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Mike Pettine Interview Transcript 8/9/11

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On Tuesday New York Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine addressed the media.  Here is the transcript courtesy of the Jets.

On Mo Wilkerson’s learning curve…

It’s pretty accelerated. The one thing, we were very fortunate around the draft if you recall, we had the one day that we were open for business. That happened to be the day after he was drafted. We were able to get him in here and overwhelm him with information. We got him a playbook, got him some film to watch, called Mike DeVito, gave Mike DeVito his phone number and said, “Take this kid under your wing”. So he really came in here with a decent base already. We were really fortunate to get that one day and we took advantage of it. He’s a smart kid. He has a great group around him. We call it having thinking buddies. They know how to take care of a rookie. A lot of times we tell the veterans, “If he messes up, it’s your fault.” He hasn’t had that many issues from a mental standpoint. The kid has picked it up right away. He’s very coachable and like we said all along, he’ll be trotting out there day one.

On CB Kyle Wilson and his improvement over last year…

To me I think it’s a little overblown that he had a quote-unquote bad year last year. Yes, it was a rookie year and he had some struggles early. His bounce back, I thought, occurred during the season last year. Late in the year he played some good football for us. I think the biggest issue for him getting back on the field was Drew Coleman was playing at such a high level that it was hard to get Kyle back out there. I think he handled the lockout very maturely. He spent a lot of time with (Darrelle) Revis. If you’re going to pick a guy to kind of shadow and get yourself better, that’s not a bad choice. He came in, he’s in great shape, very conscientious about his job, had a lot of questions based on our installation and he’s showing it on the field. He’s going to be a huge part of what we do this year.

On DL Ropati Pitoitua and what percentage he’s ready to play…

I don’t know the number, but he looks great. I talked to John Mellody heading into it because I had asked him, “Who do we have to watch heading into it?” We figured Jim Leonhard, we assumed Ropati, but he said, “No, he’s full-go.” I think John was able to monitor through a third-party during our vacation quote-unquote as some people are calling it. But he was able to monitor his progress and he was doing well. He’s a guy who gives us a little insurance. I think it’s a lot to ask of Muhammad to come in and play every snap as a rookie. I think Ropati is going to be one of those guys who isn’t a big name for us but is just going to step up and be a big part of what we do. I think that defensive line prides themselves being no-names. They like to call themselves “The Journeymen”. I think he’s obviously a big part of that group.

On the timetable for Jim Leonhard to see his first game action since his leg injury last year…

That I don’t know. We haven’t had that meeting yet as far as who is able to go. That’s something that we’ll leave up to the medical people. He’s all happy now, he has his new titanium shin guard or whatever that thing is that he’s wearing out there. He’ll want to play. It’ll be a question of whether we let him.

On Wilson struggling in his rookie season…

I think that’s well-documented. He had some confidence issues. The Miami game down there, I think he got beat a few times and he struggled to bounce back from it. I think it got a little overwhelming for him. As a rookie, that is a lot of pressure, especially to be in our defense, our style of defense. Sometimes that’s the hardest position. If your confidence goes as a corner, very similar to what happened to Lito Sheppard two years ago. He came out of the gates great, played really well the first couple of games and then got hurt. Then it wasn’t so much the confidence of getting beat, it was the confidence of, I think he injured a quad, it was trusting it when he came back. That’s a position where most guys, the confidence thing can be a fragile thing.

On if there was a turning point in Wilson’s improvement…

It started in practice against our wide-outs. He’s gaining confidence, he’s playing scout team or playing for us and getting reps with the twos with us and was covering our guys. That’s where it starts. You see a guy, that a lot of times guys earn playing time during the week. This guy is playing well, let’s find a role for him. If a guy is not playing well, then it’s the exact opposite and maybe you back off his reps.

On a specific time when he noticed Wilson’s confidence come back…

I don’t remember. At this point, last season is a total blur.

On CB Donald Strickland…

Strickland is a guy, from a staff standpoint, it was hard for us to let him go after 2009. Strickland played very well for us. But the problem with Strickland was that he played great when he was in there and had some injuries that kept him out. So there was a durability question there. I think that’s one of the reasons we had Kyle, we had Drew, we felt we had a little bit of depth there and with the durability question, I think that’s one of the reasons why he was let go. Again from a staff standpoint, a lot those decisions are above our pay-grade. So we’re going to fight for all of our guys. I think he went out to San Diego and we actually got to see him a lot on cross-over tape and he was playing at a high level. Then the smoke cleared at the end of the season and you checked the stats, here he was active for all 16 games and we knew he made it through the whole year. When the whole thing happened with Drew and we weren’t sure where we were from a cap situation, those decisions are way above me. When Strickland’s name popped up, we jumped all over it. This is a guy who plays like a Jet. I think he really enjoyed it here. I think he even has said that he didn’t want to leave. So I think it was one of those phone calls that we had him at hello.

