Throughout the Browns' training camp in Berea, BerniesInsiders.com will focus on players' thoughts as they get ready for the 2005 National Football League season. We will bring you periodic bytes as the players conclude practice and meet with the media. These will include the words of veterans and rookies alike as coach Romeo Crennel and his staff puts together the best 53-man roster.
Q – This is a situation where you can possibly come in and start (at safety) right away.
A – We have a lot of good players in front of me right now. I'm just working on special teams, primarily trying to get that phase of the game down. I'll let the rest come. I'll be competing for the starting job, but right now, I'm just worried about special teams.
Q – Grade your progress for the first few days. Anything surprising as you make the transition?
A – I think it's improving. Can't put a grade on it. I feel like I'm improving every day. I'm getting better with the little things. Technique-wise, I've been doing a couple of good things.
Q – What have you found out about the game here that you didn't expect?
A – You can't think too much. If you think too much, that's when you get beat. You have to go out there and be confident of what you're doing. You can't second-guess yourself.
Q – Were you doing that at first?
A – I still feel myself doing it sometimes, but it's a matter of getting more reps in and getting better with it. That will come.
Q – What are the coaches telling you?
A – Get the technique down.
Q – Where do you think in better, free safety or strong safety?
A – That's up to the coaches. (The positions) are interchangeable. So there's not a huge difference. Sometimes, I end up playing strong; sometimes, I end up playing free. That's really not a big concern.
Q – You're in a situation here where you've got a shot at playing some tight end.
A – There's a lot of guys competing for a job. There's a great opportunity here. I'm just working hard and doing what the coaches are telling me to do. I'm trying to learn everything and giving it my all every day.
Q – What do you bring to the table that you can impress with coaches with the most?
A – My desire. This is something I've been wanting to do since I was a little boy. I feel like whatever they ask me to do, if I can't do it now, I've put in the time, I've put in the effort and I learned how to do it.
Q – Where's home?
A – New Orleans, Louisiana. I love that place. My family's still down there.
Q – What have you learned the last three days?
A – Good question. Not trying to be arrogant, but coming where from I've come (Florida State), playing teams like Miami and Florida, the speed of the game is not that much faster. The biggest difference is guys on this level know what to do. They're very disciplined, they know their assignments and they know what to do. It's not all about athletic ability or about talent. It's about knowing your job and knowing how to get your job done.
Q – Having a good time?
A – Yes I am. That's the key. Sometimes, you mess up. Sometimes, you make mistakes. But you keep that joyful attitude. Praise God for everything. That's what keeps me sane and keeps this exciting and fun and me wanting to get better.
Q – Compare how it's gone for you compared to a year ago when you were a rookie?
A – I feel much better, but I've prepared myself much better this year. I feel stronger, I know the offense a lot better. I know my techniques a lot better. Granted, there's still a lot of room to improve, but it's nice to know I'm not the rookie this year. I feel confident about this year and feel good about what's been going on during camp so far.
Q – What are you able to do this year that you weren't able to last year?
A – First of all, just knowing the plays solidly, not having to go up the line and worry about what the play is or what my responsibility is. I feel I have a better grasp on the plays this year. Second, I worked real hard in the offseason to get my strength up. It's always something I need to improve on. It's a lot of the small techniques, things as far as making sure my kick slide is six inches rather than two inches or four inches or making sure my hand placement is where it needs to be on the defensive lineman's chest. I have a year of experience behind me and those things are coming a little easier know.
Q – Do you still have think about it or does it come more instinctively this year?
A – I still have to think about it. I'm going to be honest with you. But at least when I think about, then I tend to do it a little more often than when I was a rookie. That muscle memory is starting to come through a little bit better.
Q – What about the offseason rumors that you were going to go on another (Mormon) mission?
A – I have no idea where that came from. You know how rumors start. Just like wildfire. Once someone starts it and it gets a little breeze, it's going to flare up quickly. There's no truth whatsoever to that.
Q – You're in a situation where you're playing behind two pretty good (offensive) tackles. How much have they helped you in what you're able to bring?
A – They're great guys. They're very helpful. They understand that as veterans, they try to pass along what the things they've learned to the younger guys. They've been very helpful in trying to get my game to where it needs to be to compete in the NFL. It's a great blessing for me to have these guys to learn from, the guys who have been in the battles, who have shown they can play. I'm just trying to pick up everything they're doing because I know if I can do what they're doing, then I'll be all right.
Q – There's a lot of competition at the wide receiver spot. What are you using as motivation as you try to make the team?
A – Something my dad told me a long time ago: Nothing is forever and take everything one play at a time. So I'm just focusing on the play in front of me and trying to do the best I can on that play and then come back and learn more for the next time.
Q – What have you learned so far?
A – How to play a lot faster and be more physical. There are a lot of older guys you get to learn from. I'm watching them pretty good and seeing how they hit and run routes. I'm trying to take in all that.
Q – Are you consulting with some of the veterans on what to do, what to look for?
A – Yeah, in most situations I try and see how the tempo of the game is. Sometimes, I ask some of the guys, Dennis Northcutt, Antonio (Bryant), Andre (Davis). I like to ask them exactly how they feel about a certain situation and try to learn from that.
Q – Assess your performance so far.
A – I'm not satisfied at all. I'm trying not to get too ahead of myself, I'm trying to make sure I stay humble and take it one play at a time so I can get a chance.
Q – Are you a hands catcher or do you prefer catching against your body?
A – I like to catch (the football) with my hands. I was taught a long time
ago that your chest doesn't have arms, so you've got to catch it with your
hands. Might as well catch it with your hands.
Q – Different look (his dreadlocks are gone).
A – Different look.
Q – Different attitude?
A – Different attitude. My motivation factor is on another level this year, not to say I wasn't motivated in the past, but I was definitely frustrated the last two years due to the injury situation and that sort of thing. I hate to keep talking about because I don't want to jinx myself, quote unquote, but I think I definitely came this year with a whole nuther chip on my shoulder as far as wanting to stay healthy and wanting to prove to myself, to my teammates, to the new head coach that I can, in fact, stay healthy.
Q – This is a brand new defense. The scheming is going to a lot more sophisticated than it was in the past. How does that impact on you from a mental and physical standpoint?
A – It's different. It's benefitting me to know that I've been here the last couple of years, that I've been in the league the last couple of years. But it's a great scheme. I actually like playing the 3-4. You can disguise a lot better. You never know where the blitzes are coming from. I think it helps everybody across the field, all the way from the corners to the linebackers. It's a very good scheme and once we all get on the same page – and I think we're off to a good start with that – I think this is going to be a very good defense for us.
Q – This is your first time with the 3-4. Are you finding it difficult to soak in or is it easier than you thought it might be?
A – I don't want to say it's easy, but it makes sense. It makes a lot of sense. Not to say that the 4-3 does not make sense.
Q – In what way does it make sense?
A – In the 4-3, 100% of the time I'm not going to say I knew where the blitzes were coming from. But in certain calls (in the 3-4), I know where the blitzes are going to be because there's a linebacker there and linebackers and DBs are more in tune with one another than if you have four defensive linemen. It's easier for us to understand there's the blitz and that's where it's coming from and where the window's going to be and that sort of thing for us in the back end.