SOW Podcast 7-11-12 Niles Paul Talks Being Compared to Shannon Sharpe, RG3, His Goals for 2012
Well now that we are a little closer to camp kicking off it’s time to fire the podcast back up. This week Redskins Tight End Niles Paul joins us to talk about his transition to TE from WR, if it is fair to compare him to Shannon Sharpe, the respect he already has for RG3, and how excited he is to get back to football.
J Steelz from HTTR24-7.com also joins us in studio to talk about the ups and downs of Santa Moss’s time in DC, the NFL Supplemental Draft, and who is to blame for the collapse of the Redskins in 2008.
If listening isn’t your thing check out the transcript of the interview below.
Ray Smith: Niles, thanks so much for joining us tonight.
Niles Paul: Pleasure to be on the show man, pleasure to be on the show.
RS: How is your summer break going for you?
NP: It’s going pretty good. You know, at first since I was fairly new to it all, when it came to, like, the offseason, I didn’t know what to do. I was like ‘I need to go train somewhere, I need to stay in shape’, so I was in a frenzy just trying to get home and train. But I stayed out in DC and trained with a bunch of the fellas on the team, you know, we’re getting some good work in every day.
RS: Well I gotta tell you man, as someone who has been a huge fan of this team for a long time, and I know that Kyle can confirm this, I don’t remember an offseason where we’ve had quite this much excitement, and I know that every offseason, people are talking about the exciting things that are happening in DC, you know, ‘Are these pieces going to work, is that going to work’, but what I’m really interested in seeing is, what kind of team chemistry are you guys putting together. Not just from what we saw during the OTAs and stuff like that, but with so much change that’s happened, even in this offseason time, and you’re trying to get down and away from football and working out, but is there still this connection? Is that where this team chemistry is coming together?
NP: Yeah. I mean, I didn’t even know what it was like last year because of the lockout and everything. And I was just kind of thrown into the fire with the guys, but we had a place where the young who guys came in, the rookies, where we were extremely comfortable with the team. There’s going to be a lot of competition going into camp, and I’m excited for it.
RS: So obviously, you’re in your 2nd year now, and you hit on the fact that this is a little bit of a different offseason, because there actually is an offseason for you guys this year. We talked to Leonard Hankerson last year, one of your rookie classmates from last year’s draft, who said that missing OTAs, and all of the junk that happened because of the lockout, he really felt like it was devastating to him. Because to him, a guy that had been in college ball, you always have spring ball to kind of get yourself together and prepare for what’s coming up. But as a rookie to go from jumping from the draft to right in to it, it’s got to be pretty crazy. You didn’t experience that, but now you’re seeing it with the young guys. Talk a little about the difference you’ve seen in some of this year’s rookies, the things that’s they’ve had to face, and the burnout that they might see that you didn’t necessarily see last year.
NP: I think it’s beneficial for them because they’re learning the playbook and even thought I’m a tight end now, I still watch the wide receivers, and I watch how they pick up on the offense, and the young guys being able to, in OTAs, they got more comfortable in the system, running the plays, not having to look back and ask coach what to do. Whereas last year, me and Hank and Al were, like in the fire, out there with very limited reps, trying to figure out what we had to do, and tried to make the most of out the reps we had. Because at the end of the day, we still didn’t really know what we were doing out there. And it took us a couple of game into the season just to get that down.
RS: Hankerson talked to us a lot about that and said, just the ability to have to think about things, versus the ability to just go out and perform, or for it to be second nature is a huge difference. One thing that Redskins fans have begged for, for years and years and years, is consistency. To be able to have a core group of guys on the offensive side of the ball that can work year in and year out on the same things and build cohesion – is that something that fans have dreamed up as a pipe dream? Or is that something that is important for you guys so you can feel like you can count on the guys who are there, the same guys year in and year out, and everyone is coming in on the same page together as a team?
