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What They Said: Bills GM Doug Whaley & Reggie Ragland on Alabama LB's second-round selection

GM Doug Whaley

Opening Statement: We made a concerted effort to improve the defense and I think we did it. I’ll tell you this much; it’s that carbon copy phrase ‘best player on the board. We would have taken this guy at 19, so that’ll let you know how high he was on our board. Open it up to questions from there.

Q: Do you know why he would have slipped to your pick here?

A: You’re the journalist, you got to do that work.

Q: It’s your work…

A: We liked him. Like I said, we would have taken him at 19. So, when he was still there, we made a concerted effort to try to go up to get him and lucky for us, we found a trade partner with Chicago and I think, like I said, we got two of our guys. We would have taken both of them at 19.

Q: Doug, what does this move to get (Reggie) Ragland mean for Preston Brown?

A: It means that Preston and him will be on the field at the same time. We’ll have two guys that are defensive players that play football well. You got a guy in Ragland that’s 258 (lbs), runs in the 4.6’s. I think a lot of people maybe feel like this guy is a true MIKE, but we feel he can play WILL. And with Preston at MIKE, we got two physical linebackers that fit what our defensive scheme that we’re trying to build in Buffalo--and that’s tough, physical players.

Q: What was the strategy, Doug, for targeting him as you see the draft unfold? I mean, did you start last night…

A: Last night.

Q: …working on this and were there any surprises on how it unfolded today?

A: Well last night we sat down and regrouped and started looking at everything and looked at it and said, “Hey, we were going to take this guy at 19. Why not? Let’s try to get up.” So during the day, we contacted every team starting with Cleveland and worked our way down until we found a partner in Chicago. As soon as that happened and he was on the board, it was a no brainer.

Q: How concerned were you that he wouldn’t be back for you to take him?

A: Yeah. That’s always the chance and that’s why we started it with Cleveland, and we couldn’t work out a deal. We would have taken him, if we would have gotten up to Cleveland’s pick, at Cleveland.

Q: The medical report is he just needs monitoring, it won’t affect his football. How much concern did your medical staff have?

A: We were taking him at 19. No concern at all.

Q: Does it hurt to give away picks? You love your picks but you had to do it. Is there a part of you that thinks…

A: Not for a caliber player this high. For us, for what we need and what he brings to this team and the type of player, a fourth rounder this year when we have two and a fourth rounder next year, we thought we made out on it.

Q: Is it safe to say it was too high to pick a quarterback?

A: For what we needed, the value didn’t fit where the quarterbacks are, where we put them on the board, but Ragland did.

Q: You had a chance to see him a lot at the Senior Bowl. How much did that affect what you thought of him when you saw him play?

A: I think…when you look at the film of the Senior Bowl and his visit, I think one thing about this guy, he’s a winner and he’s a leader. And he’s going to come into that defense and he’s going to bring something to this defense that we need, and that’s just that knowing how to win. These last two guys have won national championships or been in national championship games, so we’re bringing in winners, fellas. Tough, physical, rough football guys that love to win.

Q: What does he bring on third down for you?

A: Third down--we’re going to see. We have no problem with what he’s going to do and obviously Coach can tell you more about the scheme, but we feel comfortable , they felt comfortable, bringing him in as well and again, I think a lot of people just pegged him as a MIC, but with the expertise of our coaches, they said, “Yeah, we can put him in at WILL. Why not?”  He’s faster than some of the guy’s we were going to think at WILL.

Q: Where do you see him fitting in in terms of signal calling?

A: You have to ask coach on that. Another thing that was intriguing about him, he runs a similar defense already at Alabama, so he might be able to come in and pick it up a lot quicker than a normal rookie because it is a complex defense. I don’t know who’s going to be calling, I’ll leave that up to coach,

Q: He played WILL, some WILL, at Alabama, correct?

A: He played a lot of places. I mean he has the versatility. You saw him at MIC, WILL, he played in the sub-package, he came off the edge as a rusher, so he’s got some versatility which is another thing that we like in players.

Q: How would you characterize his enthusiasm for being with you guys?

A: I would say on a scale of 1-10, it was about a 10. But we all were. It wasn’t just Rex, it was our whole scouting staff. We pegged these guys and I give all the credit to our scouting staff. They put in a bunch of work and they pegged these guys early on and it’s a Buffalo Bill pick. And everybody’s excited and everybody’s on board and everybody’s really, really ready to get this season started.

Q: Do you feel with these two picks, how much better is this defense right now?

A: We’ll see. We think we’ve added some pieces that should help us get to where we need to go. We do. Just because of what we see in them as football players and what they bring to this team as rough football guys. And again, guys that have come from winning programs. And that’s an infusion of something that we need.

Q: I can’t remember the last few years you talking with such enthusiasm about your first two picks. Are you thinking that these guys are can’t-miss and that’s why you’re so excited?

A: Well when you’re dealing with humans, there’s no can’t-miss. The enthusiasm comes from targeting guys in an area of need that are value players that hit the value for that area of need and to get both of them when you thought you’d only be able to get one, and that being in the first round to get a guy you consider a first-rounder, to get him in the second round, and again, it’s an area of need, we’re really excited.

