Q: When you guys were looking at drafting Rob Gronkowski, the questions seemed to be about durability and injuries. But he's played pretty much every snap the last two years, so is it safe to say the evaluation went pretty well in that regard?
NC: I think we just try to evaluate the players based on the information we have at our disposal. With a player like Rob or anybody else, there are multiple examples of players who maybe missed a season or they got hurt during the middle of their senior season or their junior season if they're an underclassman, or whatever the case may be. But you evaluate the player's skills [and] what you think the player is when he's on the field. There's certainly a medical component that comes into play. So, we try to take all the information we have available and put it all together and make the decision that we feel is best for us based on the information we have.
Q: Coming into the draft two years ago, there were a lot of articles written about Brandon Graham and your prototype on the outside. Was he a guy you were legitimately looking at and do you have any thoughts about how he's played so far in the time he's seen?
NC: I think I would say he was among a number of players at that position that we evaluated. He was a productive player at Michigan, pretty disruptive. He actually played a three-technique. He played a little bit more on the interior of their defensive line, but he was disruptive and had a number of tackles for a loss. He started off last season OK. I think he played in 13 games and started six games and then he was injured there towards the end of the season with the knee injury. But I think he's worked his way back and he's playing as a part of their rotation. Realistically, they play eight defensive linemen, depending upon who is active for the game. They pretty much roll them all through. They have a group that starts the game, but either the second or third series, the next group of guys comes into the game and he's one of those players along with a number of others. I think he's doing the things they're asking him to do and he's been productive when he's been on the field for them.
Q: When you make 16 transactions with a guy like Ross Ventrone since mid-August, do you just keep the contract on your desk? Do you even bother to file it away?
NC: Well, you can't keep the same contract, so…we've created a little paper trail for ourselves. But look, it happens. I wouldn't say that Ross is the only player - maybe just in terms of volume. Any player that is in our program, we want to keep working with them in some way, shape or form, and however that works itself out during that week, we're just trying to play the game. We're just trying to get through the game with what we have available based on who's healthy, etcetera. It's just part of the process, that's all.
Q: Is it a pretty standard contract? How does that work? Does he literally have to sign it every time and is it a long process?
NC: Really, any player that you have on your practice squad, if he's going to be active for a game and you're going to bring him to the roster, you basically have to sign a new contract. So each time you go from the practice squad to the active roster, you sign a new contract. If you're on the active roster, there's really nothing else to do. But when you bring players up, which a lot of teams do during the year - they bring them up from their practice squad - I wouldn't say it's a real extensive process, but you have to go ahead and sign a new contract.
Q: I'm sure you guys evaluated Michael Vick when he was coming out a few years ago, correct?
NC: When he was coming out in '01 or when he was a free agent?
Q: When he was a free agent before the Eagles. Did you guys look and study him at that point?
NC: Yeah, I mean, I'd say anybody that's a free agent, we know who those players are and what that market looks like. Our department is pretty thorough in keeping track of who's available and making sure that we have an evaluation that's current.
Q: So when you're looking at a guy like that who's very unconventional and makes plays break down on an every-down basis, how do you evaluate that? The skills are so different from what a lot of teams have seen, how do you make sense of what you're seeing?
NC: I wouldn't say the skills are that different. I think what you really have is a unique athlete, just for that position. He's explosive, he accelerates, he's got good speed, but just in terms of throwing the football, there aren't too many quarterbacks that have a stronger arm than Michael Vick in the league. And they keep him in the pocket plenty. They move him a little bit, they'll boot him, they'll try to get him on the perimeter, but there are plenty of times where he drops back or he's in the shotgun and he has to read the defense and deliver the football. You evaluate that player for the position based on what he's going to be required to do. I think Michael is just unique just from a standpoint that there aren't that many players at that position - or really, in any other position offensively - that posses his type of athleticism. He presents a lot of unique challenges to a defense. You certainly have to account for him on every play, there's no question.
Q: What made you think that Sterling Moore could be an option at safety? Was it just all you had or was there something you saw from him that indicated he might be able to make that switch?
NC: That was something we talked about last week actually on the call, but he had played some nickel corner during the preseason with the Raiders. He primarily played corner at SMU, but he has decent size. He has some playing strength - fairly instinctive guy. There have been examples of players that have played corner that have made the transition or ended up playing safety. Like I mentioned last week, Eugene Wilson - I'm not trying to say he's Eugene Wilson - but he had never played safety before, but he's a pretty smart guy, pretty instinctive, could play the ball. The biggest difference is you're just seeing a bigger part of the field when you're playing safety. You're reading more of a full field as opposed to maybe a half field or one side of the field when you're playing corner. There were some things that he had done in practice in terms of playing the ball, covering players - because there's still a coverage component that's involved when you're playing safety. If you're carrying a receiver vertically down the field, there's still a coverage element that comes into play. He's worked at it and I think there are things he's learning every week, just with respect to that position. We'll take it week-to-week and see how it goes.
Q: Tracy White hadn't played much defense last year. What did you see from him that made you think he could play defense? Or was it more of a situation that he was active, so he needed to be able to play?
NC: I think really, the more that a player can do, it's certainly going to enhance his ability to play on game day. I think in Tracy's specific situation, he's a very professional, very smart guy. He's an instinctive player. He's athletic. He runs well, which you can see in the kicking game. So the skills that you see on special teams, to a degree, carry over to some of the things he's been asked to do defensively. With all our players, we don't try to pigeonhole them and limit them to one thing. We ask a lot of people around here to do a number of different things and I think last night was a pretty good indication of that with [Julian] Edelman playing defense and Tracy playing more defensively, playing in some of the nickel stuff. The more you can do, the more you can do; it's going to enhance your ability to play on Sunday. And it's a credit to Tracy specifically. He's been a pro's pro since he arrived here. We're happy to have him on the team and glad he's here.