can step into that season even better than we did last year."
Are you worried at all that your quarterback, like Cutler, now might feel unwanted by his own team?
"I truly think that there shouldn't be a quarterback in the National Football League that should be overly concerned. A lot of things have to happen for one thing to take place. [And] there's so much to do. I really believe that each quarterback should be concerned about their own improvement, their own and for their teams. I would hope that in our situation that Jason would be getting people rallied in our offseason program, talking to our receivers, talking to our tight ends, talking to our running backs, getting together with these guys and start talking about what we're going to do here in the minicamps and OTAs. That's really what I want."
Does a quarterback need to be treated differently than any other player in a situation like this, like with a potential trade?
"I don't think so. I think that each quarterback has to know the vision of where this team is going, and I think it can get confusing if there's mixed messages. But I don't think we're trying to give mixed messages to Jason at all. I think we're going full steam ahead."
Did you worry as a player about this sort of thing?
"Here's the only thing I ever worried about--that's a good question--when I played, I always looked at the draft because if they drafted a guy high, then I knew my days were numbered. I think that even in today's game, if you draft a quarterback high [and] if you flat didn't have a guy, that guy is gonna be your starter. But now if you have a guy and you draft a guy high, you might want to bring that guy along a little slower in today's game than what it was when I played. I knew if there was a first-round draft choice, as soon as they could get that guy ready, he was gonna play.
"I think Matt Leinart's situation with Kurt Warner is a pretty good situation. Matt gets to see what a veteran player is playing like and the grit it takes. I think he'll learn from those things. It doesn't hurt to sit back and watch this game for a while, while you're... right next to it. You could go in there in one play."
Has the success had by Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco changed teams' expectations for rookie quarterbacks?
"I think those two guys have had extraordinary experiences. They've got great teams behind them. The coaching staffs did a great job. I saw Flacco play all year--strong running game, really strong defense, and they brought him along slowly. I saw Ryan, he came up with some really huge plays and huge games. So he probably excelled even more--pretty impressive kid. That's what you're hoping for when you do draft. To make it happen, I think, takes a lot of great coaching and I think it takes a lot of understanding and getting up to speed. Those combinations have to fit, and that's what happened to those two teams."
Is it unfair to hold Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez to the same standard?
"Yes, I think it is, because each team is unique. Each team has a little different chemistry about where it's going, what your needs are. I don't think you can predict that. It really depends on the team that ends up drafting those two kids. I think they're both very good players. You have to wait to see exactly what team and what the situations are."
How much is a factor is Sanchez's lack of experience as a starter?
"He's been on good teams all along. Each quarterback there probably will end up the same way as him, where the backup is just champing at the bit to be able to play. But I do think that the games that he did play, he played in big games all year and performed extremely well in those games. You could see his athleticism. That's a minor knock, if anything."
How much of a factor is it that Sanchez played in a pro-style offense instead of a spread offense?
"I think it really helps because it allows you to see how he can fit in better with our game. I'm sure there are a lot of other coaches around the National Football League that would say at least you can see him dropping back, avoiding a rush from a dropback, working on the line of scrimmage, working underneath the center. You can see a little bit more of what we actually do. So I think that's pretty significant.
"It's harder from pure shotgun quarterbacks to know what they can do underneath the center. The talent is still there. We're really trying to evaluate talent.... You just have to project: Can you get them up to speed? And a lot of these guys are pretty athletic."
What do you think of the offseason you've had in terms of addressing what you thought were the needs?
"You'd love to have an endless supply of money. But we competed very hard for Albert [Haynesworth] and secured him, and then feel that he's really going to help us. From my perspective, it's like starting at ground zero, the foundation, and he's right there in the trench of the defense. I think if you personally would go and look at his video, the things that he does--what he did last year, what he's done in his past--he really does create problems in several areas.
"One, we say that he can push the pile. What's interesting about him is that he can penetrate and allow other defenders to find lanes that they haven't found. That's one thing that we're hoping for. Then secondly, he can ruin blocking schemes in opponents' run games. He really can. He explodes up the field and if you're pulling or you're having to block someone coming straight at you, that's going to be hard with him sitting there. And then thirdly, I think the thing he's going to do that will go unnoticed, virtually unnoticed, is what he does in his penetration is create a false pressure. Even if he's blocked, he's pushing the pile, forcing the quarterback to feel pressure when there may not be pressure there. So you have to throw the ball quicker. You have that sense as a quarterback to throw the ball sooner than you want. I'm hoping what we're going to see are more interceptions, a few more turnovers from that type of player. I'm very excited, as you can see. There are some prospects from that guy.
"I think one of the big signing for us was DeAngelo Hall, and he goes right along with Albert because of his ability to play man coverage. I think getting him allows us to continue to play man coverage when we want to because that's part of our game. And I think he's going to excel this year as well.
"And then we had to address--I think the media as well as us knew that we had to address our offensive line. To get a Derrick Dockery back and see the changes and the improvements that he's had, I think that was an excellent get as well.
