Tag:Five Questions
Posted on: December 23, 2011 10:39 am
Edited on: January 2, 2012 8:34 am

Five questions (or more) with Andre Roberts

A. Roberts has helped Arizona win six of its past seven games (US Presswire).

By Josh Katzowitz

Andre Roberts is a second-year receiver for the Cardinals, but if you haven’t heard of him, that’s to be expected. Arizona has been ignored for much of the year -- that’s probably because of San Francisco’s ridiculous season -- and even when the Cardinals got hot and started their current streak (they’ve won six of their past seven games), Roberts wasn’t a receiver on which the average fan focused.

He’s no fantasy football hero, and with Larry Fitzgerald sucking up all the attention for the entire Arizona receiving corps (and deservedly so), Roberts has quietly put together an effective season as the team’s No. 2 receiver. Not bad for a Division I-AA player who planned on going into the accounting field if pro football failed him.

On the season, he’s caught 41 passes for 487 yards and two touchdowns, but in the past three games, he’s begun to record impressive numbers. In Arizona’s upset of Dallas in Week 13, Roberts lead the team with six catches for 111 yards. Against Cleveland last week, he reeled in another six catches for 60 yards. With Fitzgerald in the lineup, Roberts won’t be the THE star, but still, he’s established a niche for himself for a team that seems to have plenty of potential.

We caught up with Roberts this week, and during our discussion, we touched on why John Skelton has played well after taking over the quarterback spot for Kevin Kolb, why Victory Monday can be so sweet and why playing football at the Citadel wasn’t the easiest road he could have taken.

Previous Five Questions (or more):

Sept. 16:
Actor/former Patriots DB Brian White

Sept. 30: Bills RB Fred Jackson

Oct. 7: Sweetness author Jeff Pearlman

Oct. 21: 49ers LB Aldon Smith

Nov. 4:
Bengals S Chris Crocker

Nov. 18: legendary coach Bum Phillips

Dec. 9: Jets DE Aaron Maybin

1. CBSSports.com: With the 49ers playing well, not a lot of people paid much attention to the rest of the NFC West. But you guys have won six of seven, and you’re still here. How’d that happen?

Andre Roberts: Just working hard after our losses. It’s easy to get down after having six losses straight (from Weeks 2-8). We kept working at it, we kept grinding away.

CBS: But the 49ers got off to such a fast start and left everybody else in the NFC West behind. Obviously, that’s not something you guys can control except when you play the 49ers. But on a mental level, how tough is it when the 49ers just keep on winning and pulling away in the division?

Roberts: For the most part, we just worry about us. You can’t worry about other teams. As for us and the other teams in the NFC West, it just makes us play harder. We have to compete with those guys in order to get in the playoffs.

2. CBS: But after beating Dallas and then San Francisco a few weeks back, that must have been a big thing for you guys.

Roberts: It was big for us. It was keeping our win streak alive. It’s really about the team we play every single week. We came out and worked hard. Just tried to do our best. Dallas is good and San Fran is a good team. We just worked hard and had a good time.

CBS: But everybody works hard. I could ask every guy in the NFL, and they all would say they work hard every single week. What’s different about the Cardinals lately?

Roberts: I don’t know, maybe Victory Mondays. If we win, we get Mondays off. We get a little more rest. I don’t know, it’s just something about our team. We have a resilience.

CBS: What do you guys do if you have a Victory Monday?

Roberts: For the most part, we come in and get treatment and work out. Hot tub and cold tub. But when we have a Victory Monday, we don’t watch film from Sunday. We don’t have to watch that until Wednesday. We still come in and work out and everything. But it’s just the feeling of having that day off; it’s us getting something from winning the game on the weekend.

A. Roberts has been Arizona's No. 2 receiver this year (US Presswire).3. CBS: You guys still aren’t out of playoff picture yet. You’ve already beaten Dallas and San Francisco. You have to win out and get a lot of help. It’s still a longshot, but you’re still here.

Roberts: Definitely, last year at this point of the year, we had no chance of making the playoffs. We’re really treating every game like a playoff game. In order for us to have the opportunity, we have to win out. We can win out and still not go, but that’s why we’re treating every game like it’s a playoff.

4. CBS: Kevin Kolb was obviously the big money free agent to come in, and for John Skelton, that must have been tough. Now, he’s had to take over for Kolb a few times because of Kolb injuries. How did John get through that and still manage to be effective when he has to play?

Roberts: He responded great to it. I’m sure he knew we were going to have a free agent come in. Kevin came in and we wanted him to start. But John handled it great. Like everybody else, he just works hard. He’s definitely a hard worker, and when you go about it like that, you’ll come out on the right side.

CBS: Was there a little bit more familiarity with John because you guys came into the league together and because he played some quarterback last year with you guys?

Roberts: It helped a lot with the familiarity of him and his ball and the way it comes at you and him knowing the playbook. I’m sure it helped him a lot. We didn’t have the offseason, but being able to see the defense and to read them in preparation to know routes we were running, it helps with the timing. 

5. CBS: You played at the Citadel. I want to know what that’s like -- with all the military exercises and the school and playing football on top of that. I don’t know how many guys in the NFL played at the Citadel, but I can’t imagine there are many. And I can’t imagine there’s anybody from VMI in the league. That has to be a tough existence in college.

Roberts: It’s really tough. At the Citadel, you have to deal with the military life and football and school. Most of the time you go to college, and you only have to worry about football and school. It can take a toll on you if you let it. That hardest year is that first year, when you’re introduced to it all. You come into football camp, and you go into school and everything is so new. It is tough.

The first-year guys everywhere have it rough. You don’t know the environment. You don’t know your teammates. You don’t know who your roommate is going to be, because our roommates weren’t football players but other people in the regular corps. All that stuff combined with classes and knowing what your major is, after the military exercises and then having to learn plays, it’s tough.

CBS: How did you do it?

Roberts: I had to fit in real quick. Football actually helps. It takes away some of the military duties. Football is a getaway and that’s how I used it. I used it to get my mind off school and military stuff. That what helped me the most.

