- Texas S Kenny Vaccaro is thought to be the top safety in this year’s draft, the type of player who might even sneak into the top 10 of the draft at a position where players don’t generally go that high.
- On Sunday, Vaccaro explained why he thinks he should be considered in that range and why he’s the best safety in the draft.
On Earl Thomas: “Me and Earl talk all the time. He’s just constantly reminding me to do my thing, and a football player’s going to be a football player.”
How does your game compare to his game? “I just try to mold my game around his passion for the game. My freshman year I used to watch him run around the field, practicing full speed, full intensity. So I try to model my game after his.”
On possibly being taken high in the draft: “I think I can bring a lot to a team being versatile and being able to play a number of positions.”
Height, weight? “6-0, 214″
On his versatility: “I played both safeties, strong and free. I played nickel. I played dime. In some instances I played corner. We had two great corners. But most of the time I played corner in one on ones in practice.”
Going against Tavon: “Me and Tavon were going at it all game. He’s a great player. I think I did pretty good. I would say he’s one of the most explosive players in the country and I’d say I was right there with him.”
On his teammate, Goodwin: “Goodwin has world class speed. He’s gonna run off on anybody, but I tried to stick with him.”
Safeties aren’t drafted high. Is the position underrated? “I think people are starting to appreciate safeties more, now that tight ends are turning into freaks and controlling the middle of the field. So you’ve got to have a safety who can cover and come up and hit.”
Why didn’t you go to an all star game? “Honestly I thought my four years of tape were good enough. I thought I could get some extra work training with my position coach and my DBs coach and in the weight room. So that’s just my decision.”
Do you keep up with who needs a safety? “I love football and I keep up with all that stuff.”
Why did Texas struggle this year? “We had some big injuries, we also had young linebackers, and when you play the BIG 12 offenses with a fast tempo its hard for guys to learn on the go. So we struggled for weeks on weeks just trying to get guys lined up.”
On players leaving early: “I think leaving early is a decision you make with your family. Earl left early. It depends on the person.”
Are you the best safety in the draft? “I think I bring the most to the table.
- One of the Rams’ biggest needs this offseason is a free safety as incumbent starter Craig Dahl is an unrestricted free agent. With two picks in the first round, Vaccaro would seem to make a lot of sense to fill that void but it remains to be seen if he’ll even last that long or if the Rams think that highly of him. Rams coach Jeff Fisher showed he was willing to take a Texas safety in the first round in Tennessee as he spent the 19th overall pick on Michael Griffin in 2007. Could Vaccaro be next?
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- Florida S Matt Elam is the brother of Kansas City S Abram Elam. But Matt comes in to this combine more highly regarded, though of as one of the best safeties in this class and a possible first round pick.
- Although Elam is a bit smaller than some of his counterparts, he packs a punch as a hitter and can play free or strong safety. He spoke to the media today and shed some light on his brother’s influence, watching Ed Reed and more.
What has the experience been like? “It’s a great experience, a great opportunity. Everything going well. Less sleep, but having a lot of fun going with the guys, just being around the guys.”
Most important thing to get across to teams in interviews? “I’m a great guy on the field, but off the field also. That’s very important.” Teams met with “A lot. There’s a lot of them. I met with a lot of them last night, but I can’t remember them all, but there was a ton of them.”
Biggest strength “My physicality. I play very hard. I love the strike people. I feel that what help me stand out the most and I’m very versatile. I can cover the slot receivers, I can go down and cover, I can go in the box and tackle. I feel like I’m very versatile, I can play in the post. I feel like that what make me stand out the most.”
Work on “There’s always room to improve. Coming to the big leagues, everybody is good. The talent is up here (moves hand to forehead). Working on technique and continuing to get better every day.”
Rely on his brother Abram Elam (Kansas City): “He taught me a lot because he has the experience, so I’m learning from him everyday. It’s an advantage.”
What advice did coach give him: “He told us everyday that if we have the opportunity to take it. He pushed us everyday and we go the opportunity, so we took advantage.”
Model game after “Ed Reed. I watched Ed Reed all the time, every week. I look forward to him all the time.”
What will brother say “I don’t think he’ll mind. He understands.”
What about Ed Reed stands out “He’s very versatile. He’ll hit you. He’ll pick the ball off, ball hawk. He can do it all, so I feel like I can do it too.”
What was it like growing up with brother “It was always competitive. He pushed me, he challenged me all the time. That made me who I am today.”
Does athleticism override lack of size “I feel like that’s an advantage, I’m very athletic. Growing up I was very athletic, and I feel like that separates me a lot. I’m not the biggest safety, I guess, but I feel like I play hard and that makes me stand out.”
On playing on both sides of the ball “It made me realize that I’d rather deliver the blow than get hit. It helped me out a lot, athletic ability and everything else.”
Are you the best safety in draft “Yeah, I’m very confident in myself. I’m very versatile and I feel that I can do a lot of things for teams: special teams, covering, tackling.”
40-yard dash: “I’m going for a low 4.4, even faster. I prepared well.”
On Florida’s defense “We had a great defense. Everybody was flying around and I trusted everybody on defense. We came together as a team and that helped our confidence build.”
On other Florida teammates at combine “It says a lot about the defense, a lot of bragging rights. We can talk smack to the other guys and it shows how great we did and how well we was coached.”
Defense setting tone “I feel like defense wins championships. Defense is always going to lead the tam.”
Position “I played both. I played free, strong, I played the nickel, I played dime. I pretty much played everywhere in the secondary.”
Other safeties he watched “I watch Eric Berry a lot, I watch Earl Thomas from Seattle. I watch NFL film more than I watch college film during the week.”
The alcohol possession when he was young “(Teams) talked about it, but it wasn’t really a big issue. I just had to pay a fine and it was dropped. I don’t think they really made it a big issue.”
