Q&A: Running Back/Returner Brian Mitchell
Interview Conducted by BigBlueInteractive.com Reporter WalterB
BBI: What I am doing here is that I have a lot of questions from fans, who are on a site called BBI. Some are fans of yours and want to know what you think, so let me start off here. When you were first drafted in the NFL, were you drafted as a role that David Meggett had or were you drafted as a running back?
Brian: They drafted me as an athlete. I played quarterback and they wanted to see what I could do. I got into camp. I was tried as running back, safety, some corner, and they also told me to be prepared to be the emergency quarterback. Right before the first preseason game, I was told the way I was going to make the team was returning kicks and punts. The first kick off, I returned for a touchdown and the rest is history. I have been returning kicks since and now. I also have been in the same form as Dave Meggett. I have been a third down back for most of my career. That’s what he does so it has been cool for me.
BBI: How does it feel to come to a team and be wearing his number? Do you look up to him when he played?
Brian: Dave and I were about the same age. He came in the year before me or the same year I did. He was considered this very good third down back, so I was comparing myself to him. I would compare the things I did returning kicks and I would compare my third down stats to his. I felt that they were right there with his, and my returning was better so whenever it came down to contract time it was good to make sure you were close to Dave Meggett.
BBI: Compare the threats you have on the offense here on the Giants today to the offensives you played in the past? What is the same? What’s different? What have you noted?
Brian: What I look at here is the receiving corps with Amani Toomer, Ike Hillard, Ron Dixon, who is injured right now, Tim Carter, and then you have a Jeremy. I think that this is one of the most talented receiving corps that I have been around and not only do they have talented guys but people for them when they get on the football field. That’s how it was early in my career when we had Art Monk, Richard Gearclok, Richard Sims. Our tight ends weren’t pass catchers but they were good blockers and we ran the ball a lot more. Then when you look at this offense at running back, you got Tiki who can run and catch the ball. Ron is slamming type of guy. Dorsey Levens, I think can still do it. You look at myself and Delvin, we can be like those third down backs. So we have a slew of people in the backfield. As far as specialists on offense, it probably one of the best total overall talented group I have been around.
BBI: Do you see yourself as playing a role as third down back, a replacement back? Can you still carry a load?
Brian: I can still carry the ball. The reason that I didn’t carry the ball last few years, that was Andy Reid’s decision. Why? I don’t know because no one ever explained it to me. I can still get in on offense and do a lot of things. I don’t know if that is going to be my role or not. It has not been something that coach Fassel has discussed with me. It is still early in Training Camp but I have heard that he said some things that I impressed him with being a running back. That’s half the battle to make sure that the coach has confidence that if something goes down, would he be confident in putting me in there and I think I already started off on the right track. So if things happen, and I was to have to go in, I was going to be ready for it. I am not just going out there and preparing to be a return man, I am trying to work as hard as I can so I can be able to do both things if that situation came up.
BBI: A lot of fans know how defenses are set up and how schemes on offense work but few fans really know how special teams really work. Can you give me some ideas of what you are looking for when you are returning punts or general schemes, without giving away trade secrets and how punters return, can you give us a 101 course on how punters return kicks.
Brian: It is similar to a running play on offence. When the ball is kicked, you are normally told that your blockers are going to go to the hole that you are looking. Each guy on coverage teams has a lane. So if I am running a right return, your lane might be between the guard and the tackle. So I am looking for that hole. It is not always open that way but you are starting in that direction. The guy blocking the tackle is trying to kick him out; the guy blocking the guard is trying to kick him in so you are looking for that hole. It may not work like that, the tackle may try to go somewhere else and they may kick him in and the hole moves one out. The main thing when you catch the ball is that you want to set up the first block, which is going to be maybe the personal protector getting down. You want to set him up so you have a guy that is going to lead you to your direction, so he can get blocked and you come to that hole and once you get the action, it goes into instinct because everything we do is so many yards. It’s 40 or 50 yards at a time. You have everybody running full speed so a lot of things are instinctive.
BBI: So potentially you might have say five, six, seven type of returns that you bring in on game day?
Brian: Yeah, it is so simple. No matter what you call it’s basically right, left, or middle. They can call it however they want to call it right, left or middle, and the main thing about it simplest way I can describe it is Pete Rodriguez always said – they know where we are running but if we are executing, then they can’t stop us. So that is the main thing, when I catch a ball, depending upon when I catch it, I know about where I am going to run and now the job is whether my blockers are going to beat their cover guys. If my blockers can beat their cover guys, and give me one guy, then they did their job, and now it is my turn to try and beat the other guy.
BBI: Evaluate yourself in terms of what has made you such a really great punt returner and kick returner? What attributes do you have on that field? What instincts do you have? What can you tell me about yourself? What has made you better than most everyone in the league?
Brian: The fact that in my experience that I am not concerned about breaking every play, it is not going to happen, it’s impossible. My whole thing is that if I can catch the ball and get positive yards, then I can hand the ball to the offense and I have done a great job. I think if you keep thinking of it like that you eventually are going to get the bigger returns. Being a quarterback (I played quarterback for nine years), you have to view the whole field. When I am back deep, I am kind of looking at the field as a quarterback. I can see the field and I think my decision making kind of sets me apart. A lot of times I may finish the game and I didn’t have a big average but I saved the team 40 or 50 yards because I caught the balls that were rolling around or ran up and caught the short punt. John Hallbold(?) said there were hidden yards that people did not know about. You are as much as a team player as anybody else. I can see a ball hit the ground and catch it and maybe a one yard return but I saved the team 25 yards. That is being a team player instead of letting this ball roll because it is going to mess up my average. A of guys will think like that.
BBI: What is the deal? Giants fans have had a couple of trash talkers on the team. Giants’ fans have known you as a trash talker from Philadelphia because they are a rival naturally. What is deal with trash talking in the NFL? Is it a psychological technique?
Brian: There is not a lot of trash talking in my book; it is smart talking. If you can get somebody focused on you and not what they are supposed to be doing, you won the battle. It is simple stuff. You get out there and start talking a little bit, telling them they hit you soft. I am laughing half the time. I think people take it for more than what it is. The mind set is just to get guys a little flustered. You would think that it does not happen at this level but it does.
BBI: You are really aware of the fact that you can influence a play by getting someone off their game a little bit?
Brian: Yep, I am talking to someone and they throw a punch, which they normally do, they get a 15-yard penalty, I get nothing.
BBI: You must have an entire book of techniques if things that you might use?
Brian: I tried a lot of stuff over the years, a lot of stuff.
BBI: What are you bringing to the Giant’s special teams in terms of your attitude? What do you think you can offer the team in terms of gearing it up another notch?
Brian: All I can do is to be me. My attitude is I play the game just reckless. I love the game. I love to play the sport. I enjoy myself out there and I bring consistency. I go out there and being that I am an older guy and I am doing the things full speed and always doing what I have to do and having fun. That is going make other guys want to do that to. I get the question about why do I still enjoy the game? When I get out there and I am playing like I am enjoying the game now maybe I should try this because I know that when I was a young guy I followed what other guys, the older guys were doing, watching how they enjoyed themselves. I just try to be like them and I will try and do the same things now. I am older but I still love it. I still feel like a big kid out there.