NP: It’s unrealistic to think that you are going to have the same guys back every year. You just hope that when new guys come in, everybody can come in on the same page and have the same mentality that we are a team, and we all come from different places, and we all are striving for that one goal, and that’s to win a Super Bowl. The offseason shows that you can get a whole different group of guys together, and everyone is just out there, from veterans, to the London Fletchers to the rookies, they’re out there, just working, trying to get better, just competing every day. You’ve clearly seen that in OTAs. I experienced it in OTAs, and throughout the summer offseason program.
RS: In watching the OTAs this year–and for us it’s the first year that we’ve actually been credentialed to be out there and keep a close eye on what you guys are doing–but to see that work that you guys have been putting together, it’s been interesting to see some things that we’ve not gotten to see before. One of the things that stood out to me is, at least as far as you running the routes and getting the receiving part of tight end down, it seems like its been a pretty easy transition for you. Is that correct to say, or are you just making it look easier than it really is?
NP: It’s been a pretty easy transition for me thus far, and that’s just, we haven’t actually put on pads yet and I haven’t had to go against Ryan or Rak in full pads in practice yet. So in the sense of the passing game, it all comes easy because in my mind, I’m still a receiver, I’m just out there in a tighter position. As a tight end in this offense, you’re basically a wide receiver when it comes to running routes, you know [what] the concepts are called, and you just have to know what you have to do. I think as a tight end, you have to know the whole concept, because any little thing can change. I felt like last year, I built a confidence up as the year went on, with just learning and knowing the play book. I came in comfortable enough to pick up on the passing game a lot easier. Mean and Sean was just talking, me and coach was just talking about this, about how the firs day I was looking at this stuff and saying ‘You want me to block THESE dudes?’ And everybody kind of laughed in the room, Chris Cooley and Fred Davis were in there, and Logan Paulson were just kind of reassuring me that ‘You can do this, this isn’t as hard as it looks’. In our offense there’s a lot of zone stuff. You’ve got to get to your zone, you’ve got to hold your zone, and you’ve got to protect the running backs. You’ve got to protect the QB. They said it’s not all about being stronger than somebody; it’s about being smarter, trying to out-technique somebody.
RS: One of the biggest things that people who have questioned your move to tight end, has been the blocking. To hear you say that, in the zone blocking scheme, there are different ways to get around it, but after watching some of those special teams hits that you laid on people last year, I had zero concerns with your hitting ability, with your blocking ability, or really, with your lack of fear to go up against these big guys. One of the things that’s been a huge story to me about this whole transition from you is not just that fact that you’ve got the versatility to convert from WR to TE, but what’s it like for you to have a coach like Mike Shanahan, who looks at an offense, who really has a lot of WRs, after of the moves with some of the guys that you added this year–not only with the draft but with guys like Pierre coming in on Free Agency, Josh Morgan coming in, and then even a guy like Aldrick Robinson who came in with you guys last year and is kind of worked his way up from the practice squad–what does it mean to have a coach who looks at a position and says, “I see the ability for this player to not just be a WR, but I believe we can use him at TE. We can get him playing time, and he can make an impact on a team”. What does that say to a guy like you to know that you’ve got a coach that’s willing to get you on the field no matter what it takes?
NP: Honestly, it let’s me know the respect that coach Shanahan has for me, and I appreciate him and what he’s doing for me here. He’s basically just trying to find me a home, you know? He told me at the end of the day that I can still play at WR, so in time, if it didn’t work out, I could play WR. But that hasn’t been a problem at all. It’s just me picking up the whole concept of running and blocking. I can’t stress enough about how I appreciate this opportunity I’ve been given.
Kiel Maddox: You’re playing TE now obviously, which is how they run it up in New England, similar at least in my opinion. But have you ever been discussed as a returner? Because I remember last season, against Tampa Bay in the preseason, Brandon Banks has a run back for a touchdown, and you come from about 40 yards back and are at least side-by-side next to him as he’s crossing the goal line.
NP: I mess with Banks about that play all the time, because he tried to act like he didn’t see me. But I was a return man at Nebraska, and even Coach Shanahan talked to me about that. He said I’ll be a TE, but I can return, whatever, so just granted given the opportunity, I still maintain my role as the off-returner as of this year, because that’s what I’ve been doing. [But if] he wants me, if I get the opportunity to return kicks, I’ll gladly take it.