Talking to Florida guys in New England “When they come back I always talk to them about that. They tell me it’s a different league, bigger and tougher guys, but that’s expected. That’s why I go out to work.”
Learn from Florida coaches, Muschamp “When they came in I feel like I learned a lot about the knowledge of the ball, different schemes, man technique – they taught me a lot of man technique that I didn’t know before. He made me a very better ball player, and he made me a better person, too.”
How can he cover big tight ends “Technique, rely on my technique that I’m going to work on everyday. I feel like if I fall back on that then the sky will be the limit.”
Brother taught him about football “In the NFL you have to use a lot of footwork and a lot of separation. He taught me a lot about that that I didn’t know.”
Brother taught about life. “He taught me that I need to grow up fast, that this is a big man’s league and basically taking authority. That was a problem for me in college. He taught me that too. I need to learn how to take more authority and grow up and handle situations differently.”
How has SEC helped “I feel like that helped me out a lot. Most of the best players in the SEC be the best players in the NFL.”
- One of the Rams’ most glaring needs is at free safety as previous starter Craig Dahl is scheduled for unrestricted free agency. Some believe that Elam is as good a prospect as you’ll find in a pretty deep safety class. Elam could be in play for the Rams at some point in the draft, especially if he falls into round 2.
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- Florida State DE Bjoern Werner is thought to be a top 10 pick. He’s a relentless, athletic type of end with good pass rush skills. He’s almost certainly not going to be a Ram given his draft status and the team’s lack of need for help at DE. But he’s a fun interview and had some good insights on a number of topics.
- So if you want to be entertained, here’s the words from Werner.
How amazed are you to be here? “Great journey. So exciting. This is just another step right here and just coming from Germany and dreaming about it in Germany, watching the combine, and just being here right now and all my friends watching me right now is just amazing. It’s amazing to be here and go through all this.”
You could watch the combine in Germany? “Yeah. Online. Yup. I remember – I watched Chris Long, Mario Williams, every year we just watched it. It was a big event. All the football players just gather around and just want to watch it together.”
Excited to step on that field? “I’m looking forward to it. I’m really excited, and not only going out there, seeing all the coaches, seeing actually the faces in front of you and what you see on TV every Sunday is just ridiculous.”
What’s it like to see so many FSU guys here? “I didn’t see most of them in like 8 weeks. I’m just walking by, ‘Hey, what’s up, Rodney Smith.’ ‘What up Chris Thompson?’ it’s just awesome to see that so many Florida State people are doing great and they got invited to this event.”
what other sports play in Germany? “I played soccer for six years before I started playing football. how long playing football? “I started when I was 12, flag football.
what teams meet with? “The Raiders, the Packers and the Seahawks.
what are they most curious about? “The journey. The first question is explain why you’re here, how did you come over here and that takes alone 10 minutes so I try to explain everything at a fast pace. And then when you have five interviews in a row and you have to explain the same story I’m forgetting all these key moments in my life. Just try and explain and see how passionate I am about this game. I made a lot of sacrifice. I left my country, my family, my girlfriend, she’s my wife today, just to be here and pursue this dream.
short version, how came here and why? “Sixth grade there was a classmate who threw around the football and I just start throwing around with him and he saw I got some catching skills and he asked me to join his club team, the Berlin Adler, and I did, and I just fell in love with flag football at the time, but when you turn 15 you automatically advance to tackle football and it was just the most amazing feeling just hitting people. I just fell in the love with the game. I played a lot of Madden, that’s how I got to know the NFL. It was just crazy. And then my head coach, Joerg Hoffman, said you have a lot of potential. You should try to go to high school and go through the whole American recruiting process with the goal to be here and I get drafted. I never looked back, it was just pursue that dream.
ever imagine you’d be at combine back when you were watching? “It was my dream, but of course I was so young, I was 12, 13, 14 years old, I would never imagine I would be at the combine. Of course I always believed in the dream I wanted to play in the NFL, but I was a little kid. Good thing I never looked back and questioned myself and just go take the opportunities I had and just take them. now that you’re here, was it worth the sacrifices? “I would do it over again. I experienced so much in life just seen so much of the world and different places in America; west coast, east coast, south, north and just meeting so many different people. I would do it over and over again.
how get here from Germany to play HS sports? “The youth and football international student program, they send like 5 to 6 kids every year to a prep school in the northeast area. They give you a list and they pay a scholarship, like tuition to the prep school. They gave me a list and I was like ok, I’ve never been out of Germany, I don’t know Connecticut, Massachusettes and all these states that I don’t know where that is. But I just saw football, football. I just pointed my finger on the list of like 50 schools and I pointed out two schools and the Salisbury school was one of them, and I got in contact with Christopher Adamson and I sent him a highlight tape and he was really so interested. We just started getting everything going by email. And a translator.
how pick up English so well? “When you get thrown in a culture and you have to speak the language, you pick it up that fast. It’s ridiculous. I learned in like 2 or 3 months, just being in America. I took English in high school, but a lot of people take Spanish here and can’t speak any Spanish, that’s like me in Germany taking English. But everything worked out.
pick up bad words first? “no comment.
decision to leave school early? “I had individual goals and I had team goals. I achieved both of them. I wrote them actually down in my mirror and I achieved all of those goals, and I was healthy. And I have a wife in college, everything was just pointing towards leaving. I gave Florida State everything I had and was great three years, and it was just time to move on for me and my family.
can you play 3-4 olb? “yes. Teams are asking me to do that and I think I can do it. I did it at Florida State when Brandon Jenkins went down, he was our 3-4 outside linebacker and I replaced him and I think I did a good job and I think I’m athletic enough to do it in the NFL.
