*TERYL AUSTIN *
Defensive line coach
Andrew Brown was a 3-4 DE initially at Virginia, and then moved inside to defensive tackle. Did the Senior Bowl really
impress you with him?
Burney: “It did initially, and then you just go back and look at the game tapes and the film through the year. The guy is solid as a rock — that’s what he is. He’s a disruptive guy, flies to the ball, strong. And they do play a 3-4 (at Virginia), but he moved out and played three-technique, which is why we like him. He’s just a solid, solid good player all the way through.”
He was Gatorade player of the year in high school ...
Burney: “Yeah, he had some accolades. They had a coaching change (at Virginia), and he worked through that and was a two- year starter. I can’t say enough about his character, which is truly important as far as practicing and playing. And then you put the film on and the guy is just showing up, down-after-down.”
He had some ejections last year. Were there any maturity concerns with him?
Burney: “No. I didn’t consider that a character issue. He’s not a character problem. As a matter of fact, he’s an example of what you want in the room and on the team with his worth ethic. I find him to be an example — an exemplary example.”
Do you view his role here as a three-technique defensive tackle?
Burney: Yes. He’s a three-technique for us, as well as other things. He has the ability where, if we need him to, can play as a five- technique or do some other things. But he’s a three-technique for us.”
When you took Davontae Harris from Illinois State, how much did you factor in his versatility and the fact that he’s played both safety and corner?
Austin: “We’re looking at him right now as a corner. We think he’s got a little bit, in terms of raw talent, but he has a really good skill set. He runs, he’s competitive, he’s tough. So he’s got all the base things you look for when you’re looking for a corner in this league.”
Do you see him dropping inside to defend slot receivers?
Austin: “That would be something where you see where they can fit. I think he would probably have the ability to do that. We see him more as an outside guy.”
Darius Phillips had six defensive touchdowns, and six touchdowns on special teams. Is being a playmaker his M.O.?
Jones: “Yeah. Phillips is a natural cover guy. He has a knack for going after the ball, using his hands, and ball disruption. We like his ability after he has the interception and what he can do after, in terms of return ability. He provides that impact that you like.”
Is his 4.4-second 40-yard dash time legitimate?
Jones: “Yeah, he’s in the 4.4s.”
So both guys are in the 4.4s?
Jones: “Yeah, both guys are in the 4.4s. Both guys bring something different to the table. But the one common denominator is they can both cover. They have a skill set that we like.”
What does Davontae Harris give you?
Jones: “Physicality in terms of his length, in terms of his size. He’s 205 pounds. He can run. Again, he’s very raw but has a huge upside.”
We’ve seen a focus on defense in the draft the past couple of days. How different is the defense right now than it was a couple days ago?
Austin: “It’s different because we’ve got a lot of new guys (laughs). I’m not sure how different it’s going to be until we get them into our system and see where they fit. I know we have a projection and an idea where we think they’ll go, but all that’s going to play out over time and how they fit in. We think we have a lot of good football players here, and our deal is that we’re adding some good football players. We know what we do. We have to be a lot better this year, and I think infusing talent always raises the competition level in the room. When you raise the competition level, everybody plays their best because they want to make the team, they want to get on the field, they want to help and they want to win. We’re going to be a better team overall from drafting these guys no matter what happens with them, how many of them play, or when they play. They’ll determine that by how they work and progress once they get here.”
A lot of people felt there were still going to be a lot of good football players in the third, fourth and fifth rounds. Based on what you’ve been able to do, would you agree?
Austin: “Absolutely. Sometimes the draft is top-heavy with, ‘Here’s all the stars.’ One thing we did think was that were a lot of good football players to be had in the second and third day. I think that’s shown out right now. There are still a lot of good football players on the board. We were fortunate to get the guys who, when our picks came, we thought would really be helpful to our team. We were able to get them, and we’re excited about them.”
Did you think you would go six-for-eight in selecting defensive players so far?
Austin: “No. Not getting defensive players. More importantly than what I get is that I’m hoping we’re up there doing what’s best for the team. I believe that, and that’s the most important thing for me. ‘What’s best for our team?’ What’s going to give us the best opportunity to succeed, to get a winning season, to give ourselves an opportunity to get in the playoffs? That’s what we’re really building for. If that was six-of-eight on offense and that was going to make our team better, I’d be all for it.”