CBS: I know both of your parents were in the military. Was that a route you were going to take if the NFL thing didn’t work out?

Roberts: I actually never wanted to go into the military. I went to a military college and my parents were military. I had a strict household growing up. I thought it wouldn’t be that hard, but I didn’t want to.

CBS: I read an interview with you when you were still in college, and you said that the only Division I offers you had were the Citadel and Coastal Carolina, and that since Coastal is by the beach, you didn’t think you’d be able to finish school. Is that true?

Roberts: I don’t know if I really needed the structure the Citadel gave me, but it helped me get through school and to grow up and to learn how to be a man. I didn’t know if I could have done that at Coastal.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: December 9, 2011 4:41 pm

Five questions (or more) with Aaron Maybin

A. Maybin has six sacks on the season (Getty).By Josh Katzowitz

From the time he was drafted with the No. 11 overall pick by the Bills in 2009 until the beginning of this season – really, until Week 4 of this season – defensive end Aaron Maybin was one of the biggest draft busts of the past half-decade (even a Google search said so!). 

He had been a standout at Penn State, but by the end of 2010, he had been labeled a disappointment. That, of course, is what happens when you start just one game in your first two seasons and don’t record a single sack and make just 16 tackles in 27 games -- all the while having signed a five-year contract with $17 million guaranteed after a lengthy holdout. In training camp this year, Buffalo had seen enough of him and let him go, a surprising admission that the Bills had made a mistake.

But the mistake might not have been drafting Maybin in the first place. It might have been not giving him an opportunity to play, because this season, after signing with the Jets twice, he’s recorded six sacks and four forced fumbles. All while making $525,000. On Friday, we caught up with Maybin to talk about his time in Buffalo, his comeback season and why wearing sunglasses indoors doesn’t mean you’re a bad football player.

Previous Five Questions (or more):

Sept. 16:
Actor/former Patriots DB Brian White

Sept. 30: Bills RB Fred Jackson

Oct. 7: Sweetness author Jeff Pearlman

Oct. 21: 49ers LB Aldon Smith

Nov. 4:
Chris Crocker

Nov. 18: Bum Phillips

1. CBSSports.com: You’ve had an interesting career to say the least. Well, definitely an interesting year. You go from being a guy whose name was always next to the word “bust,” and now you’re a major contender for comeback player of the year. What’s that been like?

Aaron Maybin: Honestly, the only thing I can say about is I’ve been extremely blessed. You know what I mean? It’s been a great year so far. It started off with a whole lot of diversity. At the end of the day, I’m with a team that I have an opportunity to go out and help win football games. That’s the position I wanted to be in.

CBS: Your years in Buffalo, they must have been bad for you and for the team. But always being referred to as a bust, how did you get through that emotionally?

Maybin: Really, this is the first time anybody asked me about that. I haven’t given it much thought. Really, it’s simple because in order for you think about it, you have to think “How am I going to get through this” or “Woe is me” or if you’re having a pity party. That doesn’t get anything accomplished. As bad as things were and as unhappy as I was, dealing with some of those things, the only response is I had to keep working hard. To continue trying new things. That was the only thing I could do.

A. Maybin has turned around his career with New York this season (Getty).2. CBS: Then, the Jets cut you earlier this year. At what point did you start to wonder, “Man, maybe the NFL just isn’t going to work out for me?”

Maybin: Even though they cut me after the preseason, I had a productive preseason. I knew I would catch on somewhere.

CBS: I read that when the Jets wanted to re-sign after Week 3, it was tough to get in touch with you. Your aunt had just died, and you were at her funeral, and nobody could make contact. How did that all down?

Maybin: It wasn’t a funeral. It was she had died that day, and I didn’t feel like talking to anybody. I didn’t have my phone on or around me.

3. CBS: What’s different about the time in Buffalo as compared to now?

Maybin: I’m getting the opportunity. You look at the number of plays I’ve gotten and the amount of pass rushes I’ve got. At the end of the day, I didn’t have the opportunity to do that before. If you watched me during the preseason or anytime I was getting significant snaps, you’ve seen this. There are a lot of things I need to work on, but the player you’re looking at is the same dude that’s been there the past few years. I’ve just blessed to be with a team that’s given me the chance.

That was really why I was frustrated before. For whatever reason, I didn’t feel as though I was going to get that there. I couldn’t understand why. As hard as I worked, I wanted to show them I could be the playmaker, and I couldn’t ever convince them. At the end of this day, like I said before, you can’t throw yourself a pity party. You can really just put your head down and keep on working as hard as you can. No matter what, that’s the only thing I know. That’s the only way I know how to get better.

4. CBS: How much better is life now?

Maybin: It doesn’t even compare. I haven’t been as happy as I am now or having as much as fun as I’ve had probably since I was in high school or college. For me to have been struggling for so long and to be as miserable as I was, I can’t even explain it in words. I realize how important this team has been to me and how important the game is. I’ve had it taken away.

CBS: It’s interesting that you said you were miserable. Most people would think that this guy is making a ton of money and he gets to play pro football, why is he miserable? But that’s a real thing.

Maybin: It’s not about the money. That’s just like them saying, “If you’re making money, regardless of whether the team is winning or losing, you should be happy.” No, you shouldn’t. l’m not a paycheck player. If I’m not having the opportunity to play that game, I’m not doing anything but collecting a check. I knew I couldn’t be happy until I was at least contributing to a win or a loss.

5. CBS: How much have you grown up since Buffalo, just in the last year? There were reports that you were referred to as Mr. Cool and wore sunglasses at meetings in Buffalo. How much have you changed?

Maybin: I’ve grown up a whole lot. But if that's what measures being grown or not, I don’t really know how to explain that. I’ve always put 110 percent of what I have into my job and what I do. There’s never been a day I haven’t taken my job seriously. I can’t really say I approach my work or my job with any more serious of a demeanor as I did before. I’ve always taken it seriously. If me wearing glasses is what kept me from being a good football player, that’s unfortunate. I doubt that anybody here cares about that.

