Jaiquawn Jarrett Interview: On Juan Castillo, Mike Vick, Fabolous and His First Game in the NFL

Jaiquawn Jarrett Interview: On Juan Castillo, Mike Vick, Fabolous and His First Game in the NFL

With just a few days left before the team's 2011 kick off, we had the opportunity to sit down with Eagles rookie safety and former Temple standout Jaiquawn Jarrett. We've been covering the Temple Owls here on the site the past couple seasons, so we thought it would be appropriate to check in with Jaiquawn as he prepares for his first game in the NFL.

Inside the Novacare Complex, Jarrett's locker is flanked on either side by those of fellow safeties Colt Anderson and Kurt Coleman. Anderson was listening and watching for the better part of the interview. You'll see why that's important later on.

Nick: First off, there's the obvious question. You're now just three days from your first game in the NFL. How's it feel?
Jaiquawn Jarrett: You know, It's exciting. But, it's still a long process just to get ready. Right now I'm just focusing on the game plan, learning the game plan. And then I'm doing my best in practice to go out there and execute that plan, so I can be ready when the time comes to get in there, whenever that may be.

Nick: Prior to the 2011 Draft, how aware were you that the Eagles may have been interested?

Jaiquawn: Really, I wasn't too aware that the Eagles were interested in me, but I'm definitely glad and excited that they did select me. I'm excited that I'm able to play college ball and my professional ball here in [Philadelphia].

Nick: Once you were drafted, head coach Andy Reid called you the most intimidating hitter in the draft and then went on to compare you to Brian Dawkins. What does it mean to you to be compared to a player like Dawk?

Jaiquawn: Brian Dawkins, man, Brian Dawkins is one of the best players to ever play this game. He is going to go down in history as a Hall of Fame safety. There's no doubt. Really, I'm just learning right now. You know, I've got a lot to learn. But I can definitely learn a lot from him. And I can obviously learn from the safeties I'm surrounded by in this locker room.

Nick: After the draft, what did you do to stay in shape and improve during the lock out when you weren't allowed access to the team or its facilities?

Jaiquawn: I worked out at Temple. I worked out at Temple numerous times with the strength coach, coach P [Frank Piraino], and my old strength coach, coach [Tony] Decker. So, I was always lifting and running.

Nick: Once you were allowed back, did the veterans hit you with any of the traditional rookie "chores?"

Jaiquawn: Oh no. You know, there's really no rookie chores here. None of that stuff, believe it or not. [Pauses — Smiles] But we do, uh, we do provide away game meals. But that's not really a big issue.

Nick: Well, you know it has been on other teams.

Jaiquawn: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah. I know. I've heard about that.

Nick: As a second round draft pick, there was some early talk that you and Nate Allen could make up a very young starting safety tandem. Now, those spots are filled by teammates Jarrad Page and Kurt Coleman. Do you feel the lockout and not being able to attend mini-camps or OTAs in any way hindered your progression, and that if you had a normal training camp things might have turned out differently?

Jaiquawn: I'm not too sure. You know, I really don't know about that. If there wasn't a lockout…I probably would have learned a lot more. But, I mean, I'm learning now. And I'm going to continue to learn. And I'm going to go out there to compete. And I think if I can go out out there and try my best to become a good team player, that I'll pick it up.

Nick: It's your coach Juan Castillo's first season in the league as a defensive coordinator. What is your impression of Juan in that role having gone through an entire training camp?

Jaiquawn: Juan Castillo is a great man. He's a great man. He's exciting. He's always got a lot of enthusiasm. He's always got a lot of energy. He's just great that way. Definitely keeps us going.

Nick: Other than the coaching staff, from whom, thus far, have you learned the most?

Jaiquawn: Colt! [Laughs] Colt Anderson's helped a lot. We roomed together a lot. Roomed together at the hotel, were around each other in camp. So definitely Colt. Kurt [Coleman]. Kurt helps a lot. Just about the whole safety core. [Smiles] We're all pretty tight around here.

Nick: As a part of the secondary who gets to see these guys in action quite a bit, what's been like to watch the Eagles' "big three" corners on a daily basis?

Jaiquawn: You know, each of them has their own different traits. Each one has their own way of doing things. But, they're all talented. They're all great corners. And every day, every single day, they're out there making plays, whether it's practice, or preseason, or whatever. Everyday they're making plays. For me, it's just exciting to watch how Pro Bowl, Hall of Fame corners go about their business everyday. It's great to watch, great to learn from.