RS: In your second year, and with this whole transition, to me…I wrote an article for the site a couple of months ago. I took some heat at first because I don’t think people saw some of the same things that I saw. But as we’ve gotten through OTAs, people are starting to come around a little bit. Mike Shanahan once coached a WR who had a very similar body build to you, very similar 40 [yard dash] time to you, and that WR also made a transition to TE. That guy went on to be a Hall of Famer, and one of the greatest we’ve ever seen in Shannon Sharpe. Is it unfair for us to wonder is that’s kind of the mold that you’re going down? Are you hoping that’s the road you’re going down? And then to follow that up, you spent some time with Shannon, I believe, in the last couple of weeks. Talk a little bit about that and how that helped with the transition.
NP: I think that’s real optimistic, but in my opinion, I feel like I’m flattered by the comparison but it’s a little unfair, because this is Shannon Sharpe, and I haven’t even played my first down yet at TE. Not in the preseason, not in the regular season. But just being able to sit down with Shannon and talk to him about his transition, what he went through and what was the biggest thing for him was, and what he had to adjust to, it kind of gave me a lot of hope, knowing and reassuring me that I can do this. This wasn’t as big a deal as I was making it seem. I have the mentality [that] I can play TE in the NFL. In my mind, that’s where I’m at. There’s no questioning myself anymore. I can go out here and block these guys, and I can go out here and run routes. That’s just how I feel.
RS: You’ve got that whole thing going for you. I’ve talked to a bunch of guys in the media in the DC area, and when we’re standing on the sidelines, it’s easy to point out ‘Oh, this ball should have been picked up by this guy, or this block should have been made’, when we’re not the ones with the pads on, right? But to see the transition that’s been made, and to see the competition that there is at almost every position on this roster now, and to see you right in the mix with things at TE–the day that we were out there, you were getting a lot of work with the first team–what’s that like to have guys like Fred Davis and Chris Cooley, who is absolutely adored by the fan base here, to really be in the thick of competition with those guys and that possible being the three TEs this year? And another great guy in Logan too. Talk about what that competition can do for you individually and for this team as well.
NP: I think it’s a great competition for the team. With those three guys, being in the room with them, I just feel the camaraderie between us and I’m enjoying every moment of it. I’m picking Logan’s brain, I’m picking Chris’ brain, I’m picking Fred’s brain about what they’re thinking on this play or what they’re doing on this play. I’m learning a lot and they’re helping me a lot. It’s not like anybody is holding any grudges against each other. This is a business and we’re all training to be those final three or four TEs at the end of year, at the beginning of the season. So it’s enjoyable for me because it’s not like I’m in an uncomfortable environment. Guys have welcomed me with open arms. They’re teaching me little tips and tricks while I’m out there, so it’s helping me get along in this process.
KM: At Nebraska, you were a really talented WR. I’m not a big, huge college football fan but I saw a few Nebraska games, and when I saw we drafted you I followed up with some tape and everything. Even with the Redskins, and a couple games in preseason, you’ve shown that you can be a pretty good threat. This season, what’s a realistic goal for you? What do you plan of achieving this season?
NP: I just want to make some plays for the Redskins. I’m talking I want to make some offensive plays and win a lot more games. I want to go to the playoffs. My goals are more team oriented goals, but obviously I want to make plays, I want to be involved. I want to make Coach Shanahan right for his decision. I don’t want to let him down. I want to prove to everybody that this was the right decision that he made. That’s my goal for the season.