CBS: That’s a fair point but …

Maybin: If somebody says something about why I’m not successful, like you just did, I  want to hear how I can’t play football or that I don’t work hard or that I don’t  sacrifice for his team. And I never heard anybody say anything about that. Whether I wore glasses, that to me doesn’t define me as a player. I’m a team player, and all I’ve cared about is winning.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 18, 2011 1:15 pm

Five questions (or more) with Bum Phillips


Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Every Sunday, Bum Phillips watches with fatherly pride as his son, Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, helps his team to another standout performance. After Houston finished 30th in total defense last year, Wade Phillips, after switching the scheme from a 4-3 to a 3-4, has the Texans as the No. 1 defense in the NFL in his first year in the organization.

You might be surprised, considering Wade Phillips’ up and down head coaching career, but there’s no doubt he’s a strong defensive coordinator. He gets much of that from his father, Bum Phillips, who was the first coach to bring the 3-4 to the NFL in the mid-1970s and eventually became the popular Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints coach. Bum Phillips finished his career with an 82-77 mark, and he was rarely seen without his trusty cowboy hat. He was a character and a good coach, and apparently, Wade got many of those genes.

We caught up with 88-year-old Bum Phillips earlier this week, and we talked about the job Wade has done this year, how the Texans will survive without quarterback Matt Schaub, the 3-4 defense and if the Broncos can win with Tim Tebow.

Previous Five Questions (or more):

Sept. 16:
Actor/former Patriots DB Brian White

Sept. 30: Bills RB Fred Jackson

Oct. 7: Sweetness author Jeff Pearlman

Oct. 21: 49ers LB Aldon Smith

Nov. 4:
Chris Crocker

1. CBSSports.com: Considering how bad the Texans defense was last year, how did Wade come in this year and turn it all around? Even with the lockout and not having any time to install it in the offseason, how did it happen?

Bum Phillips: Good players. And a good system. And a bunch of good people around them on offense. They keep the ball on offense, which helps them a lot. If they went three-and-out all the time and didn’t keep the ball real long, it’d be hard to keep the defense from not getting tired. He’s had 35 years in the league, and he’s been defensive coordinator for a bunch of teams. They’ve had good teams with him coaching. It’d have to be the system.

CBS: But I think what surprised me is that the turnaround happened so quickly, even with the lockout and not having an offseason.

Phillips: The 3-4 evidently fits their personnel better. They’ve got better linebackers than they do defensive linemen. They don’t need but three defensive linemen line to play.

2. CBS: How did Wade get over what happened last year in Dallas with him being fired in the middle of the season and then having to take a step down and go back to being a coordinator again?

Phillips: I don’t know. It’s just football. It’s like a game. When it’s over, it’s over, and you get ready for the next one. He’s always had good teams. I think he’s a great football coach. Thirty five years is a long time to stay in the league, so he must be doing something right.

CBS: You coached with Wade for many years. He was your assistant in Houston and in New Orleans. What was it like to coach with your boy?

Phillips: It was like coaching with anybody else. He’s my own son, but he was a good football coach. He did exactly what we asked him to do. And he did it well. I was very close to all my coaches. One of them just happened to be my son. I never looked at it like that he was my son. He was always just a coach. He didn’t get any favors. He didn’t get any undo fussing out.

Bum Phillip's son,Wade, has turned around Houston's defense (US Presswire).3. CBS: Talk to me about bringing the 3-4 to the NFL.

Phillips: Pretty easy. I found about it when I was coaching in high school. We put it in here when I got in pro ball, because football is all about using the personnel you’ve got. You have to get the best 11 defensive players on the field. It’s up to you to put them in a situation where you can use them all. If you’re short on linemen like we were in San Diego  (in the late 1960s) and you had four really, really good linebackers where we couldn’t play all four of them, you utilized your best people. But after Chicago beat us bad in the preseason, Sid (Gillman) made me go back to the 4-3 defense. When I was at Oklahoma State (in 1973), Sid asked me to come to Houston as the defensive coordinator, and I said I would do it if he let me play the defense that fit the guys we had. He said sure, and we played the 3-4. I knew it would work. We were the first to do it down-in and down-out. Other people used it as a prevent defense if they were winning the game. You know, put eight back in the secondary and rush three. But I knew darn good and well it would work.

CBS: Did other coaches at the time think it was a gimmick? Is that why Sid Gillman didn’t want to stick with it in San Diego?

Phillips: No, it wasn’t a gimmick. Everybody thought it was. We put it in Houston in 1974, and by 1976, 19 times were using it. It had never been used in pro ball. They said you would have a hard time stopping people with three linemen and four linebackers. But those linebackers are like defensive ends, and it’s a great way to rush the passer.

They’ve changed it a lot (in the current NFL) since we started using it. But that’s what you have to do in football. Now, they offset the nose tackle. Now, some people drop into a 3 technique on the weak side. Pittsburgh plays a 3-4 defense but they do it differently. It’s just something that’s evolved. They’ve improved it.

4. CBS: How much do you follow the NFL these days? Are you watching games every week?

Phillips: Sure. I watch more now than I used to (laughs). Nah, not really. But I’ve got a TV where you can record them. I’ll record three or four, and I’ll watch one or two at the same time and then go back afterward and watch the others.

CBS: And you’re watching all the Texans game I guess, right?

Phillips: Oh hell yes.

5. CBS: What do the Texans do now that they don’t have Matt Schaub for the rest of the year?

Phillips: That’s going to hurt them quite a bit. One of the reasons the defense has been good was because Matt Schaub could move the ball down the field. It’s going to take a really, really good effort from everybody. It’s not just as easy to say we’re going to change the quarterback or just run the ball. If they put enough guys up there in the box, you can’t run the ball. It still goes back to the quarterback needing to complete passes. They might put seven, eight or nine guys in the box.

CBS: You know, with those running backs, they should just install the wishbone.