Nick: Prior to joing the Eagles, I'm sure you, like the rest of us, consumed quite a bit of the media coverage surrounding quarterback Michael Vick. What's it been like to meet him and interact with him everyday as a real person, and not just "that guy" who did "that thing?"

Jaiquawn: Mike is a real down to earth person. Honestly, being around Mike Vick is just like being around anybody else. He's down to earth, you know? He's really easy to get along with. He's just a good guy. Simple as that.

Nick: Switching over to college, you said you worked out at Temple over the summer. How much have you gotten to know coach Steve Addazio and what is your impression of what he can do for that program going forward?

Jaiquawn: [Smiles] Ohhh, Steve Addazio. Coach Addazio has a lot of, a whole lot of intensity, man. [Laughs]. He's a real good man. And he's been letting the seniors who have graduated come back to work with the team, work out with the team, run with the team. I'm excited for them. I heard about their big win over Villanova. I'm looking for big, big things out of them this upcoming season.

Nick: And how about your old head coach, Al Golden? Have you ha
d any contact with coach Golden, especially since all that came out about the University of Miami's football program?

Jaiquawn: Nah, you know, I really haven't had the chance to speak to coach Golden. I know he's got a lot on his plate right now. But, I'm pulling for him. I know he's gonna turn that program around."

Nick: Alright, two easy ones and then we'll let you go. We've been covering your career at Temple the past couple years so we have to ask, not counting the cafeteria or the SAC, where's your favorite spot to eat on Temple's campus? We'll give them some free advertising.

Jaiquawn: Well, I always liked to go to City View! But I was definitely always eatin' Rita's, as well, though.

Nick: Finally, we hear it's pretty common for guys to listen to music before taking the field. Marshawn Lynch refers to it as "getting that last little bit of juice."

Jaiquawn: Mhmm.

Nick: What will you be listening to Sunday morning?

Jaiquawn: Sunday morning…well, I always listen to Fabolous.

Nick: Yeah? Any specific song? We'll put it on the website.

Jaiquawn: [Laughs] "Gangsta Don't Play" [Continued laughter].

--

Thanks to Jaiquawn Jarrett for taking the time to talk to us, and for making it through what Colt Anderson called "the longest interview I've ever heard."

Photos with thanks to the Philadelphia Eagles, Associated Press, Express Times and GCobb.com

Robert Covington, Sixers show 'swagger' without Joel Embiid in comeback win

Robert Covington, Sixers show 'swagger' without Joel Embiid in comeback win

BOX SCORE

The Sixers began the season looking lost without Joel Embiid. Now they are finding ways to win when he is not on the court. 

Embiid suffered a left knee contusion in the second half of Friday’s 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see story). He was sidelined for the decisive 8:50 of the game (see Instant Replay).

The Sixers trailed, 81-78, when he subbed out for the second time because of the injury, and outscored the Trail Blazers, 15-11, from that point on.

So how was this team that battled with inconsistency and reliance on Embiid able to pull out a comeback win punctuated in the final seconds? Ask the Sixers and they’ll give varying answers, a sign they are getting the job done in multiple ways and aren’t relying on just one key to success.

The most glaring difference was the hero of the game. Robert Covington drained two three-pointers in the final 40 seconds. His trey from Dario Saric with 38.2 remaining cut the Trail Blazers' lead to just one, 91-90. With 4.5 to go, he nailed the game-winning three from T.J. McConnell to give the Sixers their eighth victory in 10 games (see feature highlight).

“That’s resilient Cov,” Nerlens Noel said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a good shot or a bad shot; he’ll pull it in your face. That’s the confidence he has and that’s the confidence we need him to have. He steps up and makes two big shots like that, that’s enough said. He won us that game.”

Critics have called out Covington’s up-and-down performance from three all season. (They’ve made their feelings known with loud boos at home games.) Covington shot 5 for 12 behind the arc on the night but his 2 for 3 performance in the fourth was what mattered most. 

“I am a fighter, that’s what I have been my whole life,” he said. “Just because fans are booing me at one point doesn't mean anything. I just keep working. I am not going to let that deteriorate my game. It goes in one ear and out the other.”

Without Embiid in the game, the Sixers had to rely on a total team effort. After he went to the bench, the final points were scored by a combination of Covington, Gerald Henderson, Noel, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and McConnell.

