Q&A with Antonio Pierce

Marty Schottenheimer always liked him, which is why he drafted him. And when Schottenheimer left, he impressed a new staff. And when they left, Antonio Pierce was forced to prove himself to another new staff.

He's done it again. Now, with Mike Barrow still sidelined by tendonitis in his knee, Pierce is in position to possibly start the season opener. Coaches have always liked his on-field smarts -- he rarely makes the same mistake twice. Gregg Williams likes that Pierce can play all three positions. It remains to be seen if he'll be a good fulltime middle linebacker -- at 240 pounds he's small in the middle and lacks experience with shedding so many blockers.

But Pierce has earned the opportunity to prove himself at this spot.

Q: What's your biggest adjustment at middle linebacker?
A: Mike is a totally different position, the way you fit on the run and the way you fit on the passing game. Mike makes the calls and the audibles and is in control of everything. . . I was nervous about it because I'd never played that position. But after the first game I got comfortable.

Q: Did you ever think you'd make a good fit at this position?
A: Two years ago Marvin played me at that position in our penny defense, with four corners and three linebackers. I was the middle linebacker in that defense when Trotter got hurt. When they'd go to three receivers, I'd come in to middle linebacker with Jessie and LaVar on the outside. So I've had experience with it, but not full time, no.

Q: Why didn't you ever think about playing the middle before?
A: I came out of college and weighed 232 pounds and by the end of the season I was 225. Look at the other linebackers, Trotter was 260 and Kevin was 250. When Marvin put me in there it was different. But I really fit the scheme right. You've got your techniques and you do them right. That's what's getting me by right now.

Q: But when you were in there before, it was against the past, you didn't have a lot of guards coming at you. What will that adjustment be like?
A: At Mike, you get hit by all five linemen. I talk to Barrow all the time and I talked to Mitchell all the time about how they see things and fit on things. They've been real helpful. I miss Kevin Mitchell. I'm sorry he had to leave, but Barrow has helped out a lot.

Q: Do you think Barrow will be ready to open the season?
A: I don't know. I think he is one day and the next day he has ice on it. We do need him back. We paid him to be the starter. But if not I'll be ready to go.

Q: Is there a part of you that wants him to wait a little longer?
A: Mike does make our defense better. He has more experience than me. I would love the opportunity, but he knows Gregg Williams way better than I do. When he comes back I'll still have my position on the team playing-wise.

Q: You're an undrafted guy who has survived three head coaching changes. Are you surprised by that?
A: There are a lot of reasons why you don't get drafted. With new coaches, you just have to adapt. I work hard and I do everything I'm asked to do. I'm a good special teams player. When it comes to defense, the thing that helps me out most is being able to adapt to all three linebacker positions. Marty gave me the opportunity the first year to play Sam and Will. Then I picked up on that, knowing I needed to pick up on all three positions.

Q: Is there a part of you that's surprised at how you've steadily progressed in your career?
A: No surprises. It's a surprise to everyone else because I believe in myself. It's getting everyone else to believe in you. I've got the coaches believing in me somewhat and now I'll let the rest of the NFL know that as well.

Q: How close did you come to going to Minnesota?
A: It was real close. I came up and talked to the coaches. I felt like I needed to give the Redskins the first opportunity to know about it. They gave me the first opportunity when I came out of college. The coaches gave me reassurance as far as staying here. I didn't really want to go to Minnesota. I wanted to stay in Washington.

Q: Why not at least sign the Vikings' offer sheet?
A: Because the offer sheet would not have been able to be matched the way Minnesota set it up. If I did sign it, I wouldn't have been a Redskin at all. So I wanted to talk to them first before I signed it.

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