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Interviews | The DC Times - Part 2

The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football


NFC East Rundown, Washington Redskins: Is Donovan McNabb Enough?

The first installment of our “NFC East Rundown” Series featured the outlook for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010.  For the second part of the series (Washington Redskins), I spoke with Kevin Ewoldt, the Managing Editor of HogsHaven.com.

Q: What will be the biggest changes under new coach Mike Shanahan?

First and foremost, Shanahan did what the Redskins failed to do the last 10 years: address the offensive line. From 2000-2009, the Redskins drafted a measly total of eight offensive linemen. Two of those picks never played a snap for the Redskins and five of them, including Samuels, are no longer in the league today. Shanahan drafted three offensive linemen in this draft alone, and he was missing 2nd, 3rd, and 6th round picks to boot.

The other major change is the negotiations. The Redskins were always a team to jump the gun in trade talks. They were always giving away high draft picks or more than they should. It’s clear those days are over. The Burgundy and Gold received Jammal Brown for a conditional 3rd/4th round pick next year AND the Redskins got back a late round pick from the Saints.

In their trade with the St. Louis Rams, the Redskins acquired former 1st round pick, Adam Carriker, for essentially swapping their 5th and 7th round picks. In short, Shanahan always makes sure he gets something back.

Q: What sort of impact do you expect from Donovan McNabb?

Huge. Jason Campbell was a nice guy, his teammates liked him, but he was not a leader. The Redskins players were instantly thrilled when the trade went down, and it’s clear in their interviews his experience shows in the huddle. Campbell wasn’t allowed to audible, so imagine the problems that brings.

With McNabb, the Redskins have a true veteran with an intimate knowledge of the NFC East division. The Redskins averaged 16.7 points last year. I haven’t found a way that average doesn’t go up at least three points a game next season.

Q: The ‘Skins drafted OT Trent Williams in the first round and traded for another tackle in Jammal Brown. Which player is going to play on the left side?

Trent Williams will play left tackle. He’s inked in to be the left tackle the next 10 years, so they might as well get him going on it. Jammal Brown hasn’t played right tackle since college, but he said he’s ready for it and will adjust.  He’s coming off a sports hernia, but he is 100 percent and it appears the Redskins have book-end tackles for the next several years.

Q: Owner Daniel Snyder is always keen on bringing in veteran players, even if it means yielding future draft picks. Do you see a difference in how this task was performed this year under coach Shanahan? Who was more in charge of the trades and signings, Snyder or Shanahan?

Shanahan is 100 percent running this show. When Al Davis fired Mike in 1989, Shanahan vowed he’d never accept another head coaching job unless he had FULL control of his staff, personnel, and players. When Pat Bowlen announced Mike Shanahan as the new Broncos coach, he declared Mike had the full control. Twenty-one years and two Super Bowls later, you think Shanny would hand that power back over to the likes of anyone, much less Snyder?  No chance.  And the quality of roster moves prove it.

Q: The Redskins signed Willie Parker and Larry Johnson to help Clinton Portis carry the load at running back. Who is going to start and who will play 3rd downs? How do you see the touches being distributed? Will Parker even make the team?

Portis will be the 3rd down back. Larry Johnson has impressed so far. A friend of mine attended Willie Parker’s workouts this off-season at UNC and said he’s in the best shape of his life and running a sub 4.4.

I don’t know how many running backs the Redskins can carry that don’t play special teams, though. None of the three aforementioned do and that’s a problem. This problem (a good one to have) exemplifies what Shanahan has brought to the Redskins. Competition. No one’s job is safe, and Portis has been at EVERY single off-season practice. The Redskins are a team again.

Q: Do you envision Washington using safety Laron Landry differently this season? If so, how?

Towards the end of the year they finally moved Laron back to strong safety. It was agonizing to see how long they left him at free safety.  Jim Haslett said he plans to use Laron close to the line of scrimmage, which is exactly where he belongs with his size and speed. He actually even bulked up more this year. He looks like a linebacker.

Q: Tight end Fred Davis showed a lot of talent last season after Chris Cooley went down. Is there any chance that Davis can beat out Cooley in camp? Will the Redskins use more two-tight end sets this season?

It’s unlikely Fred will beat out Cooley, but both will see a lot of action. Shanhan uses 2 TE sets 25 percent of the time, and both are too good not to have on the field. Mike is not happy with the wide receiver situation at all, which was evident when he had a whopping 12 receivers at the last minicamp.

Bruce Allen and Mike have also inquired to the Bolts about Vincent Jackson. Malcolm Kelly hasn’t proven anything, so the WR situation has a lot of Redskins fans concerned. McNabb, however, has had far worse talent than this in Philly, so I’m not too beat up about it.

Q: Albert Haynesworth has obviously caused a lot of drama this offseason. Will he be on the squad by opening day?

