Readers who have been around for awhile may recall that I had a chance to talk with David Akers back in May as part of his Reebok promotional tour. The good folks at Reebok's PR firm got back in touch with me again last week, asking if I'd have any interest in talking to Omar Gaither. I told them I'd have to think about it.
And if you believe that...
What follows is, sadly, not a word for word transcript of our discussion. I screwed up the recording for most of it, which meant I had to go by the notes I typed as we went along. I think each answer captures the intent of what he was saying, but these are paraphrases and should not be taken as his exact wording. In a couple of cases, I've inserted some words in brackets that I think make his meaning clearer than what my notes captured, but again, those were not his exact words and I want to highlight that fact.
The questions are written up as I had prepared them beforehand, not exactly as asked, for the same reason. You may feel free to quote my part of the interview, though :)
I have to say, I was impressed with Gaither. He gives off a very football-focused, winning-oriented vibe. You can read beteween the lines a little bit on some of his comments about team leadership and coming back to work after a loss, but you'll still miss the obvious commitment with which he spoke. I liked what I heard.
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I know we need to get to some Reebok things in here, but I was hoping to start by asking you about the Bears game?
Yeah, people who know me, know there’s no way I’m going to get on here and not talk about football. Go ahead.
I thought this was easily your best game of the season. You really seemed to be playing downhill. Has it been an adjustment process getting used to the WIL position again?
Yeah, it has been. I don’t really want to say that [as an excuse] or anything, but it did take me a game or so to get back used to it. I had to figure out all the tricks of that position. Then I could put that out of my mind and go play. It has been an adjustment, but I feel good over there.
If you had your choice, would you be in the middle or on the outside?
There are good things and bad things about both positions. I like being the quarterback of the defense in the middle, but I also like WIL a lot. I’m able to be more creative over there and do some more things that are not in the defense.
What kind of things?
For example, if we have a blitz on and I have a guy assigned to me, maybe a running back for example, and I’m not blitzing, I can blitz anyway. It’s my choice if I think I can get there. In fact, one of my blitzes against Pittsburgh and one near-sack against Chicago both came off blitzes that weren’t called for me. Both positions are good, but I like the linebacking corps the way it is. So I’m good over there.
Early in the season, you were coming out a lot in passing situations for an extra safety. That ended after the Dallas game, but did that bother you not being a three-down linebacker?
[Laughs] You do watch the film closely, don’t you? Coaches feel like they have to bring the extra DB in sometimes. I’m not going to pout about it, but obviously I want to be on the field, because you get a lot of chances to make plays on third down in this defense.
By the third game against Pittsburgh, we switched to the nickel. I like that. I think it’s working and I hope I can keep staying on the field, but whatever the coaches call we go with.
It seems like Johnson’s sticking with his base defense a bit more this year than last year. Is that true or am I just making stuff up?
I don’t know if that’s true. Sometimes we look like we’re in base, but Chris is actually playing a joker or rush end, not SAM. That’s not our base defense. We switch it up some. [Then he said something about a defense that’s in-between nickel and base that I didn’t quite catch. Fodder for the next video rewind, I guess.]
Back to Chicago, what’s going through your head when there’s a blitz coming off the slot and you know you need to race across the field and cover Devin Hester? Is that a scary matchup?
[Laughs] No, it’s not scary. Well maybe for you all it is, but for us that’s just how we play. You live by the blitz and you die by it. That works for us and it’s what we do. Against Chicago, Chris actually got a sack on one of those.
So how you do guys bounce back after the tough loss on Sunday night?
You know what, I actually think it’s easier coming in after a loss to get ready for the next game. Coming in after a loss isn’t hard. You want to go to work right away. It’s actually harder after a win.
It’s like anything. You win a few games in a row, people start to get comfortable. It’s harder to get motivated. After a loss, people know they have to put the work in.
That’s interesting. Going back a couple of years, people used to complain that there wasn’t leadership on the team. That so-and-so wasn’t really a leader and people weren’t together. Now it looks like everyone on the field is yelling at everyone else. Have things changed since you were a rookie?
It’s definitely changed. The character is different. We’re a lot younger team than when I was a rookie. People think leadership comes from experience, but it actually comes from leaders. Stewart Bradley is a young guy, it’s his second year, but he’s going to lead because that’s in his blood. Quintin Mikell is the same way. He’s a leader out there. Obviously he’s playing next to Brian Dawkins, who’s a leader, but Mikell is definitely a leader out there too.
You guys have the league’s best run defense this year. The run defense was pretty good last year, but what do you think is the biggest reason for this kind of improvement?
The biggest change is just experience. The front four is the same. We have nearly the same three linebackers. It’s just experience. You can see what having a year in this defense does.
It looked like Chicago was doing some things early in the game last week to try to test the linebackers in coverage, specifically the other two. With that secondary behind you, do you think teams are going to see the linebackers as a place to try to go with the football?
No, not at all. Obviously, you look behind us and we have two great safeties. Offensive coordinators are going to have to attack somewhere else. You know they’ll try to go some place weaker.
But Bradley is fine. Gocong is fine. I think I’m fine. If we keep getting better, I hope what you’ll see by the end of the year is that coordinators aren’t going to know what to do or where to attack against us.
So let’s talk jerseys. If someone wanted to buy yours, could they be confident that you’re not going to switch numbers any time soon, since you’re on record saying you “hate” the number 96?
That’s funny, that’s come up a couple of times already. When I came out of school, I think most people weren’t expecting too much early [which is why he got assigned #96]. I kept it as just a reminder of that.
But now I think 96 looks good on me. I’m not going to change my number any time soon. In fact, I just signed my new deal with Reebok and I’ve ordered jerseys for all my family. So I’m not going to change that up on them now.
Since you brought up new deals, with a year-plus left on your contract, you’re in that prime extension window for the Eagles. Have you guys been talking about a long-term deal?
No, I’m not talking. I don’t even know if my agent is talking to them. I told them I don’t even want to know about that stuff unless we get to the point where something is close. Otherwise I just want to go play football.
Hey man, I really appreciate the time. Anything else I should have asked you about the deal with Reebok?
Yeah, I’ve been with them since I was a rookie. Just signed the new deal. Remember that anything you see us wearing on game day is made by Reebok. In fact, before the last game, I just got some new, all-green Reebok gloves, which worked out great for me. The best place to order any of that stuff is Reebok.com.