Periodically, I will track down an outspoken player, give him the microphone and fire off a handful of questions in an attempt to get some stream of consciousness responses.
What better way to begin than with free safety Michael Huff, who is engaging, witty, quick and insightful. So, here’s my five good minutes with Huff:
Q: Why do defenders hate going against the zone-blocking scheme?
A: “As far as for me, as a free safety, you’re coming downhill, you’re trying to read the same cut the back’s going to cut, but you don’t know where he’s going to cut. In your normal running schemes, he’s going to run into the A gap or run to the B gap. In the zone-blocking scheme, he’s cutting off the linemen. So, if you’re coming downhill, you have no idea where he’s going to cut until he cuts.”
Q: How has Mike Mitchell done so far?
A: “He is getting consistent. Before, he’s always had his spurts in camps before. This one, he’s finally staying healthy and he’s out there making plays now.”
Q: What is camp like without Al Davis around?
A: “Different, especially with him not being at practice, not watching film, not critiquing every defensive film. It’s been a little different, so we’re just getting used to it.”
Q: Your thoughts on coach Dennis Allen?
A: “Love him. Glad to play for a defensive head coach finally.”
Q: Can this defense be a top-five unit this season?
A: “Oh, yeah. As long as we stay healthy, stay disciplined, then, yeah, we have all the makings, we have the scheme, we have the personnel. So, it comes down to the players on the field.”
Q: Is this going to be your best NFL season?
A: “What’s the question? Is that a question? Oh, it’s going to happen and if it doesn’t happen, I’ll be disappointed in myself. Everything is lined up for me to be the All-Pro, Pro Bowl player that I was drafted to be. So, this should be the year.”
Q: Offensive and defensive player to look for?
A: “Offense would be a healthy Darren McFadden. When he’s healthy, he’s the best back in the NFL, hands down. I’m not biased. I’ve played against other running backs, played against the top ones, but when he’s healthy, he’s the best in the league. He just does so much. Defense will be Ro(lando McClain, linebacker). In this defense, he can have a Patrick Willis, Ray Lewis-type year. He’ll be straight to the ball, make tackles, get picks, have a great year.”
Q: What’s it like having your camp in Napa?
A: “Oh, I love it. I’ve talked to all the old guys. I talked to ‘Nnam the other week, and he told me how great I have it here compared to what they have out there in Philadelphia. So, everybody on the outside tells me how good we have it, so I don’t want to take it for granted while I’m here.”
Q: Why are Crocs your shoe of choice? Wear anything else?
A: “Um, not really. I wear Crocs on an every-day basis.”
Q: What could get you out of crocs besides football? A wedding?
A: “I don’t go to weddings. Football game I wear my cleats. But, other than that, what do I have? Church. I wear church shoes. I wear Stacy Adams. I should have some church shoes Crocs.”
Q: Ever worn Crocs to church? Been tempted?
A: “No. Mom wouldn’t let me. She wouldn’t let me. I would if I could, but she wouldn’t let me.”
Q: Comfort level at this stage of your NFL career?
A: “I would say about a 5. I’m always still trying to get better. I’m still trying to learn every day, day in and day out. There’s always something to learn. When you get comfortable in this sport, that’s when you start to go downhill. So, I never want to be comfortable.”
Q: What’s with the Olympics shirt?
A: “Oh, yeah, my little brother sent it to me. He won the Olympic Trials in the long jump, but he got 10th at London, though. He sent it to me.”
Q: Your little brother was in the Olympics?
A: “Not my real brother. Like my godbrother, Marquise Goodwin. He’s at Texas right now. He’ll be a senior at Texas playing receiver.”