Waufle on Strahan: “I called him last week and I told him, ‘I’ve been doing these cutups and I have made this phone call to you already and I have said that you had one heck of a season.’ And I said, ‘I’m going to tell you again’ Because he really did, he played really well, especially at the end. What a way to finish it.”
Waufle on Umenyiora: “Osi has really improved on is his run defense. He is very consistent at it. In fact, I was showing the rookies a particular alignment today which Osi plays. He is playing really well.”
Q: How do you feel about the potential replacements for (weakside linebacker) Kawika Mitchell (who signed with Buffalo as a free agent)? Is Gerris Wilkinson the number one prospect?
Sheridan: “I think going into the spring practices he will be, just because he is coming back and Danny Clark (signed on March 13) is coming from outside. I think both of them understand that the position is wide open and (fourth-round draft choice) Bryan Kehl would be considered in the mix, too. We are not going to necessarily pigeonhole Bryan as a SAM or a WILL, so I think he will do some of both in the spring and if he can make a splash he will be considered as well.”
Q: How is Mathias Kiwanuka (who fractured his left fibula in Detroit on Nov. 18) coming along?
Sheridan: “I anticipate him taking all of the reps in the spring. I think he is fully ready to go and very anxious to do it.
Re Kiwanuka at LB: “I think he will be much, much further along. I think when he got hurt he had showed so much improvement every week and I think he would have continued to go and get better had he not gotten hurt and been able to play for the rest of the season. I think he is a lot more confident in the schemes and the Xs and Os. He will continue to just get better with becoming familiar with playing the position and the pass coverages. I anticipate him being an excellent player.”
Sheridan on Goff and Kehl: “I did like both of them going into the draft. I had evaluated both guys and I had gone to Jon Goff’s senior workout at Vanderbilt. They are both big. They are all of 6-2 plus, almost 6-3, they are both 240 lbs. So just walking in the door they are great size guys and both of them are really smart. Maybe you hear that all the time and you think it is trite, but it is so much easier to win with guys that are really smart, and they are. We interviewed them both at the combine and watching film with them, and they know football, they can talk football, they can explain football, and in the short time that I have had to visit with them and meet them here they understand exactly what we are installing. They can reiterate back to me what I just told them five minutes ago, they understand when we go and do some walk-thrus and jog-thrus, and even in the rookie mini camp they did a great job. They are really smart guys.”
Giunta on Webster: “Yes, very confident, very confident that he will continue to develop and get better and better.
Giunta on another year for McQuarters and Madison: “Oh yeah, absolutely. Those guys both have stuff left in the tank.”
Q: Is Kenny Phillips a guy who is as NFL ready as one can be?
Merritt: “Yes. Kenny came out early as a junior. But this kid, in the classroom, has shown unbelievable recall for the defense. We put in things early in the mini-camp and he is able to recall it back to me a week or two later. Safeties are the quarterbacks of the defense, they control all the coverage, they get them in and out of checks, and this kid was able to recall a lot of the information and things that we had spoken about weeks before. As far as his smarts and his intellect I am very, very excited about that. Now there is some stuff as far as on the field that I will work with him with as far as understanding angles and how he approaches certain routes and things like that, but that is my job as a coach. As far as his God-given ability mentally the kid is very good.”
Q: In a perfect world does Sammy Knight play the strong safety and Kenny Phillips play the free?
Merritt: “Don’t disregard Michael Johnson and James Butler because Michael Johnson started for us last year a couple of games and James Butler started for us a majority of the season. Other than his hamstring injury James Butler came out of the Super Bowl as the starting strong safety, and that is what is going to happen this year. Right now no matter what happens (going into the OTA’s and mini-camp) James Butler is the starting strong safety with Michael Johnson right now being the starting free safety. What I am doing with the guys here this spring is I am playing left and right safety. Sammy Knight is going to have to learn how to play free safety just as well as strong safety. That way they are able to learn the entire defense. Once the season comes along we will start to weed it out and put the guys in their position, but right now we would like for these guys to learn it all; both positions.”