Q & A with Ernie Accorsi

Wilkinson was a four-year starter at four different positions and a captain of his team. He was a SAM his first year, a WIL his second year, a defensive end his third and a MIKE his fourth. I think I have that sequence right. He can run. I think the coaches are probably more excited about that pick than any pick we have made.

He is just a good solid, sound football player at a need position.  And what we tried to do – we didn't sacrifice grades – but we tried to – here is what happens when you get down into the third round and on, is the grades are pretty clustered – pretty close.  We didn't sacrifice grades but we did concentrate on need.  There is no question about that.  He is a WIL linebacker but for us he can play all three positions.  Tim Lewis and Bill Sheridan both think he can play all three positions at our level. 

Cofield is a defensive tackle, a run stopper.  There were a couple of them there, but this is the one that we thought could play the nose the best.  He is big.  Obviously that was a need position for us, as you all know. 

We picked Guy Whimper as a left tackle.  He played some left tackle.  He played right tackle there because he really has never participated in spring practices.  He has some eligibility problems and he was skipping spring practice.  So they didn't keep him over there.  He is a great athlete.  He is inexperienced.  He is a little raw but he is a great athlete.   And the reason we picked him was strictly because we think he can be a left tackle because of his athletic ability. 

Peprah, we drafted him as a safety but he was a two-year starter as a corner.  So we have a two-way shot with him.   Really we have some needs at both positions as far as depth on our team.  So we pretty much went for need.  We have filled just about everything that we thought was critical on our team and we still have another pick left.  We won't get a sixth I don't think because we are not going to give up anything in next year's draft.  I don't want to leave a draft with any holes in for whoever steps in here.  I don't want to leave next year's draft with holes in it for anybody.

Q:  Defensive tackle was a need and seemed to be your biggest hole going into the draft.  Is Cofield good enough and ready enough to step right in if necessary?

A:  We didn't think it was the hole that a lot of you people did.  Seawright has gotten big.  We have Robbins, we have Joseph.  We have three or four people in there.  We lost a nice little player, but we didn't think of it as that big of a hole. Obviously if we felt that way, we would have done something earlier.  He is going to be a rookie, but he is good enough to step in, absolutely.  He is big run-stopper.  That is what he is.  On that  defensive line, he took the brunt of the double teams and kind of had to get rid of all of the flack for other people. So he is smart. One thing we did, we have smart people, quality people.  There were a number of defensive linemen up there.  There were some that played defensive end that could have played defensive tackle.  But we just needed the big inside guy who is a nose tackle.

Q:  Some of the reports say ‘has trouble fighting off the double teams.'  Is that accurate?

A:  Well, he played at Northwestern.  That is Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin and Penn State.  He had a tough time in there.  Obviously we don't agree or we wouldn't have picked him.

Q:  Are you still looking for a veteran guy, too?

A:  No.  We are okay there.  We have good players in there.  We have good young players in there that can do the job.  I don't see where it is a crisis. 

Re: playing the nose

A:  Well, you have to talk to Tom about a lot of that.  The concept of the nose and the way we play our line.  I know that when we discuss defensive linemen, they will pretty much specify, "Well, this guy…"  To me they are defensive tackles – I don't think that much of drafting for the system; I draft a player which I think is the best player.  But they have to fit them into what they do.  And there is a difference between just a regular defensive tackle and a nose tackle.  This guy can play the nose tackle.  But I would ask Tom more on that.  That is more of a coaching thing. 

Q:  What happened with Kendrick Allen?

A:  He really wasn't responsive to our communications.  We tried to reach him, and he wouldn't answer our calls.  It got to the point where you take a position of – it's not a matter of the offseason program because that is voluntary – it is a matter of being responsive to coaches.  You take that compared to what you think is his projection of talent and you make a decision to let him go on somewhere else.

Re: initial impressions of Kiwanuka

A:  Character is very important.  You need character not only as a good citizen but as a competitor.  I was in the interview in Indianapolis.  I have watched him.  I see Boston College play every year.  So I have watched him since he was, maybe a freshman; I know for sure as a sophomore.  I will say this.  When you sit in his interview – I equate it to Hali of Penn State.  They were both that way. You could hear a pin drop in our room.  His story is unbelievable.  And his response to it and the way he tells it.  He is just an extraordinary person; there is no question about that.  He had 37 � sacks.  He has been productive.  He had, as we said yesterday, he had to overcome quite an experience this year.  It resulted in an offensive lineman being suspended.  He came back, and I thought, had his two best games after he came back.  But he is a special kid.  We really drafted a lot of character so far in this draft.

Q:  Is Peprah another one of these character guys you are talking about?

A:  Yeah, he is. I think he may be a captain, too.  Wilkinson is a captain. Absolutely.  They moved him to safety really for the good of the team.  The kid had seven interceptions as a two-year starter as a corner.  So he was playing fine as a corner.  They just moved him there because that was the need for them. 

Q: Is Peprah going to be a safety or a corner for you?

A:  He is a two-way shot for us. 

Q:  Is it tough to judge a player like Whimper since he has only played one year at tackle?

A:  Yeah.  He played well.  He is such an extraordinary athlete.  And the things that you do see are so impressive that – for us if we are going to pick a tackle for the future, he has to have an ability to play left tackle.  And that is a critical position because you can find right tackles; there are a lot of college players playing left tackle that can't play left tackle in our league.  To me, they are one of the critical positions on the team.  He has that potential.  He is an investment.  But you have to pick them when you have a chance – they are just hard to find.  They are not ready-made.  Sure, Ferguson is, the Orlando Paces are, but they would be in the top four or five in the draft.  So he has a real good chance.  He also started four games at tight end.  So he can be a short-yardage blocker, too, as a tight end. 

