Robinson brings brains to the game

Weakside linebacker Eddie Robinson comes to Buffalo with 10 years of NFL experience. I sat down with Robinson a few days ago for an article in the current issue of Shout!. Here are some additional notes from my interview with him.

Mike Doser: Give me an idea of what you're thinking before the snap.

Eddie Robinson: A lot of times I do a lot of talking on the field to help my teammates, but it's also to help me. When I come out of the huddle I'll be like, ‘Third and five, third and five.' Well, third and five is telling me that they're going to run certain types of routes, and I'm just running through my head, ‘OK, what does this team do on third and five?' Some people can't take what they learn during the week and apply it on Sunday; they can't think quick enough or they can't react quick enough. I mean, things happen really fast; from the time the play is over you have about 30-40 seconds before the next snap. So in that time you have to figure out what they may do while also trying to do what you're supposed to do in your defense … It's how much can you remember from the studying and how much can you apply so that you can actually make a play on Sunday.

MD: Gregg Williams said that you frustrated him early in his coaching career because the type of things he did to motivate a player didn't work with you. How have you managed to get along so well now?

ER: Both the player and coach want the same things: The player to play well and win. It's just a matter of getting the objective down and making it work.

MD: What was the clincher in making you decide to come to Buffalo?

ER: The whole situation with Gregg and Jerry Gray, well, that really helped me decide to come. It's good to go somewhere where they feel like they want you here too. Most players want that. It's just a really good opportunity to come to a situation where the program is getting rebuilt and you have a lot of tradition, the people are in place to move it in that direction, and hopefully we can take a really big step and get there this year, and not have it as a two-year process. We've got the personnel to do it, we just need a couple of breaks and we need to keep working hard.

MD: Do you regret signing with Jacksonville and playing there in 1996-'97?

ER: I don't think it really helped my career a whole lot. Their style and scheme of defense really didn't fit exactly what I wanted to do and so when I got there, I wasn't really doing what I thought I'd be doing. It didn't work out really well, but … I still played well. I led the team in tackles both years. We went to the playoffs. I still have a lot of friends down there. I enjoyed it but I think it hurt my development as a player. In my fourth year in Houston, I was really grasping the defense really well. I knew where I fit. I was in a real good comfort level. And then I switched, went to a different team and had to start learning new stuff again. It's hard when players do switch teams as free agents, especially linebackers and offensive and defensive linemen. It's harder because of different schemes; they ask you to do different things that you're not used to doing. And once you play in the league a couple of years you get set in your ways. You're used to one coaching style and then you have to get used to another coaching style. That's part of the reason I came here because I knew the transition in coming here would be a lot easier because the defense is the same, the terminology is the same, I have familiarity with the coaches and the system so it makes the transition so much easier as opposed to learning something totally new and dealing with a coach that you never met.

MD: Weren't you upset to find that the Jags pulled the old switcheroo on you?

ER: They recruit you and tell you you're going to do this and this and then when you get there, they tell you, ‘Well, we got you're doing that.' That's when it's kind of too late … It was a different approach to defense. From that aspect, it helped me as a player just to be in a different system and realize there are other ways to do it.

MD: The Jacksonville defense was similar to the one the Bills ran here under Wade Phillips and Ted Cottrell – the-keep-everything-in-front-of-you defense and don't give up the big play.

ER: Yeah, they're figuring that they can't go 12 plays without making a mistake on offense. That's a good philosophy, but there are just two different ways to do it."

MD: You've been remarkably injury free your entire career – been able to play in 159 of 160 possible NFL games. You've been extremely, extremely fortunate I'd say.

ER: Yeah, but I've seen so many people, young guys get hurt. It just kills me to see a first- or second-year guy with a major knee injury. You just never know how long your career is gonna be. You can't ever take it for granted so I think that's something that I realized around my fifth or sixth year. It's helps you in your approach to the game because you take every game very seriously. That's how I am now. I approach every game like ‘this could be my last game.' It's hard to get a younger player to realize that. Once they start doing that they become a lot more professional regarding the game. Football isn't guaranteed. You can be on top of it one day and at the bottom of it the next, just from the injury factor and free agency. Teams constantly try to get younger players, you can be just as good as the guy, but they just want a younger guy. There's always something that can take your job. So I approach it like I've never made it, that I'm actually still trying to get there.

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