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Breakfast with Bruce: Rule changes, quarterbacks, receivers and practicing

(Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

Wednesday morning at the Arizona Biltmore, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians sat down to chat with members of the media for nearly an hour.

Arians was there for the NFC Coaches Breakfast, which helped to wrap up the NFL’s annual meetings.

The topics Arians discussed were wide ranging — some had to do with his team as well as the NFL Draft, while others had to do with how some his former players will fit in new locales. He was also asked about his role on the competition committee, and prodded to share his thoughts on some of the rule changes.

It was a casual setting for a coach who fares well in most media sessions, and below is the first installment of our “Breakfast with Bruce” series, in which we will highlight the best of what Arians had to offer.

On his arm, which was still in a sling after Larry Fitzgerald injured him

“Doing great, surprisingly. No problem sleeping. Everybody keeps giving me all the horror stories and everything. It’s been too good so far. Means something bad’s gotta happen sooner or later.”

On the rehab process he is going through

“I gotta wear this for another month, then I’ll wear it to probably all the practices. Cause I don’t trust Larry (Fitzgerald) again.”

On a potential lawsuit against Fitzgerald

“No, no. Gentleman’s agreement.”

On being on the competition committee

“I originally agreed to it. To be a part of that rules-making committee was a lot of fun.”

On fading in the background during the discussions on rule changes

“I don’t think Mr. Goodell put me on there for that reason. No, I don’t have any problem giving my opinion, especially when it comes to rules and referees.”

On his favorite rule change proposal

“I think the instant replay. The consistency of which it should now have. I think it will be sped up for the fans and the coaches. Not having to wait for a timeout to find out what’s wrong. They’ve been doing a really good job of communicating to you. But now everything’s just gonna be sped up so fast. There were times in the past where you would go to commercial break, come back and then we would get the TV feed. Then we’d have to challenge. All that now should just be sped up and we shouldn’t have those types of long breaks for the fans and the players.”

On finding out if the replay system is broken, in reference to what happened in Carolina

“No, no. I think that’s still gonna be a secret. Hopefully that never happens again.”

On getting full-time referees

“I think we are. Hopefully we’ll get 17 referees. There’s a lot of negotiations in that process between the union and the league. But if we could have the head of each crew full-time, I think again the consistency level of what’s being said to the rest of the crew. Because now, we scout the crew that comes. We put a 30-minute meeting with our team on who’s calling the game as much as we did who’s playing defense or offense with the other team, cause they’re all different. Hopefully we’ll get more consistency in that area.”

On rule change to prohibit leaping over the line of scrimmage on field goal and extra point attempts

“Philadelphia actually put that in. And the players, that was the No. 1 thing that they wanted out of the game for safety reasons. Cause at the end of the year, guys were landing. There was gonna be a broken neck sooner or later. So I didn’t have to say a word about that one.”

On finding a long-term option at quarterback

“Every year you would like to draft a quarterback. We’ve had two with the name on the card ready to roll, and they’ve gone like a pick or three picks ahead of us the last two years. But you don’t want to reach. You’ve got them set on your board where you’d like to take that quarterback. And if he falls to you, take him. But don’t reach. If you’ve got one in the fourth round, don’t take him in the third round. Cause now you’re screwing up your board, and you’re probably putting him in a position he doesn’t belong.”

On the fear of someone else taking a quarterback before your next pick

“The only thing there would be trade up. That would strictly be an organizational decision. Is he worth losing those other picks? We might be in a situation to use some of next year’s picks cause we’ll have so many hopefully. So this is gonna be a really fun draft. I think there will be a lot of action in this one all the way around the league.”

On the kind of player the Ravens can expect in Tony Jefferson

“A great kid. I’m really happy for Tony. He’s a football player. He’s not the flashiest guy, but he’s a great tackler. And he got so much better in his man-to-man skills. I’m really happy for him.”

On if Jefferson is an ascending player and his thoughts on his deal

“He got better. I was shocked by the money. But he got better and better every year he was here.”

On emotions while looking for a quarterback of the future

“You never know what next year’s gonna bring. So that’s why I said don’t reach. Cause, if you reach, you’re probably gonna get a bust. Cause your expectations are out of whack for this guy. You’re looking at a position now. You’ve got time to develop him. A year or two to develop him. And so you’re looking for that type of guy. If you’re a team that needs one right now today, you’ve gotta trade up and get one. That’s your deal. You’ve gotta trade up and get one.”

On the potential legacy of leaving the Cardinals with a quarterback

“I saw what happened to Kenny (Whisenhunt) in that situation, and I don’t want that to happen to the organization again.”

On the necessity to take a quarterback this year with Carson Palmer aging

“I wouldn’t say so, cause I wouldn’t say this is Carson’s last year. Just like Brady’s now saying he wants to play five more years; I think Carson’s one of those guys it’s gonna be hard to say, ‘I’m done.’ And he’s so healthy still. So I don’t think it’s mandatory this year, but it would be beneficial to all of us if we could get that out of the way.”

On what a potential successor to Palmer looks like

“You take Ben (Roethlisberger), Andrew (Luck), Peyton (Manning) and I’m gonna throw Tim Couch in there, too. You roll them all up and make one, and you’ve got a hell of a player. But it really starts here and here (pointing to his head and heart). If you’ve got a guy that’s got grit, and he can lead, you can probably live with his skill level. Now if he’s got the skill level and those two things, you’ve got the world champ.”

On including Tim Couch in that quarterback mixture

“Tim Couch led the Browns to their last playoffs and got broken up. Tim Couch was no bust. He broke his leg the last regular season game the year the Browns went to the playoffs. He just got a torn labrum. He got sacked 135 or 136 times his first two years. So he was never a bust in my mind. He was a heck of a young prospect.”

