Matthew Postins: I guess unemployment didn't agree with you. I heard you were pretty fidgety waiting for a chance to play again, no? (Ratliff spent a month unemployed before Tampa Bay signed him).
Keiwan Ratliff: Anytime you're sitting at home and you love to play the game, it's hard. There are millions of guys sitting at home right now that wish they could play this game. Just to know that I had the opportunity and I didn't capitalize on it the way I wanted to the first time, I just wanted a second chance. Sitting on the couch every day waiting for that phone to ring can be a lonely feeling. So when that phone finally did ring, that's why I'm here trying to give it my all.
MP: Talk about the tryout process, because I think that's something a lot of fans don't know a lot about and you went to 10 different tryouts in the last month. How does it work? Who picks up the expenses? How long does it take? How much preparation do you get?
KR: You get the phone call from your agent that a team wants to work you out. They put together a schedule that fits you and fits them. They fly you out. You fly in maybe on a Monday, come in Monday night and get up Tuesday morning. You may be on the field at 7 a.m., you may be on the field at noon. But you know they're going to pick you up bright and early to get your physical done, paperwork and things like that. Once you're on the field, teams have you run 40s, some teams have you do agility testing and some teams have you do bench press drills. Whatever the team asks you to do, that's what you do for that day. Sometimes you may be by yourself. Sometimes there may be 10 guys with you. You never know. A workout can be 30 or 45 minutes or a workout can be 15 minutes. So really it's a crapshoot when you get out there. You do as many drills as they ask you to. It's almost like a game because you're out there going 100 percent on every single drill. You're not taking reps off. It's a little bit harder than a regular workout because you know all eyes are on you and the tape is rolling.
MP: And, obviously there's a little more pressure because you're fighting for a job, right?
KR: Exactly. You're trying to impress every set of eyes out there. Not only the coach drilling you, but he coaches standing around and watching and talking amongst themselves. You want to make sure that you make a good impression with all of them.
MP: How did your tryout go here in Tampa Bay? Did you come away feeling good about your chances?
KR: I came away with a great feeling. I had one of my better workouts here. I felt pretty good. I had a whole week off before my workout here. Most of my other workouts I had two days off, or a day off, in between. For this workout I had a week off. It was a great environment. It was sunny. The coaches weren't yelling. They were encouraging. It was one of those things where you felt like you were wanted there instead of you wasting their time. It was an easy environment to come out and do your best in.
MP: How long ago was your tryout here?
KR: The tryout was the week of the Arizona game. So it was right before the bye.
MP: Do you have a sense of what your role is yet? Surely it's special teams, but do you know what units yet?
KR: Honestly I'm just trying to come out and learn as much as I can as fast as I can and do the best that I can. The coaches will see that and put me wherever they think I can help the team. Like you said, special teams, defense or whatever. All I'm trying to show them right now is that I'm ready to go.
MP: I noticed you have quite a few punt returns on your resume. They've had problems keeping guys healthy in the return game here. Do you think that's an area you can help this team?
KR: Like I said, I'm willing to do whatever. I was just talking to the special teams coach (Richard Bisaccia) and I told him, ‘You can put me out there right now.' I'm one of those guys that if you take something away from them and you give it back to them, they're going to cherish it. So right now football is my passion and my heart and I have it back. I have no intentions of letting it go.
MP: You were a second-round pick in Cincinnati. The Bucs seem to have an ability to take high draft picks that didn't fit in with one team and help them become successful here. Beyond this season, do you see this as a place you can fit in?
KR: I really do. Coming out of college this was my dream, to be drafted by Tampa Bay. I really wanted to get drafted here. I was happy to be drafted by Cincinnati as well because I was from Ohio. But Tampa, we ran a lot of these coverages and defenses and things at Florida. We kind of mimicked ourselves after Tampa. So I was comfortable with that. I really wanted to be here and now I have that opportunity so I'm going to try and make the best of it.