Is there a commonality among the draft picks you were looking for, whether it’s competitiveness, speed, playmaking ability? Or, is each player you’ve picked this weekend unique in their own way?
Austin: “All the men we drafted are unique. When you look at it, one of the things that you see from all of them, I would say, is that they’re all competitive. They all have the ability to impact the game turnover-wise and do some things that way. When you look at the game nowadays, you need guys that can run, you need guys that can sack the quarterback and you need guys that can turn the ball over. That’s really what makes the difference week in and week out. We drafted a lot of guys that have a lot of those traits. The one thing that we did talk about with all of these guys is their love of football. When I’ve been up here (at a news conference) with the coaches, that’s the one thing we talked about — how much the guys like football. We like a lot of the guys’ football IQs. They play smart. They do a lot of really good things on the football field, sometimes stuff you don’t teach. Those are things we’re looking for, and we were able to grab those this draft.”
Phillips plays on special teams. Is Harris a special team guy as well?
Jones: “He’s not a returner, but he can have the ability to go down as a gunner and contribute. We expect him to contribute to special teams as well.”
Coach Austin, you’ve been in a lot of places in the league and seen the way they approach the draft. Is it any different here, or is it pretty much the same?
Austin: “Every team is different, but the same. They’re all different in their approach and how they do it, but the bottom line is that they all have the same goal — get the best players they can for the team. That’s what we have upstairs. It’s different than somewhere else I’ve been, but the bottom the line is our goal is to get the best players we can for our team. It doesn’t necessarily have to fit what everybody else out there thinks. What fits our team is going to help our team be the best we can.”
What have these few days been like for you? Were you wondering when you were going to get drafted and started developing
the chip on your shoulder?
“Yeah, definitely. For me, it was one of those things where I sat around, and at first everyone was asking, ‘How are you feeling, how are you feeling?’ and I am like, man, I am not sure. I am just getting ready for my opportunity and whatever happens, happens. The rounds are kind of going fast. It was just one of those things. I just want to be in that moment, take advantage of that moment and be around the people that helped get me here.”
What are the strengths of your game?
“The biggest thing is my physicality and speed. I am one of those players that is smart, who flies around and tries to come in and make a big hit.”
How versatile are you?
“Honestly, I am one of those guys — size-wise and speed — that can play anything in the secondary. I can play safety, nickel or corner, which is what I am used to playing. I am planning on playing all three positions and just trying to make an impact, and make a huge impact on special teams as well.”
Did you have much experience on special teams at the college level?
“In my first couple of years, that is all I did. In one of those years, I led the team in special teams tackles. As far as special teams go, it’s something I have done, something I am pretty experienced at and something I am definitely willing to do when I get to the NFL.”
Are you a press corner, or do you like to play off?
“I love press.”
How dicey was the ruptured small intestine injury in high school, and did it almost cost you a chance to play in college?
“That was one of those things where different teams backed off because they weren’t sure of the risk they were willing to take because (of the injury). I had a few offers left — two were Division I-AA and one was Division II — and out of those choices, Illinois State was the best option. I think it served me well.”
What were your high school track events?
“I ran the 100, 200, 4x1 and long jump.”
Were there scary moments with the high school injury? Were you nervous in general, and how did that process go for you?
“That process was smoother than people assumed because of the magnitude of the injury and the time frame it happened in my life. It was one of those things where, of course I was uncomfortable and going through pain, but my family and the people I had around me helped me forget about the adversity and focus on the good things around me. I had so many people at the hospital supporting me that the doctors had to kick some people out. My main focus wasn’t on what happened to me, but how I was going to overcome it.”
Did your mom want you to give up playing football?
“My whole family had a talk with me. It was one of those things where they wanted to put the decision in my hands, and I kind of took advantage of it and moved forward.”
Describe what happened?
“I was running across the field to make a tackle, the guy put his helmet in my stomach, rupturing my small intestine as I was making the tackle. It was a feeling in your body that I never felt before. It’s impossible to describe. I sat out and was throwing up a bit. I forced my way back on the field. The trainer was looking at me to see if I could run. I held the puke in until I could convince them I
could play again. I went back in, played the rest of the fourth (quarter), and then dropped to my knees and was done for the rest of the game.”
You finished the game?
“We went into overtime. I actually went back in and played an entire quarter, but I didn’t play in overtime.”
