By Steve Corkran
Saturday, April 28th, 2012 at 7:04 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Here is the transcript from the post-draft news conference with Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen:
McKenzie: “The day is over. Ah, shoot. Let’s open it up, guys. Questions?”
Question: Just an overview of how you think the day went?
McKenzie: Well, it went better. We had more picks today. We set out to try to upgrade the team and by the end of the day we felt like we did that. Remains to be seen just how good they will be, but we anxiously will await their presence here in Oakland and also into camp. So, we’re excited. It was a good weekend. We feel good about where we’ve come so far.
Q: Are the D-lineman you drafted projects you can be patient with and bring along slowly?
McKenzie: Yeah, with all these guys, to a certain degree, they’re going to have to be brought along. But yes, the D-linemen, they did get into football late. But they are very good prospects so even though they’re a little raw, we feel like we can coach those guys up and they will eventually be pretty good players.
Q: There’s a report you could sign Matt Leinart, what could he bring to what you’re doing here?
McKenzie: What we’re doing, we’re bringing in Matt Leinart for a tryout. Signing and all of that, that’s secondary. But we’re bringing him in for a tryout.
Q: What do you like about him?
McKenzie: The fact is he’s an experienced quarterback and we just want to take a closer look at him, watch him throw the ball and see how his injury has come around.
Q: How do you evaluate a guy like Bilukidi who was at Georgia State?
McKenzie: Well, for one, it’s not his fault who he plays against. But with that being said, he’s a big man with a great deal of athleticism and he hustles to the ball. You can see that type stuff in watching him play. You can see his ability to move laterally, see his ability to play hard. But yes, playing against some SEC, Pac-12-type players, he did not have that chance to do that. But what you look for, did he dominate at his level? And that he did. Bottom line, he’s a big man with really good athleticism and he plays like he loves to play the game. So, we were down there in the draft and felt like we needed to take a look at him. You know, we had brought him in for a visit and interviewed him, spent a lot of time with him and we felt like we needed to take a further look and get this guy in.
Q: What did you like about Burris and is he the one guy today who has the most chance of making an impact this season?
Allen: I don’t know if he’s the one guy that has the most significant chance of having an impact. But he is one of those guys that we feel like… and Reggie said this from the very beginning, guys. What we wanted to do is we wanted to go out and get quality football players. And that’s what we feel like we got in Burris. I think he’s a tough physical player that’s got good athletic skill, has instincts for the game, plays the game the right way. And that’s really at the end of the day when we looked at it, we said hey, we’ve got a quality football player that’s got a chance to come in and compete for a position on this team and we wanted to try to bring him in here.
Q: How involved were you, Dennis, in the pick-by-pick and what were you emphasizing–let’s get the toughest guy? Something like that?
Allen: First of all, I think Reggie and I, when it got time or it got close to the pick, he and I were in constant communication on where we thought we ought to go with the pick and who was the best player available. And at the end of the day, really, what we went off of was, when we looked at the tape, what players jumped out at us, that were productive, quality football players? And I think everyone of the guys that we were able to pick understood how to play the game, they were tough, they were smart, they were disciplined, they played the game with instincts. Those were the qualities we looked for in a football player. And then they’ve got to be above a certain line athletically, and all these guys were.
Why all the basketball players, Reggie?
McKenzie: “You know, even when college scouts go in and do their research, you see this guy played baseball, this guy played three years of high school basketball. Yes, it helps when you talk about how athletic especially big men are. Do we go in and look for guys who played basketball? No. No. But when we research and get down into the scouting part of it, yes. That’s part of the process. It’s just like when we look at defensive backs – if they play center field and outfield, learning how to track balls, that’s part of scouting. But for a specific sport? We don’t go out looking for basketball players, defensive linemen who can play basketball. That doesn’t give them a boost up in a round, no.”
Allen: “We’re close to having a starting five, though.”
And how about all the players with such strong faith?
McKenzie: “You know what? I think when you talk about high-character guys, how they were brought up, work ethic, I think part of that is kind of reflective on your faith. At least I know it was with me. But did we go out and say we’re going to get faith-based players specifically? No. No. That’s not our intent. But I think just by nature good quality players have a strong foundation in their faith.”
Surprised Criner was still there, and was his speed a red flag?
McKenzie: “Yes, we were surprised that he was still there, but excited that he was. And the speed, it was a factor but it was not a red flag. Because if it was a red flag we probably wouldn’t have taken him. But the guy, for a big guy, he’s quick. So if he was a slow guy with no quickness, it would have been a struggle to get him there.”
How did the trade come about?
McKenzie: “After looking at the board, we felt we could have an opportunity to move down, and pick up, we had quite a few players around that level, so we felt like we could get one of ‘em. And also by picking up another pick, that was just gravy. So if we got a team to do it, we would’ve jumped on it. And we did. So that’s how it went down.”
So you approached them?
Q: Why didn’t you draft any defensive backs?
Allen: “Well, first of all, I appreciate the guru comment. I don’t know if I classify it as a guru. But, really, at the end of the day, we set out on this process and our goal was to get the best football players we could for this team. If there was a defensive back that was available at the value that we were looking for at that time, then that’s a decision that we would have made. But, really, at the end of the day, we played the board out exactly how we went through the process. That’s a credit to Reggie and the scouting department on how we set the board. And we didn’t panic. We just went right off the board and the best player available was the direction that we went. We feel good about the guys that we picked.”
