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Q&A with Raiders DE Mario Edwards Jr.

A transcript of a conference call with Raiders second-round draft pick Mario Edwards Jr. and the local media as furnished by the Raiders:

Q: Did you grow up a Cowboys fan because of your dad? Who did you root for growing up?

Edwards Jr.: “I definitely was a Cowboys fan because my dad played, but I’m excited that Oakland chose me.”
 
Q: Were you in the same recruiting class as Menelik Watson at Florida State? Did you come in together?

Edwards Jr.: “No we didn’t come in together. Menelik came and had one year left. He was older than me.”
 
Q: Did you guys overlap one year?

Edwards Jr.: “Yeah we were there one year. I was there with him one year.”
 
Q: How much do you weigh right now? I had read that you are about 272 ppund, at least it was that way at your pro day.

Edwards Jr.: “Right. I’m at 277 right now.”
 
Q: Were you surprised that the Raiders called? Did you know that they were in on you? Was there interest expressed at the combine?

Edwards Jr.: “My first time I had talked to them was yesterday and then I talked to them again this morning and then my agent called me about 4 or 5 minutes before they were on the clock and let me know I was moving out West.”
 
Q: Are you excited to be reunited with Raiders linebackers coach Sal Sunseri?

Edwards Jr.: “Definitely man, my two years when he was there were great. I learned so much from him and we developed a great relationship and now to go back and play under him again is definitely an honor.”
 
Q: What’s the weight range that you feel comfortable playing at, because I know you’ve played different positions?

Edwards Jr.: “Talking to them, they like me at the 280-285 weight range, so that’s pretty easy to stay at.”
 
Q: Do they want you as an end then at that weight?

Edwards Jr.: “They want me as a Leo and to rush and then mismatch on the inside and do things like that as well.”
 
Q: Did you get caught up in all the pre-draft criticisms about your effort, desire and weight and how do you answer all those criticisms?

Edwards Jr.: “Not really. If they really understood that coming into FSU there was never a set weight for me to be at. The whole motto or the whole goal was as long as you can run and do what we ask you to do I don’t care what your weight is. And I’ve even asked [Florida State Head] Coach Jimbo [Fisher] to what was just too high of a weight and he replied, if you’re 310, 312 then they have to deal with you being at 310, 312. Don’t worry about the weight just play. It was never a structured weight for me to be at. Then again it was in my sophomore year when we were playing just two quarters and we were done when I was 280-287 and then I also have where my following junior year I’m 310 and I’m playing 70-75 plays a game. We played 14 games and out of eight or nine of them I didn’t step foot off the field. Even if I was 277 right now, nobody can go 100 percent 77 plays straight and be effective. If they really understood how it was set up and that there was really no weight limit for me, then they would understand how things turned out.”
 
Q: When you come out of high school as a top recruit, do you think that the bar is set so high that if you statically fall anywhere short of that then you are going to hear about it?

Edwards Jr.: “I mean that’s just the world that we live in today. I feel like if I would have controlled my weight my three years that I could have lived up to what my rankings were. However I can’t put myself behind the eight ball. I took full responsibility for that. I understand how it works.”

Q: What do you think of this role, as the Leo position can have a bunch of different responsibilities?

Edwards Jr.: “I’m excited to play anything, honestly. Whatever they want me to play, whatever fits best. I’m not just focusing on one specific thing, whether it’s pass rushing or anything like that. I’m trying to be a complete player. I’m trying to go out there and be great in the run and be great in the pass and go out there and contribute to the team.”

Q: You’ve played in a lot of big college games at Florida State. What kind of an advantage, if any, does that give you over some other prospects?

Edwards Jr.: “We may have played a few other better players, but I was [inaudible]. I don’t think it gives me any advantage over anyone else, because now if they’ve made it to the NFL, that means that they’re good as well. Every game, every week is going to be like a national championship game, because now it’s the cream of the crop. Everybody is good. Everybody is great. Everybody is big, strong and fast, so now you have to go separate yourself from them.”

Q: What was the scene like when you got the news today? Where were you and who was with you?

Edwards Jr.: “I was in Ocean Springs, Miss., with my grandma there, my aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, immediate family. Man, it was great. My whole house shook when they called me name on TV. We were definitely excited.”

Q: How many people do you think were there total?

Edwards Jr.: “Maybe about 20 to 22 people. Not many.”

Q: Your dad said you were a little overconfident coming out of high school. Do you think that was true? 

Edwards Jr.: “I could say some of that was true. Coming out, No. 1 in in the nation and all that stuff, you have people saying you’re this and that, and all you’ve got to do is this and this and that. You kind of relax and take the foot off the pedal a little bit. But now, knowing that was the wrong thing to do, because once you get comfortable, as my dad said, you either get worse or you get better. There’s no in between. Me taking my foot off the gas pedal definitely caused me to gain weight and become worse. I just say that me getting a little too comfortable and complacent with where I was ranked kind of had its toll on me coming in overweight.”

Q: When did that light come on for you, when you realized you weren’t giving it what you needed to?

Edwards Jr.: “I would kind of say it came on when I first started in the Orange Bowl my freshman year. Coming into my sophomore year, I played at 280 to 287. Then my junior year, I came in at 310. I would say probably my freshman year. I got up to 310, but I was still a 500-plus squatter, 450-plus bencher, and still running 17 or 18 miles per hour. So it wasn’t that I couldn’t perform, I just couldn’t perform for a long time.”

Q: A lot of scouts think you helped yourself at your pro day. Did it feel like that to you?

Edwards Jr.: “Definitely. I felt like I had a decent enough grade coming out and I knew that if I could do great in my – first of all, getting my weight down and controlling it for a long period of time, from Oregon until now standing in the 270-280 range – then on top of my combine and pro day workout, I felt like I could have helped myself tremendously in the draft.”

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326

Raiders take Amari Cooper with No. 4 pick

ALAMEDA _ The Raiders moved to address a longstanding issue at wide receiver Thursday night with the selection of Alabama’s Amari Cooper with the fourth pick in the first round of the NFL draft.

Cooper, winner of the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver in college football, caught 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns. Cooper brings a consistent threat to second-year quarterback Derek Carr to go along with free agent signee Michael Crabtree from the 49ers.

The need for a wide receiver even outweighed the love of defense by general manager Reggie McKenzie and Jack Del Rio, as USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams was still on the board and would have been a tempting player to team with last year’s top pick Khalil Mack.

Cooper is the highest drafted wide receiver in Raiders history, surpassing the picks of Tim Brown at No. 6 in 1988 and Darrius Heyward-Bey at No. 7 in 2009.
Capsule

Amari Cooper

Round: First, fourth overall

Position: Wide receiver

School: Alabama

Ht/Wt: 6-1, 211

Resume: Considered the top receiver in the country in a step-in-and-play sense with regard to the NFL. Understands coverages and route combinations. Accelerates smoothly in and out of breaks and is NFL ready after being used all over the field by Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Biletnikoff award winner caught 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Quote: “I take pride in the way I release off the line and come out of my breaks. That’s really the only two ways you can get open. I think that’s probably what would separate me from someone else,” Cooper at the NFL scouting combine.

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