Phillips: I don’t think they’d do it.

CBS: Well, I’m just kidding, but Denver has been doing the read option with Tim Tebow.

Phillips: But here’s the problem. One of those options is the quarterback is going to have to keep it sometimes. If the defense takes the pitch man and the dive man away, the quarterback has to keep the ball. I just don’t think the quarterback can do that for 16 games. Having to run every now and then because you don’t have anybody open, you can get tackled by one guy. But when he’s running the option, there’s going to be three or four people hitting you at times.

They need to try to win ballgames. They’re talking about the kid not throwing but eight passes. Hell, he ran the ball. What do you need? You need to move the ball consistently. That’s what you’re supposed to do. You don’t have to throw 30 passes a game if you can win the ballgame running. If you take eight passes, who cares if you’re winning?

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: November 4, 2011 10:25 am
Edited on: November 4, 2011 10:26 am

Five questions (or more) with Chris Crocker

C. Crocker has been a key defender in Cincinnati (Getty).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Chris Crocker has played on good Bengals teams and bad Bengals teams. Mostly bad. But now that Cincinnati is 5-2, Crocker is receiving a bit more recognition for being a key component on a Bengals squad that has one of the league’s best defenses. After starting only six games during his first years in Cleveland, he’s started 83 of the last 89 contests he’s played, and he’s had himself a nice career. Seven games into this season, he’s already surpassed his career high with 2.5 sacks on the year.

He’s also one of the better quotes in the Bengals locker room, always willing to speak about whatever’s on his mind with nary a nod to the idea of political correctness. That’s not to say he’s in the same league as former teammates Chad Ochocinco or Terrell Owens. Those guys talked because they liked to hear themselves speak. When Crocker speaks, he usually has something interesting to say.

Knowing that, we caught up with Crocker earlier this week where we talked about life in the Bengals organization this year, how the team moved past the Carson Palmer controversy and why Owens can’t get a job.

Previous Five Questions (or more):

Sept. 16:
Actor/former Patriots DB Brian White

Sept. 30: Bills RB Fred Jackson

Oct. 7: Sweetness author Jeff Pearlman

Oct. 21: 49ers LB Aldon Smith

1. CBSSports.com: I was around that locker room for six years, and I know what that organization is like and what the mood in the locker room has been when the team’s been bad. What’s different this year?

Chris Crocker: I can talk specifically on defense where the majority of the guys are the same guys who have been here. Offensively, we’ve changed a lot of guys. We already had really good guys the locker room. It’s just been what the perception has been. We don’t have a Chad (Ochocinco) anymore that’s always in the media. All of our guys are low-key. We don’t have the guys who are in the limelight. The perception has changed. A lot of the guys we had before were getting into trouble with DUIs and suspensions. We’ve always had a good group of guys. We just don’t have any more Hollywood.

2. CBS: I don’t think I was alone in the national media in picking the Bengals to struggle, to go maybe 4-12 or 3-13. That obviously wasn’t right, but if you looked at what was happening, Carson Palmer was maybe going to go, the top two receivers from last year would leave, and we didn’t know why Marvin Lewis came back. Why are you guys winning?

Crocker: Offensively, we haven’t been very good since I’ve been here. I’m not saying that to kick my teammates in the butt. The truth of the matter is we haven’t been great. The defense, we felt like we were the strength of the team. No matter what, we felt like we had to carry our team. It just so happened that we stumbled on a quarterback that could manage the game, we’re very talented at the wide receiver spot, and Cedric (Benson) re-signed. Everything really jelled on the offensive side of the ball. We knew we were going to play stingy defense. But the (offensive) formula has worked for us. There were a lot of questions -- who’s going to be the quarterback, the running back, the receivers, and on defense we had questions too. But we felt like the nucleus was the same. Outside of these walls, nobody saw us as good. But every year, nobody sees us as good, so why should it be any different?

C. Crocker said the team doesn't have any Hollywood this year (US Presswire).3. CBS: But losing Johnathan Joseph to the Texans was a major thing, right? I mean, Joseph and Leon Hall were considered to be one of the better young cornerback tandems in the league.

Crocker: Going into the season, it was a big blow. Me and Leon and John have all been together. We had formed something that was really special. He leaves to go elsewhere, which is fine. He was entitled to do that. But what we were going to do? Nate Clements was a free agent, and he fit right in. He’s been a great player in this league for a while. For him coming in, it was just a matter of time. How long would it take him to learn the system and get on the same page? It’s been really good. You couldn’t have put a better guy in there.

CBS: Why did it fit Clements so well?

Crocker: First of all, experience supersedes everything. He’s a very smart guy. He really wanted to come in here and really get on the same page with everybody. He wasn’t coming here with the attitude that he’s been there and done that. He came in with the attitude that he could learn. It’s hard when you’re an old guy, you get stuck in your ways. But he was completely opposite of that. He wanted to be part of something special. But with us, it’s week to week. If we don’t play well the next week, then we’re a piece of crap. Especially in the media. We want to go out there and play well.

CBS: Yeah, but us in the media can also say, “Well, the Bengals really haven’t faced any great quarterbacks. They haven’t really played anybody yet. Their schedule is weak. They haven’t played Baltimore or Pittsburgh yet."

Crocker: When people say that, you know that you don’t ever apologize for winning. Those other guys in the division, they’re playing the same teams we are. You don’t apologize for winning in this league. We’ll see those guys down the road and see where we stand then.

4. CBS: Regarding Carson Palmer, what was the locker room attitude about him? He had been such a good member of the team, but then he bailed. Did Carson abandon you guys, or did he have a good point?

Crocker: In Cincinnati in general, he had been the quarterback for so long, maybe the fans and the organization were scared of change. Sometimes change is good. In this case, it works out for us. If he didn’t want to be here, that’s fine. It’s all good and dandy. We knew our offense wasn’t the 1999 St. Louis Rams. Let’s be real. We weren’t playing John Elway. I like Carson, but let’s look at what we were.