Grow up cheering any nfl players, teams? “No, it was just too many – there’s no favorite team. Just when I played Madden back in the day I took the good players and took the good players and just created the Bjoern Werner Team. That was my favorite team.
Go to NFL Europe games as a kid? “Yes, I went to every game for the Berlin Thunder. That was the big event every weekend for the Berlin Adler. The guys, my friends, to just go in there just watching them. That was the big event.
soccer background help footwork? “Every time I hear somebody playing soccer, like back in the day everybody says it was because of soccer. Thank you soccer, if it was for it. I really don’t know if it has to do with soccer or not, but I give the credit to the soccer .. played every position in soccer …
what you like about American football? “just the physicality of it. Playing soccer and being a big guy and always getting, ‘Take that big guy out of the soccer game cause he’s hurting people.’ And then I just got to football and just hitting people, it’s such a man’s sport where if you line up against another guy and who’s going to be the stronger guy, it’s just an amazing game. It’s just not like the physicality, event he mental conditioning where can you do it once or can you do it 50 times a game.
What’s family back home say about your success? “They don’t understand it. They’re just so happy like me, but I’m trying to explain the NFL combine to my parents. Actually before I left I talked to them and I told them about the interviews, when you have interviews with the teams. And they were like, ‘Wait, are you going to play for an NFL team after this combine already?” I was like, ‘No, it’s just another puzzle in the whole process.’ They don’t understand it. It’s just so hard to understand for European people who don’t play football because in the soccer world you can pick your team, just get offers. But here, you don’t have any rights. (If) the team takes you, the team takes you.
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- Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson is regarded as the top wideout in this year’s draft class. But he’s only got one year of major college experience and he was used on a lot of short and intermediate stuff where he got the ball in his hands quickly. Still, he is very confident his skills can translate to the next level.
- Here’s how he views his long term potential and more.
(talk about your path to the Combine)
It was a good path, man. I had to go to junior college and ended up at Tennessee. I wouldn’t change it for nothing. Everyplace I went, I enjoyed every second of it.
(Was the JC stop difficult?)
Oh, yeah, there were a lot of times I doubted because I had to leave high school and go all the way to Hutchinson in Kansas. I would call my mom every day and ask her if she still thought I needed to do this and she said, ‘Yeah, it’s been your dream for a long time so just make sure you stick with it.’
I wanted to go in and try to be the best at my position and hope my dream would come true and be in the NFL.
(can you help yourself, like we’d like to help ourselves to water after 3 p.m.)
Go in Saturday and Sunday and give it my best and make sure I do everything right so teams can look at me and say good things about myself.
(do you need a big week here?)
I know I can help myself a lot. I know what I can do. I’m going to go in and just give it my all.
(pattern yourself after any receiver?)
Yeah, Julio Jones.
(people say you’re a one-year wonder)
I didn’t expect to be a one-year-and-done but we had the coaching change and everything was getting a little crazy, so I wanted to get out of there.
(What are your three biggest strengths?)
Speed, catching and scoring.
(are those important?) The things I did in college, I expect to come in as a rookie and be a good rookie and be a Pro Bowler.
(What do you think about the perception that you’re a raw prospect?)
I don’t listen to anything anyone says about my ability. God gave it to me and I go out every day and practice hard at practice, and in the games I expect big things out of myself.
(did you dream the impossible dream about going JUCO to No. 1 WR)
I really didn’t even think like that. There’s rumors coming around that I can be and I hope this weekend I can show that I can be that No. 1 receiver.
(what do you want to work on?)
My route-running and learning coverages, just getting better at that.
(did you think you could dominate at Tennessee?)
I didn’t, because when I went to Tennessee, I didn’t even think I was going to be a starter. But then I went in and some things happened at Tennessee and people started expecting big things from me, so I had to fill that role.
(are you top 10, top 20?)
I say I’m a top-15 pick but I can’t control what coaches think and they’re the ones that make the decisions. If they see me in the top 15, top 10, then I respect that because I think I am.
- Obviously, the Rams would like more help at wide receiver but it seems Patterson is the guy most likely to be out of their reach. Given his size and speed combination and return ability, he’d be a natural fit though he is a bit raw.
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- It was the story of the day on Saturday. Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o appeared before the media and calmly answered questions about his bizarre situation with the fake girlfriend and catfishing. We didn’t cover the story in great detail here because we believe that you, the reader, probably have fatigue with the story and care more about players that make sense for the Rams to draft in April.
- Still, if you’re curious, here’s the entire transcript of his news conference.
– How are you feeling? I’m kind of tired right now. A long day, medical exams. It’s all part of the process.
–Are you tired of answering all the questions about the incident? Yeah, about the incident, I’ve said all I need to say about that. How I’m handling it going forward is doing what I’m doing, focusing on the moment, focusing on football and the combine. Not everybody gets this opportunity to be here. I’m sure there’s thousands and thousands of people who would like to be here in Indianapolis. Just trying to enjoy the moment.
–How much have you been asked about it by NFL teams? Quite a few teams asked me about it. Some go to certain lengths, some just ask me, ‘Just give me a brief overview of how it was’ then they get straight to business.
–Why didn’t you play well in the national championship game? That’s because I didn’t. That’s all on me. I played hard and so did my team, but Alabama had a great game plan and so did we. They executed better than we did.
–Was the other situation a distraction to you leading up to that game? No.
–Any teams not ask you about it? No (he laughs). They all ask me about it.
–What are they asking you? Just tell me the facts. They want to hear it from me. Just tell them basically what happened.
–Do you think it might hurt you? That I don’t know. That I don’t know.
–Could you summarize the facts? Just I care for somebody and that’s what I was taught to do. Ever since I was young if somebody needs help you help them out. Unfortunately it didn’t end up the way I thought it would.