The injury really put things in perspective ...
“The more you look into my story, the more you learn who I am, you realize and get an idea of how much adversity I have gone through. Small things like that I can overcome because I have been through more.”
What has this day been like for you?
“It’s been a very surreal day; it’s crazy. I can’t even put the words together.”
Did it go like you thought it would, or has this process been a surprise?
“I would say everything has been a surprise because I didn’t want to expect anything. I was just taking in everything as it was coming in.”
Do you think your Senior Bowl performance helped your draft stock?
“Yes sir. Most definitely.”
Did you take the Senior Bowl as an opportunity to shine?
“My whole mindset going into that week was to show everybody that the five-star Andrew Brown didn’t go anywhere; I have always been here.”
Is there anyone in the NFL that you model your game after?
“I have always modeled myself after (Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle) Aaron Donald. Just watching him play with his tenacity and aggressiveness on every snap, I just wanted to be like him.”
Do you know anything about Geno Atkins, the guy you might be lining up next to?
“I know he is an absolute monster. It’s going to be an honor to play alongside somebody with such greatness, and to be able to soak it all up; being the young guy on the scene again. To be able to hone in on someone like him, I feel like it definitely going to elevate my game.”
Did you hear a lot of people doubting your five-star ranking?
“Everybody was saying I was a bust, and I wasn’t doing anything in college. There were all sorts of things, calling me soft. Just for me to get drafted, period, is a blessing. It’s just amazing how God works.”
Does the criticism give you a chip on your shoulder?
“They don’t even know the half of what is coming. I am ready to go.”
What stands out in your game?
“My quickness, and my strength along with it as well.”
With offers from all over the place, why did you chose Virginia?
“I chose Virginia for two reasons. The first reason was because of academics. It is one of the most prestigious universities in the country. I felt like with a degree from that university, I couldn’t go wrong. Secondly, I chose the University of Virginia because several guys like Eli Harold, Quin Blanding, Taquon Mizzell and all of us from the same area, if we go to Virginia, we could set the tone that you don’t have to go out of state to be successful. We took it upon ourselves to change the culture, stay in state and put Virginia on the map.”
What was your major?
Did you graduate?
Let’s start with what you feel you can do on the field. Is getting the ball into the end zone where you start?
“Yes sir. Every time I drop back, I try to make the most impactful play on the field, whether it’s a kick return, punt return or just getting an interception. (I try) to help the team in any way I can. I’m just ready to get back to work.”
Are you one of those guys who has a feel for the game? You make a play and after the game, you tell the media that you felt like it was just going to happen? Are you the kind of guy that sees a play before it happens?
“It’s more about other concepts, such as watching film to get a feel for what guys do. It’s like having football savvy and having a football IQ (in order to) jump plays and make plays happen.”
You were a wide receiver your freshman year at Western Michigan. How much did that help you as a cornerback to know what wide receivers were going to do?
“That helped me out a lot. I was a wide receiver since I started playing football in 11th grade. Playing wide receiver definitely helped me read guys’ breaks and route concepts. Having good balls skills and the ability to get the ball has helped me out a lot.”
It sounded like you were a little disappointed when your coaches first made the position switch. In the end, it seems like it was the best for everyone ...
“I was hesitant, but I talked with coach P.J. Fleck, and he said that it was the best decision for me. I trusted coach Fleck, and the rest (worked out).”
What about going up against wide receiver Corey Davis every day in practice? How much did that sharpen your skills?
“Corey Davis helped me out a lot. We went back and forth. He made plays (some days), and I made plays other days. Playing corner my first year against a great receiver like him boosted my confidence and gave me the confidence to play hard.”
Did you hear from him today?
“He texted me earlier today, and he texted me before I got the call. He told me to keep my head up and stay patient.”
At the press conference, the Bengals coaches said you are a natural cover guy. What does that mean to you?
“That means a lot, because they believed in me. A lot of teams focused in on my return ability, so for them to put trust in me and tell me that I have cover skills, it’s a confidence booster. (I’m ready) to go out, play and give it my all.”
Do you view the return game as your quickest way to make an instant impact up here in Cincinnati?
“Yes sir. Any way I can get on the field to make an impact and help the team, I will do it.”
You played track in high school as well?
“Yes, I played 200-meter track.”
So you are a legit 4.4 guy?