5. CBS: What about Terrell Owens? You played with him last year, saw him in practice. Does he still have what it takes? Why doesn’t he have a job?

Crocker: I’ll say this. When we talk about how perception is reality, the perception around the league is that he’s a bad locker room guy and a bad teammate. Organizations don’t want to bring that dynamic in the locker room, especially with him 37 or 38 years old. I just don’t think people are willing to do it. I’m not saying he’s a bad teammate, but he was called one when he was in San Fran, in Philly, in Dallas. It’s like a circus. Teams just don’t want to go that route. You bring him in, and you bring in all the stuff that goes with it. He seems healthy, he looks healthy. I’m not a GM, but it’s something you worry about.

CBS: Was it a circus last year with Owens and Ochocinco?

Crocker: I’ll go off what he said. He talks so bad about organizations that nobody wants to deal with that. You bring him in here, and it’s all good. But when it goes bad, he talks bad about the organization. My only rule is this: you might have gripes and you might not be happy, but you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. I think that’s how organizations feel about him.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 21, 2011 2:16 pm

Five Questions (or more) with Aldon Smith

A. Smith has become one of the top rookie defenders in the league (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The 49ers have been the biggest surprise team of the NFL this year -- they’re already running away with the NFC West, for heaven’s sake -- and helping lead the defense is rookie linebacker Aldon Smith, perhaps the biggest surprise pick of the 2011 draft.

You’ll recall that Smith was supposedly a mid-to-late round draft pick, but San Francisco, instead, took him at the No. 7 spot, and after a pedestrian first few weeks on the job, he’s exploded in Weeks 4, 5, 6, accumulating 5 ½ sacks and a forced fumble. Which perhaps is more than we would have expected from him so soon.

Earlier this week, we caught up with Smith, and we talked about the preseason prognosticators who didn’t pick the 49ers to win the division, why he loves playing for Jim Harbaugh and what he thinks about his alma mater, Missouri, heading to the SEC.

Previous Five Questions (or more):

Sept. 16:
Actor/former Patriots DB Brian White

Sept. 30: Bills RB Fred Jackson

Oct. 7: Sweetness author Jeff Pearlman

1. CBSSports.com: I think a lot of people are surprised with the 49ers. I know I picked the Rams to win the division and you could look at Arizona and Kevin Kolb before the season and say they have a chance. But you guys have kind of surprised everybody.

Aldon Smith: First of all, those opinions about us, I’m sorry for them. We’ve had faith since day one, since we got to camp. We just worked so hard from training camp through preseason to practice, and we knew the results were going to pay off.

CBS: But everybody works hard. What is it about San Francisco that you guys are playing so well, so early in the season?

Smith: Everybody has done just a good job, and everybody is doing their job right. Everybody is doing the little things, and it’s paying off for us.

2. CBS: Coming off the handshake game between Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh, and obviously, you can see the kind of passion that Harbaugh has. What it’s like playing for a guy like that?

Smith: That was just him showing his personality. He’s a competitor. He’s somebody who takes the game seriously. It’s a passion of his. It’s a reflection of him. He’s a fighter, and we want to be fighters just like him.

CBS: In college or high school, had you ever played for a coach like that, a guy who’s so fiery?

Smith: I’ve had some great coaches, especially when I was at Missouri and Raytown (High School). But with coach Harbaugh, it’s just great playing for him. He’s a good guy.

A. Smith thinks Missouri will be just fine in the SEC (US Presswire).3. CBS: The 49ers have gone to the Eastern Time Zone three times in the last four weeks, but you guys won all three of those games. Then, you go back to Baltimore on Thanksgiving. How do you have so much success after doing so much traveling?

Smith: Just take advantage of your opportunity to rest. You try to get some rest on the plane. If you take advantage of your rest, everything will be all right. The whole East Coast to West Coast thing is a myth.

CBS: Really?

Smith: I don’t know (laughs). I feel good.

CBS: It really doesn’t affect you? I mean, you guys are playing at 10 a.m. body time three out of four weeks.

Smith: You can feel it a little bit. A little. It’s nothing some 5-Hour Energy can’t fix or some coffee.

4. CBS: I think a lot of people were surprised when you were taken seventh in the NFL draft. Many people thought you were more of a mid-to-late round guy, and then when you were taken seventh, it was like, this big surprise. What was your reaction?

Smith: It was a surprise for me. But man, I’m glad I here. I was happy as hell.

CBS: Were there higher expectations because you were No. 7 instead of going later in the first round?

Smith: I just felt the need to come and play football. There are expecatations with anything. I expect to go out and make plays. It was just another blessing.

CBS: Have you met those expectations?

Smith: Kind of. I did drop a wide-open pick last week.

CBS: For all the people who thought Von Miller and Nick Fairley were going to be the best rookies on defense coming out of the draft, you’ve really outperformed both of them.

Smith: Those guys were crazy in college, and they’ve been good (in the NFL). I’m just getting a little bit more plays.

5. CBS: What do you think about Missouri going to the SEC?

Smith: Bring it on.

CBS: But can Missouri compete in the SEC?

Smith: Yeah, we can compete in that conference. The SEC thing about them being the best conference in college football is just an opinion thing. I thought the Big 12 conference is the best in football anyway.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 7, 2011 11:24 am
Edited on: October 7, 2011 12:45 pm

Five questions (or more) with Jeff Pearlman

PaytonPosted by Josh Katzowitz

Jeff Pearlman knows about controversy. He was the Sports Illustrated writer who penned the John Rocker piece in 1999 that will forever define the rest of the former Atlanta Braves pitcher’s life, and though Pearlman simply quoted what Rocker said and all his prejudices and racially-charged thoughts, Pearlman also took plenty of heat for the story.

But that story doesn’t define Pearlman. He’s a New York Times bestselling author (if you haven’t already, you should definitely check out Boys Will Be Boys, the story of the 1990s Dallas Cowboys and their amazing penchant for winning and partying), and he’s a well-known freelance writer with an always-interesting blog.

