DE Takk McKinley (3.19.21)

Opening statement: 

“I am grateful to be here. Thank you. Excited to be a Cleveland Brown – very Excited.”

 

On if he had a sense he would sign with the Browns when entering free agency:

“It was a really easy decision for me. They tried to pick me up three times after I got released, and then they also tried to trade for me. I was like the fifth time is going to be the charm. It was a really easy decision for me once they offered. I talked to my agent – let’s get it done. Let’s go. I am ready to go.”

 

On knowing the Browns attempted to acquire him in 2020:

“I means a lot, just the opportunity. Like I said, this league is not promised. Just to be here talking to you, I am very appreciative. To know a team sees what I am worth, sees what I can do and really believes in me, that means the world. Now, I just can’t wait to get out there on that field and prove it to myself and show everybody else why it was a smart decision to bring me here.”

 

On why he believes a change of scenery will be good for him and his career:

“I will say everything happens for a reason in life. You always have your highs and you always have your lows. That is just life. Life is a rollercoaster. For me, the biggest thing is to learn from my mistakes. I am not perfect. I made a lot of mistakes in my past. However, if I want to grow from that, I just do not make the same mistake twice. As far as the opportunity goes, sometimes a fresh start is the best thing for everyone. I am just very, very excited to be a part of the Cleveland Browns knowing how bad they wanted me and knowing the opportunity that lies in front of me. I am with a team that has a great locker room. The culture is changing. I am excited to be a part of and continue to change what people think about the Cleveland Browns. In the past, it was a laughing organization. I will be real with you, I do not know too much about Cleveland, but I just know that they were known for losing. That is not the culture here anymore, especially after talking to coach Ski (Head Coach Kevin Stefanski), Mr. Berry (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry) and pretty much everyone in this building. That losing stuff is not a part of Cleveland anymore. I am just excited to be here and help keep winning.”

 

On if he wore a suit today to further show he is starting a new chapter:

“Basically. Like I said, this game is a business. I just think in my younger days – I am only 25 so I can’t really say ‘younger days’ like that – but in 2017 when I first got into this league, people would tell me things and I kind of just thought my way was the best way or whatnot or I would do certain interviews and be very immature about it. Once again, this league is not promised. It is a privilege to be here talking to you. I feel like I am at the point in my career where if I want to be in this league, I need to start acting like it. Today it was not to look good but it was for myself and everybody else to know I mean nothing but business.”

 

On playing opposite of DE Myles Garrett:

“I think it is amazing. I do not need to get into Myles Garrett’s résumé. Everybody in the world knows it, but the way I think I can help him is you got a dawg on the other side of you. You have someone who is going to battle for you. You have someone who is going to go hard, 100 percent, full speed. Someone who is going to give it his all. Once again, I know I have shown a lot of flashes in my career. For me, it is all about being consistent now. I am not a rookie in this league anymore. Myles and I were in the same draft class. I am considered a vet now. For me, there is no more excuses. Why this? Why that? It is get the job done and leave it at that. I am very excited to be able to team up with Myles, (DT) Sheldon Richardson and this defense and continue to get better and continue to improve. “

 

On how he can get back to being the type of player he was during his first two seasons and how defensive coordinator Joe Woods can help him become that type of player again:

“I think for me, it is pretty simple. It is pretty simple. I will be honest – I have no reason not to be – I will say when I was having success in this league – I had six sacks my rookie year; personally, I like to say eight, but they do not count playoff sacks, but I had eight sacks my rookie year, seven the next and I was hungry at the time. When I came into this league at draft night, I was really hungry. I was not relaxed. I was all about just getting after it. I felt like these last couple of years, specifically probably 2018-2019, I kind of lost myself. I lost the way I play the game. I just lost a lot. Now, I am back, I have a great mindset and I have a great team around me. Now it is just to continue to improve, continue to talk to people, continue to get help and just continue to grow and be a better person, a better player and just better overall. As far as the scheme goes with Joe Woods, I love the scheme. It is something that works best for me, getting the Wide 9 and that way I am able to use my speed, use my explosiveness and use what I am good at. I am excited to be able to get into that defense, whether that is on the left or the right – I do not have a preference, I can rush on both sides. Just talking to Joe Woods and (defensive line) Coach (Chris) Kiffin, our D line coach, it got me excited. Once training camp comes, I am ready to get to work.”

 

On what changed his perception of the Browns and if it was directly tied to the team’s performance last year:

“No, I would not even say it was that. If you want my honest opinion, we played the Browns probably two years ago when I was in Atlanta, and we got our butts kicked pretty bad. That right there kind of let me know, ‘OK, this is not the same Browns team that people say they are. This team, they have something different. I do not know what it is, but they have something different.’ It is obvious. When I signed, the first person to hit me up was (QB) Baker (Mayfield), and he did not have to do that. He did not at all, but for him to send me a text message, that right there means a lot. Like I said, I am just proud to come join this team and keep trying to win games and keep changing the narrative.”

