A transcription of Raiders coach Tom Cable’s post-practice press briefing Thursday with the Bay Area media:
Cable: All right, Heyward-Bey, he’s limited today. Schilens did not practice, again. Zach Miller did more, still limited. Henderson did more, still limited. And Asomugha did more, but still limited. But all three of those guys, I think, are on track.
Q: Is it conceivable that Henderson, after missing all that time, could play?
Q: What would his return do not only for confidence, but for stopping the run?
Cable: Well, you know, it does elevate our confidence that way because he’s a good run player, always has been, and it certainly would give us an opportunity to give Tommy and Richard a little bit of a spell in there once in a while.
Q: Would he have more to give and be more fresh, having missed seven games?
Cable: I actually look at it that way. I think you’re getting a fresh body that has conditioned quite a bit now for a couple of weeks. Hasn’t been in a game in a while, obviously, but seems to be able to go in there and through a couple plays in a row in practice and looks very good. So, excited. And definitely a fresh body, not beat up.
Q: Nnamdi and Zach’s progress, are you encouraged?
Cable: Think they’ll play?
Cable: I’m very encouraged right now. Tomorrow I think we’ll probably have a petty good idea.
Q: How much did Heyward-Bey do?
Cable: Probably about a third of the practice.
Q: His bounce-back tomorrow determine if he could play?
Cable: Definitely. We’ll see what it feels like in the morning when he comes in for treatment and everything. He seemed to get through it all right, but we’ll see in the morning.
Q: Why are the Steelers so hard to run against?
Cable: They’ve got a scheme that they all understand. They’ve been playing it for a lot of years, and then you’ve got really good players. I think you’ve got a defensive coordinator that’s seen every run system under the sun and has a plan about how you stop people from running the football. But there are some things I think we understand about them that hopefully will help us.
Q: Does their reputation and the fact they’ve been fined for helmet-to-helmet hits even enter into the equation when you’re game-planning or thinking about them?
Cable: Not at all.
Q: How has Bruce handled everything, especially this week now that he’s fully healthy?
Cable: I’ve been impressed by how he has handled it. He’s truly been a pro about the whole thing. I’ve talked to both of them individually, and he understands this is where we’re at as a football team and he understands he has a role now on that team, and he’s ready to go.
Q: Now that Bruce is healthy, does Jason have a shorter rope? Do you look at it that way?
Cable: No, I really don’t. To make the decision like I did with the fact that we’ve had the success that we’ve had lately, he’s earned that. And I think when someone earns something, they deserve to go out there and give it everything they’ve got. And if things don’t go right or whatever happens, we have an answer to go to.
Q: Have you looked at the weather report for Pittsburgh?
Cable: It’s going to be nice.
Q: You guys seem to handle the weather well …
Cable: We talked about it before but it’s going to be somewhere in the 50s and sunny. So it’s going to be a pretty nice day. The weather doesn’t matter. We don’t live in the cold like that. We were actually talking about it today when we went through our walkthrough. Last year we got snowed on on Saturday. It was like, no big deal. And then the game was cool, or chilly. It doesn’t matter. We’ve got to play in it anyway.”
Q: How is condition of that field, looks pretty beat up?
Cable: I think just with the amount of work that’s on it with the two teams playing on it like they do it’s just going to be that way, and we’re OK with it.
Q: End of walkthrough had meeting with 12 players _ is that a leadership council, do you have a message for them to carry to rest of the team?
Cable: It’s both. It’s a group I communicate with, and they communicate with me. It is a team council and that’s their purpose and they’ve been chosen and given that responsibility.
Q: Chosen by teammates or chosen by coaches?
Cable: By me.
Q: How nice is it as a coach to have Shane and Seabass in a game like this . . .
Cable: I think there’s confidence for sure. I think this game is going to be about field position. I don’t think there’s any question about that. But it’s a nice luxury, I’ve said this before, to have two guys, who have proven themselves time and time again. They’re just as excited as anyone else on this team to go play in a big game and go have an effect on it.
Q: Never know how game will play out, lots of yards, TDs late last year, can you see a scenario playing the Steelers where some offensive possessions a punt is a good possession?
Cable: Sure. That was kind of the thought last year, even. And as the game got to a point where you really kind of had to go that route of having to throw it around and all that. But prior to that if you really remember the game and look at it it was about kind of play it to the vest and take care of the ball in terms of the field position and how aggressive you can or can’t be.
Q: Kind of cool having the Raiders-Steelers game mean something once again?
Cable: This is awesome. This is awesome. This is what we’ve earned the right to be in games like this now, so that’s the way we approach it. It’s exciting to go play them, and they’re very good. They had a year where they came down a little bit after the Super Bowl, but they’re a very good team again. And we feel like we’re getting better, so it’s another great test for us.
Q: What do you recall about the old-time Raiders-Steelers games in the 70s?
Cable: Just how physical they were. The thing that you remember about those teams playing is, they just beat the tar out of each other. There’s no other way to look at it. Both teams were really good on the line of scrimmage, both teams had good receivers and good running backs. You just remember somebody would make a play, but the rest of the game just seemed like an old-fashioned street fight, and that’s what you remember.”
Q: Any significance to your team being more physical at the point of attack and the last three teams you beat losing their next game?
Cable: We’re becoming that, and that’s what kind of our mantra is, to work hard, get better every week and try to become as physical a football team as we can. You only do that by growing each week. We have imposed our will a little bit on some people, and we’re continuing to try to learn how to do that and get better at it.
Q: Is this the ultimate challenge in that regard, facing a Steelers team that has the same qualities?
Cable:There’s no question. When we talked about it, what we think the keys are to succeeding on Sunday, it would take a great physical effort by our team?
Q: How do you develop physicality, is it teaching or getting physical guys?
Cable : I think it’s a little bit of both. It’s something that we’ve worked on a lot. When I got here in ’07 it was trying to change the mentality of how to run the football. I think we’ve grown that way. This year we’re having some success and had big games doing it. As you get down the stretch here it will be about who can do it consistently, who can get the ugly three and four yard runs consistently. That will be what it takes to succeed.
Q: What did you mean by change mentality of running the ball?
Cable: I think when I got here they were last in rushing or 31st and that first year we went to sixth. So I think just an identity about running the ball and how hard it is and what it takes to work at running the football. That was achieved right away. To understand it. Running the ball doesn’t happen by accident. You have to block people and you have to run hard. We’ve been able to take that and take it to another level.