HEAD COACH BILL O'BRIEN
What have you seen from ILB Benardrick McKinney?
"Really good player, good teammate. Kind of has everything we're looking for in a player. He fills his role very well. He loves football, has a passion for what he's doing. Has really good leadership qualities. Glad to have him."
What's ILB Benardrick McKinney like behind closed doors?
"He's a fun guy. He's a good guy, easy to talk to, easy to get along with. Like I said, he loves football. He shows up every day in a great mood. Has a lot of fun with everybody, from his teammates to the trainers to the coaches. A good guy to have in the locker room."
What do you think of ILB Benardrick McKinney's leadership skills?
"When you're in that position (as) a linebacker between the defensive line and the secondary, you have a leadership position. He's a natural leader because you have to make all the calls, make the adjustments. So, you have to communicate to the front and communicate to the back end. You have to be vocal, you have to know what you're doing. He has all of those traits."
How will S Kareem Jackson's experience at cornerback help him transition to safety?
"He's a versatile guy. He's concentrating on safety now, but we actually talked this morning again – he and I – just about making sure you know the other spots, too. He's one of those guys back there that's kind of a utility that can do some different things. Right now, he's playing safety but helping us on special teams doing some different things. So, he's doing a lot of different things."
What did you think of the goal-line drill at practice?
"It was good. Last year, I thought we probably had too many reps at it. This year, we tried to cut the reps down. Tried to be efficient with the reps. Defense got us a little bit. We'll let the film decide on that, though. It seemed like on the field, a couple of questionable calls. You know, those quality control guys that are acting as officials, sometimes the players are really influencing their calls – but no, it was a good start."
Do drills like the goal-line drill help remind the players training camp is fun?
"We've had some fun. We have guys here who have a good sense of humor. They love football so they're always in a good mood. You get to a certain point in camp – I don't think yet just because we're only in the first four practices – but there will be a point in time where everybody's a little sore. There will be some grumpiness but I think we've got a really spirited bunch of guys that really enjoy playing football and they enjoy being around each other."
What are the challenges S Kareem Jackson will face in his transition from cornerback to safety?
"Different skillset, different area of the field. Usually, you're a lot more involved in the running game, but the one thing about that is he played a lot of nickel so he's been close to the ball quite a bit in his career, which is similar to a safety position in certain defenses. So, it's not a huge adjustment for him. He's a smart guy. He knows how to do it."
What have you thought of CB Johnson Bademosi so far?
"Good guy, has really good size, good speed. I like the way he communicates. Smart player, practices hard, brings a good attitude to the field every day. Definitely a guy that has fit in really well here."
How do you want your players to use their day off tomorrow?
"I talked to them at the end of practice. Especially the younger players, it's important to take advantage of this recovery process that we have in place here with Luke Richesson and his crew and our nutrition crew. I think they've put a lot of time into researching that and it's there for the players. They need to take advantage of it right now after practice, tomorrow obviously and make sure they're ready to go for Tuesday."
Do you want them on ATVs and white water rafting?
"I'll keep that between me and the team. I don't know too much. I know I won't be river rafting or on an ATV. I'll be watching some film."
CB KAREEM JACKSON
Will you take us through the challenges that you have faced while transitioning to safety?
"It's a challenge, but for me I like to think of myself as being a smart player. Instead of getting calls, you have to give the calls. You have to get guys lined up. You have to give the calls to the corner, the linebacker, whoever's on your side of the field. You have to get the guys lined up. Just seeing, being there, being able to see the whole field, the whole formation and stuff like that that's definitely one of the biggest changes."
What does it take to get into that comfort zone where it's very instinctive, or does it come natural?
"It comes natural, and then the last couple years I've been there, being able to play the 'Star' position, I've had a chance to kind of see both sides. So, I kind of took it upon myself to learn different positions and play in that spot because I have to know where I have help. I have to know I have run fit, I have to know where the safety is and the corner also, because I'm pretty much in the middle of the field. So, it kind of comes natural for me."
Head Coach Bill O'Brien has confidence in you and knows you can get the job done, how does that make you feel?
"It makes me feel good. That's one of the things that I take pride in, my game and being able to play multiple positions, being able to play corner, the 'Star' spot and now safety. For me, it's about being versatile. If I can be versatile, I can help this team any way possible. That's what I'm all for."
What is it like playing behind ILB Benardrick McKinney?
"It's a lot of fun. You get a chance to kind of see him live and in color. B-Mac is doing some great things out there. I think we all know he's a hell of a player. So, to be able to see him each and every play, kind of go in there, fill those A gaps and do his thing, it's exciting. It's exciting to see those guys."
What is ILB Benardrick McKinney like when media is not around?
"That's a good thing he doesn't let the media see it. No, he's a lot of fun. He's a lot like everybody else out here. He jokes, he laughs, pretty much all the regular stuff that we do. I enjoy being around him, he brings a different type of attitude each and every day. He's a lot of fun. A lot of fun."
Can you talk about the mindset the team has entering this season?
"For us, it's a different year. There always has to be a different mindset. Same goals in mind, like you said. Definitely an unhealthy team last year but that's just how this goes. This year, we all came in, we have guys back healthy. For us, we're just working on building to that first game. Getting our work in, day in and day out, and just taking the necessary steps and making progress so we'll be ready come that first game."
What safety spot do they have you lined up at?
"We don't really have particular safety spots. It's pretty much play left and right safety."
Playing right in the middle, do you feel you have a chance to make some big hits?