On when he got over the loss to Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game…

Are you making the assumption that I’m over it? Anytime you get to within one game, and unfortunately for Rex and I that is three-in-a-row now that you get within one game, those really stick with you. It’s tough. It took me a while to sit down and stomach the tape and when we finally watched it, it was hard to watch. Here we came out, coming off an emotional win and as a unit, we were flat for a half. To me, you can’t justify that. Here you are, at the biggest game and you’re one game away from the ultimate (game) and we were flat and uninspired. That’s hard to take. When you watch the second half, we played some of our best football. They had 20-some snaps and 50-some yards, but it was one of those situations where it was too little, too late.

On if the first half of last year’s AFC Championship Game caused a philosophy change…

To me I don’t think that half caused that. We didn’t change anything schematically at halftime. It was nothing more than a good halftime speech wasn’t going to correct. Schematically we didn’t change much, we just came out and played like Jets in the second half. I think addressing the defensive line is something that was in the works. I think obviously we wanted to get a little bit younger there and get a little more depth. I think we certainly did an excellent job of doing that through the draft.

On whether LB Jamaal Westerman will have a designated role this season…

Absolutely. He was a guy who before we signed (Jason Taylor) a year ago, I think we had kind of penciled in to get a decent amount of reps. I think having Jason slowed Jamaal’s progress down a little bit. He was able to play some and we always found when he was in there, things happened. Jamaal is an explosive guy, he’s very strong and has the best get-off of our defensive ends. He’s a guy who when we looked at potentially allocating resources—is it corner or is it inside linebacker? From a pass rush standpoint we felt we had a pretty good guy here and we need to give him a chance to play. So he’s a guy that we expect big things from. He’ll certainly be a part of a rotation on the third-down stuff and he’ll definitely take some reps off of Calvin (Pace) and (Bryan Thomas) on first and second downs.

On if he’d change anything they did in preparing for last year’s AFC Championship Game…

I don’t think so, I don’t think we prepared for that game any differently. I just think what we’d do different is not have two back-to-back emotional, playoff games. I think that finally caught up to us. That’s our thing, if we want to take the next step, let’s get a bye and let’s get ourselves a home game. As it’s been proven over time, that’s a very difficult thing to do, to win three games on the road in the NFL playoffs.

On S Emmanuel Cook…

Cook was a guy that two years ago impressed us and just kind of got caught in the numbers in 2009. He was a guy, I forget whether we tried to practice squad him but he ended up in Tampa. We got him back late in the year. He was a guy that we liked, he played like a Jet but it was one of those things that we were pretty deep at safety and we took advantage of the opportunity to get him back. With not re-signing (James Ihedigbo), Cook has to step up and assume some of those roles. I know he’s big into (Mike) Westhoff’s plans and he’s a guy who has had a really good camp so far. He’s not going to be one of those guys who is just a (special) teamer and nothing else. I think if he’s up on gameday we’ll have roles for him defensively as well.

On what he likes about Bryan Thomas…

Nothing (joking). He’s great in our room. I’m sure he can be the same with (the media). He keeps it light but he knows when to play and he knows when to work. I think he’s a really good example of what we’re looking for. Here’s a guy who isn’t in it for the credit and all that. He’s a guy that just goes out and does his job. At the end of the day you look at it, he doesn’t really show up on the stat sheet, but you don’t understand that he just took two blocks so David Harris could make a tackle or he held up a tight end from releasing cleanly so we could maybe get an interception or break up a pass or get off the field on third down. So he has a lot of those thankless jobs and he’s really, really good at them. I remember two years ago somebody asked at the end of the year, “Did Bryan Thomas have a bad year?” when it was actually the opposite. We felt he was one of our top five or six guys defensively.

On whether Calvin Pace’s injury hurt his productivity last year…

I think it did a lot, I don’t know if he’ll admit that, but it was brought to my attention after the season that, I don’t recall the exact percentage, but the percentage that his foot was healed wasn’t real high. He’s a guy, as you know, I think he has a maximum number of words he can use for the year (laughter). I think he uses them up very quickly. He’ll never tell you. I just remember him standing up at the end of the year in a defensive meeting. All the sudden he was talking about, “I had a great year, this is the most fun I’ve had playing football.” You look at him sometimes and think he’s miserable every day. Calvin is tough, he fights through stuff. It was something that he never fully recovered from and that’s why I think that we’re looking for and expecting big things from him this year. He’ll be the first one to tell you, his expectations are probably even higher than ours.

This Article Was Written By Tyson Rauch

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