MP: How do you feel about being back down here (Mackey was invited to rookie mini-camp and went through OTAs with Tampa Bay before his release on June 19)?
JM: I'm very excited to be back down here. It's a place I've been where they had interest in my right after the draft when I was a free agent. I had the opportunity to do OTAs here and it's a tough system to grasp early, but at least I have a good background on it. I know a lot of the core things. Right now I'm just trying to fine tune as best I can and be a part of this team.
MP: How quickly did the Jets snap you up after the Bucs let you go?
JM: You know, not very quickly. They had their guys. Fortunately I had an opportunity because one of their guys decided football wasn't for them anymore. They scooped me up. I can't tell you exactly how quickly it was, but they at least had a week of camp into it, maybe more than that.
MP: Were you in a situation where you were just waiting for a phone call at that point?
JM: Yeah, pretty much. I had a long time to just really sit and think, focus on how I was going to approach the situation. You don't want to just wait and sit around and do nothing. You want to be prepared to go at any minute. In this business you can get picked up and released like that. It's really a business. I took that approach to it. It was a learning period for me.
MP: Did you have any experience with the Jets during the scouting process?
JM: I don't know if they were at my pro day. I definitely did receive an e-mail from the Jets' linebackers coach letting me know they had an interest prior to the draft in picking me up as a free agent possibility.
MP: Was it surprising to you that you got traded?
JM: Yeah. I was keeping up with Tampa Bay because I made a lot of cool relationships here. Whenever I had free time I would go on the internet and check it out, see what was going on. I wasn't aware that Sam (Olajubutu) and A.C. (Antoine Cash) we're hurt, though. I didn't have a computer in my dorm, but I would check every now and then. It was one of those things where it was a surprise to me, but a good surprise. Not a bad one. Not at all.
MP: Who told you that you were being traded and how did it happen?
JM: Mr. (Mike) Tannenbaum (Jets general manger). He sent somebody (to get me), I went up to meet him and we sat and talked. He told me that Tampa Bay wanted me, so we traded you. It was a good place (the Jets). It was a great experience. I think I have more opportunity here. I did OTAs here, I trained here for a month. I mean, I'm very grateful right now.
MP: What were you expecting when that guy came and got you and said, ‘The GM wants to talk to you?'
JM: I had no idea what it could be. I'm still new to this whole thing.
MP: That's usually a pretty bad conversation starter during training camp.
JM: Usually, but you never know. I always keep a positive outlook on anything. I wasn't thinking anything negative, like I was going to get cut. I had an open mind. You know, ‘Let's see what he has to talk to me about.'
MP: With Antoine and Sam getting hurt, the Bucs have a depth need at linebacker. I know it's been one day, but have you gotten your feet under you pretty quickly?
JM: I believe so. I'm not 100 percent perfect with everything, but I'm getting there. That's what I'm working toward. I didn't stink it up or anything, but right now I'm just trying to learn all the little details of this defense and continue to get better every day. That's my goal — to do better than what I did the day before and to make corrections.
MP: What do you think your chances are of making this team?
JM: I'm not sure. I don't think about it. I just go out and work hard every day and hope to make the team. That's in my vision right now, just being a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.
MP: I guess I would be remiss if I didn't ask you about your great-uncle (Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey). How is he doing these days?
JM: He's still around. I don't get to have a lot of contact because of his situation and his disease (frontotemporal dementia). We really don't talk much. But I see him at different functions, whether it be a major family function or something football related. It's tough on the family.
MP: Growing up, how much of an influence did he have on you?
JM: He had a big influence on me. He was a role model, someone in your family that accomplished what he did. You have the same dreams that he had and you want to do your best with it. He was who I looked to when I was young. I didn't see him play, but hearing stories from my grandfather and my father, and seeing him on different things that he had done (game highlights), was a big part of my childhood.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors.