Earnest Graham Speaks

May 13th, 2009

Bucs running back and overall good guy Earnest Graham made an appearance Wednesday afternoon on Sirius NFL Radio’s “The Blitz” with Solomon Wilcots and Adam Schein. Among the subjects Graham talked about were how the end to the 2008 season was so frustrating, his ankle injury and what he thinks of Byron Leftwich

Solomon Wilcots: Give us an update on how you are doing and your health.

Earnest Graham: I’m doing great. I’m 100 percent. I’m not all the way in shape but the way the ankle has heeled, there’s no problem. I’m making cuts and everything. No problem. I’m just excited about football.

Adam Schein: There have been conflicting reports on how significant the damage was to your ankle. How severe was it?

EG: It was definitely significant. It was a high ankle sprain but I also had a torn ligament with that. I wish I would have broke it. It would have been a lot better. It was tough watching the last four games and not being able to move the ball. It was tough, a tough couple of weeks not being able to help my teammates out. It was a tough experience but I’m feeling great now.

SW: There was a huge significance in not getting a win in the last four games. What’s your take on all the changes?

EG: A lot of the changes came as a huge surprise; not that it happened but how it happened. [Chucky’s firing] was late in the process. Then to have Derrick and Warrick and Joey and Ike and those guys leave, it was definitely different.

After the way the season ended you knew there would be changes. There was no excuse for [missing the playoffs]. I kind of understand why it happened. [The Glazers] really showed they are committed. As a professional, you have to move forward.

AS: You struck me as a Gruden guy. He brought you along. You seemed to have respect for him. Is that right?

EG: When I came into the system, his system, he would always talk to me and tell me what he saw for me in his system, whether it was tailback or fullback or catching passes out of the backfield or short-yardage running. Of course there were a lot of great players in front of me at the time like Mike Alstott, Michael Pittman, Charlie Garner, Thomas Jones, Cadillac Williams. I was glad I was able to remain patient and be such an overall player.

[Chucky] wanted players to be all-around and smart. I’m definitely thankful for that. It was tough when he was let go. I was surprised when it happened but not surprised that it happened. Not too much of the coaching staff was going to stick around the way we dropped the ball last season.

SW: What can we expect from the Tampa Bay Bucs offense?

EG: It’s not a west coast style. We have a nice couple of quarterbacks and Derrick Ward and Kellen Winslow and Antonio Bryant. We’ve got a really nice offense. We have a stable of running backs now. We can create some schemes. We will pound the ball more, making that more of a priority. Now we just have to gel. We have depth at a lot of positions. Now we just need to finish. Need to be strong to the finish. We have to have depth and quality depth to finish.

AS: Who is the quarterback? Would you be disappointed if it was a rookie who is starting?

EG: All of these guys do so many things so well. I won’t be disappointed in a rookie. We have to help [quarterback bust-in-waiting Josh Freeman] come up to speed. But we will go out and put the best player on that team. Whoever it is will compete and make good plays for us.

SW: What have you seen from Leftwich?

EG: I am very, very, very impressed with Byron. Sometimes you have to battle it out. He throws a catchable ball and pretty much has the offense down pat. Already he is making the corrections and has the knowledge of the game.

AS: How many carries for you this year? You had some great moments and proved yourself. What is your role and what would you like to be in the offense?

EG: Whoever is hot at the time. The season is so long. Guys are going to be strong at different times of the season. Injuries come. I’ve played football before and I’ve toted the load. We will have a back to keep each one of us fresh. You never know how the season is going to go. You don’t know about injuries.

SW: Anyone tell you about your role? Coach Gruden always communicated with you.

EG: Coach Morris told me he expected me to be a great teammate and give some teams in this league some trouble. We want to be able to pound teams and make them fold. We have to put it all together. We will spell each other and keep pounding the football and then hit some big plays. We need a couple of guys to finish the season strong.

AS: How does Winslow change the dynamic?

EG: It changes a lot because we can do so many things with him. Having someone like him is a danger. He spreads the field and then you have Bryant and Ward. I really, really, really am impressed with what we have now.

AS: When they had the purge of the veterans, what did you do? Do you make calls, find out what is going on? Did you call the front office, call free agents? Did you happen to ask yourself, “What the hell is going on here?”

EG: It was definitely tough. A lot of those guys I played with a while, I gained respect for those players and to get cut like that, you don’t know what direction the team is going. But coach Morris has done a fantastic job. He called a few players and said, “Hey, we had to make a tough decision today.” He did a great job of being a leader and keeping players in the loop and letting players know what is going on.

SW: Tell our listeners about how Raheem is the right man:

EG: I believe he is one of those guys born to do this. His leadership is natural. He was a guy we would always go to even as a secondary coach. He never sugarcoated things. He joked with us but was serious about challenges. This is just a natural process for him to become a head coach. He is ahead of his time. He was born to do this. He’s a guy we all respect. He always goes right to a man and talks to you face-to-face and looks you in the eye.

One Response to “Earnest Graham Speaks”

  1. Jeff Says:

    You gotta respect a man that tells you like it is eye to eye.