Sept. 18, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - The Tulane University football program held its weekly press conference with team physician Dr. Greg Stewart and head coach Curtis Johnson addressing the local media on Tuesday afternoon in the Hall of Fame Room at the James W. Wilson, Jr., Center.
After the team went through its usual morning practice - which Johnson called "very spirited" - Stewart opened the presser by providing an updated on injured safety Devon Walker's condition. From there, Johnson took the podium to discuss his team's progress to date and preview the upcoming game against Ole Miss. A complete transcript is below.
Following an open date last weekend, Tulane (0-2, 0-1 Conference USA) returns to action on Saturday, Sept. 22, when the Green Wave play host to the Rebels at 11 a.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The game will be televised nationally on the Fox Sports Network and will be broadcast on the radio on the flagship station of Tulane Athletics, WIST AM 690.
Season and individual-game ticket sales for the 2012 football season are currently for sale through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the Wilson Center on Ben Weiner Drive, and tickets can be purchased in person, over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.
TEAM PHYSICIAN GREG STEWART
On the current status of Devon Walker
"He's still in St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa recovering from the injury from the Tulsa/Tulane game. He's participating in his therapies - respiratory therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy. The plan at the present time is to transfer him frm St. Francis in Tulsa to a comprehensive in-patient rehabilitation facility. At this point, the family again has asked us not to release any information. Due to federal privacy laws, there's really not anything else we can say. We will announce once he has transferred from St. Francis to the rehabilitation facility, but right now they don't even want us to release where or the name of the facility he's transferring to. They want to focus on Devon getting better."
On if Walker will have contact with his teammates
"He has asked to see the teammates and the teammates have obviously asked to see him, but with transferring him to a rehabilitation facility that's not in the immediate future. As soon as everything is worked out, then yes. Once Devon is squared away, especially once he gets back to New Orleans, he is certainly anxious to see his teammates and I know his teammates are anxious to see him."
On how long the rehabilitation process will take
"Again, I know you think we're being evasive on some of this - but a lot of it depends on the initial evaluation. Once we get there and all of the staff has had an opportunity to evaluate him, then they'll start establishing goals as well as discharge dates and those types of things. Once we have that information and certainly once the family will let us, we'll be happy to have this conversation."
On if there is a reason for hope
"Absolutely. I think there is always a reason for hope with all of this."
On if he thinks Walker will be able to breathe on his own
"The stuff that's out there is based on Rick's observations from last Friday, and again based on what the family is telling us, what we can say is that he's progressed to the point where he's appropriate for an in-patient rehabilitation facility."
On what the process entails for Walker to make a full recovery
"The step process is going to be - and we've sort of watched this - is he goes from the emergency room to the intensive care unit to an acute care floor and a comprehensive in-patient rehabilitation facility, which is the next step. From there, he'll go home and he'll continue with therapies at that point as well. It's just not as intensive as he'll get as an in-patient."
On if the in-patient service facility will be in Louisiana
"He'll be moved from Tulsa to a comprehensive in-patient rehabilitation facility. Again, you all know the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) rules probably as well as I do. If the family were to allow us to give this information, we would be happy to. We'd be standing here having a whole different conversation, potentially. I'd be happy to tell you where and all of those kind of things, but right now, the family has asked us to honor their privacy."
On if there is an additional surgery to help Walker
"For the most part, the appropriate surgeries have been done. The things that needed to be done have already been done. I would not anticipate any need for any additional surgeries."
On if swelling is the reason for his limited Walker's movement or if there is a spine dislocation
"If HIPPA had a fifth amendment, I'd take the fifth amendment on that one and say the same thing. Again, as soon as the family lets us say stuff, we're going to be happy to come, have the conversation and go through all of this. Right now, they've asked us not to really do anything more than we've been saying."
On if he feels the family would be comfortable releasing additional information if positive news were available
"I don't think that it's necessarily that. I don't have the impression that it's necessarily medically related, per say. I think it's a case of them circling the wagons. It's the family and it's like all of us with family. When it's your family, you deal with your family and then once everything is resolved we'll be happy to go ahead and tell the neighbors. But what happens inside of my house happens inside of my house. I think that's some of what they're doing right now. I don't think it's necessarily related to anything. I think there is certainly concern about his teammates knowing. It's not an attempt to hide anything. I think it's just that at the early stages, they got the family together, they're trying to be as supportive of Devon as possible and don't want to have to worry about any external distractions right now."
On if Walker's family has an idea of where he stands medically right now
"I think so. They've got the doctors in Tulsa that have been talking with. The individuals from the rehabilitation facility have obviously been talking with the family. I do think they know where things stand. Again, I don't think they're hiding anything or running from anything. I think they're just trying to do what's best for Devon right now."