Q: What are the rules for contact with the rookies between now and the mini camp in two weeks?
McKenzie: “Well, there’s a lot of rules. For fear of not abiding by the rules, I’m going to just leave that alone. Yes, our hands are tied. Now, we’ll get them in in a couple of weeks, as far as the rookie mini camp goes, but it’s hands off. It’s an off-limits-type of thing. Those guys have to be back into their college towns no later than tomorrow night if we would have brought them in today. So, it has to be a short turnaround. Just come in, meet you guys, and they’re pretty much out. That’s the way the league, along with the NCAA, has it. So, it’s for fear of taking these guys out from school. That’s the main purpose. Yeah, we wish we could get them in and do a whole playbook sessions, but we can’t do that.”
Q: What did you learn about Reggie during the draft process, coach?
Allen: “I said it before, and I’m not going to restate it again, other than, I’m just going to say, listen, you get the same guy, no matter what. He’s not going to fold under the pressure, the stress is not going to get to him, he’s got a plan, he’s going to work that plan and, at the end of the day, those are the guys that make the best decisions. The ones that don’t get emotional about making a decision, they have a plan attack, they have a thought process about the way that they’re going to operate and, at the end of the day, they work that plan. And that’s what he did during this draft, and that’s what he’s done with everything since he’s been here.”
Q: What is the latest on Tyvon Branch and Marcel Reece and their tenders?
McKenzie: I haven’t, our contract negotiators have been in contact with them specifically, but communication’s been well. With either of those guys it’s not been an ugly situation. They know we love ‘em and we feel good about our chances of getting them back, hopefully sooner than later. But the communication has really been pretty good.
Q: Neither has been signed?
McKenzie: No, not yet.
Q: Relief that it’s over, knowing you came into this without a lot of picks?
McKenzie: Coming into this thing, knowing that I had two picks, thinking about it was a struggle, because I didn’t want to think about that. But the hope of the possibility of getting compensatory picks, that gave you a brighter outlook, and when we got ‘em, needless to say we were excited. But to come away with six draft picks on the day, we feel great about. Where they came, really doesn’t matter, it’s the fact that we have some draft picks, and, but the anticipation of it, didn’t matter what round, it was exciting. We’re getting ready to pick our guy, and it was constant communication. It was a good process. It was good for me. This was a good weekend.
Q: What caught your eye about Hardy, no football experience at all?
McKenzie: In high school, he played. He was a basketball player in college. For one, the video tape, watching him, in the tryout showed his athleticism, ability to catch the ball, adjust and all that. You can tell his hands are not going to be a problem. And he ran pretty well, the frame, his physical frame, he looks the part. It was one of those deals, let’s see him try out in person. And I sent the scout down and everything was positive, so we brought him up. He’s had a little injury since he’s been up here, and that’s kind of slowed down his progress which he needs a lot of progress, but it’s one of those, `let’s take a look and see’ we know it’s going to be a project, but we’ll try to figure out if it’s going to be a good one or not.
Q: Injury is a minor injury?
McKenzie: Yeah, it’s minor. It’s minor.
Q: Now you have four tight ends. Are you comfortable with four or looking to add one more?
McKenzie: It depends on if something comes available. I’m just not going to let a player that we like that comes on a waiver wire or whatever through a tryout. If it’s a guy we think we can add and upgrade the competition, we’ll add him.
Q: More incentive today to address the defensive side?
McKenzie: I think we went into the draft from day one to address the defense. You got to understand we have a defensive head coach and a defensive-minded general manager, so let’s win on defense. But as the day went, the defensive players were the players that were on the board. So we didn’t intentionally just go defense, defense.
Q: With the two defensive linemen, Christo and Crawford, do you have positions you think they’re going to be at?
Allen: Yeah, right now we’re looking at Christo going inside and playing inside and we’re looking at Crawford as a defensive end.
Q: In terms of Crawford’s leaping ability, he’s batted down a lot of passes at the line of scrimmage, maybe could be used for blocking kicks, is that the kind of thing you look at for something he could be used for?
Allen: Yeah, he’s big, athletic, runs really well. And he’s had some production, and so again we look for versatility in guys and we try to find roles for specific guys and I think as you look at him as we get a chance to work with him, I think we’re going to be able to define a pretty good role for him.
Q: Undrafted free agents?
McKenzie: That will be an on-going process. It’s going as we speak. We’ll wrap this up pretty soon. That process has started prior to us coming down. That thing goes for a while. We are hopeful that we get some good players that way too.
Q: Will this be an all-nighter?
McKenzie: Yes, absolutely.
Allen: Every night is an all-night thing.
Q: What’s the back and forth like with those UDFAs?
McKenzie: Let me tell you something. I’ve been at this for all these years. It’s ongoing until we have the signed document. It is a constant struggle because you have the recruiting part of it. It gets competitive, especially when you’re dealing with contracts, money, opportunity of course. Everybody gets into the recruiting aspect but we have the closer here next to me so we should be fine.
Q: How were you able to sign Hardy before draft?
McKenzie: Technically his draft year was in ’11, 2011. He was technically a street free agent at this point.