Do you have an update on Wilton [Speight] and his condition?
“If we were playing a game this week he wouldn’t be able to play and we’ll assess it as we go.
“Somebody asked me—Angelique?—what I thought of the play. After having seen it now, I thought it was egregious. If I had a stronger word to use I would use it. With all the emphasis on protecting defenseless players, it appeared that the player knew what he was doing, targeted the head and neck area when the player was on the ground, and accelerated into it. Surprised they had two officials standing back there that were both looking at it, plus a review in the press box, that that wasn’t a targeting, that wasn’t a personal foul.”
Is that something that you contact the Big Ten about? There were other hits in that game, too.
“Yeah, yeah. We will contact them.”
What do you get when you do contact them?
“You get a piece of paper back that says they agree or disagree and has a short explanation.”
So it doesn’t really solve anything.
“With all the emphasis that’s been placed on the safety of the game, et cetera, I think it needs to be addressed. Needs to be answered.
“And the other thing, in a very good spirited way, we are gonna look at everything we can do for the visiting team here at the University of Michigan as it relates to a standard of care for the visitors on multiple levels. It’s become apparent after going around to all the visiting schools over the last couple years that [there is] a conscious effort of gamesmanship that is unsportsmanlike. You have locker rooms that are too small; they’re not heated or cooled properly—in this case there’s no air conditioning; such a tight, cramped environment; you’ve got to open the doors to get some kind of ventilation going in a very small area; people are walking by, they’re watching you dress; a number of urinals or bathrooms for the players and staff, I think there was two; there’s not even a private door around it; and then mainly the health and safety of the players. Very small space for a training room to have nothing in it. This is no different than the facility I think I saw when I was there in 1986.
“And not putting this on Purdue, this is league-wide. It needs to be addressed by the league, by the commissioner, and we’re going to lead the way. We’re going to look at what we have, but there needs to be a way to x-ray a player at the stadium. There needs to be a minimum standard of care for the players. Again, we put a lot of emphasis into health and safety of the players, but it doesn’t even seem sanitary. You were all in there. We’ve already talked about the heat, and it seems to be a conscious effort to gamesmanship, to get an advantage over the opponent.
“And I wish I had taken a picture of the actual table that it given to the visitors to put the players on when they’re injured. I mean, it looks like it’s from the ‘20s. It was ripped, it was—it’s just not good. I think that’s a pattern in the Big Ten. I asked Don Brown, ‘Did you see the same thing in the ACC?’ ‘Not to this extent.’ Did not see it to this extent in the Pac 12 when we coached there, and you could keep going on. Injured players who can’t get an x-ray, taken to a student health center in a van, we needed a brace for a player and there wasn’t one at the facility we were taken to. There’s a lot of things that needs to be addressed.
“Talked to Warde [Maneul] about it and I would ask that the rest of the Big Ten coaches look into this as well and make this a priority. We’re talking about all of our players here, and we’ll start first with us and make sure that you have guests, you have visitors that are coming in, that their health and safety needs are being addressed.”
[After THE JUMP: “Gamesmanship should cease at… the point of health and safety for the players.”]
Did you put the starters on a bus before the game, an air-conditioned bus?
“I said that they had the option to go in there because as I just said, it was so cramped, it was so hot, it was like a hot box. Really the only way to get relief was to open the doors. Again, you have people watching you dress. It’s not good. I’ve seen this at other facilities in the Big Ten. It needs to be addressed by the commissioner. I would hope that they would look into it immediately. Hope that it does some good.”
I don’t know if you can go into any more detail than you just did about that but what is the next step? How quickly do you hope teams can turn that around and when you say Michigan leading the way, what type of thing are you hoping to do?
“We’ll look at visitors’ locker room, our facilities there. It’s 2017. We should all be able to—I know we provide a floral x-ray but what else could be done? X-ray machines in the stadium. Enough space. Hot water. I think we do provide that. Multiple bathroom facilities that somebody can be in and they’re sanitary and it’s clean. But what else can we do? Got to make sure that ours is good as well and come up with a whole procedure, protocol, of what the standards should look like and hope that all the teams follow.
“And request that they do. Together we should be able to do this and I urge my fellow coaches to weigh in as well and get their thoughts. I think it’s something that we can all agree on that it is 2017, it’s not the ‘30s, it’s not the ‘40s, it’s not the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, or ‘80s. There’s been advancements and it needs to—our stadiums need to reflect that. Visiting locker rooms need to reflect that. Gamesmanship should cease at the line, the point of health and safety for the players.”
Switching gears a little bit, obviously the bye week’s good for Wilton to rest up but given the way the offense is clicking, especially in the second half where it looked probably the best it has all year, is there ever a bad term for a bye week in terms of momentum? Would it be almost better for you guys to play this weekend instead of having this break momentum-wise? Does it throw anything off?
“We treat it as an improvement week. So we’ll be looking for improvement. Better today than yesterday, better tomorrow than today. See if we can’t get a mile an hour faster. See if we can’t get 1% better. Maybe 4% better. Maybe 0.01% better. But we’ll be looking for improvements.”
For John though, saying if Wilton can’t go, for John he’s coming off one of his best games of his career. I imagine he’s probably itching to get back on the field. With the bye week, does that throw a quarterback off in any way?
“Same for John. Looking for it as an improvement week, and all the players on our team: starters, backups, contributors, reserves, the very, very young players that haven’t played yet. The entire team. Coaching staff. All of us will attack it with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”
You mentioned Wilton not being able to play this week if you had a game. Have you talked to him? How’s he doing? How has he taken the last couple of days?
“Very tough guy. I mean, he’s very hopeful to be back soon.”