On his wide receiving corps

“I’m fine with where we’re at. I mean getting Jaron (Brown) healthy and now Aaron Dobson. The big key is John Brown. He is working out twice a day right now. Not having any symptoms. So knock on wood that we get John Brown back, that we know. And then Aaron’s another tall, big guy who’s had really good success. We all love Jaron. So a top-round pick isn’t necessary. Again if the right guy falls. And you say, ‘Ok, where does he fit this year?’ Everybody’s gonna say he’s a bust cause he’s fighting his [butt] off to get on the field. We don’t need a plug-and-play player right now at that position.”

On Jaron Brown’s recovery from a torn ACL

“He is so far ahead of schedule, but we’re not gonna push it. As far as OTAs, he may go through mini-camp, but at that point I’ll probably say, ‘No, not for these three days.’ But, if he’s OK to get half of OTAs and mini-camp and doc says he’s ready to go, we’ll let him go.”

On the return of Frostee Rucker

“It’s great. Again, Frostee’s one of those leaders in our locker room that you never see. He’s a veteran guy that handles guys on and off the field. He’s the core guy you want in your locker room. We did not want to lose him.”

On what the Bengals are getting in Kevin Minter

“Kevin is turning himself into an every-down linebacker. He’s a thumper. He’s best as a run stopper, but he did a decent job last year in pass coverage. But a great kid.”

On what Minter brings to the locker room

“He’s more of a quiet guy. He does all his talking on the field.”

On essentially exchanging Minter for Karlos Dansby

“It was a situation where we were so much better with Karlos, with his leadership. Karlos just has freaky genetics where he might play four more years. You never know. I think everyone had the opinion that we stopgapped with Antoine (Bethea) and Karlos, but these guys have a lot left. They’re extremely bright. Everywhere they’ve been, they’ve been captain-type leaders, and I thought that was the one thing we were missing last year. Ty (Mathieu) was hurt and couldn’t be the type player and leader he wanted to be. To add those two guys in our locker room, not just as leaders, but they’re still playing at a really, really high level: A Pro Bowl level.”

On what Dansby and Bethea add on the field

“You’ve gotta look at the tape. ‘Toine’s still a 100-tackle safety. He can cover. He blitzes. I mean, he does everything you’re still looking at a high level. Karlos, like I said, he just never ages. I was shocked to turn on the tape, and he looked younger this year than he did last year. So the tape doesn’t lie.”

On if Dansby will start next to Deone Bucannon

“Yes.”

On Todd Bowles turning things around with the Jets

“You’re only as good as your players, and right now he’s gotta find a quarterback. But, as far as toughness, (and being) able to teach and being extremely bright, you’re not gonna find anybody better.”

On expanding instant replay

“I think we’re gonna sooner or later expand replay. It’s just not ready right now. I think what we’re doing with centralization is really a great first step. And I think it’s gonna grow as the technology gets better. Every year someone puts up a referendum to change it. Last year it was gaining speed. This year it did not catch any momentum at all, so I don’t know where it’s gonna go.”

On what full-time referees would do in the offseason

“The biggest thing is they can come to practice and work practices. To me, the number one scenario is that you’d have enough crews to go into every city. Half crews or four- to five-man crews. And work practice, work every single day and not call that team’s games. Do as many referee decisions that you can do, whether it’s Arena ball. And just be a full-time official that has to make quick decisions and stay in shape.”

On potential rule changes to offseason practices

“I think you’ll hear every coach say, ‘We want to be with our players more,’ whether it’s on the practice field or in life-skill sessions. Teaching them things that will help them become a better citizen and a better community person, a better player. And I think that’s the one thing the last CBA we’ve lost. Coaches are being held accountable for guys they only get to see four months. We’ve got this nine-, 10-week layoff and another six-week layoff in the summer where we’re not with them. I’m one of those guys (who thinks) the injuries are higher, because we never practice football, we only practice soccer. And a guy, especially on the lines of scrimmage, are gonna get hurt if they don’t practice what they do. I’ve only seen two or three guys ever get hurt seriously with pads on going full speed.”

On if these rules make it harder to develop trench players and quarterbacks

“Oh there’s no doubt. You’re not with them enough. And, especially the big guys, you’ve gotta do so many pass sets and jump through bags. They’ve gotta block each other.”

On balance between developing players and safety concerns, with more hitting meaning more concussions

“I’ve got other research that says it doesn’t. I’m a firm believer in you train yourself to play the sport you’re in. Football has inherently been risky, and that’s never gonna change, cause it’s a collision sport. The millions and millions of guys who’ve played this game and built their character from this game that are fine versus that one to two percent who aren’t fine. I don’t think you define the game over that two percent. I think you take that 98 percent that has built generals and presidents and leaders of communities that football built their character for them.”

On negatives to practice rules

“Well we can’t hit anymore, but we can tackle. We only put the pads on so many days. We’ll have 11 practices in a football uniform before we play a game, and this year it’s only gonna be seven or eight before we play the Hall of Fame game. So we go all through spring, all through camp, and you’re only in football gear seven, eight times before you’re gonna go compete against somebody. So we’re gonna compete against each other a little harder, so that we avoid those injuries hopefully in that time.”

On his relationship with Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon

“He’s just such a great dude, man. He’s so smart. His leadership skills are fantastic. And we’re both from central Pennsylvania, so we hit it off pretty good.”

On how much he and Maddon compare notes, styles of coaching

“Really more of just watching, watching him and listening to him. I love his t-shirts. ‘Don’t Suck Today’ — he’s got some great ones.”

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