J.T. in the mix

Who is J.T. O'Sullivan and what's he doing being considered by the 49ers as a legitimate contender for their starting QB position this year? Sullivan, now with his ninth NFL organization after also playing in NFL Europa, has picked up a few things about playing QB during his travels, and here in an engaging interview, he talks about what has put him in position to get a shot with the Niners.

Q: What's your take on being in the mix for the starting quarterback position here?
O'Sullivan:
My honest answer to that is my approach is not going to change. I'm always going to go out there and compete like I'm going to play. You're cheating everyone in the organization if you go out there and prepare not to play. So nothing changes. I'm going to go out there and prepare as hard as I can and as well as I can and go from there.

Q: Are you gratified at all that coaches are considering you in the mix with Alex Smith and Shaun Hill?
O'Sullivan:
I'm strictly concerned with my preparation. So none of those things really enter into the picture. Right now, at this point in the offseason, it's about getting this offense going and it's about me playing quarterback as well as I can.

Q: What do you like about playing in Mike Martz's offense?
O'Sullivan:
I think any quarterback is going to love the aggressiveness. You're going to throw the ball and push it down the field. In my mind, that's exactly what you want playing quarterback. He relies on you throwing the ball, being accurate, timing, making good decisions.

Q: Because of your experience working with Martz last year, did you soft of expect more of an opportunity here this year?
O'Sullivan:
Expectations are the wrong word for me. From my point of view, and how I approach it is dealing strictly with my preparation. I need to be as confident and know it as well as I can possibly know it scheme-wise, and then go out there and know exactly what they want me to do with the ball, how they want me to do, and do it as well as I can.

Q: Having been with so many different NFL organizations in your career, how has it helped you as a quarterback to see so many different modes of operation as far as the way offenses are run?
O'Sullivan:
The way I answer that question is, I'll probably know better when it's all said and done. The way I use being with different organizations is, try to take as much as you can good from each spot. Being a quarterback, the guy who's playing, learn from their mistakes, and how they go about playing the position, what you like and what you don't like, and use it to help you improve.

Q: Having been in Martz's system last year, what kind of advantage does that give you now over Alex and Shaun?
O'Sullivan:
That's hard for me to answer. Strictly speaking from a year of experience, I feel more comfortable in stuff. But it's an everyday opportunity. You have to go out and approach it that you're going to get better and you're going to improve with the team every single day. Last year was last year. This year, I'm just trying to keep improving and keep doing what they ask me to do.

Q: Are you expecting to get more work with the first unit now when organized team activities begin in June?
O'Sullivan:
Expecting is not the word. That's not how I'm approaching it. I'm approaching it from my reps, I'm going to do as well as I can. That's the way I'm going to approach it. Nothing's going to change. I'm still going to approach it the exact same way. They can say whatever. My approach is I'm going to approach it to play as well as I can play.

Q: How are you a better quarterback now than when you came out of college?
O'Sullivan:
I approach the game differently. I college, particularly at Davis, we did things that were a little different than big-time, huge football, as far as scheme-wise, different throws that you have to make. The professional game is more in the pocket, making good decisions, being extremely accurate, on time. A small-school setting - I'm definitely not cheating that experience - but it's just a different game. It's just different things that they ask you to do. But in the end, playing at Davis was about making plays, making big plays, and this game is about the same thing.

Q: How much progress did you think you made during the minicamp?
O'Sullivan:
I think as an offense, every practice we improved. We're just getting more and more comfortable with what the new offensive staff is asking everyone to do. It's a learning process on both sides, learning what certain guys are really comfortable doing, and getting comfortable with what they're asking us to do. And that's really the most important part, just getting comfortable and knowing exactly what the coaches want you to do. It's a detailed-oriented-scheme, specific offense. So the more and more you get used to that and how demanding it is, the more and more comfortable you'll be and the better you'll be.

Q: What kind of commitment did it take from you, after playing in NFL Europe, to go to the Lions last year and learn this system well enough to win a backup position?
O'Sullivan:
If it's important to you. And it's important to me. So I tried to learn it as quickly as I could. I had very good coaches in Detroit that gave me an opportunity and taught me the scheme. The other quarterbacks in Detroit helped me along too. It's just like anything - if you want to learn it, it's going to take work and you have to put in the time. If it's important to you, you're going to do it. It's important to me, so I did it quickly as I could.

Q: Was there ever a point where you looked at the task in front of you and said, 'There's no way I can get a grasp on this by the time the games start.'?
O'Sullivan:
This is what I want to do, so no is the easyanswer to that. But the reason why is I think I can play. It's important to me, and I'm going to put in exactly the amount of time I think that is needed to learn the scheme so I can go out there and perform well.

Q: Being around the league like you have been, but hardly playing at all, how anxious are you now to get a chance to compete for a starting opportunity?
O'Sullivan:
I think it goes beyond anxious. It's what I've been working for, the opportunity on the field. It's what everybody works for. It's one of those things that sort of subsides a little bit, because I can use just going out there with the idea of improving and getting better, so when you get that opportunity, you make the most of it. So I think that's how you cope and deal with not playing.

Q: In addition to competing for a starting spot, is part of your job description here also to help the guys on either side of you learn the offense too?
O'Sullivan:
We're a unit. We're a group. I think we all help each other. It's one of those things where I think all groups - especially quarterbacks - come back with questions, and I do it with these guys. We're a group, so I think it's give and take both ways.



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