Fat Albert. What a waste. He’s getting KILLED in the media down here on a daily basis by ex-Redskins Hall of Famers, current players, the local priests, everyone you can imagine.  He really is a pinata.

Shanahan is a hard-nosed guy and it would set a horrible example if he let Haynesworth get away with playing after skipping all of his camps. Since Albert has been this lazy so far, I don’t see how he shows up to training camp in shape. He has yet to even open Haslett’s playbook, so I don’t see how this works out well. London Fletcher, the heart and soul of the Redskins, called him ‘selfish.’  How can the team welcome him back after all this?

Q: Any final NFC East standings prediction?

Dallas: 10-6 (1st round exit in playoffs)

Redskins: 8-8 (Injuries hit again given our older roster)

Eagles: 8-8 (The two games Kolb started were against the Saints and Chiefs, and he threw 3 INTs vs the Saints. I’m not buying into his success.)

Giants: 7-9 (Nothing they did this off-season impressed me.)

I’m telling you now the Redskins will win Week One. Shanahan is a perfectionist and has been watching Cowboys game film since he took the job. Plus, of course, it’ll probably be the only week of the year every Redskin is healthy.


NFC East Rundown, Philadelphia Eagles: Is Kevin Kolb Ready?

Instead of doing a fairly sh***y (excsuse my language, but hey, that word could be “shoddy” for all you know) job reporting on the happenings from around the NFC East, I figured it would be best to speak with the people who actually cover the opposition.

For today’s installment of our three-part “NFC East Rundown” Series, I spoke with Jason B. of BleedingGreenNation.com to get the latest scoop on the Philadelphia Eagles.

Q:  Obviously a lot of the Eagles’ success this year will ride on Kevin Kolb.  How has he looked thus far in offseason workouts?

The reports on Kolb in the offseason workouts have been great. Everyone from Ron Jaworkski, Dick Vermeil, to all the local reporters have remarked on how crisp and accurate he is. All the young weapons on the Eagles offense have nothing but good stuff to say as well and seem genuinely excited about playing with a young quarterback. They collectively see themselves as the next generation and seem really anxious to show that they can play with each other.

Q: There are obviously a ton of weapons for Kolb on the offense, but how important will it be for him to limit his turnovers? Do you think he is at the point where he could perhaps pass on a big play opportunity in favor or protecting the ball?

We have so little game tape on Kolb to go on that it’s hard to make a lot of evaluations or predictions. Of course it’s always important for a young quarterback to limit turnovers and in Kolb’s two career starts we saw evidence of good and bad. There were instances in the New Orleans game where didn’t appear to see a roving safety, but there were plays in both that game and the Kansas City game where he smartly threw a ball away when nothing was there.

I do think it’s safe to say he’ll try to fit passes in places McNabb wouldn’t and that may very well lead to more turnovers than McNabb had. . .but given that McNabb was one of the most stingy quarterbacks in terms of turnovers in NFL history, that prediction is not much of a stretch.

Q: With Brian Westbrook gone, do the Eagles have enough firepower in the backfield to last the entire season? Is LeSean McCoy capable of handling 25 touches a game?

Well, Brian Westbrook was effectively gone last year, so we got a preview of what the backfield looks like without him then. LeSean McCoy had a solid rookie year finishing 3rd among rookie backs in yardage and Leonard Weaver was a pleasant surprise.

McCoy, who was a workhorse at Pitt, looks set to be the #1 guy. He needs to improve his pass blocking and there’s some ball security questions, but overall there’s really no reason to think he can’t handle a lot of touches at the pro level.

Former Saint Mike Bell will likely be McCoy’s primary backup. Bell actually led the Saints in carries last year and is considered a dependable backup/depth guy. The team also picked up power back Charles Scott from LSU in the draft this year.

Like I’ve said before, it’s not talent that will hold back the Eagles running game this year. . . it’s Andy Reid. I really think he’s got the horses to have a solid running game, it’s just down to whether he actually uses them.

Q:  Free safety is a concern in Philly just as in Dallas. With newly-acquired Marlin Jackson done for the year, what are the Birds’ plans at that position?

It’s second round pick Nate Allen’s job to lose. Macho Harris was moved back to his more familiar position of corner this year, so the training camp battle will be between Allen and Quintin Demps. While no one will be that excited about having to start a rookie at the position, most Eagles fans are relieved that the team at least appears to have a long term solution in Nate Allen.

The plan was most likely to have Marlin Jackson start the year to take some pressure of Allen, but it was always going to be Nate’s job eventually. It just happened sooner than expected.

Q:  Do you see Brent Celek having an even bigger role with another year under his belt and his buddy Kevin Kolb throwing him passes?

Not even a question.  I’ve been telling friends that Brent Celek is a huge fantasy sleeper this year for that very reason. He and Kolb hooked up well in Kolb’s two starts and as you said the two are good friends off the field. Plus, the tight end is always a security blanket for a young quarterback. Celek had a breakout season last year and his numbers will probably only improve with Kolb at the helm.