–Why wait so long to say something? It was just a whirlwind of stuff. A 22-year-old, 21-year old at that time, just trying to get your thoughts right. Everybody was just kind of chaos for a little bit, so you let that chaos die down and wait until everybody’s ready to listen.
–Do you understand people might doubt your version of events because it took you so long? That I don’t know, people doubting because I took a while to come out. From our point of view we wanted everything to come out first and then have my side come out. The way we did I felt worked best for me. I’m very grateful for those who helped me to get through that time. I felt it went as smoothly as it could.
–Gotten sense from NFL people it might affect you in draft? No, not really. They’ve told me that … they’ve wanted to hear it from me what the truth was. They haven’t really said anything about it affecting me. Some guys just talk briefly for 30 seconds and the next 14 minutes is all plays and getting down to business. That’s how I prefer it to be.
–Do you worry how you’ll be treated in the locker room, trouble assuming a leadership role? No. I think I’ve learned the difference between the things I can control and the things I can’t control. And hopefully by doing the things I can control well I’ll have more favor in the other category. Whatever team I go to, I’m just going to be me, I’m going to work hard, I’m going to do my best to help the team win. And whatever happens happens.
–Can you believe the fascination like this? It’s pretty crazy. I’ve been in front of a few cameras, but not as many as this.
–What about when it came out, every news channel, lead story. You surprised? I was. It got overwhelming at times. The hardest part and I’ve said was just to see, not necessarily my first name, but my last name. Everybody here, you treasure your last name. That’s what you hold dear. That’s something that when you pass on, the only thing that stays with you, stays here is your last name. To see your last name everywhere and know I represented my family and all my cousins and aunties and uncles…
–Are you prepared to deal with this for the next couple years? Oh, yeah. For me, I hopefully I’m just looking forward to getting straight to football. I understand people have questions, but I’ve answered everything I could. For me I’d really like to talk about football.
–Had you planned to go to the Senior Bowl, did this change your mind? No. I didn’t get that far. I was still worrying about the national championship. I didn’t get that far.
–Why didn’t you attempt to go see a girl you cared so much about? I did. We made plans, obviously it didn’t work out.
–How many more teams do you expect to talk to and which ones? I don’t know, I’m not sure. I know I’ll be meeting formally with 18 more teams. I don’t know specifically who they are. I’ll find out soon. I’m meeting with 20 total.
–What are you telling teams you bring to the table as a player? I think what I bring to the table is a lot of heart, a lot of energy and somebody that works hard. Somebody who hates to lose. I always say, ‘I hate losing more than I love to win.’ The reason why I love to win is because I don’t have to go through that feeling of losing. It’s those times where I lose that feeling that will stick with me. For teams I tell them, ‘You’ll always get somebody who’s humble, works hard, doesn’t say much and will do everything it takes to win.’
–Have any lingering regret over all this? I could have done some things different, obviously, done a lot of things different to avoid all this stuff. But throughout my experience my senior year, I wouldn’t do anything different.
–Has this been embarrassing? Oh, definitely. For anybody to go through, it’s definitely embarrassing. When you’re walking through grocery stores and you’re kind of like giving people double-takes to see if they’re starting at you ,it’s definitely embarrassing. I guess it’s part of the process, it’s part of the journey. You know it’s only going to make me stronger and it definitely has.
–have you gotten past the point of being embarrassed about it? Oh, definitely. It definitely has gone. Obviously I’m here. If I was still embarrassed I wouldn’t be standing in front of you.
–Can you understand what NFL teams are trying to get at? Yeah, they want to be able to trust their player. You don’t want to invest in somebody you can’t trust. With everybody here, they’re just trying to get to know you, get to know you as a person and as a football player. I understand where they’re coming from.
–Does that make you feel you’ve got a hurdle to overcome in the honesty department? It could be a hurdle, but it could also be a great opportunity to show who you really are. That’s the way I’ve approached it and it’s been a great growing experience for me.
–What’s different about you now? For me I’ve learned just to be honest in anything and everything you do, from the big things to the small things. Secondly, to keep your circle very small and to understand who’s really in your corner and who’s not. I think going off of the season my team and I had, there’s a lot of people in our corner. Then when Jan. 16 happened, there’s a lot of people in the other corner. I just learned to appreciate the people that I have that are with me and to just make sure you always try to turn a negative thing into a positive.
–What’s been the toughest moment since all this came out? I think the toughest moment, to be honest with you, was a phone call that I got from my sister where she told me that they had to sneak my own family in their home because there were people parked out in the yard and stuff like that. That had to be the hardest part. And for me, something that I’ve always had a problem with is when I can’t do something about it; I can’t help. To know that my family was in this situation because of the actions I committed was definitely the hardest part for me.
–As a player what kind of challenges can you anticipate at the next level? The game gets even faster, a lot more complex. What I have to do as a player is I have to remember why I’m playing this game. It’s the same game I played when I was a little kid on the streets, same thing, football’s still the same shape. Obviously people are going to be professionals. This is where the best play. But as long as I don’t stray too far from who I am and what I believe in, I think the journey will be worth it.
–Players have been arrested, had drug issues, does it bother you that you’re under the same scrutiny as guys who have been in jail? Everybody makes mistakes and one of the positive things about what I went through is I’ve learned to empathize with those who are going through the same thing. Those who are going through some hard times, who are getting attention that they don’t necessarily want. It just taught me to always give somebody the benefit of the doubt and say, ‘You never know, you never know what’s going on with a person.’
–What about the difference between situations? That’s something I don’t believe I can comment on.