TULANE HEAD COACH Curtis Johnson
"It seems like it's been a while (since we've met). Thanks for everyone coming out. Thanks for your concerns for Devon. The rest of the team, we're doing pretty good - about as well as can be expected. I don't think we practiced very well on Sunday, but today was very spirited. Last week, early on, it was pretty good also. We're just moving in a direction where we can try and win our first game."
On if the team plans on doing anything to honor injured safety Devon Walker
"They have requested about 30,000 things to do. We are in the process right now of deciding what we're doing. I just want input from everybody. I want input from everybody on the football team. We're gathering the information, and I've got my ideas, but they supersede me."
On how concerned he is about Walker's injury weighing on his players
"We've taken every precautionary measure around here and around the university. We've done everything that we possibly could so that these guys can move in a direction to do what they love to do. They've moving in a much better direction. I thought they were very spirited this morning. All of a sudden now, they've seen the film. They see that the team we're playing against is a pretty good football team - it's a really good football team. They're eager to get back to things as normal as they can and get back to playing football."
On if freshman quarterback Devin Powell will get more playing time based on his performance against Tulsa
"The first game of the season, we had a situation where we really wanted to play him against Rutgers. The game kind of went back-and-forth, back -and-forth, and it wasn't the right situation to put him in. He was going to play against Tulsa and he's probably going to play in every game we have this year. It'll be something different, and I don't want to spill my hand, but he's definitely going to play. He's a wonderful player. I like what the young man is doing. He's a big plus for us."
On if he is tailoring the offense toward Powell's skill set but worried about his inexperience at the college level
"That's the balance that you have to have. Before the Tulsa game, I don't think the young man knew where the library was. He had just got on campus. It's just an idea of balancing out what he can do and what we can do to be as successful as we possibly can and that he's really not hurting the team. You'd like to do it in increments, but against Tulsa, it was kind of like courage under fire. He had to get it done and I thought he did pretty decent for his first outing."
On improving the communication between the offensive line and the running backs from the first two games
"I think everything was so new with the communication - the line calls and everything - and it was a different system. Not only a different system, but just about everyone who is playing is new. What we've done is cut back and we've tailored the system a little bit more and we're tweaking it as we go along. The communication has been much better this week and I think we'll be better."
On Ole Miss giving up 66 points to Texas and what that can do to a defense psychologically
"When you expect to win and you don't win, you kind of do some soul searching and you just try to figure out what needs to be done. I think they're going to come in here, they're going to be ready and they're going to be fired up and ready to play. We just have to match their intensity and play along with them. They'll be ready and I know we'll be ready to play. We just have to match that intensity and play our best game. Hopefully it's good enough."
On if senior Ryan Griffin will start at quarterback on Saturday against Ole Miss
"I don't know as of yet. Griff really didn't do much today. Last week, on Thursday, he threw the ball around a little bit and I thought he looked pretty good. Today, he didn't do as much as I thought he would do, so we just have to wait and see. But he's our starting quarterback. I'll know by tomorrow or no later than Thursday. I don't want to put him at risk either, but I don't think he can function with what we're trying to do if he can't practice by Thursday."
On if he can remember the second half of the Tulsa game
"A lot of it was a blur, but when you go back and watch the tape, you see things. I had a feeling that defensively, we really settled down a little bit in the second half. They moved the ball on us with all that was going on, but I thought the defense settled down. It wasn't as bad as it seemed on the field. I thought Devin (Powell) kind of did some real good things. He wasn't equipped to lead a team to a comeback. You just have to be aware of what you're calling, but I thought he did pretty decent after watching it all."
On if it was difficult for him to coach the second half at Tulsa following Walker's injury
"I kind of had a glimpse of a thought to say, `hey, let's just pack up and get on the bus.' Our guys are great guys and I think they wanted to do their best. They wanted to go back out there and show that they could play and continue to go on. They put most of it behind them and I know (the injury) was in (their minds). I know it was in mine and I thought of it the whole second half. I thought they came out and did a pretty good job."
On if the team thought the extended break following Walker's injury was done more for precaution
"I don't really know what they thought. I just think the coaches did a great job of getting them together and honing in on what we had to do in the second half. Some of it was good. Some of it wasn't good, but I thought the coaching was great. I thought they came out and understood the job at hand. They knew exactly what needed to be done and they played pretty decent in the second half."
On if he talked to Sean Payton and what information was relayed
"The first thing he told was that he's now coaching his son's Pop Warner team and he was Kinko's late in the night when we talked. He said, `Look, you're equipped for it. You can do the job. A lot of stuff has come at you. Just continue your course. You're going to do great.' He was more encouraging than anything. He was good. It was good to talk to him, and other coaches also."