RS: Clearly, there’s been a lot of stuff. We’re going to let you run Niles and we appreciate you but on with us, but there’s been a lot of change that come with this team in the offseason, and there’s been a ton of excitement. I can’t remember a time since literally when I was about 5 or 6 years old watching the ’91 Super Bowl team where there was this much Redskins hysteria. Every where you look right now, you’ve got RG3 who’s going on TV shows and late night shows, and basketball players are wearing Redskins hats on draft day and all this kind of crazy stuff, through the finals they’re wearing Redskins gear. People are genuinely excited. Last year, there were a lot of questions about the quarterback position; this year, it looks like we finally have a franchise guy in Robert Griffin. Mike Shanahan is going on and on and on about the diversity that this offensive unit has with a guy like RG3 who is a threat running the ball, a threat throwing the ball, he really keeps defenses on its heels. Without me letting too much out or you letting too much out about the stuff you guys have been doing in the schemes, on the stuff that’s been open to the media, we saw play formations where you might line up at TE and then come into the split out or go into the slot or receivers are kind of moving in and out and all over the place. Is this playbook really going to be opened up this year compared to last year? Does adding a guy like RG3 and the versatility of adding the versatility of a position of a TE/WR, and the running backs that you guys have, what is that going to do for Kyle Shanahan and for Mike Shanahan and they’re game planning? Should we expect to see a different look in the offense this year versus what we saw last year?
NP: Oh definitely. I definitely think the offense is taking a different road this year, really still being the same offense with different aspects as in playmakers on the field. We have a lot of diversity when it comes to speed and power out there. I’m excited because from OTAs, you see our offense kind of progressing from day one to what it is now, we’re still progressing and you get RG3, who in my opinion, just from watching him during OTAs has lived up to everything he was hyped up to be. I’m excited to play along side this guy and I can’t wait for preseason and game one.
RS: Did you got out to Texas with him and work out with the guys?
NP: I didn’t go out to Texas with them because I had prior engagements that I had to attend to with my family.
RS: Gotcha. Well in any case to see a rookie kind of come in and take control, that’s got to mean something to you guys, right? To see that he’s going the extra step? I know last year Hank told us that to see John Beck calling everyone and trying to organize and bring everyone together for the team-led activities last year earned him a lot of respect. For a rookie like Griffin, does that earn him respect to be organizing stuff like this for really the only time that you have for vacation for the year?
NP: Yeah, absolutely. I think that Robert has come in, and he has taken on a role that a lot of rookies don’t get to take on, and he’s doing it so well that–he’s not doing too much, and he’s still being humble about the whole thing. He showing up, and he’s stepping up, and he’s gradually becoming one of the leaders of this team, and that’s something you want out of your quarterback. It ALWAYS something you want out of your quarterback, and I’m impressed with the guy. The fact that he’s reaching out to everybody, and he continues to check on me all the time: ‘Whatcha doing, you training?’ and I’m like ‘Yeah, I’m up here doing work in DC he says “Good job”, and I’m like “Ok, this is my quarterback but he’s still a rookie and he’s doing this and stepping up and being this leader that everybody wants him to be’. I respect the man for it.
RS: Even to the point where he’s kind of taken to Twitter with this whole ‘Know Your Why’ thing. We’ve been kind of keeping an eye on the interaction between you guys and him. Its easy to forget that’s the guy’s a rookie when you see this kind of stuff, so we as fans and as media getting to cover the team, we are so excited about what you guys are going to be able to do. Hopefully you’ll be able to bring a winning tradition. Before you go, one last thing: give us, and give the fans, kind of a fun look, a backstage look at what you guys do through camp and through OTAs, how you guys do to keep it loose. There’s got to be some type of story, whether it’s like hazing that you guys have planned for these rookies or hazing that you guys kind of went through, or just kind of a fun memory that you guys can give us behind the scenes, something that makes it all worth laboring through the hot months of July and August.
NP: The thing is about this organization that I feel is so different … I’ve heard stories from other rookies that I know, and my experience last year is that the respect that the older guys here have for you, being a rookie. I didn’t get hazed; I didn’t have to do a whole bunch of stuff. I realize that’s part of your licks as a rookie, but I never had to go through any of that, me nor Hank nor Al, speaking for the offense. I don’t know what the defensive guys had to do…[??? – something about Gomes, maybe???]…being one of my good friends up here, I know for a fact that they had to do some stuff, but they respect you on the offense side at least. They respected me enough. You come in, you work hard, then we’re going to leave you alone, and that’s what it was. I’m just excited about this whole season coming up. I don’t think people understand about how excited the PLAYERS are about the season coming up.