John Crist: Lovie Smith tends to say that the nickel back is like a 12th starter on this defense. Do you feel that way, or are you not really a starter unless they announce your name coming out of the tunnel?
Corey Graham: You could look at it both ways. Obviously, if you're name's not being announced, you're not a starter. But nickel back, you know that you're going in, you're going to probably get 30 reps a game. Against some teams, you might get more than that. So it's definitely a great position. And the good thing about nickel back, you could still continue to do your special teams, which I look forward to doing and I like doing.
JC: You're a corner by trade. How is playing nickel both similar and different to playing corner?
CG: It's very similar because you're doing a lot of covering. It's just like corner. You're covering receivers out there, you've got the quick guys out there, but it's different in the run reads. Nickel, you're like another linebacker, so you've got to both get in tune to the run reads and the passes, so it's a totally different ballgame. It's the best of both worlds, I guess.
JC: You've also dabbled at safety in the past. How is playing nickel both similar and different to playing safety?
CG: It's similar because you've got to know the whole defense. The thing about nickel back, you've got to know everything. You've got to pretty much know what the D-line is doing, what the linebackers are doing, because you're like another linebacker. And then again, you've got to know what the corners and the safeties are doing, so you've got to know everything. So the good thing about nickel, it's very similar to safety. You've got to basically know what everybody is doing, you've got to know the whole defense and you've got to be a smart guy out there.
JC: What's the relationship like with the nickel back and the strong-side linebacker? You're never on the field together. One position replaces the other. It's almost like you might want to root against the other guy in order to get more playing time.
CG: (Laughing) No, I wouldn't say that. But there are times when the linebackers coach don't want the nickel back to do as good because he wants his guy out there on the field and stuff like that. As a nickel you want to go out there and do well, because if you do well you'll be out there more because he's taking some of your time. If he's playing better than you, then why bring the nickel back in? That's the thing. It's a matchup thing. It's more against receivers and stuff like that, so you might want the defensive back out there. But me and Nick Roach got a pretty good relationship.
JC: It still seems like you're a young guy and you've got your whole career in front of you. But the reality is, this is the final year of your contract already. How do you feel about your NFL career to date?
CG: It's alright. I feel like every year I've gotten better. It's been a different obstacle for me every year as far as learning the different positions and things like that, so my knowledge for the game definitely came a long way. I'm healthy, I'm feeling great, I had a great offseason, my training was wonderful, so I'm feeling this should be a great year for me, a great opportunity.
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John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
Minicamp Q&A: CB Corey Graham
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