Head Coach Mike Singletary took the podium Friday at the 2009 NFL Combine. Here's what he had to say to the media...Q: At the combine what are you looking for and how much does that play into who you end up selecting?**
A: I think one of the best things about coming to the combine is if you have an opportunity to look at film before you get here. Once you get here and get to talk to some of these players, you put a face to who you've been watching on film. Really, you're trying to figure out if it matches. Some of the questions that are asked, some of the body language, you come away having a better feel for that player. I think really that's what I'm looking forward to every time I come, it's just how does what I see here match up with what I'm looking at on film.
Q: How does your role change in the upcoming weeks?
A: I think that my role is more of an overall view of the talent that's here, rather than just focusing in on the defensive side of it, whether it be the linebackers or defensive line, however that is. It's the total package.
Q: Do you look at offensive players more than before?
A: I've always watched on the offensive side of the ball as well as the defense. But yes, I do pay more attention to it now and detail it a bit more in terms of what our offensive style is, what our offensive philosophy is and begin to try and really go a little bit deeper and look at these players, the character and the whole piece that you just try and put in place. It really is interesting having a chance to look at the whole package.
Q: Do you know Jason Smith and are you proud of what he's done at Baylor?
A: I had a chance to meet Jason when I went down for the homecoming game. It just happened that the homecoming week fell on the same time as our bye week. It was a great time to go down and watch the team. I think they were playing Missouri that day and really did a good job. After the game he came up to me and introduced himself and I talked with him just a bit. But there is no question, I am really proud of him. More so than anything else, I'm really impressed with him. I think the physicality that he has and I guess the focus. He's very serious about being good. It's really important to him. Football is important to him. Preparation is important to him. You see some of the things that are written about him. Yesterday I came down on the plane and I sat next to a guy who knew him and talked about him and yes, it's very nice when you can have a player from your alma mater who's doing a good job on and off the field. It's impressive.
Q: When you have interviews with some of the guys, how important is it to find out how much fire they have?
A: Once again, I think the truth of that goes to the film. Naturally, the unfortunate part about is a lot of guys come here and are trained by their agent to say certain things and they know key words to put in. But there's something about that gut of that player that you're really looking to. For me, it's more body language. It's more of that connection. It's more eye contact. There's a lot of things that go into it. When you get back and you really turn on that film, the true identity of that player really comes alive.
Q: Is Shaun Hill the clear-cut No. 1 heading into this offseason?
A: That is important to a lot of people. I think for me, the most important thing we have at that quarterback position is competition. I think going into training camp, of course, I could say, 'Shaun Hill is our starting quarterback going into training camp.' But what does that really say? It says he's going to compete for the job. To me, at the end of the day, I think the most important thing rather than say Shaun Hill is the starter, is making sure whoever we have at the quarterback position, we have the best guy on the field and gives us the best chance to win. That's the most important thing that's going to come out of our quarterback situation.
Q: Is the two-man competition what you're looking at or are you going to bring in others to add to the competition?
A: I think there are some things we have to pay attention to. We're going to work that out. Hopefully, Alex is back and that adds competition. Maybe we get somebody in the draft on down somewhere if there's a guy there we think we can bring in and develop. (If) we have a chance to develop a guy for down the road, then I think it creates a good situation for us and that's something that's certainly important to us and important for our future going forward. We're excited about that, but we're taking it one day at a time.
Q: What are your early impressions of the quarterbacks at the top of the draft?
A: Right now, as I look at the quarterbacks who are available in the first round or so and people are talking about, you kind of look at them. You never know what's going to happen. But I think more so than anything else, we're just trying to look at the best player there and try to make the best decision for our organization. When that time comes, we'll look at it.
Q: What are the major characteristics a quarterback has to have to play for you?
A: This may shock you a bit. But once again when you look at the film, I think it's important for a quarterback to have accuracy. Certainly got to make all the throws, certainly you got to have the talent and certainly you got to be smart, but I think really what it comes down to for me, the quarterback has to be a quarterback that's going to make a difference down the stretch when you're looking at that film again, looking at what happens after he makes a bad play. What happens when he doesn't make the right reads? How does he respond to that? What happens after he gets sacked? Is he afraid to stand in and take a hit? What does he do for his team? What are the intangibles outside of what his talent brings? Is he a leader? All of those things. Those are some of the smaller things I look for in terms of a quarterback who is going to lead our team.
Q: Do you have any feelings about bringing in a veteran free-agent quarterback for a No. 2 or possibly challenge for a starting job?
A: I think we've certainly talked about it, but I think it's one of those things right now we're just trying to weigh all the different scenarios and pick the best one. But we're not in a hurry to go and grab a veteran quarterback and try to bring him in. We feel Shaun Hill is pretty stable and we're excited about what Shaun did this past season and what he can bring going forward. I think we're going to look at all the options as we go forward and make the best decision.
