December 26, 2011
Redskins Park


Executive Vice President/Head Coach Mike Shanahan

On the decision to make running back Roy Helu inactive last week:
“He was hurt [and] couldn’t practice. Same thing we talked about during the week. He was limited in practice. We tested him before the game. You could tell he was quite sore. He wanted to go. He tried to push through it, but he wasn’t able to go.”

On if it was a last minute decision to make Helu inactive:
“We ran him about three hours before the game and tried to get him to push off and do all the football-related drills. But I talked to him [and] our gut was no. That’s when Evan [Royster] knew he was going to start.”

On running back Evan Royster’s performance against the Vikings:
“I just think he had a great game. Going into that game, that defense had done a great job with yards-per-attempt. I think they’re ranked seventh, so they haven’t given up a lot of yards throughout the year. I thought Evan made a lot of great cuts and he was very productive throughout the whole game [and] gave us as a chance to score some points.”

On the future at the running back position with Helu and Royster:
“Well, you can see we have some depth. I think Roy’s done a fantastic job as well as Royster coming in and taking advantage of an opportunity. I thought Tim [Hightower] did a great job before he got hurt. So we do have some depth at that position that you’re looking for.”

On if the team has had a good stretch running the ball or if this is the beginning of what he wanted to do on the ground:
“Like I said, in the first four games, we were in the top 10 of rushing offense. Any time you lose a bunch of players, it’s going to take a while to get it going again. I was really pleased with some of the guys stepping up not only the offensive line but the running backs and the wide receivers as well. [We’re] kind of getting back into the flow of our running game. Like you said, over the last four or five games, we’ve had that flow and, in order to score points with the football like you want to, you have to be productive in that area.”

On if the defense had its worst effort of the season against the Vikings:
“Yeah, it wasn’t our best effort on defense this year. Usually, it starts up front and that was probably the poorest game that we’ve played up front this year. Normally, if you don’t have a great outing up front, you don’t have a great game on defense.”

On the offensive line’s success despite the injuries this season:
“Guys get opportunities to show us what they can do, regardless of if they are second-team or third-team. They’re patchwork, but they play in the NFL and they’re here for a reason. They’re one play away from being the starter. If you’re third-team, two plays away from being the starter. If you’re on the team, you’re on the team for a reason and we expect you to produce. I think these guys have gained some valuable experience. Along the way, we’ve gotten better collectively. We had a little dry spell in there and I think we’re starting to come along and what we expect.”

On the special teams’ success:
“Well, No. 1, you have to try to be as consistent as you can. And I think Sav [Rocca’s] been very consistent. He has a great hang time and, when you have a great hang time, you have a chance to cover. [He’s] probably not been as productive in the last couple of weeks because he’s been playing hurt. That ankle was black and blue, the one that he got hurt during the game. Despite those injuries, he hasn’t complained [and] he’s been out there punting as good as he can. Same thing on kickoff. I think [Graham] Gano’s done a great job on kickoffs – good hang time. We have a lot of guys that take pride in covering kicks and we’ve got some goals and aspirations to finish as one of the top units. And we’re close in those areas.”

On how hard it is to find players who take pride in special teams:
“If you’re not the first- or second-team guy or sometimes you can be the first-team guy, you understand in the NFL only 46 guys dress and you’ve got to have some pride in those special teams, which is the difference in winning and losing. We watch every special teams play as a team to let our players know how important those plays are. [They are] usually the difference in winning and losing.”

On where he sees progress going into next season:
“I see a big difference than two years ago. We have a much younger football team. We have a lot more depth at a lot of different positions. I feel good with the type of players that we do have. We still need a good draft [and] a good free agency. We still need to improve from where we’re at right now. Our record obviously dictates that, but I feel good about the football team and the direction we’re headed.”

On the defense’s front seven:
“I feel good about that. If you’re looking at depth and you take a look at the depth that we have on the defensive line and linebacker position, that’s one of the areas that we addressed last offseason - we addressed in the draft [and] we addressed in free agency. Not only do we have some first-teamers there, but we believe we have some second- and third-teamers there and that’s what you’re looking for is depth in that front seven, front eight.”

