Opening statement:"This is my 21st Combine and honestly I never get tired and continue to be ramped up by the thought of the new and improving additions to our team. Going into 2010 for Atlanta, no question we have a lot of work to do. I think where we need the most improvement is on the side of consistency and we've talked about that last year. That was the one element I think we were lacking across the board. I think there's room for evaluation at every level, myself included and we're looking forward to continuing to improve and this is a great place for us to start."
On the Combine through Saturday:"This is always the best part. Leading up to this time it drags on a little bit at the beginning of the Combine. When you actually get a chance to put your eyes on some of these athletes juxtaposed with other athletes around the country. Seeing them move around. How they actually perform in those drills. Again it's not competition on the field with pads on. But you really get a chance to truly see how these players are going to move. See them live and in person. We get a chance over the last few days and going forward to interview these guys as well. It really starts to pull things together as far as our draft board."
On trading in the first round:"My feeling has always been that it's totally contingent on the draft. It depends on where we are, the type of player we're looking for, the strength at a certain position. That's what really determines whether we will trade down, or back, or even out of the first round. I will tell you it's almost like going into a holiday season expecting a gift. And moving out of the first round and not having that prime gift is pretty difficult, at least for me. All the work you do as a scouting staff and as an organization, walking away without a first-round pick seems anticlimactic. I would venture to say you'll rarely see that with me, but you know how things go. Things could change depending on the talent that's there and what we're looking for. "
On taking calls to trade out of No. 3 in 2008:"We didn't field that many. We had a couple of teams that were interested. Interestingly enough, we just flipped yesterday and we acquired 19 over 20, which was big for us. Obviously it's nowhere near the comparison when we ended up getting No. 3. We probably wouldn't have Matt Ryan on our team if we didn't have the good fortune to flip for the third pick. That pick, there were some teams that were interested in a quarterback acquisition. For us we knew we had to stand pat and hopefully acquire a quarterback. There really was not that much action on the third. It's a high-dollar pick obviously and you have to have an owner that's understanding as far as putting that sort of money out."
On reluctance to trade in the first round:"Every year you have a lot of people that inquire about having someone move up into the single-digit picks and a lot of times we'll avoid that and try to get into the mid-round or right around the 20's. Fortunately that's where we are this year and I had the good fortune over the years to be involved with the Patriots and we were right around that area. It's a very good value in the draft. I personally feel quite comfortable being in that area and picking in that area."
On the thought process at No.3:"That took a lot of time and a lot of effort and consideration. We thought often about should we try to move back. Again, as we really looked at that, knowing that there was a quarterback there that we thought we were very comfortable with, it wasn't as difficult. Other positions, interestingly enough, defensive line, you can make a lot of mistakes throughout the history of the drafts on defensive line that early as well. That happened to be the other position that we were seriously considering. So, again we have had the good fortune, at least to date, and we feel confident that we are moving in the right direction with Matt Ryan. After all is said and done on that pick, we feel comfortable with what we did."
On restricted free agency this offseason:"I believe there's going to be probably that much more contemplation. To see who actually pulls the trigger will be very, very interesting. I think people want to see obviously what comes up in the tenders and I think it will be an interesting dynamic to see who's going to be moving during that time. I think, again, there will be a lot more interest. I'll be interested to see how many people really do go after it."
On free agency landscape this offseason:"Well I've gone around and around about that leading into this part of the preparation time. There aren't that many players out there, as we all know, given the dynamic of what we call the U/R's right now, given the CBA. I think in the past we would have seen a lot more numbers out there and we would have been contemplating about when March 5 came around, let's jump in here and we're going to be really, really busy during that time. I sense, at least speaking from our team, we are a lot more focused seemingly this year on draft preparation earlier. Usually we take this in cycles and segments, we often refer to them, and this was definitely a free agent segment leading up to the beginning of free agency. Now we tend to be focusing on the draft that much earlier. I will be interested to see how much interest there is going into free agency with the fewer numbers. I think there are some really good players out there but again, personally, we'll really kick that off on the 5th of March."
On Julius Peppers:"As I said when the 5th comes around and we're ready to focus on free agency—really, really focus on it—we will be open to considering any possibilities. We will research it hard. That's part of our job to make sure we evaluate all the players that are of interest to us and who we deem as good, fiscally responsible moves. That's going to be an important thing for us as a team. Not to be evasive about a certain player that was brought up. We need to improve in a lot of different areas. We feel the arrow is heading in the right direction and we're heading in the right direction, but we're always looking to upgrade our talent at every position. I'd probably say devoid of the quarterback position. We have a lot of work to do and we're going to continue to build and we'll approach free agency on the 5th.
On balancing the 2010 draft class:"No question, last year I stood up here and I was very forthcoming with our draft philosophy and our approach. Some of the draft historians, if you really looked at the draft history, I don't know how many teams were that lopsided in the draft in the past. I'd be interested to dig into that. First time I've ever been involved with virtually every one but one, we took Garrett Reynolds in the 5th round last year. Everything else happened to be defensive driven. That will not be the case this year. Both sides will be considered. That very first year we really spent a lot of time on the offense. We acquired some free agents and we acquired some draft picks. Last year we were really focused on having a younger defense, getting more urgent, speedier, and younger. We're looking forward to this defense growing and evolving into that three-, four-, five-year group. With that said, we'll still continue to look and improve in certain areas. But I believe it's now focused on both sides of the ball because as you all know you tend to get older and you tend to look at contract situations in the future. We have to make sure we are building for sustainability and not just for the single year. And we feel we are continuing to do that."