Q:  The Cowboys had success against the Eagles’ blitzes last year, primarily with bubble screens. Do you envision less blitzes being called in 2010?

I think it all depends on what you think the problem was. Was it the blitzes or the guys running them? The Eagles defense, particularly its linebacker corps, was hit pretty badly with injuries last year. Plus, the defensive line underperformed and the secondary was beat up as well.

I honestly doubt whether less blitzes would have changed their fortunes that much against Dallas late in the year. I think the Eagles hope that any game plan they have will be better with their offseason additions like Brandon Graham, Ernie Sims, and the returning Stewart Bradley running them. While I’m sure that schematic adjustments need to be made against Dallas, I would tend to agree that an overall upgrade in talent will mean more than anything.

If the Eagles defense beats Dallas this year, it’s going to be because Brandon Graham can play, Nate Allen can play, Stewart Bradley has healed from injury, and Ernie Sims is an upgrade. . . not because they blitzed any more or less.

Q:  Is there any chance that DeSean Jackson gets a new deal this year? Could that situation become a potential distraction for the team?

I can’t see how he’d get an extension until a new CBA is done. The 30% rule more or less has his hands and the team’s hands tied. I also can’t see how it will become a distraction because he knows this. Both and he his agent Drew Rosenhaus have said that they know it’s a waiting game until the labor situation is resolved. In fact, he was again asked about the contract yesterday and talked about the CBA problems for the 100th time this offseason. He’s been asked about his contract so many times and given the same answer so many times that you get the feeling like the media is just dying for him to make it a problem.  So far, he’s avoided taking the bait.

Q:  Any final NFC East predictions?

I really can’t even hazard a guess without getting to see this new Eagles team play, the Redskins offense, and the Giants defense. There’s just so many huge questions in the division. I at least need the preseason to get a handle on it!

I will say though that it’s fair to call the Cowboys favorites. They clearly have the least amount of questions going into the year. For them, it seems like the question isn’t whether they can get to the playoffs, it’s whether they can finally do something when they get there.


Lingerie Football League: Interview With Dallas Desire WR/CB Amber Ryan

A couple weeks ago, we profiled Amber Ryan as one of our Hot Cowboys Babes.  Last year, Amber played wide receiver and cornerback for the Dallas Desire in a league we want to learn A LOT more about–the Lingerie Football League.  We spoke with Amber to find out more about her time in the LFL.

Q:  What was it like playing in the LFL?  Was it as much of a thrill as other sports in which you’ve competed?

A: Playing in the LFL was a great experience. I had seen an advertisement for tryouts on the news and thought, “I have to try out.”  I had no idea what to expect going into it thinking, “Okay, its called lingerie football?” I had seen it in the past as the Super Bowl halftime show, but was curious to see how they would develop it into a season.

I grew up with my dad playing sports my entire life. When I was younger, I played football (safety on the boys teams), baseball (pitcher, second baseman and shortstop in the guys league), and basketball.  The chance to play a national professional sport that isn’t powder puff seemed like a great opportunity.

Q: How in-depth did your plays get? Did you learn a lot of specific routes/coverages?

A: Our team was very fortunate in having ex-NFL players as the coaches. They looked at us as a reflection of their knowledge so we definitely wanted to make sure we knew what we were doing. We had practices scheduled four times a week for three hours.  They definitely were not playing around. We learned a lot of routes (slant, boot, post etc…) and coverages.  As far as plays, we had a lot we would learn so we could mix it up, but like most teams we had our favorites.

Q:  What was it like getting hit by the bigger girls? Did you ever receive a “knock out” shot?

A: Being a 7-on-7, full-tackle sport with minimal padding, people are bound to get injured.  We had ACL tears, teeth knocked out, broken fingers, but that’s also what made learning the game and fundamentals that much more important. Our coaches definitely didn’t want to send us out there not knowing how to hit or fall.

No, no one got a knock out shot on me.  Don’t get me wrong though. . .I got knocked around pretty good a few times (laughs).  I felt really lucky being on the Desire team because we had a very strong team so having to go against some of the strongest women in the league each day at practice definitely helped come game time.

Q:  Did you feel the fans were there to actually see you compete, or just check out the girls? What percentage of fans were guys?

A: Initially I think the sex appeal got them there.  Most were just there to check out girls, but I think after watching the game the majority of the response we received was “Wow, you girls can really play.” I would say the majority of our fan base was guys, but there was a good amount of women who would come out and support us or bring their guys.

Q:  What was the most physically demanding part of playing in the LFL? The funnest? The worst?

A: The most demanding part of playing in the LFL was the time. I was definitely ready to commit to practices and games, but never imagined four times a week for three hours. It started in April when the first game wasn’t until September.