"I'm sure I'll have the opportunity to have some big hits. Being a safety, the angles definitely change with tackling and stuff like that. I just have to put myself in the right position to make some plays. When that chance comes to make some big hits, I'm sure I'll definitely take the opportunity to."
What do you think of ILB Benardrick McKinney getting a contract extension?
"I mean, I think his play kind of speaks for itself. Him just signing that huge deal, it's just a testament to the work he's put in. Being a young guy, from day one he came in and he's been productive and that's what it's all about. He's been consistent and he's a huge part of our defense."
Do you think ILB Benardrick McKinney is underrated?
"With us, he gets to the notoriety. Whether he's underrated or not, he just got a huge deal. So, stuff like that kind of speaks for itself. Like I said, he's a huge part of our defense and he does a lot for us. He gets us lined up. He's our middle guy, so he's a big-time player for us."
What is it like to get Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel back as the defensive coordinator?
"It's always good to have RAC back in the driver seat. The experience that he has is unmatched. He's seen a lot of ball and a ton of different teams. So, that experience alone goes a long way. For him to be our defensive coordinator and teach us the things he's learned over the years is huge for us. Definitely for me, being able to be around him day in and day out. I kind of pick his brain on little things, and even life lessons. So, things like that that are huge. Sometimes we kind of take things like that for granted, but he's a huge part of this organization. I think everybody here definitely appreciates it."
Is there an overall feel of you guys wanting to get back to being the top defense in the NFL?
"That's definitely a goal for us, to kind of get back to playing how we know we can play. We have the guys in the right position that we feel like we can be one of the better defenses, if not the best defense in this league. So, it's all about coming out and putting the work in, taking the necessary steps to do that day in and day out. That's what we preach, so we'll come in and we'll get our work done. Just let the chips fall where they may."
What do you like to do on an off day?
"I'm sure guys will be all over the place. You may have some wanting to get some rest. Guys get out and want to go on a little adventure or whatever. So, the most important thing for us is just kind of getting in our playbooks and making sure our bodies are ready to go. At the end of the day, we're still in training camp. It's always good to get a day off so you have to use it wisely and do what we need to do."
ILB BENARDRICK MCKINNEY
What's it like that the organization offered you a contract extension?
"It's an honor just to be able to play under OB (Bill O'Brien). They gave me a chance. From college, it took me a long time to understand the defense but it's unbelievable for them to give me the opportunity to be able to play."
Is it a dream come true to be on your second contract?
"Most definitely. I get a chance to take care of my family like I always wanted. That was my dream coming to the NFL as a young guy, just to be able to take care of my family."
Does it mean a lot that the organization paid you like a Pro Bowl-caliber player?
"Most definitely. Coaches have been able to say I could be a Pro Bowl player, but my job really is to make sure (that) I get the defense going and be a Pro Bowler on this team."
You said in the spring that you felt lighter and had more range than in seasons past.
"Yeah, Luke (Richesson) is doing an unbelievable job – him and his staff – just working out, doing a little extra stretching and just trying to maintain my weight and stay flexible with Luke now."
Are you still 255 roughly?
"About 258, 259."
Do you feel faster?
"Yeah, but I'm going to get down a little bit more. I feel great. Like I said, Luke (Richesson) and his staff are doing an unbelievable job of just getting me flexible and keeping my speed."
What's it like having NT D.J. Reader play in front of you?
"It's unbelievable playing behind D.J., (Brandon) Dunn, all of those guys – Joel (Heath), J.J. (Watt), J.D. (Jadeveon Clowney). Unbelievable players, unselfish players. Guys like Dunn and D.J. will tell me during the game or during practice, 'Hey, I'm going to hold a block. You just run through the gap,' or if I make a play in the backfield, they'll be proud of me like, 'I'm glad you ran through. I held the block for you.' We've got unselfish players on the D-line, so it's unbelievable playing behind those guys."
What did you think of ILB Brian Peters' tackle on the goal line at practice?
"Oh, that was great. We've been watching film on that play. It's a hard play to try to stop because we're taught to key the fullback. The fullback went one way and the running back, which is called split flow, but we've been watching film on that play and he did an unbelievable job."
Is there one item you have to bring to camp?
Have you thought about what this defense could be like this season? Are you excited and what does it mean to have DE J.J. Watt back healthy?
"It's going to be exciting playing with everybody. J.J. is a great, unbelievable player. Great leader on the defense. Whitney (Mercilus) is a great player, leader on the defense. It's going to be great because I miss playing with those guys, their presence in the locker room, but it's going to be great."
Are you a natural leader or is that something you've had to learn?
"No, I'd say I've been a leader all my life. My dad taught me that when I was a young guy, playing quarterback in high school, playing inside in college. It just came natural for me."
Did you splurge on any items after signing you contract?
"We're not going to talk about it. We're going to keep it on football."
How do you plan on spending the day off tomorrow?
"Just doing a lot of rehabbing, stretching, cold tub just to keep my legs ready."
It is underrated how much you guys need a break just to get a day to heal up?
"Most definitely. You need days just to get your body right, just to calm down and soak it all in. We're back into football. Like I said, just do rehab and stretching."
Were there any linebackers that you watched in the NFL that you tried to model your game after?
"To be honest, like I said, when I was playing quarterback, I always used to watch quarterbacks. Even when I got into college, if coach was to pull up an NFL game then I'd watch and I'd just watch my position, but I used to always watch offense."