Q:  Are you concerned about his character?

A:  No.

Q:  Anything that you haven't taken care of?

A:  Yeah, for depth purposes there are one or two positions – I won't say what they are at this point.  We have so long to wait for our seventh pick. We will be aggressive in the post-draft, free agency market.  But it is really from a depth standpoint. 

Q:    Is your activity in the veteran free agent market pretty much over?

A:  Yeah, pretty much. We might pick up – somebody might get released a little later.  You don't see the June 1 cuts that you used to.  But we might – but it would be just a specific position.  It won't be a high budget item. 

Q:  How about quarterback?

A:  It's possible.  A veteran quarterback is possible.

Q:  More likely than picking a QB in the seventh?

A:  More likely than picking him in the seventh.  We might sign a couple rookie free agents.

Q:  When you talked to us last week you mentioned how much you were looking forward to watching the first round of the draft evolve.  What were your impressions of how it all came off?


A:  It probably wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be.  There were a bunch of trades up there.  I called Sean Payton last night late before I left.  I told him I was rooting for him.  I'm not rooting for him when we play him.  But I would obviously root for somebody like that because I think the world of him.  I said, "You did the right thing, in my opinion, for what it is worth."  And it is ironic, because I said to him,  - I wasn't even thinking about this part of it –  but I said to him that I always remember the Dorsett trade that Dallas made and Seattle got Duke Ferguson and picked Steve August.  And I remember I made a statement at the time as an assistant general manager, I said, ‘They (Dallas) just got a Hall of Famer (in Dorsett).'  I got quoted and the general manager criticized me the next day, "Keep your mouth shut; you don't know what you are talking about."  And I didn't get the story out and Sean said that Joe Vitt, last night, who was in Seattle (one of his assistant coaches) said, "I'm haunted by the Tony Dorsett trade.  It was a big factor in my mind when they were just getting overwhelmed with offers."  But I just told him for what it's worth,  to me, I thought he did the right thing.  But there was a flurry – there were a lot of rumors flying that there were five teams trying to get that pick – but there wasn't as much activity as I thought.

Q:  Whether or not this is your last draft,  how do you feel knowing that coming into this draft the team is in good shape, good enough that you didn't have to draft for need?

A:  It was good, but I worry all of the time anyway.  We didn't have any dramatic needs but to me we had needs.  But you don't really – the problem with the draft, especially after the first round, is when you are sitting there waiting for your pick and you start formulating in your mind, "Boy, these guys are still out there."  When you see them go, it kind of sets you back emotionally, so you are never satisfied.  Because you see all of these players go that – because you don't know – after the second round and particularly after the third round, it is a matter of almost taste at that point.  It is not like the first round where you are sitting there – you know that A.J. Hawk is not going to be there for you, or something like that.  But later on you start to think, "Well these guys might slip through and maybe other teams don't feel the same about them as we do," because players come from all over the board.  So when you see them go you get a little down because you didn't get guys you really had pinpointed.  But I think we did okay.  I wish there were 12 rounds like there used to be, but there are not. 

Q:  Timing of your first-round trade?  Was that something that just came up when you guys got on the clock or something that you had set up earlier in the draft?

A:  We hadn't set it up earlier in the draft.  There were three teams that were trying to get up there.  We were talking to one team that was just a few notches below, but they wouldn't give us what Pittsburgh was offering.  And I gave them one last chance  because obviously, we would rather go down a couple spots than go down seven.  But, no, it was right down to the last second.  We weren't on the clock yet but it was getting close. Obviously what happened, there were teams going up there.  We thought they were all going up there for running backs.  As it turned out, Pittsburgh wasn't.  They were going up there for a receiver.  But we knew there would be some interest for running backs.  We kept hearing all along that Maroney was going to go to New England.  If Maroney would have slipped, I think there would have been more action for our pick.  Although the counter argument to that is that took one away.  But I thought that is what the action was for, but they just wouldn't give us the third that we wanted. 


Q:  Do you ever get a sense immediately about how good your draft went?

A:  Not really.  Not really.  It is hard for me. I'm too hard, too much of a self critic to feel good about it.  When it is all said and done, you feel pretty good once you see them in your first mini camp.  I think we got bigger and faster.  I was concerned – defensively, for example, we just weren't real big.  We have a big defensive end, a big linebacker in free agency, and a big tackle.  So we got bigger.  And we needed help in the secondary; we needed a linebacker.  I'm really happy about this linebacker.  I think he is really solid.  He is going to be a starter in this league. 


Q:  I don't mean to keep hammering you on this, but when you are done, are you going to miss these two days?

A:  Yeah, I am.  This is a real, real joy of the business.  It's not just the two days, it is the meetings.  I enjoy the offseason a heck of a lot more than the season.  Because it is just fun watching all of this formulate in front of your eyes and go to the all-star games.  And the other thing is the camaraderie of the scouts – because you are not around them much. You are only around them during the meetings and the all star games and Indianapolis and the draft.  Even in training camp you don't see them – they are there about eight days.  So this is really the last time we'll be together.  And that part of it I will really miss because they are such an integral part of the organization.  Mr. Mara thought they were the lifeblood, which I agree.  And yet they are not around.  They don't see your team play.  They are really are an unsung crew.  I'll miss that by far the most.  I'm not going to miss the games at all.  Unfortunately I have to go through a bunch of them yet before I leave.


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