On what he does against a defense like Ole Miss' based on the offensive line's recent play and the potential of having a freshman under center
"I think you just have to move the pocket a little bit more...The main thing is we have to run the football. If we just run the football a little bit more, to keep this thing a little bit balance, then I think we can have some success."
On the performance of junior wide receiver Ryan Grant and if his threat in the passing game will help the running attack
"Absolutely. I think he's played magnificently, and not only him. (Justyn) Shackleford has played pretty good now, also. Coming here, I thought the receivers were a position that I thought I'd struggle with all year, but I think those two guys are legitimate players and I think we've got some other guys who will show in the next couple of weeks. One of the things we've tried to figure out is who are the players, and we try to just get the ball to the players. I think we have some players. It's just that we need to get some confidence. I don't think this is a very confident team. Once we get some confidence, I think we'll get rolling a little bit."
On getting improvement from the tight end position and whether he'd rather have them help block or provide a safety valve in the passing game
"You can't be one-dimensional. I think you've got to do a little bit of both. The tight ends have to catch the balls that we ask them to catch. I think Sydie London has done a good job. He's playing well, and I hate to keep saying this and it's not an excuse, but he's another young kid. (Matt) Marfisi does a great job blocking. (Evan) Tatford has a couple of drops, but he's getting better. I think you'll see some improvement from the tight end position in the next couple of weeks because they've gotten a lot better in practice."
On if his offense runs to set up the pass or passes to set up the run
"I think we just have to run the football and I'm more of a balance guy. Instead of using one to set up the other, you have to be balanced. With a young team, what you don't want to do - like the first game - is you don't want to be behind in down-and-distance. That's one of the things we did in the first game. In the next game, we got into a track meet with a track team. You've got to play balanced, play our football game. Run and have a balanced attack. If we can stay balanced, I think we can play with anyone."
On the play of freshman running back Josh Rounds and if he will have a big part in the game on Saturday
"He has his packages right now, and again, we're talking about another young kid. He can't handle all of it yet, but every day he gets better and better. You always wonder about young kids with protections. You just get a little bit afraid to put him in all the time or so much, but he has his packages. He was supposed to play a lot more in the last game, but it got be throw first, throw first because we were trying to catch up. I think he's going to be sensational. He'll play a lot in this game."
On if will be as soon as Saturday that the team will do something to honor Walker
"Absolutely. We're definitely going to do a few things on Saturday for him. I just need to streamline exactly what we're doing. Everybody loves Devon and Devon loves everybody. He's one lovable kid. Everybody wants to do about 20 different things but we can't do it all right now. "
On what a win against a quality opponent would mean to the program at this point
"I think they will get a `W' soon. I don't know when, but we just have to go out and play every play one play at a time. Since I've been here, these guys have done everything that we've asked them to do - from the weight room to early morning practices to discipline. They've been tremendous. For me, it's like a father with your son. You want to reward them and the best reward in the world is a victory. As soon as we get one, I think we'll get some confidence. They'll feel it and we'll start rolling this thing downhill a little bit. We're (going) uphill right now."
On the status of junior running back Orleans Darkwa
"If he's ready ready, I'm definitely playing him. Absolutely, I'm playing him. He feels better and about a week or so ago, I thought we'd be playing him again. The trainer said, `Wait a minute. Let's relax on him.' And I'm glad we did because I think he looks better now. He's playing if he can. If he can strap it all on, he's playing. He practiced a little bit today so I'm very encouraged."
On if he thinks Tulane can get the offense going based on what Ole Miss' defense allowed last week
"I think a lot of our problems have been self-inflicted more so than by the other team. Those teams that we played against are good teams. I just watched Rutgers beat South Florida and Tulsa's beating everybody right now. You can't win a game if it's second down and 20.It's hard to win when you're giving up six or seven sacks. It's just hard to win (that way). The solution is to do a little bit better job of getting guys in position so we don't get to second-and-20. It's the old fashioned thing were you can't make these simple mistakes. You can't jump offsides. You just can't do those types of things."
On his impression of Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace and what Tulane has to do to stop him
"I think both of their quarterbacks are pretty good. I think the one guy (Bo Wallace) is more of a read-option guy and he can throw the ball pretty good. The other kid (Barry Brunetti) can run. He's an athletic guy. We've got to have a plan for both of those guys. This receiver (Donte Moncrief) is a heck of a play. You just have to play your defense. I hate to say - knock on wood - but these freshmen DBs are playing pretty decent. (Lorenzo) Doss got burned, but he was right there with the guy. He was right there with a senior. We just have to finish off plays and continue to play those guys. I'm starting to trust those freshmen DBs a lot."