"We also have signed some of the guys that have already been on our team, re-signed some of our guys. The thing that I'm excited about is, there were a lot of these guys that had other choices. But they chose us. I think it's a sign of a team that... wants to continue to improve. That's our offseason right now. We're actually still trying to get a few more guys to come in."
What do you still want to do?
"We're still looking at Phillip Daniels as a guy to come and return to our team. He's trying to decide his options. There's not going to be much else we can do."
What about Jason Taylor?
"Jason Taylor is not going to come back. I'm going to actually give him a call and see where he's at. But he's not going to, as far as I know, be back with our group."
Is there any chance Marcus Washington will be back?
"Yeah, but he's much like Phillip Daniels. There are other teams that he's still looking at. He expressed earlier, as we released him, one of the things he wanted to do was try to look for teams that played a 3-4 front. He wanted to try a different type of linebacker position. So as he's been looking around, I haven't seen his name show up. So at some point here, he'll have to make a decision and we certainly would be willing to talk to him as he would come back to us."
Is the Haynesworth signing a signal that the Redskins feel this is their year to win the division?
"I thought we could win it last year. I think every coach goes into a season, especially in the beginning, and says, 'I think we can.' You're not injured. You feel great about yourself. You don't have a loss. You don't really know what you've got.... It's a dogfight [in the NFC East] for every inch of ground you're trying to defend and every inch of ground you're trying to get. I think it's a very cautious speculation as far as if you think you're going to go out and express it, 'We're just going to do this thing,' in a kind of a false confidence way, you'll probably get caught in an awkward situation.
"I think my attitude is, I really like the acquisitions. I really like the way our guys are working. And my attitude is, we're going to be better than we were. But I wouldn't say just with those acquisitions that all of a sudden, ding. There isn't this star-lit situation that prohibits everybody else from competing against us.
"We all have to improve. We have three second-round draft choices last year that we felt, we feel even today that they're very good. Yet we didn't get the kind of production out of them, they didn't get the kind of production that they wanted on our team. We're hoping that they improve as well. That's Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly and Fred Davis from USC. We're looking forward to those guys contributing more as well, and others. We have to improve."
How will your second training camp be different from your first, and how will it be the same?
"It won't be as long because we don't have the Hall of Fame Game. Two things happened to us in training camp last year. We lost our best run-stopping defensive lineman on the very first day, on the very first one-on-one blocking drill with our d-line. He blew his knee out, Phillip Daniels. So the second day we lost another defensive lineman for the whole season.... So the first two days of training camp, we lost two guys for the season. That's got to be different. Okay, yeah, you can't predict that. I don't control that. I have to talk to God about those kinds of things.
"But the things that we're gonna do differently is, I'm not gonna put so many physical practices together in a row. Last year I had about the first six, I would say the first four days, just an absolute grind. We had to get a lot of work done, and so that's what we did. Now, we're gonna get a lot of work done. But I'm gonna space the more physical days out and little bit and not put them back to back on the same day, not a morning and afternoon both just cranking it up. We're gonna go very, very hard in the morning and then we're going to do something different in the afternoons. They'll be very physical practices.
"But what I'm looking for this year is that moment in training camp when the players are so sore, they're so tight--that's when they pull. That's when they get [injuries] that keep them from practicing. They're not career-ending. But we had three or four guys last training camp miss [most of the] practices. That's hard when you're missing that many practices to be up to speed. The rest of the season, you're playing catch-up because once that season starts you've got to plan for the guys you've trusted in there that actually got it. That's what happened to a few of our guys last year. They just were continually playing catch-up because of injuries.
"Space those hard practices out to where you're not just continually saying, 'Guess what, guys, we're gonna beat on you again.' I'm going to try to regulate that. [But] that doesn't mean this is going to be a country club atmosphere. We have to work hard. Every club has to work hard. I thought we did it right last year. But I was just reeling with some of those nagging things that we couldn't afford to do."
Are there any remaining needs that you feel must be addressed?
"We've been trying to address our kicking situations, both kicker and punter... so we've got some competition there.... We're going to continue to work on our o-line. We have to really improve our linebacker situation, just with depth. We've addressed our d-line situation a little bit more. And to be honest with you, you can't really predict. The Jason Taylor situation just happened. You kind of wait for some of these guys to make their decisions--like, for example, Phillip Daniels. We're still waiting to see what he decides."
If Fred Davis develops into a reliable tight end, will there be many times when he's the only tight end on the field or will he mostly be in formations that also include Chris Cooley?
"I don't know how we can take Chris Cooley off the field. I will every once in a while--and not even to give him a rest, just to throw some different personnel group on the field. But rarely would I choose, right now, Fred over Chris to be out there. There might be a few things that I do with him, but more what you said: I'd have them both on the field at the same time. I can see that really happening in some unique ways, too, some subtle ways, which we've already talked about."
How is Randy Thomas's recovery from his surgery on his neck going?
"Very good. He's really been a leader in our weight room and our conditioning program, and here's a guy that's been at it for a long time. He's back. He had surgery and kind of stabilized and cleaned out a portion of his neck, if you will. He's working hard. Now, we haven't gotten to hitting yet. That's not going to be until training camp. He'll be there [for the offseason practices]."
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