His current book, Sweetness: The Engimatic Life of Walter Payton hit bookshelves this week, and after a highly-charged excerpt appeared in Sports Illustrated, Pearlman has faced criticism that has surprised him, especially since most people who are bashing the book haven’t had the chance to read it.

We caught up Pearlman on Wednesday, and we talked about his reaction to the public’s reaction, whether the controversy will help sell books and how he continues to write the negative knowing that it will affect Payton’s family.

Previous Five Questions (or more):

Sept. 16:
Actor/former Patriots DB Brian White

Sept. 30: Bills RB Fred Jackson

1. CBSSports.com: Knowing how much time you put into the book and how long you spent on it, what did you think of the reaction to the excerpt? It’s only a few pages out of a huge book, but you’ve been in the middle of this huge controversy.

Jeff Pearlman: It was kind of hurtful. It’s funny. People are like “Of course he knew it was coming,” but I really didn't see it coming. Maybe I’m naïve. It was a blind side. The backlash was hurtful. I put a lot into this. You write books and inevitably over 460 pages, there will be little things that happen. There will be little misspellings. There will be small errors. It happens. I can accept all those things. But this was so charged. It reminded me of the Dixie Chicks when they spoke out about (President) Bush. It didn’t become what the Dixie Chicks said about Bush, but it was just about being mad at something. Nobody had read the book and people were furious. It was one excerpt from one chapter. I felt like I was drowning.

CBS: How did the excerpt get picked? Was it you working with your editor, or was it you saying, “This is what I want it.” Because I imagine this kind of publicity probably will help book sales.

Pearlman: Actually, I don’t (think it will help). SI picked the excerpt. They have the first rights. But I’ve written for them for years, and I love Sports Illustrated. The editor said, “We’re going to pick this,” and I said that was fine. I can’t be like, “How dare they?” It wasn’t my first choice. But I was OK with it. I feel like I’ve lost Chicago, and I’ve been working to try to win them back. There are still 49 other states and Canada, but Chicago is a good book-buying city and this was his home base. I think people decided early on, “Here’s this jerk trying to destroy Walter Payton.”

2. CBS: Do you think your John Rocker story led people to believe that? Because then they could just see that “Pearlman is just a jerk.”

Pearlman: I don’t think so, only because I haven’t heard it mentioned that much. I don’t think it’s been that big a factor.

3. CBS: Why Walter Payton? He’s had books written about him before. Why choose him?

Pearlman: I had finished a Roger Clemens biography, and it was the least favorite of the books I’ve written. I wanted to write about somebody completely different. You mentioned John Rocker before. I sort of have a reputation for being that guy who gravitates toward negative things. But Walter was different. He’s so iconic but so mysterious. I mean, no one even knew how he got his nickname. When he was eulogized at his funeral, they said he was 45 years old. He was actually 46. At the College Hall of Fame, when he talked about finishing fourth for the Heisman, he actually finished 14th.  When people talk about Walter Payton, they go to (his former wife) Connie. People don’t know this, but they weren’t together for the last 10 years of his life. That’s not a knock on Connie; that’s just the way it was. He was very mysterious.

CBS: Did you know this negative stuff going in?

Pearlman: I didn’t know anything about him. I would have been thrilled if he would have had no scars whatsoever. I found him so fascinating. He was easily the most interesting athlete I’ve written about.

4. CBS: When you’re writing this book, you must know how the family is going to feel when they read some of the negative stuff. How do you push yourself through that? How do you process that in your mind so you can keep writing?

Pearlman: I always feel bad about it. I feel worse about it when the book is about to come out. It all feels really hypothetical when you’re working on the book. It’s always a year or two away from coming out. It feels so far away. When the book is about to come out, you realize that real people are about to be hurt. They’re going to be sad, shocked, disillusioned. But your ultimate job is to write a definitive, all-encompassing biography about something. That’s the whole person. It’s not another ass-kiss to an athlete. Not a sports book but a life book. If it was about my dad, I’d be really hurt by that. But as a biogprapher, you’re sensitive to those feelings. You’d  be doing a huge disservice to the biographers.

There are times in this process when you really question whether this is what you should be doing. It’s certainly not my goal to damage people or make people feel horrible. I always ask this of my wife: “Am I doing something that can be justified?”

CBS: Do you think that once people read the book, they can kind of forget about the excerpt and about how angry they were?

Pearlman: I think people who read the book will. People who ignore it or will have have nothing to do with it, I can’t do anything about those people. I worked hard on this thing. I really think it’s a fair book.

5. CBS: So, what’s next for you? After working on this for almost three years, what do you do now?

Pearlman: I don’t really know. I promote this book for a couple weeks. I guess I have to find the next project. I’m pretty burnt out with this work and the immediate reaction to it. I’ve never felt this way after a book. I can barely lift my head off the ground. I have no idea.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 12:31 pm

Five questions (or more) with Fred Jackson

F. Jackson has helped lead Buffalo to a 3-0 record (US Presswire).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Fred Jackson rushed for 1,000-plus yards in 2009, but he still had to convince Bills management that he was better than Marshawn Lynch and the newly-drafted C.J. Spiller last year. He eventually won the starting job, and this year, he’s been one of the league’s hottest running backs, ranking fourth in the league with 303 rushing yards (6.4 yards per attempt) and three touchdowns.

But a journey to NFL stardom was not easy for Jackson. He spent four years at Division III Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and after graduation, he spent one season apiece in the National Indoor Football League, the United Indoor Football League and NFL Europe. A half-decade later, he’s one of the major reasons the Bills are 3-0 and in first place by themselves in the AFC East.

We caught up with Jackson on Wednesday, and we talked about his journey through Division III football and the minor leagues, what the Bills learned from last season and how Jackson is bucking the stereotype of the 30-year-old running back who’s got nothing left in the tank.

Previous Five Questions (or more):

Sept. 16: Actor/former Patriots DB Brian White

1.CBSSports.com: So, what the hell is going on in Buffalo?