The funnest part was game day, traveling with the girls to go play, and interacting with the fans.  The worst was only getting paid a percentage of ticket sales.  When you are asked to invest that much time and only have four games, it isn’t enough.

Q:  What things about the LFL do you think should change?

A: I would be happy to hear that the girls are being taken care of better. The league demands time, commitment, and sacrifice.  I don’t think the girls’ love of the game should be taken advantage of. Without them out there, there would be no league, no LFL.


Dallas Cowboys OTAs: Inside Perspective with ILB Jason Williams

We will begin a “Training Camp Battles” series shortly, and one name certain to be mentioned there is Cowboys inside linebacker Jason Williams.  Williams will have to fend off second-rounder Sean Lee for nickel linebacker duties.  I spoke briefly with Williams about this competition and the importance of OTAs.

Q: How are OTAs going?

A: OTAs are going really well for me right now. I feel like I’m getting better every day, which is all I really want.

Q: Do you feel you have a much firmer grasp on what is expected of you in your second year?

A: Yes, I have a better understanding of what is expected of me from not only the coaching staff, but also my teammates.  It is much easier to play football when you already know the playbook, so now I can just let my athleticism take over.  OTAs are also a great way for the veterans to build chemistry with the new guys.

Q: How important are OTAs? Are they more about installing the plays or building chemistry?

A: OTAs are extremely important. They are a combination of both–install for the younger guys and chemistry for the older guys, particularly the older guys taking on new roles.  Like I said, though, OTAs can be used for the older guys to build chemistry with the rooks and for everyone to just come together more and more every day.

Q: How much of a loss do you believe it is for a player such as Patrick Crayton to not participate?

A:  I don’t think it is a huge loss for Patrick, but I do think it’s a pretty big loss for the young receivers.  With him not there, that’s just one more vet that they aren’t able to learn from right now.

Q: There are a lot of potential training camp battles for various positions, including yourself and Sean Lee.  Do you think these are good for the team in general and do you personally embrace the competition?

A: Yes, I feel they are really good for the team because sometimes the only way you get to see what someone else can do is when they are being pushed.  I definitely embrace any challenge set before me.


Q&A With Dallas Cowboys Rookie DT/DE Sean Lissemore

I recently spoke with the Cowboys’ seventh-round pick Sean Lissmore out of William & Mary.  The transcript is below.  Topics included mini-camp, his high school days, and what it was like to get drafted by the Dallas Cowboys after growing up a New York Giants fan.

Jonathan:  Hey sean, how was mini-camp?
Sean:  Hey, it went well.  I definitely learned a lot in a short period of time.
Jonathan:  How was your conditioning?  Was it tougher than you anticipated?
Sean:  Nah, the conditioning wasn’t bad.  I had definitely prepared for that.  The toughest part was forgetting old techniques and habits and learning the new ones.
Jonathan:  I heard you beat the wide receivers in the sprints.
Sean:  Yeah, I wasn’t aware I was beating them until the end (laughs).  I have been training with all defensive backs in Virginia though so I guess that rubbed off on me.
Jonathan:  Yeah you certainly have speed.  Is it true you ran a 4.81 forty at your Pro Day?
Sean:  Yes, but I was actually hoping to get lower than that.  I can still move for a big guy.  I don’t really feel like I have the prototypical build for a 300-pounder.
Jonathan:  Did you ever play any wide receiver or tight end in high school?
Sean:  No, I didnt.  They stuck me on the offensive line because I was the biggest, strongest guy on the team and they needed me to block for our backs.  Defensively I was a linebacker though.  I also kicked off (laughs).  I used my toe, so my accuracy wasn’t ideal for field goals.  Sometimes they came off spinning like a punt.  It was always interesting to see where they went, but they went far for the most part.
Jonathan:  Did you get a chance to line up at DT and DE in mini-camp?  Where did they give you the bulk of your reps?
Sean:  I played all three positions, but most of my focus was on the right three-technique end.
Jonathan:  Do you have any experience in a 3-4 defense?
Sean:  Not the defense they run.  We played some dollar and dime at William & Mary in passing situations, but it was a different concept.
Jonathan:  Do you think the mental transition to the NFL is going to be as tough or tougher than the physical?
Sean:  I think it is a combination of both.  I think translating the mental to the physical while still playing at such a competitive level will be the toughest part.
Jonathan:  Were you surprised when Jerry called you?  What was going through your mind?  Did you have any pre-draft contact with Dallas?
Sean:  I was very surprised because I had little contact with Dallas and I was waiting for a call from one of the teams I had visited.  It was definitely a rush getting that call.
Jonathan:  Do you think the main reason you weren’t a first or second day pick was because of playing at a small school?
Sean:  That was probably a factor, and I also feel like I have a lot of development left as a technician.
Jonathan:  There is another player here by the name of Jay Ratliff who came in as an “undersized” technician.  Did you hear that Coach Phillips compared you to him?

