Coming in Cowher said it would be a grind. Were special teams emphasized?
It’s like that every week. It really is. It’s a field-position game. Coach always talks about that --. field position and getting the return game going, and Randle had another great day today. But not any more than coach usually emphasizes it.
Surprised when you were called to punt so far down in Redskins territory?
On the one I popped straight up. It was one of those things where you don’t want to kick it into the end zone. Obviously I didn’t hit it like I wanted to. Once I hit it straight up I thought it would carry. Then when it hit the ground I couldn’t believe it.
Was anyone upset with you?
No. I was more upset than anybody.
Surprised at the fourth-and-3 punt from in close?
No. Honestly, I’m always thinking field goal or punt in that situation, just in my mind. When I hear punt I’m out there.
ANTWAAN RANDLE EL
On first punt return:
I realized I was in the end zone. I realized it late that I was in the end zone but I was able to get out and put the ball on the six or seven. That’s just the way I play.
Did special teams win the game today?
That’s what it comes to. Every play in every game is going to be important and you need every guy. I don’t care what kind of team you have or if you’re the big star, if you don’t have the rest of the guys doing what they’re supposed to do, doing their job, it makes it hard on the rest of the team. Special teams came up big. I think it came up big last week. We need to continue to keep going. Field position matters.
What’s the key to your improvement this season as a punt returner?
We’re coming together as a unit. We’re playing together and understanding punt returns.
Happy with your returns today?
No. I should’ve got in the end zone twice. It kind of bugs me because I think it happened last week and this week was really ridiculous on my part. I should’ve been in the end zone. The offense should never have had to come on the field. I think one time we didn’t even score. We didn’t even get three points. That kind of bugs me.
What could you have done differently?
Well I should’ve cut back on one. I thought I could beat him outside. I didn’t think he (Tupa) was that long.
What about when the linebacker got you?
That was an angle. I thought I was clear but I felt heat on my shoulder. I tried to stay in bounds but couldn’t. If I’d have seen him coming I would’ve cut back across the field. That’s the disappointing part. I should’ve been in the end zone twice.
What happened on the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty?
I tried to catch the ball over my shoulder to down it and I kind of dropped it. I picked it up and one of their players came and knocked the ball out of my hand. So I picked up the ball and I was walking away and just dropped it. You know what I mean? And they said I threw the ball at him. You know, I wasn’t trying to do anything like that. It was kind of ridiculous.
What did you think of your units today?
Well, you’ve got to be happy. You know, I think kickoff coverage, I think we’re back, and kickoff return we didn’t get much of a chance. And Gardocki only had one bad punt. Punt return, you know I think Randle started getting on a roll this time last year too and I think he might have said it best: ‘We have new people and I think they’re getting comfortable working with each other.’ And we put some returns in where I told him just to make one move and go. So I think he feels good now. He’s starting to shake and bake. That last one hurt. They got the ball at the 20, then the 50. I was scared there because with a 9-point lead they had the ball there with six minutes left. I felt bad about that one, but we’re making some plays to help the football team and I think that’s important.
So your units are improving?
We have had some change in personnel. It’s new. You can’t simulate it in practice. And I think we struggled a little bit. We still have much too many penalties. But the guys are feeling good. They’ve gained experience. Randle’s not dancing, he’s hitting it, going north and south, so I think he’s feeling more confident and the guys feel more confident. It just evolves that way I guess.
Can you tell me why you punted twice inside Redskins territory?
I just told coach, and I was adamant about it, when you’re that far out and the wind was blowing towards our bench, it’s really hard for Jeff to get a line. He almost has to hit them way outside right to have that thing get back to the middle. And you figure it’s a 33-yard field goal. They’re going to get the ball at the 40 or so. Field position’s huge. Against these guys, it’s going to be a low-scoring game. Let’s play the field-position battle. Let’s punt the football. Then you punt ass-backwards and they get the ball on the 24. But that was no reflection on Jeff. I just think you have to play the elements and not give them a short field.
But their offense is so bad and your defense is so good. Couldn’t you have gone for it?
I guess maybe I don’t think about that. I just think about them getting the ball on the 40-yard line. This is the NFL. If they get one first down and don’t get points, now we’re operating out of a short field. With the elements, that’s what I worry about.
Do you make that call?
No, no, no, no. I’ll just tell coach what the yard-line is and then I’ll say in my opinion, coach, we’ve got to punt the ball here. And that’s up to coach. He makes the call. But it’s all about field position with the elements the way they were.
Was there even more emphasis on special teams today?
Yeah, I think. Tommy (Tupa) hits the ball long and he’s going to give you a chance to return the ball. So I’m thinking we’re going to have a chance. There were times when I’d stop the film and show the guys that there’s anywhere from 15 to 18 yards between the return man and the first wave. So I really felt if you give Randle that much space, you’re going to have a chance to crack one.
So the injuries aren’t playing too much havoc are they?
Thank the good Lord. You just have to give credit to the kids. They’ve really studied and prepared and they spend extra time with me. Zo was up this week. James Harrison only practiced once with the shoulder. The guys are doing a helluva job. They really are.
Speaking of James, did he make every tackle?
I’m telling you. He’s just good. What helps him is Clint Kriewaldt has been a real mentor. Clint will look at a film and he’ll analyze it quicker than I will, so he sits down with James and they watch film together, and Sean Morey watches film with those guys, so I think it really helps. And he’s a heck of a player. He really is.
Did special teams carry the day today?
If you win the special-teams phase of the game every game, you’ll win the game. That’s the way I look at it. I’m not saying our 10 wins are because our special teams did great. What I’m saying is defense and offense will make their big plays, and they may get beat every once in awhile. It’s the NFL. If you win the special-teams phase, and the field-position phase, I think you’ll win the game.
Were you surprised by the punts when you were down close?
No. If you were down on the field you’d understand. It wasn’t necessarily the field, but the wind was in our face, strong wind to the left. If you miss a 51, 52-yard field goal you give them good field position. Nah. Not at all. He asked me and I told him it’s makeable but it’s up to you. I’m always honest with him. I don’t think Washington would’ve attempted one there either unless it was a game winner.