Philadelphia Eagles News

Special Teams Coordinator Bobby April

On how it affects special teams having WR Kelley Washington and LB Tracy White:"Oh I think it did a lot, Tracy White is really good here and at the time we didn't re-sign him but we knew he was a great special teamer, and then when the opportunity was there to bring him back, certainly it was based on special teams. That's been his forte for a number of years he has been in the league but I also think he's a pretty good linebacker too but that's for someone else to mention. Yeah, I've watched him for a number of years playing with different teams, he's really good. (WR) Kelley Washington is the same way; I've played against both of those guys a lot of times and they're very good players."

On Tracy White being able to run: "He can really, really run, he's like a defensive back, speed-wise, he's a very fast player. With him and, all of the linebackers of the organization, I've only been here a couple of months, but our linebackers can run pretty well. He is certainly one of the fastest, I don't know if it would be him or (LB) (Jamar) Chaney being the fastest, but it would be a great race."

On where he has gotten the ideas of using different equipment such as soccer balls and the a mechanical leg that punts and kicks footballs: "Mostly just seeing some of the equipment that is available, like 'the leg' that came out like ten years ago, I thought it was a good idea, I'd had it at other places and they had it here. It prevents, you only have one punter, so you get the opportunity if there's a mistake or we've used it in different ways where guys are blocking, so you certainly don't want anybody going into the guy's leg. That's really the equipment people, and when Neil Gilman's company made that about twelve years ago, I thought it was a great idea. I know when John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens head coach and former Eagles special teams coach) was here, he and I had talked about it actually and we both bought it at the same time. They just had it out here for a while, but it was here because they've been using it here for about ten years."

On how quickly his players embrace how he coaches: "I don't know, I haven't really had any conversation with them about do you like what we're doing, do you dislike what we are doing, we just do it and I just organize it for them. So I really don't know, I hope they are."

On why he was using soccer balls:"Well the soccer balls on that was when we were coming through the bags it's a little bit easier for, I didn't want to get a lot of height so I wanted them to be successful blocking it. I want them when they come through that bag to get their hand up and I do want them to block it. And it's just a little bit easier, you can go a little bit faster, you just put it on the ground. With a football, because you noticed that was pretty fast pace (with the soccer balls), you have to set it on a tee, or somebody has to hold it and it just delays it. And then getting your hand on that ball is just more comfortable and everything else, they're easier to field and it just expedites the drill. I'm using a ball because a ball's better to block. It's more expedient to use it."

On whether he feels like he has input on which players he gets for special teams:"Well, I would like to think that my opinion matters a lot. I was told something a long time ago by my high school coach. He said that if you go into coaching, you will be a great assistant coach if you can always look through the eyes of the head coach. And that will make you a better head coach when you're a head coach. I've always tried to do that, I'm not saying I've always succeeded, but I know that sometimes you lose a guy because maybe it's just better for the overall organization. It might hurt your particular area, and sometimes that happens because there is only so many ways you can slice up that pie. I guess it's a good-soldiers mentality, I don't know, but certainly I'd like to keep the best special teams players, and I voice my opinion in keeping them, but in reality, if I can look through the eyes of the head coach, and if we are the number one special teams in the league and we don't go to the playoffs, that's not necessarily good for (head coach) Andy Reid. So, whatever we have to do."

On if it's a challenge having young players on special teams: "Yeah, it is but there is so much turnover that you have to reintroduce everything every year, you almost have to start from scratch. There is a lot less carryover in that area because the bottom portion of your roster changes so much that I start from scratch regardless. There are pros and cons to that. Sometimes that tough young guy, that tough young scrapper has that tough young scrapper mentality and it's a little bit more intense than that older guy. But then again, that older guy that has that tough mentality is better, certainly he's better, he's played."

On if the young players challenge him because they never play special teams in college: "That's the biggest challenge. If you haven't been rewarded for anything, then there is not a lot of incentive to do it. They haven't been rewarded for special teams, they didn't get their scholarship for playing special teams and they didn't get drafted for playing special teams. That's to me the number one challenge, to get them to play as hard and as fast and as relentless as possible, and to know that it may be done in total unanimity."

On if he watched film to know who to draft for special teams: "Oh yeah we do that here. Oh absolutely. Our personnel department had me look at a lot of film on these guys and they did a good job, they do a good job, and so does (director of pro personnel) Louis Riddick on that stuff. It's hard to ever ask him about a player he doesn't know exactly about him and who he's competing. They do a good job."

On TE Clay Harbor playing special teams in college: "Yeah, he played some, none of them play all of them, and none of them play every team. One of the best ways to look at it that I've gone through and of course with the staff here, is looking at the all-star game stuff, because then you get those kids that play in the senior bowl and the play on the kick-off coverage. That's a great film to watch of them. But yeah, you have to dig a couple of times, you have to dig to find (LB) Keenan Clayton on the punt team, it's a little extra work, and it's a lot of work really, it's a big part of our offseason now, the evaluation of these guys."