Sean:  Yeah, I heard that.  I feel like we both came in as raw players with high motors.
Jonathan:  Do you feel like you are better suited to play inside like him as an “undersized” guy with incredible speed, or do you prefer defensive end?
Sean:  I feel like I can play either, but I am more accustomed to defensive tackle.  I have played that position for a few years now.
Jonathan:  Which team did you grow up rooting for in New Jersey?  My guess is a rival of the Cowboys.
Sean:  (Laughs).  Yeah, I was a Giants fan.  It was a little ironic getting drafted by Dallas.  I don’t think the coaches know I was a Giants fan (laughs).  I am definitely a Cowboys fan now though.
Jonathan:  What kind of emotions do you think you’ll have when you play the Giants this year?
Sean:  I will look at it as dream come true, regardless of what team I am on.  Just to be in the NFL and get a chance to play on that level is a blessing.  The colors I wear don’t really matter in the end.
Jonathan:  Have you had trouble getting your friends and family to convert to Cowboys fans?  I’m sure some of your friends who are die-hard Giants fans are kind of torn.
Sean:  Well, a lot of my friends are actually Cowboys fans.  They are all stoked, but the Giants fans said they will root for me individually, but not the Cowboys.
Jonathan:  Which Giants players did you admire growing up?
Sean:  I was a big Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson fan.  I even wore #56 all through junior football and high school.
Jonathan:  Have you officially chosen a number here?  Is your #78 going to stick?
Sean:  I am not really sure how that works.  I didnt choose #78 though.
Jonathan:  Would you prefer a number in the 70’s or 90’s?  Is your number important to you?
Sean:  The number isn’t a huge deal, but I wouldn’t mind a number in the 90’s.
Jonathan:  You should be fine regardless of the number.  Good luck this season Sean.
Sean:  My pleasure.  Good talking to you as well.  Take care.


The Epitome of Professional: Q&A With Cowboys NT Jay Ratliff

Want a chance to see the Cowboys play and meet Mr. Ratliff in person?  Simply visit Jay’s site for details.
In our article on Clemson (and now Philadelphia Eagle) defensive end Ricky Sapp, we talked about how being “boring” can be a good thing for a football player.  Demarcus Ware, Jason Witten, and Terence Newman are all “boring” players.  Of course, we aren’t talking about ‘boring’ as in uninteresting, but as determined, methodical, and professional.

If we use the latter descriptions as our definition of ‘boring,’ then we can surely add Cowboys’ stud nose tackle Jay Ratliff to the list.  Since being selected in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL Draft, no one has outworked Jay.  He has used his low draft stock as motivation to succeed, becoming perhaps the league’s most devastating nose tackle in the process.

As the self-described “shyest player on the team,” Jay is anything but timid on the football field.  His aggressiveness is the result of his professionalism–the hard work and dedication he exhibits during the week allow his athleticism to take over on Sundays.  On game day, “Rat” is a beast.

Off the field, however, the personality of the league’s most athletic defensive tackle might surprise you.  We often hear news of players’ wrongdoings, but it is men like Jay–caring, intelligent, and professional–who make the NFL (and the Dallas Cowboys) what it is today.

Jay likes to spend time with his daughters–they enjoy dancing and having tea time, of course.  Having trouble imagining a man who is so aggressive on the football field sitting down for tea time?  You aren’t the only one, but there is more to Jay Ratliff than meets the eye.

In a day and age where knowing the intimate details of a player’s life is the norm, Jay is the exception.  We spoke with Mr. Ratliff to try to uncover a little more about the most mysterious man on the Dallas Cowboys.

Q: How is your offseason going?  What sorts of things are you doing in terms of working out?

A: Well I had surgery this offseason on both of my elbows but I’m fine. I’ll be doing a lot of rehab work to strengthen them.  I had to get the surgery because they caused me so much pain.  It was something I really should have done about three years ago.

Q: Did you gain any motivation from being selected in the last round of the draft?

A: Yes I did.  As a matter of fact, it still fuels me today.

Q: What was the first thing you purchased after signing your five-year contract extension in 2007?

A: The first thing I bought was a house.  I had rented up until then because I wanted to be sure that I would be here.

Q: As a 3-4 nose tackle, you are considered “undersized” at 303 pounds.  Do you feel your low playing weight allows you to maintain your quickness?

A: Yes it does, but I feel like technique is far more important than speed and strength.

Q: What aspects of playing defensive tackle do you enjoy?  What are some perks to moving outside to end?

A: I enjoy being in the middle of everything at nose.  The game is much faster and more violent.  At defensive end it is the complete opposite.  One perk (at defensive end) is it is less wear and tear on the body.

Q: Do you feel the addition of another capable defensive tackle might allow you to move to defensive end in certain situations?  Is this something you would be eager to do?

A: I feel that Junior Savaii is more than capable of playing the position.  He is a great friend and athlete.  As far as me moving, I would if I had to but I wouldn’t say I’m “eager.”

