After an embarrassing exit from the playoffs against the Packers last season, the Atlanta Falcons focused on finding explosive players to help the team get over the hump and to a Super Bowl. They drafted wide receiver Julio Jones to bring explosiveness to the offense and signed defensive end Ray Edwards in free agency to a 5-year deal worth $30 million to help the defensive line get more pressure on quarterbacks.
During an interview, Edwards discussed his time in Atlanta so far and how the defense continues to improve after a slow start. He also talked a little about his modeling career and address the rumors behind semi-nude cell phone pictures of him that hit the internet earlier this year.
The defense look great overall on Sunday against the Detroit Lions. You all got to quarterback Matthew Stafford a lot and he looked uncomfortable in the pocket for most of the game. Was that the game plan going into Sunday’s game? To get to Stafford to slow their offense down?
Yes, you always have to slow down another team’s offense. Especially get after the quarterback. If you can make him nervous – he’s basically the brain of the whole operation of the offense – so if you can get to him and get him to not focus on looking down field but looking at the rush then we can definitely win the game that way.
The team’s win against the Lions was over-shadowed by the trash talk and accusations of Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril taunting an injured Matt Ryan. What’s your response to that?
I mean trash talking happens in every sport there is. Some times its just part of the game. I don’t know if they said anything vulgar or anything like that. But in Atlanta we try to keep it clean and go after the quarterback and play within the rules of the games. If they want to play dirty then that’s their business, they get fined and the league will handle it that way.
The team got off to a slow start, particularly on defense, at the beginning of the season. In the first game against Chicago you all sacked Jay Cutler four times, but the next three games (against Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Seattle) the defense didn’t record a sack. In the last three games (against Green Bay, Carolina and Detroit) the defense recorded eight sacks, including the two you had. What changed in the defensive scheme to help the defense get the quarterback on the ground?
I think its just me and [John] Abraham and [Jonathan] Babineaux took it upon ourselves to lead the guys up front because we pretty much got tired of hearing that we’re not putting enough pressure on the quarterback and it our fault. And its pretty much is our fault. We don’t put enough pressure on the quarterback, so we’re just trying to take it upon ourselves to disrupt quarterback and disrupt offenses period. We just try to make that our staple up front.
Defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder has been criticized by fans and local media about his zone blitz scheme. From my view, the zone blitz have left a lot of holes in the secondary causing quarterbacks to throw for 300-plus yards against them. In the past two games, quarterbacks only threw for 200-plus yards or less (Cam Newton – 237 yards, Matthew Stafford – 183 yards). What changes has Van Gorder made to keep quarterbacks from having a field day against the secondary?
We haven’t changed anything. We just tighten up on our defense the past couple of weeks. We had the whole offseason lockout and guys were out of whack and playing certain techniques and things like that. I think we are definitely getting into our groove right now and understanding where we need to be and what time and passing receivers off and things like that. We got to change a few things but the scheme works. We just got to play the techniques better.
What was your reaction when the Falcons called and asked you to be apart of the team?
It was a great honor. Its a great organization, a great franchise, great community base, team and I love being there an definitely wanted to be there. So it was definitely great to finally get that call.
A lot of expectations came with your signing. Did you feel the pressure to excel every week or to have an impact in every game?
Well its pressure given to you. I put pressure on myself. I don’t care about the amount of the contract. I put pressure on myself first. Everything I do I want to do it well and I always make an impact no matter what I’m doing. I put pressure on myself. I don’t really care what the fans thinks as far as things like that. I understand that I play for my contract but I’m there for my teammates and to help them get better and to help us win games.
How has the experience been so far with the team and playing along side John Abraham?
Everything has been good. We’re just continuing to work on our chemistry because that’s the biggest part of being a successful team, is having great chemistry on both sides of the ball and I think we are getting into that groove.
In Minnesota, you played along side Jared Allen, one of the top pass rushers in the league right now. Did you learn anything from him that you added to your style of play?
A little bit. Just different type of things. How to get to the quarterback. Little small technique things. Pretty much that’s it. And just enjoy life and have fun. It was fun up there when I was in Minnesota. We had great camaraderie with each other on the front line and that’s what I’m trying to bring to Atlanta where we learn how to play off each other and make things happen.
From football to modeling. How did you get into the modeling business?
It was fun to me. I work so hard in everything else I do like football and boxing. Modeling is just another thing for me to do. Everybody said I should do a calendar because I work so hard and have a nice body. It was fun.
Will you go full time into modeling after your football career?
I’ll see where it goes. I’ll continue to do it while I’m playing. If someone comes and sign me to a contract, like Calvin Klein or something like that or model or things like that, I’ll be more than open to doing that.
What is the truth behind the semi-nude cell phone pictures? There were rumors that the pictures were leaked on a gay hook-up website and there were rumors about you being gay. Did you leak the pictures?
I believe it was an ex that release them. I’m definitely not gay. I don’t have anything against gays or anything like that but that’s not for me.