S Xavier McKinney
November 27, 2020
Q: What have these last couple months been like for you, especially in those days and initial weeks that you hurt yourself? I’m sure you were really excited about your rookie season and a chance to play in the NFL. You kind of had that ripped from you for a little bit there. What was it like in the beginning? How has it been in the months that you’ve progressed?
A: I would say it was really tough kind of when I got the news. I kind of figured that something was going on, but once I got the news, it was pretty fast. I had to kind of process it really fast. I actually got surgery the same day that I heard it. In the beginning stages of it, in my head, it was a little… it started out as a rough start for me. But I just saw it as another opportunity for me to get better for myself, to learn more, and also to make sure my body was up to par with what I needed to be doing to get back right and to come back. It was tough in the beginning, but as time went on, I just kept working, trying to improve my game.
Q: I know Jerome Henderson had mentioned that he was giving you like homework assignments. ‘Study this quarterback, this tight end.’ How helpful was that to keep you engaged? How much do you think you learned being able to take a step back maybe and watch a lot of film and stuff?
A: Yeah, I think I’ve learned a lot. They make sure that they gave me something every week. It wasn’t always big stuff. Sometimes, it was kind of like little minor things that maybe I could pick out and tell them about maybe that they didn’t see. Just kind of being able to sit back and, like you said, watch film, I was able to watch film on my iPad, and also I was able to watch the actual game copy, because I would watch the games at home sometimes. I was able to watch it on TV just to see certain situations, certain formations, certain routes that I’ve maybe never seen or something new to me. It was also good for me to be able to study the QBs and different QBs that we played to kind of just get a feel for how they played and what reads and what they kind of did.
Q: You kind touched on it at the top there. What exactly happened? Because it seemed like you maybe… was it something that happened gradually or was it something that happened one time, you broke a bone?
A: It was just something that kind of just gradually got a little worse as time went on. It was getting a little sore here and there. We would kind of ease off it a little bit. Then that one practice, I think we were on the grass first and we went in to the turf, and it just happened while we were doing some tackling circuits. It just kind of happened at that moment, but it was something that kind of gradually just happened.
Q: How tough was it, you kind of touched on this too, but you had that timeline where it’s basically three months. Was it tough to stay focused? Like you are still going to get a chance, and obviously, that time is now?
A: For me, no, it wasn’t really tough to stay focused because going into the season, of course I was really excited about my rookie year. I had big, high goals that I set for myself that I wanted to achieve. Once I got hurt, yeah, mentally it got to me at first. But at the end of the day, I knew I still wanted to be as best as I could in my rookie year, whether I was playing or wasn’t, which I haven’t been and I’ve been out. I’ve been making sure to stay in meetings, ever since the day I got hurt and had surgery. Of course, I was out a couple of days. They didn’t want me to come in. But once they gave me the green light to go, I was in the meeting room just trying to be there as much as I could for my team and get better for myself.
Q: Back in camp, I remember you, I think it was in the red zone, like jumping a route and leaping behind the defense and picking the ball off. You don’t see rookies kind of identify something really that early. Is that the kind of player you are? Instinctive, aggressive? Do you think that the game can slow down for you as a rookie watching and studying off the field, or do you need to play in these games and see it live to know that you can play at this speed that these games are happening?
A: It definitely helps to be able to actually see everything off the field, because you get a better feel for it. But I do think that obviously, it’s a lot different when you can actually go out there on the field and you get the speed, especially with me being out for as long as I’ve been out. I’m not used to the speed. I’m trying to get back adjusted to it, which I’ve been doing a pretty good job of doing. I think for me, I’m really an instinctive guy. I try to make as many plays as I can for the defense and for the team when I can and wherever I can. It can be a little different when you come back from being off for so long, so it definitely does help to be out there, to get going, that way you get used to it and acclimated to it.
Q: Thinking about it, you had surgery and I think it was the next day that Logan (Ryan) signed. Wednesday, this past Wednesday, was probably at least from my estimation the first time you were actually on the field with him together. Is that right?
A: Yeah. Well, we actually were on the field on a Monday, but it was a light practice.
Q: I’m curious from that perspective, when a guy comes here, and we’ve all talked a lot about the impact he’s had on this defense, his leadership, from afar, and maybe even getting together with him. How much have you tried to glean from a guy like Logan Ryan, and what will it be like when you get out there with Logan and Jabrill (Peppers)? It’s kind of a different combination than maybe you envisioned back in August.
A: Yeah, it’s definitely been… Well first of all, it’s been great to be back out there on the field in general. I’ve been waiting for this moment. I’ve been really excited for it. Not just Logan, but all the guys. You have Logan, Pep, JB (James Bradberry), Ike (Isaac Yiadom), you have all these guys out there that help me out, that I’ve been able to learn from. For me being a rookie, it’s always good to learn from them, kind of see what they do, how they prepare for certain stuff, just the way they carry themselves, whether we’re in meetings or whether we’re out on the field. It helps me in the long run because it helps me kind of find out what type of routine I need to use going on down the line. They’ve definitely been helpful for me. It’s been great being back out there with them.
Q: Obviously, there’s a difference between being in shape and being in playing shape. I’m curious where do you think you stand? Do you think you’re going to play this week? Do you think you’re ready to play this week on Sunday?
A: I’ve been making good progression throughout the week. Each day, I just try to focus on making sure that I’m doing my job and doing it correctly. As far as playing wise, I just leave that up to my coaches and obviously, the medical staff here. I think they’ve done a great job while I’ve been hurt of making sure that I’ve been doing well and making sure I’ve been staying up to par with my conditioning and other things, such as giving me little tasks every week and making sure I stay up on the playbook. But I’m definitely ready to go. I feel good. Like I said, I’ve been progressing each day. Everything has been good.
Q: When you do get back, whenever it is, this week, next week, whenever, where do you think you fit into this defense?
A: That’s up to the coaches. Wherever they want to put me, wherever they think is best for the team and best for the defense, then that’s what I’ll do. I’ve been saying this for a long time. I said it even before I actually got up to New York. Wherever the team needs me, wherever the defense needs me, I’ll play and I’ll be able to adjust.