Q: The season obviously did not end as you would have hoped.  What do you believe is the most important aspect of your own game that you must work on to improve upon last year’s results, and the most important thing the team must do as a whole?

A: Good question.  Great question.  There are plenty of things I can get better at.  I think of myself as a “pup.”  I’m constantly learning and trying to get better.  I think the main thing is that I’ll be healthy next year.  As a team, well we have to do just that–be a team.  We also have to be focused and not get caught up in all the hype that surrounds the Super Bowl being played in Dallas.

Q: Do you feel Twitter provides an avenue through which you can connect directly with fans?

A: Yes I do.  I’m also on Facebook as well.

Q: Who is the funniest player on the team?  Smartest?  Shyest?

A: Funniest: Tashard Choice.  Smartest: Stephen McGee.  Shyest: Barber or myself.

Q: Could you beat Tony Romo in a race?

A: Of course I can! (laughs)

Q: What are your goals for the 2010 season?  Do you set an individual goal, such as a sack number, in addition to your team goals?

A: I do set goals but I keep them quiet until I accomplish them.  I will make sure to get back to you once that happens.

Q: Do you have any pregame rituals?

A: Yes, I like to listen to reggae or classical music.  Before kickoff I pace back and forth and talk to myself and pray.

Q: Other than football, what else do you enjoy doing?

A: I enjoy spending time with my daughters.  We go to amusement and water parks.  Their favorite thing is having tea time and dancing.

With an unmatched dedication and drive, it is impossible for Jay Ratliff to do anything but succeed.  He is a warrior.  He is a champion.  Most importantly, he is a professional.


Jerry Jones Drunk Interview

We debated whether or not we should even put this video on the site.  We decided to do it because we feel obligated to bring you all Cowboys news, good or bad.

The video is what appears to be an intoxicated Jerry Jones talking fairly harshly about former head coach Bill Parcells and 2010 NFL Draft prospect Tim Tebow.  We apologize for the poor video quality, but it is obviously all that is available.

A transcript (actually our interpretation of Jones’ words) is below the video.

“Romo was a miracle.  He almost never got in.  He almost never hit the field.”

(On selling jerseys) “That’s the only reason I brought in Bill Parcells.  Bill’s not worth sh*t.  I love him.  (He’s) not worth a sh*t, but I wanted — they were on my a** so bad.  J’s gotta have a yes man.  So to get this f***in’ stadium, I need to bring his a** in.”

(On drafting Tim Tebow in the third round) “Why?  He’d never get on the field.  I can’t get him out there.”


Interview With Clemson DE Ricky Sapp: The Most “Boring” Prospect in the 2010 NFL Draft

It is Saturday night and Clemson defensive end Ricky Sapp is home hanging out with his family.  He receives a call from a teammate. “Ricky, there’s a new club opening up downtown.  Let’s hit it up.”

“No thanks,” Ricky says softly.  “I’m spending time with my family tonight.”

“Whatever Ricky,” responds the teammate. “You’re so boring.”

And you know what?  He’s right.  Ricky Sapp is ‘boring.’  He’s boring in the same way as Demarcus Ware.  In the same way as Jason Witten.  In the same way as Felix Jones.

In the NFL, it is good to be boring.  Of course we aren’t talking about ‘boring’ as in being uninteresting.  No, Ware, Witten, Jones and Ricky Sapp are all far from uninteresting.

‘Boring’ in the NFL means doing your job the right way.  Not talking a lot.  Being focused.  Being driven.  That is this league’s version of ‘boring.’

Ricky Sapp fits the bill.  We featured his on-field play in a recent edition of “Cowboys Potential Draft Picks.” There, we mentioned how some teams are scared of Sapp’s injury history (he tore his ACL in 2008) and lack of elite strength (by what standard Sapp’s 23 bench press reps are not ‘elite’ is beyond me).  Sapp acknowledged this, telling me “I know some teams think that (I can’t stop the run) but at the end of the day I know I can be an every-down player.”

The significance of these knocks on Sapp’s game are dampened by his work ethic and determination.  He played the 2009 season on a knee he described as “60 percent” so that he could be on the field to fight with his teammates.  After the season, he trained like a monster so he could regain full strength in the knee and prove to NFL teams he is 100 percent healthy.

Said Sapp, “My main goal (for the Combine) was to let everyone know I am 100 percent healthy.  I worked on getting stronger and making sure my speed was top-notch by training twice a day, six days a week.”

When I asked him if teams were satisfied with his health, Sapp responded, “Yes sir.  I definitely think the teams were pleased with my knee.”

“Yes sir.”  How many young men do you know who respond with such politeness?  By my count, Sapp tallied nine “yes, sir” responses throughout our 15-minute conversation.

Now, does politeness win football games?  Not directly, but being polite takes discipline.  Football is 100 percent a game of discipline.  The same discipline that goes into being polite is also the backbone of hard work and motivation.  Disciplined players will work hard to improve themselves, both on the football field and in life.