–Did you consider legal action against Ronaiah? I think that’s the worst thing you could do. Both families are going through chaos. There’s not only people camped out at my house, there’s people camped out at his house. I went through what I went through and he went through his own share of stuff. I think that’s the worst thing for me to do is to do that. Always try and forgive. If you forgive, you’ll get the majority of the blessings. I always try to forgive and it’s definitely benefited me.
–Are you dating anybody in real life? No, not right now.
–When your sister called about sneaking parents in, what was your emotion? Just why? It should never get that way. As people we have to realize that we’re all people, somebody is somebody’s son, somebody is somebody’s daughter. And I try to picture it that way. Would you want somebody doing that to your son? Would you want somebody doing that to your daughter? If not, why do it? Through this whole experience I’ve learned that. Since I’ve experienced it, the things I see, the things I do, I try to always think ‘That’s somebody/s son. That’s somebody/s daughter. That’s somebody’s mom, dad. Whatever I do try to base what I do off of that.
–Statement at end In closing, I’d like to thank everybody for being here. It’s been a hard but tremendous ride for me and my family and the University of Notre Dame. I’d like to thank my parents, my family, my friends, the University of Notre Dame and everybody who supports me. I couldn’t do it without all of you. Hopefully after this I answered the things I needed to answer and we can move on with football. So thank you, everybody.
- There’s virtually no chance the Rams will draft Te’o since they have no need for a MLB. It will be interesting to see where his stock ends up but at the end of the day, that will be determined not by the incident but by his play.
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- Georgia LB Alec Ogletree is considered one of the most purely talented players in this class. He’s also one of the most troubled. At Georgia, he was suspended for a positive drug test and just a little more than a week ago, was arrested on suspicion of DUI.
- While Ogletree is a top 10 physical talent, he’s got plenty of questions to answer about his antics. He answered some with the media and he’ll have more to answer with teams.
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 242
Q: Have you talked to any teams yet? And, have they asked about your DUI arrest in Arizona? A: Yes, I met with two teams yesterday and we had discussions. I met with the Eagles and the Chiefs.
Q: What did they ask about the arrests? A: It was just a private conversation that we had.
Q: What do teams what to know about your character? A: I’m a good person at heart. Everybody makes mistakes. I feel real bad about the situation. I’m learning from it and I’m moving forward.
Q: (inaudible) A: I don’t really know what it’s going to do. But, like I said, I feel bad about it and I’m very sorry about it. I just have to move forward and take whatever I get.
Q: You also were suspended in college for a positive drug test. How are you addressing that? A: Just by having a good interview. Being a good person and just letting them get to know me and see who I really am and not what they just hear about me.
Q: Talk about your move from safety to linebacker? A: I’ve only been playing linebacker two years. It was a great transition for me at Georgia. We were in a 3-4 and while playing my freshmen year as a safety, I was basically able to learn the defense. With the move in the Spring to linebacker basically helped me stay on top of things. The safety works closely with the linebackers. We had a great coach in Kirk Olivadotti. He taught me a lot and I’ve just been working at it.
Q: Do you feel fortunate that at this time the NFL needs guys who can play in space? How does that make you feel? A: It makes me feel good. I’m very comfortable with my skills. I think I’m very versatile. I can cover and come up against the run and hit. I can just fill the gap.
Q: (inaudible) A: Just fine. Just being a better person. Making better decisions with what I do and being accountable for my actions.
Q: What did you learn from your latest brush with the law? A: Just like I said, I have to be accountable and be responsible. Be a grown man and be accountable for my actions.
Q: Were you strictly an inside linebacker at Georgia? A: Yes.
Q: Can you play outside? A: Yes. I’m very versatile. I can come off the edge or play in the middle. It doesn’t really matter, but like I said, I’ve been playing middle linebacker and that’s all I know really.
Q: (Inaudible) A: All I know right now is middle linebacker.
Q: When you got to explain yourself to teams did you get the sense that they knew where you were coming from? A: Yes. It’s just. . . .everybody makes mistakes. It was a bad decision at the time. But like I said, I talked to the teams and we had good discussions about it.
Q: Do the teams believe this was just a mistake? A: I would hope so. I think so. Q: What all are they asking? Personal and football questions? A: It’s just a mixture of both.
Q: Are you concerned that this happened so close to the combine? A: It doesn’t really matter when it happened. It happened. Like I said, I hate that it happened. I feel bad about it. But you know, I have to move forward.
Q: What teams have you met with? A: The Eagles and the Chiefs.
Q: Did your style work when playing against mobile quarterbacks? A: Yes, I think that’s a big part of my game. I like to play sideline to sideline. I try to use my speed to my advantage. When I can strike somebody, I do that.
Q: Are there any starting quarterbacks in the NFL that you played against when at Georgia? A: None actually. Well, I did play against Cam Newton, the one year he was at Auburn I was a freshman.
Q: Does having a guy like Jarvis Jones from Georgia at the combine help you? A: We talk. I support him. I know he’s a good person. He has his things and I have my things.
Q: Do you think you’re better playing against a quarterback who is pocket guy or playing against a quarterback who is a mobile guy, who might break out of the pocket? A: I feel good at either one. The quarterback that sits in the pocket is kind of like a sitting duck. The person that moves, I can use my speed to stay with him.
- The Rams could use help at OLB, especially an athlete of Ogletree’s caliber. He’d be an excellent fit as a 4-3 OLB, whether he’d play WIL with Jo-Lonn Dunbar moving to SLB or at SLB. He’d give the Rams a guy to chase down the running games and top QB threats like Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. But he’s going to have to prove to the Rams – and every team – that he’s mature enough to make the transition to the NFL and can handle the responsibilities that go with it.
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- Maybe no players are having more fun here this week than the LSU contingent. After all, there are 13 of ‘em here and they all seem to have some positive buzz heading toward the draft. Topping that list is ultra athletic but raw DE/LB Barkevious Mingo.
