Safety Xavier McKinney
July 29, 2021
Q: How does it feel to be out there with everybody? I know you missed a ton of time last training camp.
A: Yeah, it feels good man to be back out with my teammates and my coaches. Just to be in tune with them, learning the basics and getting the fundamentals down. So, it’s been fun being back out here, so every day we’re just trying to improve and get better.
Q: How important was the taste of the action that you got at the end of last year building toward year two?
A: It was really good, it helped a lot. But like I said, I’m just happy to be out here right now. That was my main focus, just getting out here with my teammates. You know, we had minicamp, so getting out there with them was good for me. I took that one day at a time, just to kind of improve myself and help my team out.
Q: Does this feel like year two for you, or 1A? How does it feel for you?
A: Yeah, you know, it feels like year two. Obviously, it’s year two, but I still feel like I’m a rookie just because I haven’t played a lot of games yet. So I still got a lot of learn, a lot to improve on, so I just take it one day at a time to improve and get better.
Q: When you were out on IR, they asked you to do a lot of things. Didn’t you have to make presentations to the team or to the defensive backs? What was that all about?
A: Yeah, so I had little objectives to kind of achieve, which was just figuring out tendencies from the other team, kind of what the quarterbacks do, what the receivers’ tendencies were. So, I had a job as that was concerned, and all the little things a normal rookie has to do. So, I made sure to just take care of that job because that was my primary job at the time and obviously rehabbing. I took care of that and just trying to gain the trust of my teammates and that was what I was doing.
Q: Did you actually have to speak to the whole defensive back group about this?
A: Yeah, there were days I had to present certain things on that team that week, those receivers, that QB that week, so there were weeks where I did have to do that.
Q: Was there any one hint or a little tendency you saw that you were proud of that maybe helped in a game?
A: No, not that I can remember. Like I said, I’m happy to be here right now, just trying to get better with my guys.
Q: How much did all those mental reps kind of help your confidence when you did get on the field?
A: It helped tremendously. When I got back out there, it helped a lot. Obviously, going into this, my second year, it helps me see a lot more. My vision has a lot more variety than I did last year coming in just because I didn’t know as much. So, it definitely helped a lot.
Q: Did going through those assignments and those kinds of tasks change the way you approached preparing for a game?
A: Yeah, most definitely. I think when I came in, I thought I knew how to study and do certain things, but as the season went on and now coming into this year, I found new ways to prepare, new things to look at. The small things I didn’t pay attention to before, that’s what I pay attention to now.
Q: How much have you leaned on guys like [Safety] Jabrill Peppers and [Defensive Back] Logan Ryan, the veterans in this league?
A: A lot, man. Day-in and day-out, I ask them questions, no matter what it’s on, even if that’s just to clarify anything, if it might be a kind of gray area, or anything that it is. I go to those guys, really everybody in the DB room. I like to communicate. I like to be vocal, so whenever I see that there’s something that I may be unsure about, I go to those guys and they’re always able to help me.
Q: What does it take as a DB to ‘hunt the ball’ and not just to play well in coverage? Is it instinct? Is it knowing where to be within the coverage? You do seem like a guy, when you’re on the field, the ball finds you, or you find it.
A: Yeah, it’s instincts. I think that plays a huge role in just playing the DB position itself. A lot of that is just being able to trust your ability to go make that play, instead of just going back and waiting on it, so I pride myself on that. That’s something that I remind myself of before every practice, before every game, is to go attack the ball rather than wait for something to happen. Obviously, I want to make plays. Obviously, I still do what’s right for the team, but when that opportunity is there, I try to seize the opportunity.
Q: Should you have caught that one [pass in practice], or was that too high?
A: Yeah, I definitely should have caught that one. I’m a little bit upset about that one. We’ll go back and look at it, but next time, I’ll catch that one.
Q: The last game against the [Dallas] Cowboys, you had pretty much a full load. You played well, you got your first interception. How much did that help you get into the offseason?
A: Yeah, I think playing all of those games, it helped me going into this year. But, like I’ve said time and time again, I’m just trying to improve. Last season don’t really matter. The past is the past, so just trying to take it day-in and day-out. One day at a time with my teammates to get better and improve, so I can make more of those plays.
Q: It looked like the game slowed a bit for you in that Dallas game at the end [of last season]. Did you feel that the game was starting to slow down towards the end of the year?
A: Yeah, I think the more I play and the more I get out here on the field with my guys, obviously it’s going to slow down. Having guys, like you said, I got [Jabrill] Pepp[ers], I got [Safety] J[ulian] Love, I got [Safety] Log[an Ryan]. All those guys out there with me to help me improve and help the game slow down for me, it helped tremendously. So, I appreciate those guys for that and just being able to go out there, it helps a lot more every time I come out.
Q: [Defensive Coordinator] Pat[rick] Graham stresses versatility. When you look at yourself, do you see yourself as a safety or as a defensive back who can do a lot more?
A: I can do it all. From the very first day that I have talked about, I’ve always said I can do it all, I still believe that. There’s nowhere you can’t play me. So, that’s how I see it and that’s how I go into it.
Q: With regards to [Head Coach] Joe Judge, what are some of the things you learned about him last year and some of his attributes as you go forward?
A: Yeah, he’s a tough coach, he puts the heat. He asks a lot of us, but we accept the challenge day-in and day-out. We love him. You know, sometimes it could be pretty brutal, but it is what it is. It’s nothing that I’m not used to already, a lot of the guys are used to already. So, it’s good work for us. I think it helps our mindset out and it helps us get better.
Q: Do you think it’s important to have guys who are used to that and thrive in that situation?
A: Yeah, I mean, I think so, but, you know, you just got to adapt to it either way. I think everyone has adapted to it and we love the process of going through it.
Q: I know it’s early right now, but have you seen him [Head Coach Joe Judge] evolve at all from last year to this year. You’re only just a couple days in, but in extended conversations, or Zooms, or whatever, have you seen any changes in him?
A: No, he’s consistent. Everything he does, he’s consistent, never changes. It’s never something different. It’s never one day is going to be hard, one day is going to be easy. It’s all the same. I think that’s the best thing to have, to have a consistent coach and we love it, we embrace it and we go out there and work hard.
Q: They drafted you to be a big-time player. Now, with a year under your belt, even though you were hurt, can you say, “I have everything it takes to be a big-time player in this league?”
A: For sure, when I came in, that was my mindset. Like I said, my mindset doesn’t change no matter what happens. I try to go out here and get better for my team, for my teammates and my coaches. But, you know, that’s always my mindset is that I could be a big-time player and that’s what I’m out here to work on every day.
Q: When you look at [Tight End] Evan Engram, what do you see? You have to face him. How difficult of a challenge is that?
A: Yeah, he’s a tough, tough, tough guard, for sure. So, every day I try to get reps in with him just because I know he’s going to make me a lot better, and I’m going to make him a lot better. He pushes me, I push him, so that’s kind of how I see it. He’s a great, great tight end and I love competing against him every day.
Q: What makes him so difficult to guard?
A: Hey, you guys see it. Man, he’s fast, he’s strong, he can run routes, he can catch, so he can do it all. So, he’s a kind of jack of all trades. It’s tough to guard him at times, but, like I said, he helps me improve.
Q: How much of an adjustment was last year because it was probably the first time in your career you had to sit out. Did you sit there and go, “why me?” How did you approach it?
A: Last year, man. I’m not worried about it. I’m focused on my team and this year. Just going into the season, and improving every day, getting better, and just going into the season strong.