Those are the sort of football players you want on your team.  Ricky Sapp is undoubtedly one of them.

Sapp would be a good fit in Dallas.  At 6’4”, 252 pounds, he ran a 4.61 at the Combine.  He also told me he has experience playing in a scheme similar to the 3-4 defense which the Cowboys run.  He said, “Over my career at Clemson I had a good bit of experience playing from a standing position and really enjoyed it.”  Still, Sapp says he simply wants to play in “whichever system a team wants me in.”

However, he said he has had no contact with the Cowboys.  Could the team be playing coy?  Sapp sure hopes so, as he grew up (in South Carolina) as a die-hard ‘Boys fan.  Said the Clemson Tiger, “Believe it or not, I grew up loving the Cowboys.   My father is a die-hard fan of America’s Team and I just followed him.  I loved them.  Playing for the Cowboys would be a dream come true.”

At the end of the interview, I asked Ricky what he likes to do outside of football and he reiterated his non-flashy lifestyle. “Well don’t laugh at me but I’m probably the most boring guy you will ever meet,” he said with a laugh. “I’m really just a laid back guy.  I like to hang out with my teammates and just enjoy life.  I’m not really the party type.  My friends give me a hard time about not going out, but I’ve never been like that.”

Sapp calls his personality ‘boring.’  I call it being polite.  Honest.  Hard-working.  I call it being a good person.

Yes, I like boring.  Boring is good.

Let’s hope the Cowboys have the most “boring” draft possible in 2010.  Ricky Sapp would be a tremendous start.


Fast forward to the Cowboys’ draft “war room” later this month, and Jerry Jones is on the phone with the young South Carolina native.  “Ricky, we just wanted to let you know we are going to go ahead and pick you right here.”

Sapp’s family sees a huge grin come upon his face.  His dream is finally going to come true.  Ricky Sapp is going to be a Dallas Cowboy.

“Thank you, sir,” he responds.

Want to hear more of what Ricky had to say?  You can see more here.


More From the Ricky Sapp Interview

The original article on Ricky Sapp is right here.  Here is what didn’t make that post:

On Combine interviews and draft prep:

  • “Well first and foremost I really enjoy the whole process.  I’m having fun with it.  Some of the interviews were intense and others were pretty laid back.   They asked a lot of questions and knew a lot about me before I could even answer most of the questions.”

On his health:

  • “I definitely think my knee is back to 100 percent now.  I am feeling like my old self.”

On leaving school early after his junior season:

  • “Well it was definitely something to think about and consider but at the end of the day I really think I would have stayed in school with my teammates (had I not injured my knee).”

On other sports:

  • “Basketball was my first love.  Then I played football and just fell in love with the sport.”

On his relationship with the late Gaines Adams:

  • “He was such a great guy off the field.  On the field, I really looked up to him and learned so much from him.  To see him go was very hard for me because I knew what kind of guy he was.  It makes you set your priorities straight.”

On something most fans don’t know about him:

  • “Something I can tell you about me is that I love Christmas and Christmas songs.  I just love the feeling of Christmas and what it is all about.  I’m also a big seafood guy.  My favorite seafood spot is Red Lobster.”

On the possibility of becoming a Dallas Cowboy:

  • “It would be a dream come true.”


Time to Shine: A Q&A With Cowboys’ ILB Jason Williams

Second-year player Jason Williams is eager to get on the field in 2010.

As an NFL rookie and the Cowboys’ first draft pick last season, inside linebacker Jason Williams was desperate to hit the field in ’09. After running a ridiculous 4.49 forty-yard dash and recording a 39” vertical leap at his Pro Day, there was a lot of anticipation surrounding Williams’ addition to the team. Fans and coaches alike were eager to see how Williams would translate his incredible physical tools to the field in his rookie season, but unfortunately it did not happen after Williams got injured and was only able to rack up three tackles.

Williams was justifiably disappointed about the situation. Every rookie wants to prove they belong in the NFL, but Williams never got that opportunity.

Perhaps, though, his injury was a blessing in disguise. Taking practice reps and getting playing time is very important, but just as vital to a player’s growth is mastering the mental aspect of the game.

Williams was able to sit back and learn from two of the most cerebral veterans on the team, Bradie James and Keith Brooking. The veteran linebackers not only displayed how to play the game, but also how to lead a team. We all saw how important the addition of Keith Brooking was to the mentality of the Cowboys, and Williams was able to soak everything in and really learn what he needs to accomplish to eventually become the heart of the defense.

This season, Williams is out to silence his doubters and take a gigantic leap forward. We recently spoke with Jason to discuss the upcoming season and learn a little more about the second-year player.

Q: How is your offseason going? When do you plan on starting offseason workouts, and what sorts of things will you be doing?