Fred Jackson: You know, everybody is just preparing, doing what we expected. We had a lot of confidence coming back from the offseason. We had confidence in what we were capable of doing, because we were in a lot of close games last year, a lot of overtime games. We felt like should have won more games than we did.

CBS: But how do you have confidence when you weren’t winning those games? Isn’t there a difference between the confidence of knowing you have won games and the confidence of thinking you should have won games?

Jackson: We felt like we gave away games. We let some chances slip away from us. We knew we weren’t going to let that happen again this year. We were preparing to go out and finish those games.

CBS: But if you’ve never won those games, how do you know how to do it?

Jackson: It’s through experience. Being able to make catches when you need to, make the blocks when you need to, being in the right spots. This is (Ryan Fitzpatrick's) second year in this offense, and now he’s getting comfortable getting people in the right spots. As long as we have him standing on his feet, we can pick defenses apart. The offensive line are in their second year in this system, and they know where they’re supposed to be.

2. CBS: Beating the Patriots last week, that’s a huge statement. I think a lot of people -- myself included -- thought the Bills were a nice 2-0 story but would get smashed by New England. But with that win, how big of a hump was that for the Bills to get over?

Jackson: It’s definitely a big hump when you have to beat them to win this division. But it is just our third win of the season. We still have a lot of work to do. We’ve been down early to two good teams, and we can’t continue to play like that. There’s a lot of learning we can take from the last few weeks. But it’s definitely a big win, because it puts us one up on them in the division and it puts them own down to us. 

Jackson3. CBS: Your path to the NFL wasn’t exactly orthodox. I think if you mentioned Coe College to most people, they wouldn’t have a clue as to what you were talking about. How did you end up there?

Jackson: It was one of those things where my middle school coach, Wayne Phillips, used to be the head coach at Coe College. I had a great relationship with him, and he told me about it. I was a little guy coming out of high school. It was one of three opportunities I had, all Division III schools. I have a twin brother named Patrick, who started as a receiver and then became a DB, and it was a dream for us to play college ball together. Coe was that opportunity. And coach (Marv) Levy was an alum and I got to meet him and build that bridge. When he got a chance to come back and be the GM in Buffalo, he gave me a workout. I was fortunate enough to come in and take advantage of that. But yeah, there were not a lot of scouts hanging out at Coe.

CBS: You weren’t on the NFL’s radar screen after Coe, so you went to a couple of indoor leagues and NFL Europe. How did you finally attract Buffalo’s attention?

Jackson: I was fortunate to do three workouts when I came out of college for the Bears, the Broncos and the Packers. The guy with the Packers came out and told me, “We think you can play football, but we’re not willing to stick out our neck for a guy from a DIII school." He told me to continue to get film and to keep playing in these smaller leagues. That’s what I did. After hearing they thought I did have the talent, that lit that fuse. The two years I played in the indoor leagues, I kept in touch with coach Levy. He kept saying if he could give me a chance, he would.

CBS: Oh, so even though you were out of school, Levy still gave you that positive reinforcement?

Jackson: My middle school coach and coach Levy are really good friends. Every month I would hear from coach Levy. I thought as long there was a chance, I would keep working.

4. CBS: So, you were with the Bills for a while, and then last year, it seemed like you finally … I don’t want to say “secured” your spot … were in a good spot with the team after Marshawn Lynch went to Seattle and you beat C.J. Spiller out for the starting job. Did you feel that?

Jackson: It was one of those things where I really didn’t know. We did draft C.J. last year. I knew I had to keep working and keep working, even at the beginning of the year when I had my hand broken. I had to keep plugging away at it. I was accustomed to working and seeing how things work out afterward. But C.J. still wants to play, and he still wants to start. That’s what we’re here for. I expect nothing less of him.

5. CBS: So, the saying goes that when a running back hits 30 years old, there’s a huge decline in skills. You’re 30 now, but you obviously haven’t hit that decline. How have you avoided that?

Jackson: It‘s one of those things I pride myself on. I don’t feel there’s any deterioration at all. I feel like I’m just getting better. I’m finally getting that opportunity where I can showcase what I can do. This is one of the first times I’ve been where I’ve been the starting guy. I feel fine. I feel great. I feel like I could play for another seven or eight years. I’m not some 30-year-old back on the downside.

CBS: I’m not asking you to comment on a guy like Larry Johnson, but he’s an example of what can happen when you hit 30 years old. He's pretty much done and now on the tryout circuit. Do you think not taking that NFL pounding when you were 24 or 25 years old is the reason you don’t feel old at 30?

Jackson: I think that has a lot to do that. I didn’t get 300 carries my first three years in the game. I’m getting fresh in it. I’m where a 26- or 27-year-old back usually is.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: September 16, 2011 12:17 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 12:22 am

Five questions (or more) with Brian White

Brian White is a former New England DB turned actor (Getty).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Brian White played only four games for the Patriots before he hurt his hamstring. That effectively ended his NFL career. Because for a guy like White, he simply had too much else to do. He had professional lacrosse to play, he had his professional dance/theater company to establish, he had modeling and acting to do, and he had plenty of philanthropic ideas to implement.

You might not know him from his football days (he played his college ball at Dartmouth), and you might not know that his father was former Celtics standout Jo-Jo White. But there’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen him on TV or on the movie screen -- whether it’s "Men of a Certain Age," "Mr. 3000," or "The Shield." Here’s his website in case you really want to do some research on him (and you should, he’s a pretty interesting dude).

Now, he’s got a new movie, "Politics of Love," where he plays the lead role of Kyle Franklin, a conservative who falls in love with a local Barack Obama volunteer. We caught up with White earlier this week where we talked about how he split time between pro football and pro lacrosse, how Red Auerbach pushed him to the Ivy League and why Martin Luther King was supposedly a Republican.