- Mingo and DE Sam Montgomery are in competition with just about everything and Montgomery didn’t hesitate to interfere with his press conference and have a little fun.
- Here’s the transcript of that conversation and more:
6-4, 241 pounds
(On bets with Sam Montgomery) We’ve had quite a few bets in our career. I think our first one was the first sack for the season. He was supposed to wash my car because I won, and he hasn’t done that. Then, we have most sacks in the season and on down the line. Bet on who gets drafted first That’s the latest one. I’m pretty confident in myself. He’s gonna have to come with that one, and I get a car wash.
Playing as a 3-4 LB
I think so. A lot of coaches have been talking to me about both positions. I feel comfortable playing either.
On playing against mobile Qbs
We play a lot more quarterbacks that can use their feet as well as their arms. We’re asked to keep them in the pocket and not let them loose and us lose contain and let them have big runs. Numerous times, a guy won the Heisman (Johnny Manzell) because people would lose contain. Our focus when we played those guys was to keep them in the pocket and collapse it and just put a little pressure on them that way instead of taking shots at them.
Advantage of having defended mobile QB
I think it gives us a great advantage. Having played against guys like Johnny Manzell and Keith Price, they’re unpredictable and playing against that in a game is valuable. You can’t practice playing with a mobile quarterback, and it’s gonna translate to the next level. Were his numbers better in 2011 I don’t know about overall stats. I know I had more sacks last year. Like I said, we kind of contain rushed a lot of teams to not let them get outside the pocket. It kind of took away from what we wanted to do, but it helped the team and helped us win.
Comparison to Bruce Irvin
Honestly, I’ve never watched him play. I think when we played them when he was at West Virginia, he was a safety. So I really can’t answer that question
Play more up or down at LSU
Down. We dropped several times a game, were still up sometimes. It’s all football.
How about against the run
We all did that too. It’s football.
Pass coverage? We covered backs, we covered tight ends. We did it all.
What separates him from other ends in draft (asked by Montgomery)
I think my speed separates me from every other guy in this draft. I’m a fast guy and I’ve got a quick first step and I like getting to the quarterback.
Will he do everything at combine
I’m gonna do all the drills,the 40 and all that kind of stuff.
History behind first name My mom just kind of threw it together and wrote it on the birth certificate.
Brother named Hughtavius
Too light to play end?
That’s been brought up. My main focus in the off-season is to put on weight. I put on 15 pounds and I’m still as quick as I ever was. Still the same first step, and I think I can add more, so it’s not an issue. I don’t think it will be a problem.
Fact that 13 LSU guys are at combine
Not only does (Les Miles) do a great job recruiting, he also does a good job developing his players and also bringing in coaches that help us grow as athletes. The staff at LSU was second to none and they all got us ready to play.
On gaining weight (asked by Montgomery) Maintaining my speed and gaining weight are the goals that I have. Any questions for Montgomery Why are you here. Go home. Go eat.
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- Oregon was known for offense under Chip Kelly but one defensive player is the guy who is making the most noise in the build up to this year’s NFL Draft. He’s DL/LB Dion Jordan.
- Jordan is considered one of the elite pass rushers in this draft and believes he’s ready for the NFL at either OLB in a 3-4 or DE in a 4-3. Here’s his thoughts on that and more.
(talking about his shoulder) … I’m going to have surgery as soon as I leave here. I’m doing everything I can to make sure I can compete with these guys coming Monday.
(what been able to do? Light weight. I’ve done different things, I’ve worked out hard. Modified weight. I’ve done everything I can to make sure I can weigh in. I weighed in pretty big today, I feel light at 248.
(What did you measure again?) My height was 6-6 1 /2 and my weight was 248.
(Is that your playing weight?) my playing weight was close to 240 at the university.
(You started your career on offense?) Not at all. I understood that that was the best opportunity for me to get on the football field, so I took it. Coach Kelly and my position coach, Coach (Jerry) Azzinaro, they had a plan for me and I stuck with it. And things worked out for the best for me.
(A lot of guys go to Oregon because they love the offense) Man, I imagined myself running down the field, catching the ball from Darron Thomas or Mariota but things don’t work out that way. You’ve got to adjust. I adjusted and I took the opportunity and ran with it.
(do you look back now and see yourself as a natural defensive player) Yeah, I would rather do the hitting than get hit. It’s a lot better.
(you’ve lined up everywhere, you’ve had your hand in the dirt, you’ve covered slot receivers, What do you bring to the NFL?) Pass rush. I feel like me lining up all over the field on defense shows my athleticism, shows that I understand the game and that I did a lot for the university. But my whole thing is getting after the quarterback, so pass rush would be my No. 1.
(People said you were a different kind of athlete. What does that mean, ya think?) I think it just shows that I have the ability to, I understand the game, I understand defenses because I played on the offensive side of the ball, I understand a lot of the offensive schemes also. So it plays to my abilities, just understanding a lot of little things and just my size, a 6-7 outside linebacker is kind of unique, I feel like.
(when is your surgery) Next week I’m getting my shoulder taken care of. In Los Angeles at the Kerlan-Jobe center.
(what are you looking at coming out of that surgery) Give me about 3-4 months as far as my rehab. I’m going to attack my rehab after the surgery as hard as I did before, just to make sure I’m able to show up to camp and compete with all the other guys.
(is it your labrum? Your rotator cuff? ) It’s a labrum. A labrum injury.
(how’d you hurt it) No, it wasn’t the 2-point conversion. I hurt myself the middle of our season, Colorado game, and it was just an unfortunate event. I went and made a tackle the wrong way. They say you shouldn’t arm tackle and I got the worst of it. But you know, I’ve dealt with it, I only missed one game last season, I dealt with it, and I feel like it shows my toughness, that I finished the season, I stayed true to my team and I made sure as a leader, as a senior of our team, it shows I’m willing to win and do what it takes to compete.