A: My offseason has been going really well so far. It’s my first time having time off in over a year so the first thing I did was take a mini vacation. I plan to start my workouts March 1st and I want to focus on both getting back down to 235 pounds and improving my lateral quickness.

Q: How frustrating was it to get injured last season? Do you think you gained a lot of experience in the mental aspect of the game while you were unable to perform physically?

A: It was really frustrating, mainly because I’ve never even missed a game due to injury, let alone four games.

Yes, I believe I grew a lot mentally. I took more of an outside perspective of the game. I would be in practice watching the veterans go through certain calls and not being out there actually kind of helped me see what it is that they were seeing. That experience aided me on the field once I returned.

Q: How did being able to watch Bradie James and Keith Brooking in particular help you during your rookie season?

A: Being behind those guys taught me what being a linebacker and a real leader is all about. I learned more just watching those guys than I did my whole college career.

Q: You were a quarterback in high school. What do you miss most about playing the position, and what aspect of switching to linebacker are you happiest about?

A: The thing I miss the most about quarterback is the control and the pressure. When you’re the quarterback, you are either the hero or the one that takes the blame, and I loved being in that position. No matter what happened everything was on me.

I guess the thing I like most about being a linebacker is now I’m in a position to punish opposing quarterbacks and running backs after being on the offensive side of the ball for so long.

Q: You surprisingly didn’t get invited to the Combine. Was this disappointing to you, and have you used the snub as motivation?

A: Yes, I was disappointed after not being invited to the Combine and it did motivate me to perform well. I don’t use that as motivation anymore, though, because even though I didn’t get invited I still got to where I wanted to be. Now I just have to prove I belong.

Williams believes he can translate the speed he displayed at his Pro Day to the football field.

Q: At 241 pounds, you ran a 4.49 at your Pro Day, while also recording a 39” vertical leap. Were these personal bests for you? How much of an advantage is it for you to have such incredible speed at linebacker?

A: Actually neither was a personal best of mine. My best vertical was 42″ and I’m sure I could have gotten that again if I would have had another jump at my Pro Day. Also, I was clocked at 4.42 at the Northwestern Combine, but the majority of scouts clocked me around 4.40.

I feel my speed is a great advantage because it makes me harder to block in space. I also use my speed to make up for any false steps I may take.

Q: How happy were you to be drafted by the Cowboys and how do you like Dallas?

A: I was ecstatic when I got the call from Jerry Jones. I don’t cry much but I definitely broke down that day. I love the city of Dallas. By me being from a big city like Chicago, it’s not too much of a difference.

Q: You lost your father when you were in eight grade. Do you feel like you are playing for your dad each time you take the field? Do you honor him in any way?

A: I do feel I’m playing in my father’s honor when I’m out there, but being the man he was, he would rather I play for myself instead of for him. But I do say a prayer to him before every game and I believe he’s with me whenever I step on the field.

Q: What do you think of players using Twitter and do you feel it gives you a more direct way to touch base with your fans than going through the media?

A: I feel Twitter is a good way for players to interact with their fans. The media frequently portrays players the way they want them to be seen, but Twitter gives us a chance to defend ourselves against anything that might have been taken the wrong way.

Q: Do you have any pre-game rituals?

A: The only thing I can say I do consistently is a sort of walk. I’ll pace back from about the 40-yard line to the 20 yard-line, just thinking about everything I could see out there. In college I had the same ritual and I’d also do a back flip before every game to get everyone going.

Q: Are you going to bring the back flip to the NFL?

A: Only when I become a starter.

Q: What sorts of things do you enjoy other than playing football?

A: Well, I’m in love with my Xbox (laughs). I can play video games all day. If I have to get out of the house, I’m a pretty good bowler and not bad on the pool table. I also practice a Brazilian martial art called Capoeira.

Williams said he learned more in one year from watching Brooking and James than he did in his entire college career.

Q: Do you feel Capoeira has helped you on the field?

A: It has definitely helped my flexibility, but I cannot say for sure if it has helped me in football because I have only been doing it for a few years.

Q: What are your goals for the 2010 season?

A: Well now that I have a year under my belt and I am a year wiser, I plan to be a bigger part of both our special teams and defense. I want to see a lot more of the field. It’s my time to step up.

Q: You will likely play special teams for the Cowboys in 2010. Have you ever played on special teams, and how do you feel about doing so?

A: I played special teams all throughout college and have no problem doing it. I love special teams.

Q: What is one thing you want all of your fans to know about you?

A: I want all of my fans to know that I am going to do everything I can to be the best player than I can possibly be.

Williams is doing everything possible to get on the field in 2010. While it was disappointing to not see his talent on display last season, the knowledge Jason was able to garner from the veterans may be just the blessing in disguise needed for Dallas fans to begin seeing back flips performed on the Cowboys Stadium turf, and perhaps sooner rather than later.

You can follow Jason Williams on Twitter: @TheRealJWill58