Initial comments:ML: I can't tell you how excited we are to have Andre there and to select him. The draft unfolded much like we had figured. We knew that if the Rams did not draft a quarterback at two, that there was probably going to be a trade at some point for the quarterback. So that worked out that way we hoped it would. We had an opportunity to select a player that has a great opportunity to come in here and really make us a better football team right away. We spent a lot of time with Andre and we are ready to begin work with him. It's been quite a process of evaluation with him and very, very thorough.
Q: You said you were more impressed with him after meeting him in person:ML: This is a guy who's been very well coached in college. When our coaches began to talk with him about football, you watched this guy really light up talking about the protections, who's supposed to have this guy, where the point was and all of those things that kind of go unnoticed at times. And secondly, I talked to him as we're watching the game tapes where he really dominated, and he said, 'Well last year we lost to them, Coach.' We liked his aggressiveness and how he finished on people. This guy wants to be very, very good. We know he's had a lot of things that have come up in this process. He's been very heavily scrutinized since the bowl game and what happened there. I think he's stepped up at every turn, and put himself out there a little bit, and told people what occurred.
Q: Is he projected as a left or right tackle?ML: We're not going to worry about that. We'll see what happens for the rest of today and tomorrow and go from there. We'll see where we place him next weekend at minicamp, and then we'll get the rest of the football team together.
Q: How much did Alabama head coach Nick Saban help with evaluating Andre?ML: Nick has been very positive about him. I did not talk to Nick personally, but Paul (Alexander) did. Paul spent a lot of time there and with Joe Pendry, his line coach. These guys have been in his corner. Joe Pendry was a longtime NFL coach and a really tough man, as we know Nick is. So we feel real good about that and their recommendations on him, and that they believe these things were just signs of missteps, things that are very correctable.
Q: You had to be excited about how the picks in front of you unfolded:ML: Yes. That was exciting.
Q: Did you have any trade offers?ML: No, not today. People were trying to figure out how they were going to move around just because people were unsure of what the Rams were going to do. That's just part of the draft. Had the quarterback gone, I think it would've probably stayed pretty true, but it didn't work that way.
Q: Did you have any hesitation once you were on the clock?ML: No we didn't have any hesitation. There was really no discussion. We discussed this very thoroughly, particularly this week, as far as the order of the top-10 prospects in our minds.
Q: What are Andre's strengths as a blocker?ML: He's an exceptional run blocker, but he's got a great long reach. He understands pass protections, pass sets and angles, things like that. He comes to us similarly to how Andrew Whitworth did a few years ago. I remember in my first year in Pittsburgh, we took a guy named Leon Searcy, who had these big long-reach arms and understood how to play the game. And obviously Andre has played in one of the best college football conferences going.
Q: Was Smith playing in the SEC a factor?ML: Well, you can put on a SEC tape and you're watching defensive guys and you're looking at Andre. You can look at other Alabama players and you're looking at Andre. So I've had a lot of exposure to everything about him. Paul (Alexander) went to go see him on Thursday and visit with him again. We really liked him, this was a big pick for us, and wanted to make sure this was the right pick.
PAUL ALEXANDER (Assistant head coach/offensive line coach) and BOB BRATKOWSKI (Offensive coordinator)
Q: What do you like best about Andre?BB: I think, in this division, where you play some very physical defenses, the first thing that stands out is this guy can move people. That's something, when you look at the film, you see it over and over again. That's a very positive trait to have in this division.
PA: I agree that's probably his best strength. He's a very powerful man. Like Marvin said, he's got the long reach and the big strong hands. He has terrific balance in pass protection and can hold his weight and not get out over his toes. Probably the trait I like about him the most is that he really understands blocking. He knows when to turn, when to push, when to cut. He just really understands how to play the game.
Q: It sounds like you're describing Willie Anderson. Is that an unfair comparison?PA: I don't want to make that comparison at all, but that was Willie's best trait. Willie was the best player I've ever known that really understood how to block.