On Harry Douglas:"When we drafted Harry a couple of years ago, ou
r expectations, having come from New England, were to have a player that was reminiscent of Wes Welker, slot inside, juxtaposed with two, big, tall wide receivers in Roddy White and Mike Jenkins and have that underneath guy. Quite honestly, we thought about that and were excited about that. We bring in Tony Gonzalez inside as well. And have Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood running the rock. We thought we had a lot of fire power there. So we're getting back to thinking that we're going to return to that idea this year. Hopefully if we can stay healthy, we're excited about our possibilities of producing on offense."
On tendering Jerious Norwood:"We'll make that decision right before the 5th."
On New England's former coaches and general managers around the league:"I was up there arguing with (Scott) Pioli actually, we happen to have suites right beside each other, and we were just talking about that very thing. How you take all that you've learned from a certain organization, like New England, and the success we had. We tend to talk about that often, whether it's on the trade side of things or whether it's acquisition side. We do a little bit of busting on each other, no question about it. Especially if we feel like the other person cut around the back to try to get something taken care of. But we're usually pretty good. I maintain that this league is about having a handful of allies and it's very important. I think there's a good group of us that have moved on from New England that have taken care of business in the right way. We've created and maintained some very good allies and relationships to be able to do business, like we did last year with Tony Gonzalez with Kansas City."
On New England's influence around the league:"Bill Belichick does a fantastic job of realizing and understanding personnel matchups. Just when you think you have it figured it out, he'll come up with a Julian Edelman. Before you know it you're scratching your head thinking 'We didn't have that guy. He was a quarterback wasn't he?' I think he always tends to come up with something special so I think he'll always figure something out. So I don't think there will be that much of a lack of talent around."
On restricted free agent decisions:"I don't think it's that difficult. We were very calculated in our thought process of let's go through the whole process here. Let's get to the Combine and let's see exactly what we have out here one last time before we make the decision. To me, that's taking the whole body of work into consideration. We've been through the whole season, the in-season scouting that we referred to in the fall, as well as the All-Star season, and now we're here. We get a chance to interview these players and then make a true decision at the end of this whole process and feel good and be able to look ourselves in the mirror and say 'Ok, we gave this 100 percent consideration before we decided to tender a player a certain tender.'"
On Chris Owens:"Chris has done a really good job for us. We drafted him in the third round. For whoever has looked at him, he's a feisty football player. He's fast. He's got very nice ball skills and he'll come up. For a smaller guy, he's a very aggressive football player. We brought him in thinking that he was going to evolve into a No. 3, possibly, and you never know with the way that corners are in this league, to be a No. 2. Fortunately for us toward the end of the season he really stood up. He took some lumps along the way like a lot of corners do early, but what he has is a real knack for getting close to the ball as well. We're excited about his possibilities going forward. I will tell you, he has a presence about him there and a swagger about him, that for a young guy, we're excited about his evolution."
On Bill Belichick's decisions:"I never second guess Coach Belichick's approach. I understand that seems probably out of the norm, but he's got a plan always and as we all know he's very calculated with his decisions. I'm not one to sit up here and sort of judge what they're doing or any other team. This is about our team obviously. I know right now we're in a growing stage, and I'm fortunate, speaking of coordinators, that we have an opportunity to maintain for Matt Ryan, Mike Mularkey. Going into our third year it's very important. We just re-signed Brian VanGorder and we're excited about having him continue to be a solid force on the defense, a young defense. For us, and for Mike Smith, our coordinators having a very sound and solid background in the league is very, very important.
On the structure of contracts in an uncapped season:"Well I think we're going to be creative with our contracts no question about it, but that's what this league is about. I think it's really taking in consideration the uncertainty and I'll be interested, honestly, to see how we end up doing a lot of contracts going forward. That's going to yet to be seen, but no question you're going to consider everything that's out there as far as the uncertainty, as far as constructing those contracts."
On a potential lockout's effect on contracts:"I think we're just sitting back here, from our perspective, because obviously the league is taking care of what they need to take care of as far as the CBA. Again, I don't mean to sound evasive about it. That's their business, I'm sure they do a fantastic job in getting it taken care of. We can only project as far as what we're going to do. I'm not speaking for any other team; I'm just speaking for us. I just know that we're going to be very fiscally responsible going forward."
On offseason training:"I have the discussion about the number of games in a season as well as OTAs and practice situations with Mike Smith all the time. Our feeling is always it can happen, it's just a matter of if it's uniform and everyone has to deal with it then it's fair, obviously. It's not going to be something where one team's going to get 15 (practices) and someone else is going to get 12. If we're all underneath the equal playing field, then I don't think it's that big of an issue. Yes, everyone would like to have 25 practices, but I think as long as it's the right thing, we train people correctly, we approach the practices the way we are—no contact—and we're smart about how we train our guys, I think you can get by with being mindful of curtailing and cutting back a little bit. We already have. We've kind of gone back and forth with it. As a co-architect of this team with Mike Smith, it's not something that we're complaining about in the sense of how are we going to get through this and woe is us. This is about this is the way it's going to be and eventually it's going to continue to be this way. Let's deal with it. Let's figure out how we're going to take care of business and move forward."
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