On if his research factored into drafting the players that are here now: "I would say the reports written on them and my opinions on them; I think they were thoroughly looked over because of the professionalism of our scouting departments. To say of how much of a degree it had, I don't know because the final decision and all that after the reports were read, I'm not aware of that part."

On other players he is considering as returners other than WR DeSean Jackson and CB Ellis Hobbs: "That's a great question, and usually when there is a good question, there's not a very good answer (jokingly). No, I'm just joking. But those two guys obviously have had the experience and really not many other guys have. So you're looking at some guys with the optimistic hope that they will do will. (WR) Chad Hall is very good, and of course (WR Jeremy) Maclin didn't do a lot here a year ago, but he's one of the best players in the country coming out just two years ago as a returner so he certainly is right in there. (S) Quintin Demps has been I think a very good returner, I know that (RB J.J.) Arrington in the past has been a returner and is a good running back, so we've worked a lot of guys and there's some other guys, I would have to name everyone we've worked. But those are primarily the guys and there are some other people kind of hanging in the wing there waiting for their opportunity, and hopefully for them it will happen."

On whether Jackson is too valuable to use in special teams, and if he has been in that situation before: "Well I've been in the situation where you have had the super star guy. In Atlanta we had Deion Sanders, certainly of the caliber where he is so good, and his baseball career made the decision for us to go with (RB) Tony Smith so we never really got to that point. (former Steelers CB) Rod Woodson, in Pittsburgh, he's in the hall of fame so obviously you're talking about an elite player, his injury in the opening game of Detroit in 1995, made the decision for him. So I've never been to that point where we said that this guy is so good that he can't return. Those guys after those events happened were not our returners, and they may not have been a year later anyway, but I've never got to that point where that would happen. Could I see it happen? Of course I could it kind of goes to your question, what's the best for us overall? And the big picture. That's why the head coach is the head coach, he's got to make tough decisions, tough decisions, because that would be a tough one because he knows that could help the offense, but what about the other seventy plays? It's a tough call. It's a tough call for him too."

On what he has seen from K David Akers either on film or here at camp that has allowed for his percentages to drop off and then rebound over the last couple of years: "Well, you know, he's coming off a very good year. He had a couple of kicks blocked and that type of thing, but he's coming off a very good year. He's got a lot of confidence in (LS) Jon Dorenbos and certainly in (P) Sav (Rocca) and (P) Ken Parrish is doing a good job of holding, as well. I just think the guy is really, really an outstanding student of the game; knowledgeable beyond believe, really, and super detailed in his work. You can't ask anymore of how a player approaches a job than he does. I totally expect him, with the coordination of the snap the hold, to have a good year of kicking."

On whether he can put a price on the security of having a kicker like Akers to bring in: "No because most of the knockdown, drag out games are going to come down to that play. It's the only play where it's fourth and half a goal. Every time you're out there it's fourth and goal. In reality it's fourth and goal. It's fourth down and you're trying for points. Now they're only half the points that you get on the touchdown. So there's no other play like that. The way it is now, if you go back 25 years ago, some guys that have a really big name as kickers are even more – go back to Jim Bakken or whatever – and you'll see their percentages compared to the percentages now. There's not a whole lot of room for error for these guys. It's a tough job, tough job."

On who he's most looking forward to seeing in live action: "Not necessarily, I'd say our rookie class in general because they're all tough competitors and they're talented and I'm looking forward to seeing what they do live because we really don't do anything live. We're trying to train them for the live action."

On the time that the team is devoting to special teams: "We do, we do have a lot of time. I would say this, I've never had been with a team – this is my sixth team – where I've had more time than this. I've had a situation where I've had about the same amount of time, but this is as much as I've ever had, so I'm happy about that, too. Of course (head) coach (Andy) Reid this is his program, so he's been having this program going for a long time. They've been successful. A lot of their years have been super; very best, very best of the best. He believes in it and it shows with the way we draft. All those guys are capable of being outstanding. Then you've had the (former Eagles linebacker and special teamer) Ike Reese's and all those guys in the past. It's part of the culture here and I'm happy to be a part of it."

On how he sees the punting situation shaking out between Rocca and Parrish: "Well, Sav is the incumbent. He's punted tremendous, he's punted tremendous. Parrish has punted tremendous, as well. This is a young man that can really, really punt the ball. He just started kicking off and he's getting better at that, too. I think his ability to kick off could be a factor. I don't necessarily think he kicks off better than Dave, but if you have a guy that can do some of that work for Dave and/or do it in a game, that's a plus. I think it's a real strong competition, but Sav has not done anything to not be the incumbent, but (Parrish) has certainly shown that he could punt for this team or any team in the National Football League."

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