Scout NFL Q&A: Robert Royal

Fans in the AFC East, AFC North and NFC East will be seeing Bills starting tight end Robert Royal in action during the 2007 season. He talked to's Ed Thompson about making the leap last year from the Redskins to the Bills through free agency, working with QB J.P. Losman, and the outlook for the team in 2007.

Ed Thompson: How have you felt about your progression throughout your career thus far?

Robert Royal: Obviously there's always improvement out there, but so far I think it's been going well. The first two years coming in it wasn't going so well. I was put on injured reserve my rookie year, and then coming back off of that injury I did well.  And once I finally started with the Redskins, that second season, I wound up getting put on injured reserve again at the conclusion of six games. Those two years were pretty much some bad years for me. Then I was able to come back and had a little success on the field, I wound up catching four touchdowns the following year. After that, I did well with the Buffalo Bills, where I am currently, and it's been amazing so far.

ET: How hard was it to leave the Redskins after spending four years there to start with a new team?

RR: It's always hard, the hardest part about it is you build relationships with all of the guys on the team and when you leave those guys they've become a part of your family. We spend a lot of time together as professional athletes, a lot of people don't see the time we spend together off of the field. A lot of times when you start to feel at home in that particular place, you get accustomed to that living and being around all of those guys, then you have to up and leave. I think that's the most difficult part of the whole process.

ET: What was it like going through free agency? Was it a nervous time or an exciting time?

RR: It was pretty nervous. It was a little like when you're getting recruited for college and you're not sure what's going to happen, how it's going to play out, and where you're going to end up. The good part about it is I had the opportunity to go out there and land with a team that really appreciate everything I bring to the football field and off the football field. Once that process was all over with, I was just happy to be a Buffalo Bill and I just continue to try to build the team into the right condition to go to the playoffs and win the championship.

ET: You really seemed to hit your stride during the last six games of the 2006 season, were you getting in the groove with the offense better or was the offense just clicking better all around?

RR: I think our offense as a whole was just clicking. Obviously with the new coaching staff and plays, they're still trying to figure out certain players and we're still trying to figure them out. Then we had some breakdowns up front in the beginning where I had to stand in and pass block a little bit more, which I'm comfortable with. Then as the season went on we made some adjustments so we could get more people out on a route, including myself, and that allowed me to go out there and have that success.

The Jets' Jonathan Vilma and Kerry Rhodes team up to tackle Robert Royal in 2006.
David Duprey, AP
ET: You had a 33-yard touchdown catch against Miami back in December, the longest reception so far in your pro career. What do you remember about that play?

RR: That was probably one of the hardest catches I've made in the NFL, as easy as it looked. Obviously the conditions in Buffalo sometimes get bad and when that ball came up in the air, it was drizzling and it was one of those passes where I was wide open and the ball looked like it was in the air for an hour and a half. I was able to keep my eye on it and stay focused, catch the ball and get in the end zone.

ET: What do you appreciate most about J.P. Losman as a quarterback?

RR: Just his attitude and his heart and determination to come out there week in and week out. It's pretty hard for a guy to come out there, especially for the circumstances he's been in, just getting thrown up in there pretty fresh, that's hard for a quarterback to do. Also just learning these different systems.  He's in the system for the second year and our offensive coordinator, Steve Fairchild, and quarterbacks coach, Turk Schonert, have done a terrific job of teaching J.P. the Xs and Os. The one thing I've learned about J.P. is he's a competitor. It doesn't matter what happens, if he goes out there and throws five interceptions, that sixth play he goes out there he's going to go out there and try to put us in a winning position. That's the one thing I love about him and you have to have that as a quarterback. You have to have that confidence in yourself and believe in yourself for an offense to work. So far things keep looking promising and we're going to stand behind him and push him.

ET: You guys have a very young team and you're learning to work together, what's going to be your biggest challenge this season?

RR: I think just building off that momentum we had at the end of the season last year. We've been in a system together now for two years and I think that's going to help us and just guys being comfortable with their teammates around them, knowing what they can get away with. That's the biggest thing about it when you're playing with a guy, you know what that guy next to you is comfortable doing and that allows you to play more freely and execute your assignment a lot better. I think just because we're young, we're on the rise, some of the guys got a chance to get a taste of the action and I think that was wonderful.  When we go out there this year that should help us a lot.

ET: You had a big change on offense with the loss of running back Willis McGahee and you have a new rookie, Marshawn Lynch in the mix for the position.  What can you tell us about him so far?

RR: I can tell you one thing, I'm excited watching Marshawn Lynch out there. This guy he's unbelievable. The one thing I love about him so much is he's humble. He's willing to learn and that's one of the keys you have to have to be successful in the NFL. He's willing to listen, he understands the game of football very well, anything on the football field that they've asked him to do so far he's done pretty well -- from catching the ball, to picking up blitzes, to actually running the ball.

ET: When you find yourselves in a high-pressure situation, who's the guy in the huddle who grabs the other guys by the back of the neck and says "we can do this!"

RR: I don't like to pat myself on the back, but I'd have to say I'm that guy. I'm pretty fired up all the time. My teammates just look at me in the huddle and when I'm jumping around, having fun, everybody else tries to do the same thing. I continue to do that just because that's how much I love the game. I love to compete, being out there having fun and I want those guys to do the same thing.

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