What are your thoughts on night games? Do you have a preference for kickoff on home games?
“Yeah, I prefer they’re kicked off at 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon.”
Why is that?
“It most appeals to my football sensibility. Just a personal thought there. Definitely not Fridays, not Thursday, not Wednesdays, not Tuesday or Mondays or Sundays in college football. Saturday, prefer the 1 o’clock kickoff but understand that there’s 3:30 kickoffs, there’s 4 o’clock kickoffs, there’s 7:30 kickoffs, et cetera. We’ll get ourselves prepared.”
You mentioned adjustments after the game. You mentioned you guys did a lot more play-action stuff with John and it seemed to get him going. His overall vision, it looked like he knew where he was going with the ball right away. When you look back and watch the tape, what did you see from him overall and in the second half when things took off?
“Yeah, that was my impression coming out of the game was John was seeing things very well from the moment he went into the game and thought that that was the case the entire game. Very good with his mechanics. Rhythm was good. Seeing things very well.”
You talked about courage plays, too. He stepped into some throws. Did you see some of those out there?
“Yeah, he played a very good ballgame in all respects.”
How would you assess the O-line play? And some of the protections, how much of that was on the O-line and how much of it was on the backs when they had some breakdowns there?
“We—I’m not going to go into who had more breakdowns, but yeah, we got—there was few times we got beat. That’s something we’re gonna work on, as always.”
As you’ve kind of gone into the hit on Wilton, I think you said it was a soft-tissue injury over the weekend. Is that still the way you’re diagnosing it and what part of the body is he ailing in?
“Think back to two weeks ago. We had a similar press conference. I’ll refer you back to that answer at that time.”
You’ve talked a lot in the past about football as a bastion of toughness and manliness and you did again after this game. As you guys take the lead on improvements for visitors’ locker rooms, what message do you want to send to your players about how those two things might or might not be related, toughness and having sanitized locker rooms and having to fight through that versus creating an environment where that’s not necessary?
“Where it’s not necessary? I’m not following you. I’m not—fighting for our players and the other players, the student-athletes around the conference.”
You’ve talked a lot about toughness and how nothing makes you feel more like a man than going in an beating the elements. You have that view and you also want to create an environment for the visitors where they maybe don’t have to fight—
“Do you disagree?”
No, certainly not.
“I’m just saying there should be a minimum standard of care for the players for the health and safety.”
---the message is--
“The message is it’s a clear message: I think it’s on us as leaders, coaches, athletic directors, commissioners of conferences to address it, plain and simple.
[SID calls on person for last question]
“But I will say, as far as our players are concerned, turn on the film in the ballgame, there’s nothing that would suggest with their play that it was a hot day, you know? They played all out. They played fast. They played really physical, and I’d point especially to Chase Winovich, Rashan Gary, Mo Hurst, Devin Bush, a secondary that’s quietly doing a heck of a job with very little fanfare of self-promotion. Lavert Hill is playing extremely well. So is David Long. Tyree Kinnel as well; missed a tackle or two. Josh Metellus also playing very physical and doing a heck of a job.
“Chase Winovich—there’s some Rashan Gary plays that are…we talk about his athleticism and we talk about his speed; you’ve all mentioned that. Turn on play 17 and turn on a few other ones where it’s about as physical a play as you’re going to see from anyone on a football field. Chase is playing like JJ Watt. Thought he had his best game ever as a football player. There was a play, I don’t exactly know which play it was number-wise, but they had thrown the ball to the tight end and he was mauling us on the sideline; went through two or three tacklers. Chase had been on the rush of the quarterback, turned and went and made the tackle. Kept the tight end in the end zone or he would have gotten into the end zone. But the ground he covered to get there, first rushing the quarterback and then turning and making the tackle kept him out of the end zone. We ended up holding them to a field goal at that point. Really noteworthy.
“Mo Hurst is really, really tough to block. Quite impressive. So yes, they did overcome the elements. Both teams had to out on the field. Not conflating the two. Just—it was very impressive. When you turn on the film it did not look like a hot day the way our guys were hustling. Playing football.”
I just mean that it’s significant that you’re leading this effort given someone that has that view. At what point did you start to notice this gamesmanship, as you put it?
“I think some of you might have noticed the same thing. I think we all kind of noticed it together and at that point—”
Certainly, but you said you noticed it around the conference. Was it early on, as soon as you got here?
“No—at this point, I mean, are we good with this? I think we’ve plowed that question about as thoroughly as we can. Over the course of the time I’ve been here.”
The running backs have been very effective this season. How would you evaluate Jay Harbaugh’s job so far?
“I think our coaches, all of them, are doing an outstanding job, each and every one of them. I think Jay’s going a good job. Special teams, he and Chris are doing a spectacular job there. Thought we did an excellent—did a very good job in this ballgame. Who won it or who lost it, it was pretty even.
“Nice to see Brad Robbins go in and have a competent game and really perform well as a first-time player. First time he’s seen the field. Thought that was great. Thought there was a lot of good.
“As long as Don Brown’s good, I’m good. You wanna know what my happiness is or my mood is like? Don Brown’s mood’s good, I’m good. More Don Brown!”
On Tarik [Black], is there any update on whether he could return this season?
“Not quite yet, yeah. It’s gonna be a process. See how things heal. Cracks, fractures heal. Not a medical doctor but I know it takes some time. Gets sticky and…”
Just didn’t know if after surgery—
“Yeah, you Google stuff like that, bones, how long does it take—”
[The room laughs]
“I’d refer you to that.”
To Google? Or WebMD?
“Yeah, to a medical doctor. Yeah. Certified, board-certified, trained medical doctor, which is not me.”