By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Monday, April 2nd, 2012 at 2:07 pm in Oakland Raiders.
A transcription of linebacker Philip Wheeler’s conference call with Bay Area media Monday:
Q: What can you say about your first day in terms of the atmosphere, what impressions can you draw?
Wheeler: It’s like, I’m pretty sure everybody else thought, everybody was new, a lot of new faces, new coaches, for everybody. I feel like we’re all coming in on an even playing field type thing. As far as competition, I feel like it’s going to be healthy competition for us and I feel like we’re going to be a good team because of that.
Q: What can you say about the coaching staff, their message to you, etc?
Wheeler: This is my first day. I did know one of the coaches, prior, the Senior Bowl when I was coming out of college, coach Tarver, and I talked to him on the phone before I signed and that kind of helped make my decision. He knows my ability and everything. That’s one coach I already knew. I feel like this is the best situation for me. I think, these coaches here, they were pretty adamant about the way they’re running their defenses. It’s a defensive head coach, he has a defensive mind, I wanted to come to a place that would take defense a little more serious.
Q: Was decision tough when it came down to it?
Wheeler: It was a tough decision any time you’re moving somewhere, especially when I have an opportunity to move on the other side of the country, to move toward a defense that, it looks like this defense is catered to linebackers and specifically the way I play, I think. It feels good to be around other good linebackers. It seems like it’s already a decent linebacking corps here, a pretty good linebacking corps. They’re young, just like myself so I feel this would be a great opportunity to build something here. As far as my decision, I had my choice to go to a couple other teams, Miami was one of ‘em. It was a hard decision, but it was a better fit for me here because of the type of defense and the type of scheme they’re running here and the type of coaches they got here.
Q: How is the defense catered to your style of play?
Wheeler: Coach Tarver told me there was going to be a lot of blitzing, just a lot of mixing up things, not just standing still in Cover 2 like I did in with the Indianapolis Colts for awhile. Nothing against that, we had a great offense that kept the lead a lot. We were able to sit back in Cover 2 and rush the passer a lot because teams had to catch up, and we had two great defensive ends that did that. But I also like to rush the passer and everything from the linebacker position and coach Tarver told me that it would be some of that going on.
Q: Impressed by how Raider fans reached out, how many followers did you pick up?
Wheeler: Yeah, yeah. I don’t know I think it was like 2,000. It was cool man, because that kind of helped me in my decision because it showed me how big of a football city this is and how much they paid attention to football instead of going somewhere else. Indianapolis, it was pretty good football city, but the fans, they didn’t’ get more involved in media, and just showing us how much they care about the game. I always wanted to play in a big football for a legendary team, something like that and that kind of helped me choose Oakland.
Q: How does knowing Peyton Manning help when you play him?
Wheeler: He’s going to be in a different situation than he was. I just know from practice and going against me, he helped me playing against the best quarterback in the league. I know how to step my game up because of that. As far as knowing what he’s going to do, he’s always unpredictable. That’s why he was so good. You don’t know where he is going with the ball. You know what type of play he runs but you don’t know when he’s going to run it. I feel like I’m better just from going up against him in practice every day and I’ll be prepared to face any quarterback like that. I think I can help the team do that.
Q: How do you set the edge as smaller strongside linebacker?
Wheeler: To be honest it’s kind of difficult for me to decide on a position for myself because I think I’m versatile. The coaches also recognize that. I feel like playing that position it comes pretty simple to me. I don’t worry about it as far as size and everything. I just want to be able to use all of my talent. I’m kind of a jack of all trades. I feel like in Indianapolis I wasn’t able to use everything that I had. It didn’t bore me. It just made my want to do something else, check to other teams. I just want to be able to use all of my talents. That’s all. I feel like I’ll be able to do that here. That’s why I chose to play here.
Q: Any sense how many guys showed up today?
Wheeler: I don’t know how much of the team was here. We had meetings, we had our first introduction meeting. A lot of new faces from what I here. I lot of new faces for me. Everybody got to know each other today.
Q: Used to see Raiders played 4-3, seldom blitzed and played a ton of man, sounds like new era will be different?
Wheeler: I actually heard some of the coaches saying we’re not just big and fast anymore. We’re going to be big, fast and we’re going to be smarter and have good football players. I played Madden a lot. I know a lot of players on the team because I play with the Raiders. They always had the fastest team. I always put Terrelle Pryor in the game and I run around with him on Madden. He’s probably my favorite player on the team. Nobody knows that yet. I play with him on Madden so I feel like I know everything about the team. They were always bigger, faster and stronger than everybody. But the awareness of the game, some of it was down or whatever. I feel like Mr. McKenzie brought in a lot of players in who actually know how to play the game and aren’t just faster than everybody. We have actual football players here now.