Q: Marvin said meeting Andre in person changed things. Do you have the same feelings?PA: I think whatever perception people have, their opinion will change tomorrow too. I think when you guys get a chance to meet him and see what kind of guy he is; he's ready to answer some questions I'm sure you'll have. He's not afraid of them. He's a good guy and an accountable person. I'll address some of those things. The first thing was, is he the first person to leave the combine? No. Is he the first person to not work out? No. The list kind of goes on a little bit. Ultimately, I think everyone will feel pretty good with all that stuff.
BB: In this process, when you meet with these guys — and we brought these guys all through here — I would take them for about half-hour or 45 minutes, and then Paul would spend a lot of time with them. You can tell the agents train these guys. They're all coming in with a canned speech. When you get him on the board and you start talking football, you can kind of tell that they've trained for it. But when I visited with this kid, right away when we started talking football, everything was like, 'Yeah, let's talk about football.' He was very, very impressive. As Marvin said, he lit up. There was a very natural aspect to it. It wasn't canned. It wasn't phony. You could tell that this kid loved to play football.
Q: What did Nick Saban and (Alabama assistant head coach [offense]/offensive line coach) Joe Pendry say about Andre?PA: Joe Pendry said he was a delight to coach. I've known Joe Pendry for a long time and I trust him a lot. Joe never sugarcoats anything. Joe is not one to lie. Joe just said the kid was great. I talked to a lot people from Alabama. Everyone said that all of these weird issues that came up after the combine were out of character. They say he's been a great kid, work and everything. They recommend him without reservation.
Q: As an undergraduate in the SEC, he played left tackle. Is he a left tackle, right tackle, or can he play both?PA: He can do both. There's no question Willie (Anderson) could have done both. I said the same thing about Willie — that he could play both positions. I think he can play either tackle, or either guard. We aren't going to put him at guard. We have to get all the players first, and then we'll decide where to put them then.
Q: You've said the offense has some holes. How does this pick help fill those holes?BB: Anytime you pick up a quality offensive lineman, it's a big step. Now we know where we want to go with the rest of picks, when it comes to the offense. This is a big step because this a good football player. That part is taken care of, and now we move forward.
Q: Marvin said you meet with him on Thursday. What did you do in that meeting and what did you talk about?PA: I called him Thursday morning. I told him I would like to come weigh him. He said sure, so I went down there. I got him on the scales and his weight was good, for our meeting being so unannounced. Thank goodness I have unlimited texting, because I've been texting this guy for months now. I told him Thursday night, if I was in my early coaching career, I wouldn't be able to coach him. The message I was trying to tell him is that we are going to have a clear path. First-round picks have performed well according to the path which came before them. And we are going to lay that out for them. And he wants to go down that path.
Q: What separated Andre Smith and Eugene Monroe?BB: I'm not going to compare the guys. It wouldn't be fair to either of them. We thought this football player, in terms of run blocking and pass blocking ability, was the one we wanted.
Q: Was the knee injury an issue with Monroe?BB: I'm not going to talk about the injuries or the factors that went in to the decision.
Q: How did Smith do in the classroom? Was he able to correct the correctable mistakes?PA: He was really good at that. You try to teach them something, and regardless of if it's right or wrong, the question is: Can he learn something new? He does very well at that. That's a great strength that he has. After his workout in Alabama, you hear people saying that he did terrible. Some people said he had a good workout. Well, he didn't run around cones very well, but the two things he did do very well were run block and pass block.
Q: How big of a factor is Andrew Whitworth to help develop Smith?PA: Whitworth is a tremendous leader. He is a big part of the path Andre will follow.
Q: Did you meet with Smith at the combine?BB: Yes.
Q: What did you think of the issue of him leaving the combine early?BB: I didn't see it as being an issue. It was a little mysterious about what was going on. We had time to find out what was going on (after that) and gain more information about the individual. And that needed research, but we did our due diligence on it, and we came a way from it feeling really good.
Q: What is he like with his teammates and his leadership?BB: I can tell you what his quarterback at Alabama thought of him. He said he would love to be on the same team with him for a very long time. That's about the best you can say it.
Q: How many hours did you spend with him and what were some of the questions you had for him?PA: That's a tough question to answer in terms of an exact number. ... I don't question a lot with this guy. I trust my eyes and what we've seen from him.