On how difficult it is to prepare for a backup quarterback like Vikings’ Joe Webb:
“Well, No. 1, you have to be ready for everything. If you’re not ready for everything, it goes back to us as a coaching staff. But with Webb, he really burned us on the two touchdown passes. He was four-for-five with two touchdown passes. One was just a generic drop back and he hit the tight end in the corner of the end zone and the other one was a little slide play off of play action, different plays that we go against all the time regardless of the quarterback. He had one counter-option play that we had one person out of position and he did a good job of the 15-yard run for the touchdown where we had a missed tackle. Other than that, it’s playing football and… the one big run obviously put them in position to go ahead. But other than that, we played fairly well overall. Any time the quarterback makes a couple of those plays, we’ve got to play better.”

On if quarterback Rex Grossman was roughed on the Hail Mary pass:
“I’m not going to get into all those type of things. I could go through the whole game, but those are different things we talk about. It wasn’t roughing, he was just hit in the helmet. Regardless, after it’s done, it’s over. We always turn in 10 or 15 of those plays every game and, at the end, they agree or disagree. Normally, they probably agree with about three-quarters of them. Unless we see definitely, we don’t turn it in.”

On why running back Ryan Torain has struggled since the Rams game:
“It’s hard to say. But what you look for is consistency at every position. The people that are consistent get more opportunities. If you’re not consistent, you don’t get as many opportunities to show us what you can do. But you mentioned Ryan had a big game – that was one of the reasons why he’s had a chance to get some reps. I think Helu has taken advantage of those opportunities more than Ryan has. Evan obviously this week against a pretty good defensive front – took advantage of an opportunity. That’s why, depending on who’s healthy next week, he’ll [Torain] probably be the third guy going in.”

On how much stock he puts in the record when evaluating the progress made this year:
“Well, you always look at the overall record to see if you get better. The first way you improve the overall record is you can’t turn the football over. So the thing we’ll be stressing next year like we continue to try to do now is not turn the football over. Because if you turn the football over like we did this year, regardless of what type of football team you have, you’re not going to win. So that’s always going to go there. But eventually, what we want to do is put a football team together where you can win a Super Bowl, not just get to the playoffs or win nine or 10 games, but be there consistently where you have the depth to do what some of these teams have been doing year-in, year-out for a long period of time.”

On Grossman and turnovers:
“Like I told you, we’re constantly evaluating everybody — every position, every game. And if you’re consistent, you keep a position. If you’re not consistent, you don’t keep a position. Obviously, I don’t do that through the media, but we’ll constantly evaluate everybody’s progress and their success and it gives them a chance to compete for the position next year whether or not they’re with our football team.”

On Grossman’s performance and what it means for his future with the team:
“We talked about this last week. We talked about London [Fletcher]. We talked about a lot of guys that are on free agent contracts. We’re going to do what we can at the end of the season to sit down and put our best football team together. You’re dealing with the salary cap. You’re dealing with people that you feel give you the best chance to win, long run, short term. And we’re going to do what we think is in the best interest of this organization and part of this season will be the evaluation. I mean, obviously, this season will be the evaluation on who we decide to make part of our football team.”

On if the team sustained any injuries on Saturday:
“We had a couple of bumps and bruises. I think Jammal [Brown] was a little bit stiff at the end. But other than that, I think we’re in pretty good shape.”

On if it had taken longer to make progress than he originally anticipated:
“Oh, yeah, a lot longer than I first anticipated. We had less depth than I thought. We were a little bit older at a few different positions and I thought we might keep those players a little bit longer than we did. But that’s not a negative. You’ve just got to evaluate your squad on a day-to-day basis, a year-to-year basis, and put the best football team together. And I think that’s what we’re doing.”

On how he evaluates progress:
“It’s every day. You know, we talk about you go out to practice, you’re evaluating players every day – how they practice, how they play. Who do you keep after the first year? Who do you keep after the second year? The free agents you bring in, the draft choices you bring in. I think we’ve turned most of our squad over. And so we’ve brought a lot of people in that I think will help us down the road.”

On the recovery of defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins:
“It’s going good. They said he’s ahead of schedule.”

On if Jenkins will be able to participate in OTAs:
“I would say probably right now. It looks that way.”

On if wide receiver Leonard Hankerson will be able to participate in OTAs:
“I don’t know with Hankerson yet. I heard he’s doing good, but when he’ll be able to go, I can’t tell you that. Same thing with Kory Lichtensteiger. I’m not really sure, but they said he’s ahead of schedule.”