Q: You talked about quarterbacks handling adversity. Alex Smith has had a lot of negative things. How has he responded?
A: I think for Alex Smith, in all fairness to him, I think he's a young man who's been through a lot very early on in his career. I think taking away some of the drama that has existed around him and putting better people in front of him to protect him, giving him a few more weapons, he and Shaun both, I think it's going to be interesting to see how that goes. He's been dealt a pretty tough four years. Hopefully, we're on the other side of that.
Q: Can you talk about the offensive style and what role does Vernon Davis play in that?
A: First of all, when I look at our offense and our personnel, I think the most important thing is that we're able to execute both running the football and throwing the football. There are a lot of misconceptions. When I talk about the physicality of the game, it's not just running the ball. To me, there's a physicality that comes to the game also when you're throwing the ball. I want to see guys going downfield and knocking people on their tails rather than looking around and saying, 'Why didn't you throw the ball to me?' I think that's very important. The physicality I'm talking about goes from the time the ball is snapped until that play is over. First and foremost, is just that mentality. Outside of that, it's very important for us to be able to run the ball when we need to run the ball. That's important. I don't care if they have eight people in the box or nine people in the box. When you want to run the ball and you need to run the ball to win the game, let's run the ball. All the other things, let that go to the wayside. Let's run the ball.
Q: Do you feel comfortable with your depth at running back?
A: I'd say, thank God we're at this time of the year. We're probably going to add some depth to that position. There are some good backs in the draft and very excited about the possibility of getting another guy to help share the load.
Q: Do you envision a two-back set with Frank Gore?
A: I would think when you look at Frank Gore, Frank is a special running back. I'm very excited about the way he runs, his running style and what he brings to our team. The physicality that we're talking about, that's what Frank is. But I think it would help to have someone come in and share that load, maybe someone who has a different style - someone who adds another dimension to our running game. That would be very advantageous for us.
Q: What is your approach going to be in your first full season?
A: I think my approach from the day I got the job has been an ongoing process. From that first day I thought about that time and I thought about this time. I thought about the offseason. I thought about how to do the whole thing. How do I start it and how do I keep that progression going? Those are the things I've been thinking about. Right now, the most important thing is to get the most out of this offseason. It's (important) to really pay attention to the talent that's out there, pay attention to the opportunities that are out there and we have our focus on what we want to be going forward and what kind of team we want to be. If we want to be that kind of team, a playoff team, a championship team, what are the things we have to have in place for that to happen? It's not just a slot, we need a wide receiver – put a wide receiver in there. Or we need a tackle, put a tackle in there. It goes deeper than that. It is what kind of tackle. What kind of mentality will that person have to have? How does that fit into the overall chemistry of our team? How does that make us better? I think it's just finding the individuals one-by-one and really taking our time to do the due diligence and plugging those people in and not having to look around and say, 'Well ok, this is the guy we really have to work with.' No, we don't have to do that. We plug them in, they get the information, we keep moving forward and they make us better, not just adding people because we have a vacancy at that spot.
Q: When you talk to these young players, do you think they understand what it takes to have a long and successful career?
A: Fortunately, I spend a lot of time with kids. I have seven kids myself so no, I don't think they have any clue. I think they'll sit there and tell you, 'Yes, I know what I want to do and I know what I want to be.' But once you turn the fire on and it starts getting hot, 'Well, wait, I'm not sure I really want to do it that way or that much.' But I think it's great to be here and sit down and have the opportunity to visit with some of these young men and you look into their eyes and you know the road that's before them. I just think the most important thing that we're looking for is just trying to identify those individuals. Maybe they don't know what it is. Maybe they don't know what it's going to look like, but they're willing and you know they're hungry and you know they want to be a part of something special. That's exciting to me. I don't have the expectation that they really know what it's all about right now.
Q: When you look at the players today and when you entered the draft with the draft training, do you sense they're more prepared for the process and life ahead than the player of your era?
A: Certainly, some of them are. They're certainly more aware. You can look at the NFL Network and get a lay of the land about what the expectations are and what are some of the interview processes like, what the coaches are looking for. Yes, these guys are a lot more astute, but sometimes I think it hinders a player when they're coached to go in and be more polished. I prefer a guy to come in and be who he is. Maybe you don't say the right thing. Maybe you say 'you know' about 30 times before you make the comment. Maybe you're redundant, whatever it is. But the true personality of the kid comes out. And you can tell when a kid comes in and says, 'This is who I am and if you draft me this is what you're going to get.' It's not a canned presentation. This is me. And I like that.