(More on Chip’s offense) In the NFL, it takes good defense to win. You know? You can have the best offense and all the talent you want on the offensive side of the ball, but it takes good defense to win. Somebody’s got to stop the guys on the other side. I understand that, I understood that at our level, the college level. We had to have a good defense and we developed and we got much better and we supported coach Kelly’s offense and I’m pretty sure he understands that now.
(What’s it like to practice against that offensive tempo in practice?) It’s unique. As a defensive player, keeping up with guys like a Kenjon Barner, chasing him down the field, or LaMichael James or even a DeAnthony Thomas, those guys are very special. As a defensive player, being able to keep up with those guys Monday through Friday, when we get to the game on Saturday, it’s pretty easy for us as far as the game speed. I’m used to that type of tempo.
(Will it be different only having a couple of uniform options?) It’ll be much better. I won’t have to deal with a lot of questions about what’s your favorite uniform.
(“So what was your favorite uniform?”) I enjoyed the throwback uniforms. Something different. It was always unique.
(3-4 teams more interested in you or what?) I get a lot of talk from 3-4 defenses, mainly because that’s what I played at the college level and it’s the best spot to utilize my athleticism.
(potential as a pass-rusher) It shows my athleticism. It shows that like I said I can line up all over the field and get after the quarterback, it shows that I understand defense, just adjusting to the defense on the fly, and just my speed. Just having the speed to come off the edge every play. I never came off the field. I was all three downs, even four downs if you needed
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- Georgia LB/pass rusher extraordinaire Jarvis Jones might be one of the most talented players in the draft, perhaps even the most talented. But for reasons out of his control, his stock is all over the place.
- Jones has spinal stenosis, a condition that isn’t necessarily career threatening but is viewed in different ways by different teams. In fact, Rams LB coach Frank Bush’s career ended from a similar condition but medicine has advanced quite a bit since then.
- Jones answered questions about his condition and how he’s handling the relentless medical queries.
I’m healthy right now.
(said he won’t be participating in any of the drills at the combine) our main focus was the come here and visit with all the doctors so all the doctors can see me. Take all the tests I can that they needed me to take so that they can see that I’m healthy.
(spinal stenosis) I have a slight narrowing in my spine between the C4 and C5 (vertabaes). Like pretty much everybody – probably some of y’all have spinal stenosis and don’t know it – I have it. But most of the doctors checked me out and feel that I’m fine. I don’t have any contusion or anything like that in it. I only had one incident. A stinger at USC in ’09, my freshman year. I never had any symptoms after that. I played 2 years of SEC football, red-shirted, practiced every day, never had any symptoms. So I feel that I’m healthy. The doctors felt that I was healthy today. So I’m excited.
(medical exam by docs at combine)
everybody saw me. Everybody pulled at me and yanked on e today. They understand where it is. We haven’t gotten any final word or anything but I feel real good about today.
(any concern about playing with it) Not at all. Anybody who steps on that field has a chance of getting hurt. If you think about it like that, nobody would ever play football. For me, I’m just taking advantage of the opportunity. I love this game. I’m passionate about it. I know that I’ve got to be careful about my technique and how I play this game. Therefore, I do the extra stuff to protect my neck, to protect my shoulders. I saw a lot of doctors today and they weren’t too concerned about what they saw. They thought I was fine. I don’t know how people, how the coaches feel about taking me, but I think I’m fine. I heard a lot of good news today. So I’m excited.
(being diagnosed with spinal stenosis in ’09 when he was a freshman at USC) I really didn’t know what it was. I was a freshman. They were just telling me I can’t play football no more. Eight games out of high school it was deveastating. It was kind of heartbreaking for me, being 2,000 miles from home. I went to USC to play football, and for them to tell me I couldn’t, I was a bit lost.
(how did you then end up playing at Georgia) I got a couple of spine specialists to clear me. Went to UGA. Took a visit there. Took some medical tests there. Spent whole day with coach Richt and the medical staff taking tests all day. Passed every one of my tests. They sent down my medical information to other spine specialists. They thought I was fine. My whole redshirt year, I did the rehab stuff to protect myself. Building up my neck. Building up my shoulders. Building up my technique on the field. Keeping my head up when I hit. I did a great job of it.
(are nfl teams more afraid of your condition shortening your career rather than your ability to play with or hurting yourself permanently?) I’m going to continue to do what I can to protect myself. I’ve got to be in the weight room more, to keep building up my neck, keep building up my shoulders. There are some great doctors out there. They know if I shouldn’t be playing this game, I should’ve stopped a long time ago. Because my MRIs, from the day it happened to today, it hasn’t gotten any worse. It still looks the same. So that’s good.
(your response when teams ask you what you can bring to their team) I feel like I’m an impact player. I make plays. I love the game of football. I’m a great leader. Not so much a vocal leader, but showing. I think I bring versatility to the team. I can play SAM linebacker. I can play WILL linebacker. I can play 4-3. I can play a 3-4. I’m just gonna get after you. I’m gonna get after the QB every play.
(comfort level with 4-3) I am comfortable in 4-3. I love player OLB in the 4-3. I thought coach (Todd) Grantham (UGA defensive coordinator) did a great job of using me in college. Having me pass rush 95 percent of the time. I got real comfortable in the 2 years I played in it.
(Sheldon richardson’s comments about Georgia playing old-man football) That was an exciting game for us. Him saying that, coach Richt and the coaching staff brought it back to us because we really didn’t hear it. We took it as an insult and we went out there and played. It was an exciting game. We finished strong in that game. Since we’ve been here, the man (Richardson) is amazing. I like him. He’s got a great sense of humor. Glad he got a chance to come here and show his talent.