1. CBSSports.com: Growing up the son of a pro athlete, was being an athlete just part of your bloodline?

Brian White: I guess. There was never anything else. As a little kid, not only is my dad Jo-Jo White, but M.L. Carr is involved in the family, Red Auerbach is my godfather and my stepmother was an Olympic-caliber sprinter. Athletes were all around. I happened to be a natural athlete. If I wasn’t, it might have been hell. But I never got any pressure from my mom and dad to be an athlete. They actually pushed me to books.

CBS: How much was your dad around?

White: I was raised by my mom. My dad was always traveling, but she allowed me and encouraged me to be close to my dad. So I grew up with three parents: my mom, my dad and my stepmom. Ninety percent of the time I was with my mom, and 10 percent was with my dad.

2. CBS: Well, they pushed you to the books, and you ended up going to Dartmouth.

White: I wanted to be a teacher, but then I found out what teachers made. I started to ask my professors if there was another way to impact kids. That’s when I started myself in philanthropy.

My mom was business partners with M.L. Carr in a national corporation. I would see the show “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” with Robin Leach, and one day M.L. was on. And they never mentioned basketball. I asked my mom about it, and she was like, ‘That’s not how he made the majority of his wealth.’ Basketball was the day job. Whatever they made in basketball was on top of what they were already making. I knew I needed an education to do that.

Red sat me down during my sophomore year of high school and said “I know you’re a good athlete. But your education is what’s going to get you far.” This is Red Auerbach pushing me toward academics.

Brian White (Getty).3. CBS: I know once you got out of school, you played NFL football and pro lacrosse. What was that time like?

White: I got out of school in ‘97, and I was playing right then. Football was in the fall and lacrosse was in the winter. You bleed one season to the next. Lacrosse was doing their fall ball (to prepare for the season), but you’re bigger, faster and stronger because you’ve already been playing football. When you show up, you’re ready. But I never had time off. I never could get better. After that first season, I had four games with the Patriots and got injured. I was playing catch-up and catch-up. It started not to be fun. I started using my brain little more.

Four games into my pro career, I tore my hamstring in half. Then, I played some in NFL Europe and the CFL. Because it wasn’t a 9-5 job, I started my dance company called Phunk Phenomenon Urban Dance Theater Company with Reia Briggs-Connor. That led me to modeling and being on camera. Then I was moving from state to state and playing lacrosse and moving around. I was modeling and I came out the other side at the end of 1999. I called up the Raiders and asked if I could come out to their camp (to attempt a comeback), but in the process of having that conversation, a casting director who was Tyler Perry’s casting director came up to me and asked if I was an actor. The next day I went to an audition.

CBS: Then, life changed?

White: I was juggling a lot of balls already, so I just kept juggling. Acting was a lot like football. When you’re a DB and you’re one on one with a receiver, you’re going to dance. It’s go-time in front of 100,000 people and everybody watching on TV. That’s exactly how it is when a director says “Action!” It’s the same adrenaline rush, the same training process. I love it.

CBS: Going from football to acting, tell me about that.

White: For me, it was a seamless transition. I had a dance background. I studied ballet and jazz. I had been doing modeling and runway shows. By the time I was acting, what I knew how to do was learn and prepare. I asked questions. What do the best actors do? What do they study? What does it take? I followed that advice. This is my 12th year professionally doing this. I still take classes every week. I approach it the same way I approached lacrosse and football -- as a student of the game.

4. CBS: You’ve worked with some big-name actors – Bernie Mac, Duane Johnson, Jason Statham. What are your goals about the future? Do you want to be as big a star as some of those guys?

White: Being a star has to do with fame. I don’t care about that. I have an athlete’s attitude. I want to be the best as defined by my ability. My goal is to push myself in a position to call the people I want and the bank I want and do the things I want to do, because my value is known. To get that accomplished in this business, it’s the same thing you do things in sports. You make sure your integrity and your won-loss record is impeccable, and people will say yes more than they say no.

CBS: "Men of a Certain Age" was one of those shows that I heard such good things about, and it was one of the shows that I wanted to watch. I think the demographics might have been for people a little older than me, but I kind of regret not checking it out. What was the experience like on that show, and how disappointing was it that it was canceled?

White: It speaks a lot to what people watch and celebrate. The biggest ratings go to realty TV. The worst ratings go to Emmy-nominated shows. I basically shake my head, but I also scratch my head. We know it’s a great show and people say it’s a great show. I ask myself, “As a producer, how can I not change anything about the show but how can I get more eyeballs that go to the show?” Instead of five million people watching it, how do you get 15 million people to watch it? Guys like Ray Romano, Scott Bakula and Andre Braugher are some of the best actors in the history of the TV. I know what good work looks like and feels like, and I was happy to have that opportunity.

5. CBS: Your new movie is," Politics of Love", and your name is first on the marque and you’re on the movie poster. Is this just a big opportunity for you?

White: I was born into an athlete’s family, but that’s never a reason you get out on the court. You do it because you love it. That’s why I’m doing this. But let me ask you a question. In your lifetime, have you ever seen a black Republican who wasn’t laughed at?

CBS: Off the top of my head, I can think of J.C. Watts. I don’t think he was laughed at. I don’t want to say he was mocked, but I think he was definitely an anomaly.

White: My character, Kyle, is not that. He’s cool. He’s suave. He’s responsible. He’s all good things. What we wanted to try to say in this movie is that politics are about people. When I started to talking to my family about this movie, my mom reminded me that Martin Luther King was a Republican. There are bad people in both parties, and there are good people in both parties. Young people need to educate themselves more. That’s what motived me to be involved in this  --that it might get young people interested in the topic.

CBS: Yeah, but Martin Luther King was a Republican, probably because the southern Democrats were conservative and racist. I can see why he might want to be a Republican.

White: I can certainly see why. I was a surrogate for Obama; I helped fundraise. I’m still a supporter. I just like kids to think. As an advocate for the youth, I’m trying to educate them. As we travel the country hearing from young people, a lot of people don’t know why they agree or disagree with somebody. That’s not how I was raised. I’m passing along those pearls of wisdom. If you know why you believe something, that’s cool. If you don’t know why believe something, then you’re a fool.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com