“Ball movement,” head coach Brett Brown said. “We had 25 assists out of 36 made baskets. It’s not like we’re going to give the ball to Damian Lillard (guard for the Blazers). That’s not who we are. Whatever we do, it has to be done by committee, by a group, by a team. It’s even more exposed when Joel isn’t in the game. They did that. Unlikely people ended up with the ball sometimes in unlikely spots. … You have to move the ball. That’s what the team has learned without Joel.” 

Several of the players on the court in critical moments were from the second unit. Since Brown locked in on his rotation, the reserves don’t have a drop-off in confidence from the starters. 

“It’s the mentality,” Covington said. “Everybody has that swagger about us right now because once Joel comes out, the next person steps in and fills that void. It’s a matter of that contagious feeling that trickles into the second unit that’s making us that much more valuable.”

Then there's always defense, the foundation of any solid NBA team and a focal point for the Sixers. Noel saw that as the difference-maker when subbing in and out. The Trail Blazers scored just two points in the final 1:56. 

"The second unit goes there and does a great job guarding the yard, not letting up easy baskets," Noel said. "The offensive side is fluid motion. Guys get shots, pick-and-roll, it opens up open threes for guys, driving lines, pump fakes, it’s a great unity."

Embiid liked what he saw from a distance. He will not travel with the team to their game on Saturday against the Hawks in Atlanta. 

"I’m just happy we’ve been closing out games, and the main thing I’m really happy [about] is they’ve been able to do it without me," he said. "That’s going to give us a lot of confidence when I’m missing back-to-backs. My teammates are going to have more confidence to come in and play the same way."

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Joel Embiid feels 'great' after injury scare to left knee

Of the nearly 20,000 people in the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night, Joel Embiid was seemingly the least concerned when he came down and injured his left knee. 

Fans held their breath and the Sixers looked on anxiously as the standout big man got up in visible discomfort and limped off the court (see highlights). Embiid, however, wasn’t worried. 

“I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way,” he said after the Sixers' 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers (see Instant Replay). “I’m great. The knee’s fine. They did an MRI and stuff, everything looked good.”

Embiid ran off the court on his own, was diagnosed with a left knee contusion and was cleared to return to the game. He aggravated his knee again driving to the basket and this time, the team held him out to be careful.

“The review is that he hyperextended his left knee,” head coach Brett Brown said. “There was a minor tweak again, and for precautionary reasons only, the doctors did not allow him to return. There will be more information given as we know it. But quickly, that's what we know.”

Embiid understood the team’s decision to sideline him for the final 8:50 while the Sixers went on a comeback run (see feature highlight). He still finished the game with an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double, five assists and four blocks in only 22 minutes.

“Obviously those guys, the front office, they care about my future, so they just shut it down,” Embiid said. “But I was fine.”

Embiid will not travel to Atlanta for Saturday’s game against the Hawks (pre-scheduled rest). He expects to be available for Tuesday’s home matchup against the Clippers. 

"You know how tough he is," Nerlens Noel said. "If it isn’t anything serious, he’ll be right back. At the end of the game, he was telling me was he was feeling great and there was no pain. He wanted to come back in the game … he’s a trooper. He always gives it his all and always plays hard."

Injuries to any player are worrisome, especially a franchise centerpiece with two years of rehab (foot) behind him. The Sixers have been methodical and cautious with his playing time. Embiid is on a 28-minute restriction and can play in only one game of a back-to-back series. 

The same player who is so closely watched, though, also plays with sky-high energy that doesn’t have a brake pedal. 

“You're concerned,” Brown said of seeing Embiid get injured. “It's clear to all of us that he plays with such reckless abandon. I think that we're all going to be seeing this and feeling this regularly. From flying into stands to stalking somebody in the open court to block a shot to the collision he often is in trying to draw fouls. That's just who he is. 

“I think that as he just plays more basketball and continues to grow, to not necessarily avoid those situations, just to perhaps manage them a little bit more. Right now, he's just a young guy that's just playing that doesn't know what he doesn't know and has a fearless approach underneath all that attitude.”

Fearless is an accurate description considering Embiid's trouble-free reaction to the awkward way his leg bent (he hadn’t seen a replay). 

“I kind of had that in college, too,” he said. “I think I’m flexible, so it’s supposed to happen.”