(where do you think you’ll get taken) I don’t know. Hopefully I’ll go No. 1.
(what makes you such a good pass rusher) I’m a student of the game. I prepare well. I know what’s going on. I recognize formations. I find tendencies. I look at the small things that help me to play fast, play 100 percent the whole game and be relentless and just get after the ball. Letting the game come to me. Once you understand formations and recognize personnel, it allows you to play faster.
(more on his condition and what effect it will have on where he gets drafted, et al) there a lot of things I just can’t control. I’m just gonna stay prayed up about it. I think I have a great supporting cast from my family and my friends. We’re doing a great job right now of getting to the doctors and asking the right questions and doing everything they want me to do. I just gotta sit and wait now.
(what would you be doing if nobody had cleared you in ’09) Just getting my degree. Basically, I want to be a coach. I want to be a mentor. I think I have a great story. Youth look up to me daily. I think I can be a change in their lives. I think I can help people.
(anybody in your family concerned about playing with condition) No, not at all. If the doctors told me I couldn’t play today, I think I’ve had a great run and I would just take it for what it’s worth. It would hurt me (not to play). I love this game. I’m passionate about this game. But I’d rather walk and enjoy myself and my family then not be able to walk away from this game.
(how long was your medical exam today) I’ve been here since 8 this morning (It’s now 5). So, you get the picture. I got MRIs. Had different teams pulling on me, jerking on me, asking me questions. Just going through that all day long.
(when do you expect to get the results)
I really don’t know. Hopefully before I leave here or sometime this week.
(what would you tell people about your story and what they can learn from it?)
It’s amazing just coming from where I’ve come from. From not being able to play (in ’09) to having the opportunity to play (in nfl) and maximize my ability. I had a great season at Georgia. I love every minute of it. I loved my teammates, the fans there. One of my favorite quotes is, it’s not how you drive, it’s how you arrive. No matter where you’ve come from or no matter what you’re going through, if you stay focused and stay confident, you can always be what you want to be.
- It’s unknown how the Rams feel about Jones but there is a chance his condition could cause him to slide. Most believe he’s a fit more in a 3-4 defense because of his ability to rush the passer. But what if he could play SLB? Wouldn’t he be an intriguing option for the Rams in that spot? Imagine a defense with pass rushers like Robert Quinn and Chris Long with a guy like Jones on the edge? That would have to be awfully tempting for the Rams, depending on how they view his medical status.
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- Rutgers LB Khaseem Greene is the type of athletic, fast, sideline to sideline linebacker that teams covet in today’s NFL as more and more running quarterbacks enter the league.
- Greene gave his thoughts on that and how he fits into the league and much more.
How many meetings have you had so far?
I can’t remember, man. But with the way everything was going, I can’t really remember. I know I went in there almost 9 o’clock and didn’t leave until 11, when they stopped.
How about the transition from defensive end?
It came about when I signed my letter of intent. Coach Schiano told me the bigger I got the closer I’d get to the ball. He basically held true. My redshirt-sophomore year, I was 228 playing safety, 225-228 that season. And coach brought me down in springtime and said, ‘We want to get some speed in different areas of the defense, so we’re thinking about moving you to Will and moving a different guy to safety.’ At first, I was kind of selfish because I really liked playing safety. So I was like iffy about it. But we came to an agreement. Coach told me to try it for a week. And after the second day I fell in love with it. It was a blessing in disguise for me to go back to linebacker and play linebacker in college.
Defenses in this league are desperate for linebackers that can cover with the advent of all these spread offenses. Can you see it now as a blessing?
Definitely. I don’t know where I’d be right now if I stayed at safety. I don’t know if the opportunity to contribute in the way that I did at Rutgers would have come about. But I’m definitely blessed and I’m glad coach Schiano saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself and made the switch.
Are teams seeing you as that Will backer?
Yeah. I’ve talked to a lot of teams, playing Will. Playing inside in the 3-4, so I mean I’d just rather do well this week and see how the draft goes. I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited about it.
In a 4-3, can you play Sam also?
I could play anything. If a coach told me to punt the ball, I’d learn how to do it, just to be successful and make a team. I can see myself playing Sam, Mike, Will — whatever coach needs me to do or wants me to do, I’m going to work my hardest to be the best at it.
There are bigger linebackers. How can you as a former safety, can you alleviate concerns that you can take the pounding in the NFL with linemen coming after you?
Yeah, I feel I can take the pounding. At the same time, I’m fast. So lineman will have to catch me or get up to me. It’s not about one guy. I will have teammates. I’ve played linebacker for the last two years. I’ve played against some really big boys — 120-plus tackles for two seasons. I take care of my body. I’ll be able to take anything that’s coming for me.
Do you get any indication the NFL teams see you as a 3-4 or 4-3 guy?
Nah, I don’t have any indications. Teams ask me what scheme I play in and then they ask me if I can play in this? or Do I see myself playing inside. I see myself doing whatever a team wants me to do. Whether that’s inside, outside, Will, whatever position it is, I can see myself playing. I think it helps me from the fact that I have coverage skills, that’s something that just comes natural to me. I can work on my coverage skills, but they’re definitely there already. It’s not something I have to work hard to develop or anything like that.
What did you measure in at?
6-0 — 241 pounds.
- The Rams could use help at OLB, particularly in the NFC West where they take on Kaepernick and Wilson four times a year. They got great production from Jo-Lonn Dunbar last year but they could use another speedy OLB who can play sideline to sideline. Greene projects as a WIL back, the spot Dunbar played last year but it wouldn’t a stretch to see them grab a player like Greene in round 2 and slide Dunbar over to SLB. I’ll have more on these LBs in a story for the homepage later today.
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