 

On his health status:

“I really do not want to get into health too much, but I had a physical yesterday, and I will pass it. I will just leave it at that. I am healthy. I am down in Orange County, Irvine specifically, working out and training every day.”

 

On what happened for him to ‘lose himself’ earlier in his career and how did he get back to his current mindset:

“I would just say life. I feel like a lot of people when it comes to football players, they just look at us as gladiators, and just when it comes to football, it just has to be football. Just like every single one of you, I do have a life and a personal life, and things happen in that personal life and that is OK. I am just older now and I am more mature now that I understand, yes, I may have some issues outside of life, but when I am on that grass, nothing else matters. I am just huge on learning from my mistakes and do not make the same mistake twice.”

 

On sharing that the Browns tried to trade for him and if he felt like the team may have also been interested in originally drafting him:

“Honestly, I did not know what they were going to do. I knew they were going to get Myles Garrett, but I believe they had a pick at No. 12. It crept up in my mind because Cleveland was my first NFL visit of my career, and it went really well. I knew Andrew Berry had the most confidence in me and believed I am a great D end. There were a lot of good D ends in that draft class, and he felt like I was one of the good ones. I appreciate him for trying multiple times to get me. Like I said, the fifth time was a charm.”

 

On what Berry has told him that Berry likes so much about his game:

“He liked that I am explosive, I am fast and I am a dawg. Like I said, if you check out my tape, we played Seattle the first game of the season last year, and I had six QB hits in the first half. If you check my tape against the Philadelphia Eagles, I probably had nine QB hits but no sacks. Sometimes, I feel like some people get caught up with sacks and all of that, but they do not really get caught up with the pressures, QB hits, etc. I felt like for Mr. Berry, he has seen enough on tape and was like, ‘OK, this guy, he has it. Now it is just get him in the right system and get him around the right people, and let’s get after it.”

 

On if playing on a one-year contract motivates him to really prove what he can do this season to potentially earn a big contract next year:

“To be honest, I am not really thinking about next year because once again with how I started off this interview, this league is not guaranteed. This league is not promised. I had that mindset from 2017-2020. If I did not have a good year this year, I was worried about next year. If I did not have a good year that year, I was worried about next year. This league is not guaranteed at all. I have a one-year deal. I am focusing on this year and focusing on what I can control. If I do what I need to do, that will take care of itself. There is no reason for me to think about next year when I have to handle this year.”

 

On if he has heard from Garrett and if he got to know Garrett well as they were in the same draft class:

“No, I do not really know him like that. He was in my draft class and there were a bunch of D ends who got drafted in the first round, and there is a competitive spirit in every single one of us to think that we are the best. Regardless of how our careers have played out, I am sure everyone in that draft class feels like they are the best. I reached out to him. I should hear back from him soon. I am just grateful to be a Cleveland Brown and excited to get to work with him.”

 

On if he gets the feeling that Berry had a plan all along to pair him with Garrett:

“I don’t know what Andrew Berry’s vision was – I am not going to lie to you – but whatever it is, it is shaping up and looking good for the City of Cleveland. If his vision is me and Myles coming off of the edge, and if he has been right about his vision in the past, then hopefully he is right about this one for my sake.”

 

On if someone in particular helped him with his maturity, in addition to his own efforts:

“A bunch of people. I know a lot of people think my time in Atlanta was just the worst time ever, but that was not the case at all. I met a lot of people who I will be friends with for the rest of my life, without even talking about football – one being (former Falcons head coach and Cowboys defensive coordinator) Dan Quinn. The relationship that I have with him will last forever. Another one being (LA Rams defensive coordinator) Raheem Morris – the same. They always were ones who kept it real with me and tell me what I needed to hear. (NY Jets defensive coordinator) Jeff Ulbrich, he was my coach at UCLA and my defensive coordinator. He always kept it real with me and told me what I needed to hear. AD (Cowboys defensive line coach Aden Durde), he is the defensive line coach for the Dallas Cowboys and is another person who told me what I needed to hear. Last but least, my mentor (Pro Football Hal of Fame DL) Kevin Greene, who passed away, he was someone who always I could talk to about anything, whether it was football or life – it didn’t matter what it was. He told me, ‘Takk, if you want to be in this league for a long time, you have to fix your image.’ I feel like a lot of people don’t really know me and a lot of people don’t understand me, but once you get to talk to me, you will soon realize there isn’t anything wrong with this dude at all. Those names that I said to you are just a few names that helped me really understand something needs to change, whether it is the way I carry myself, whether it is the way I talk or I don’t know. All I know is I am just trying to grow and get better at all areas, whether that is football, as a father or just a person.”

 

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