View Full Version : Gunther Cunningham Interview Training Camp Update

08-08-2005, 09:39 AM
DB: Do you get tired?

GUN: Yeah, I do. But the way I prepare for a practice is like a player. About an hour before practice, I drink about 10 cups of coffee and every other thing I can do. I drink a lot of water to get my mind set for practice.

DB: I've always wanted to play defense, always liked to hit... pound, pound, pound... and I always thought that was supposed to be the nature of a defense. Your defense is attack, attack, attack. What's the difference in yours and every other defense when they're all supposed to attack?

GUN: It's individual play and how you coach the guys. Our linebackers are all downhill runners. Last year when I came in here we didn't have that tendency. It's the style of reads they have and their reaction to different plays. We play across the line of scrimmage, not float behind the line of scrimmage and our safeties are the same way. Their reads take them to the ball fast. I learned that through Ronnie Lott, through my years of coaching. A lot of things we do are reflections of players in this league. In the last 20 years I learned a lot from who I've coached, probably learned more from them than any coach. So I've tried to plant their thoughts into our schemes. Most of the guys I'm talking about are Howie Long, Leslie O'Neal, Derrick Thomas. They're all upfield guys. They get after you. And I think a lot of the things that happen in college, with the 20-hour rule, a lot of the fundamentals are missing, and if you watch these practices, we work hard on that, on how we make contact and we go through people, not around them. So it's an every day approach you have to have and if you see a guy that's stepping back from that, then you've got to get a new guy.

DB: I was really disappointed when I read in the offseason that Kawika Mitchell didn't have the attitude to be physical. From what I was picking up, he didn't have the attitude of physicality, to dare you to even step on the field. Now how can that be when he's playing middle linebacker, the most physical position on the field.

GUN: "Well, we took six months and mentally beat him and he responded. We had a lot of meetings between us, and they weren't very nice. I told him what I thought of him, and what he had to do to play in this league and he finally understood. The other night I tested him. I called him out in a meeting, told him to get out in front and talk. I sat down. He said 'what do you want me to say?' I said say anything you want to say. And he said all the right things about how to play this game, the attitude you gotta bring to the table on every snap. He spoke for about two minutes and I said that's good. I went out in the hall, called him over and I said, do you understand why I did that? He said, 'you wanted the guys to know that I'm the MLB.' I said no! I said it was just important to one guy and that was me. I wanted to believe you when you talked and I believe you. That was the culmination of what we went through the last six months. It was a culture change. It's an attitude change when you step on the field. I think this defense had been very passive and we're trying to change all that. You cannot let up!

DB: Of course I'm an outsider, but I'm predicting William Bartee is going to be a "dark horse". I'm predicting he's going to rise up, because he's playing his natural position. What can you say about Bartee?

GUN: He's getting better every day. He's probably had the best practice I've seen him have this morning (Friday). He's starting to feel comfortable. He's a good athlete. He had some problems tackling because of some lanes he had to hit. You can't just go back there from playing corner and understand that, but he's picking it up fast and he's showing up every other play, which is a great sign when you call out his name. Playing with Sammy Knight has really helped him. Sammy is a student of the game. He's probably a lot smarter than I am. He knows things are happening out there, and he communicates to them, and William is picking up on that.

DB: Ryan Sims looks different, he looks better.

GUN: Yeah, but he's got a long ways to go before he satisfies me. I tell him that every day. If we're going to be good on defense, our two defensive tackles have to play. They have tremendous talent; they're quick, they're fast, they're athletic, they're strong. They've got good size, but they have to get the culture, and they have to change their attitude in order to play this game. To me, that's a work in progress. I told somebody that if I can walk out of this camp and we're tough, then I'll feel good.

DB: Does Ryan Sims look like he's in the mold of what you're looking for?

GUN: Oh yeah, he's got it all. He just needs to step up and be consistent.

DB: Has he tried so far?

GUN: Yeah, he tries, but it's still not there. I hope it'll get there by the end of camp.

DB: Are there any defenses in the league you want your defense to look like?

GUN: I want it to look like my defense, and the 90's defense of the Kansas City Chiefs.

DB: But you had two Pro Bowl corners, a Pro Bowl DE and a Pro Bowl outside linebacker. You don't have all of that going for you right now.

GUN: Yeah but I've got an outside linebacker (Derrick Johnson) that might be better than ALL those guys I had. The jury's out. We'll find out. But he sure shows signs! And we've got a Pro Bowl corner, there's no question about that. We have the ability in some other positions for them to step up and play at that level. We just got to learn to play together. It's going to take time, but we're going to get it done.

DB: Have you had a chance to look at the schedule for the whole season?

GUN: Kind of. I just know we play the Jets, Oakland, Denver and Philadelphia. Those are the one's we're focusing in on, and I want our players to focus in on.

DB: When you look at other offenses around the league, is there any one that's going to keep you up longer than the others?

GUN: Oh yeah, I think the Jets will be a problem because Mike Heimerdinger is an exceptional football coach. He coached at Tennessee and Denver. And going back to Denver, that was one of my nemeses. Fortunately for me, I've been on the winning side but studying his philosophies on offense, that's a lot to deal with. As far as our offense is concerned, I just say good luck, because they're tough. They hit on all cylinders and Al does a great job with them.

DB: Now you're in the last year of your contract?

GUN: Yeah.

DB: What happens next year?

GUN: Onward and upward. I don't know. Carl (Peterson) and I are pretty good friends and we've talked some about the future, and I told him all I want to do is coach this defense and make it great again. That's my goal and he understands that. I think everybody understands what I want out of life... coach a great defense.

DB: If I was in your fraternity, I'd ALWAYS want to be a D coordinator, not a head coach.

GUN: Yeah, it's more fun.

08-08-2005, 09:44 AM
opps sorry for the repost :banghead: my bad