Q: Because of the injury concern to Jaylon Smith and Myles Jack, the fact that they both went, there was a possibility that they wouldn’t have gone, did that might have pushed Ragland to you?

A: Absolutely. I think so. If you’re looking at teams that were looking at linebackers and they jumped in settling in for Ragland or picking Ragland instead of those guys, yeah, it pushed him to us. And we’ll take it.

Q: Doug you talked about mobile, athletic linebackers to keep up with three, four receiver sets. You’ve taken two bigger guys at the position here. What was the thinking behind that?

A: When you watch them out here in rookie minicamp and when we watched the pro day, this guy’s athletic. Don’t let the size fool you. He may be 250, but he’s athletic.

Q: How much did you actually consider him at 19? You talked how you would have taken him at 19.

A: He was there. There was three guys and Lawson was No. 1, he was No. 2 and we would have taken him.

LB Reggie Ragland

Q: What do you make of the trade up for you, and that the Bills said they had you pegged at 19?

A: Either way it was just a blessing. I am just happy to get my opportunity to play in the National Football League. As a kid I always wanted to play for Rex Ryan. Growing up watching him with the Jets, I am just very blessed and thankful for the opportunity.

Q: What intrigues you about playing with Rex?

A: Man, he is going to put me in a position to be successful on the field and I am very thankful and blessed to be with him, because I know he is a great defensive minded coach.

Q: What type of contact did you have with Rex before the draft and what were the meetings like?

A: It was very laid back, getting know coach and getting him to understand me, the type of person I am. It was awesome time being around Coach [Rex] Ryan. He is a laid back guy, but I know once we hit the field it is nothing but business, and I am used to that with Coach [Nick] Saban. Off the field laid back, on the field it is a grind.

Q: How much could you relate to the defensive concepts he was talking about based on what you played at Alabama?

A: Everything was just about similar to what we run at Bama, but it was just different terminology. But once they got me on the board and I showed I could regurgitate everything back out to them. I am just very thankful and bless they chose me out of all of these guys in the draft.

Q: Which linebacker spot do you like to play the best?

A: I could play either one, I just want the opportunity to play. I hope coach… I am going to come in and work hard to earn my playing time.

Q: They said they thought they saw you on the weak side in the 3-4 your thoughts on that?

A: I can do it, you give me the opportunity so I can show you I can do. I am not scared of competition I am not going to back down from nobody. That is how I have always been. I had to earn my way at Alabama to play and that is what I am going to do here.

Q: What do you think of being called a throwback linebacker?

A: It is a compliment to me because the linebackers back then were very tough, physical guys, they can call out the defenses, and they were smart guys too. So it is a compliment to me, I am not worried about nobody talking about me. I am just going to go out there and show you I can play, so I thought it was a compliment.

Q: What about your health concerns?

A: I didn’t know anything about it till I got to the draft and they ran some test and said that I was fine. And I still went to a specialist after the draft to see if I was fine, and he said I was fine, said I needed a check once a year. Other than that I am ready to go, ready to play.

Q: This was at the combine when you were tested there?

A: Yes sir.

Q: What is your reaction to draft experts who say you might not be athletic enough to be a three down linebacker?

A: I don’t worry about it because I know I am athletic and the Buffalo Bills decided to draft me, because they thought I was athletic. So that is the only thing that matters to me, it is the team, it is what the teams think, what another guy sitting there talking about me, doesn’t matter to me, because I can show them I can play.

Q: What was your best hit in college?

A: My favorite is probably the Georgia game this year when the guy came across the shallow route and I timed it up perfect and I made a play, a big play for my team.

Q: Do you think you can play the way you want to in today’s NFL?

A: I feel like I can play, I feel like I can. Just give me the opportunity so I can show you. I am not, like I said I am not going to back down from no competition from nobody. I know there is a lot a great players in that league. I just got to come in there and show them I can play with them guys.

Q: What do you know about Buffalo?

A: When I went up there I know it was a small town, but I know when it’s Sundays, I know it rocks up there. That’s what I feel need somewhere that is quiet and low key, and small, little, so I can stay focused on I am there to do.

Q: You said earlier you were excited to play in a Rex Ryan defense what stood out to you watching his defenses over the years?

A: Oh man, how physical they are, or how much pressure they get to the ball. You can really tell when a team plays for a coach, how they react with each other on and off the field. So that is one thing I have always noticed that his team is always physical and very aggressive out there.

Q: Who was your favorite player growing up watching his defenses?

A: Oh man, Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, all them guys. It was a bunch of them, sh-t, I can count them all.

Q: What linebackers did you model yourself after?

A: Ray Lewis no doubt. He is my favorite player as a kid growing up and I know if he mad Ray into something, I know I have a chance to be just like Ray because I always wanted to be just like Ray.

Q: Has Rex mentioned that to you at all, the possibility of becoming the next Ray Lewis?

A: No but he mentioned coming in and earning playing time and becoming a good player for years to come in Buffalo.

Q: How ready to you feel to be plugged in on Day One?

A: I am ready, I just got to get in there and do my job and always remember why I am there. I got to go in and put the work in, because nothing is going to be handed to me, and nothing is going to be for free in this league. So I got to go in there and do what I got to do to make sure that those guys in that locker room can trust me.

Provided by the Buffalo Bills.

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