Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry (7.23.23)

Opening statement:

“So we’re super excited to be here at The Greenbrier to start our preparation for the 2023 season in earnest with training camp. Being here is just a phenomenal opportunity. You all can see how beautiful it is out here. It’s my first time, but it’s been awesome and I actually want to start off with a couple of thank yous. Because I don’t think people realize how hard it is to move your entire football operations to a remote location here obviously, in West Virginia. It starts with Phil Dangerfield, Abir Chaudhry, Chavis Cook for handling everything logistics related. Our equipment group led by Brad Melland. Our video crew led by Rob Pavlas, and what we think is the best grounds crew in the NFL. They all did a great job of making sure the setup here is exactly what we need. We looked at the Greenbrier as a unique opportunity for us, coming back early for the Hall of Fame game to do a couple of things. Number one, really just focus on the work in a very isolated environment and also give us some extra time to just come together and bond and gel as a team. I want to commend the coaching staff. I thought they did a great job of laying the foundation for our organization this spring, and we’re looking forward to building upon that over the next several weeks in training camp. So with that, I’ll open it up for questions.”


Why have you not added a defensive tackle after cutting Perrion Winfrey?

Tony (Grossi), I think one of the big parts or one of the big things that we do early in training camp is really just assess the roster. We haven’t seen a lot of our players in pads in a new defensive system. We do like a number of the individuals that we have in that room currently. Obviously, it’s unfortunate we’re moving on from Perrion after a year, but he, like a number of players on our roster were really competing for a role, competing for a roster spot. So we like the mix of players that we have across all positions. We’ll see how we feel as we come to the middle of camp and then reassess the roster from there.”


How disappointing was it that Perrion wasn’t able to make it to year two after being a draft pick?

“I would say it’s probably less to do with a draft pick or non-draft pick, but the fact that you ultimately want any player that you bring into the organization to maximize their ability, maximize their time with the team, you realize that’s not always going to happen. And ultimately, it’s about putting the team first and making sure that you have that buy-in.”


Any regret about not cutting him after the April incident?

“Honestly, we take every situation individually and work from it from there. We thought the proper time to move on was I guess last week right before camp.”


Was there an opportunity to take a minute to sort of reevaluate the process of drafting him?

“I wouldn’t necessarily go that far, Dan (Labbe). I think anytime you bring an individual into the organization, it’s about understanding the risk that may entail – whether it may be on the field, off-the-field injuries, and so on and so forth. And then trying to provide an environment that allows them to be successful, like they may have been either at their previous stop or in college. You’re not always able to replicate that. You’re not always able to do that successfully. But to me, it’s a little bit about knowing what you’re bringing in and how to support.”


Are you comfortable with the backup offensive tackle?

“Yes, but probably to the question earlier about defensive tackle – oftentimes when you put the team together in the spring, you have an idea of how you assume it’s going to play out. It never goes perfectly. And training camp, whether it’s through performance or injuries, that’s a big time on the calendar for us to evaluate the team. But we do feel good about our tackle depth.”


When did you really kind of know that there was going to be an issue with Marquise Goodwin’s blood clots and how worried are you about him?

“First and foremost with Marquise, our priority is making sure that he’s safe and healthy. From my perspective, I feel like we are very thankful that he spoke up at the time that it really popped up, as you mentioned, kind of spring right at the end of minicamp. It could have been very easy for him to go on break, travel with his family. It’s something that would have been an unknown that hopefully would not have caused more complications in the future. So we’re just thankful that he said something and were able to get him on the treatment plan to get back on track. Obviously, there’s not a definitive timetable. We’re hopeful that we can get him back, but our primary concern is just his health.”


 Was there anything in Goodwin’s physical that stood out?

“Without going into it, it’s not the type of thing that you would find in that type of exam.”


What’s your take on the running back situation around the league in general?

“I think as you look at our sport, it has changed from, let’s call it the 80’s and 90’s ,where at that point, a lot of offenses were built on maybe a bell cow runner. I think now, unequivocally, the central protagonist in our sport is the quarterback, and as a result, positions that are the quarterback plus positions that are tied to the passing game, the market has dictated that those values have shifted because of their impact on winning. I think you see that over time, as the game changes, the game evolves. Now that being said, the rarest thing that you can find is a difference maker regardless of position, regardless of your organizational philosophy. And now we have a defensive tackle that’s making north of 30 million. We have a guard that’s making north of 20 million. We have off-the-ball linebackers that are making 20 million because there are players that break the mold. And for us, when we made our decision at running back, we felt like we had a superstar at the position who embodied everything that we wanted within the organization, so we didn’t overthink it. It is Nick Chubb, right? So for us, it was a pretty straightforward decision because those difference makers are hard to find.”


How do you sort of respond to that kind of attestation from Chubb on running backs being held to a different standard in terms of pay?

“I think that the profiles for positions across the court, like all positions aren’t created equal. There’s durability risk for any player that a team is thinking about signing to a second or a third deal. Some positions are more at risk for injury than others. But I think probably more importantly, it’s about the individual. It’s about the individual and making sure not to lose sight of that.”


Does Chubb have anything to worry about?

“Nick Chubb is the type of player and person that you hope is with the organization as long as possible.”


Do you feel like his workload has been managed over the course of his career?

“I think Nick has shown himself to be durable for us. Look, I think you all see on social media how well he takes care of his body, obviously, and he’s a consummate professional. We’re hopeful that he can play as long as possible.”


How do you feel just in general about the season and what are your expectations?

“So our expectations, they’re always going to be high and we want to be playing our best football in the later part of the season. But more importantly, our focus is really on the work. We have a lot of work to do over the course of training camp to get ready for the season and that’s really our focus right now.”


So going forward, how does that change in comparison to the past two years?

“I’ll tell you this, we’re not really focused on the rearview mirror. We’re not looking there. We’re focused. We like the group of players and coaches that we have here and we’re looking forward to maximizing each day.”


I guess maybe that’s a better question. 

“I think you learn from every year. I probably tell you guys every season. Every year is unique, right? I keep a OneNote with every cycle, every season and every year I review kind of like my end-of-the-season or end-of-draft and grade agency notes to draw from those lessons here. Because you’re right, there are things that you learn or you grow from and try and apply those lessons.”


We talked to Deshaun Watson today and he kind of poured out his heart a little bit about how he told the team the story last night and how he feels that his ordeal changed him and it was a good interview with Deshaun. So I’m just wondering, where do you see him now as compared to last year? Where do you feel his mindset is? And just also from a football standpoint? 

“Deshaun –I mean, you heard him speak. He’s in a really good place. I think this is going to be a big year for him professionally and personally. We think he’s in great shape physically. He’s been really good on the field and I love what he’s done off the field. So we’re excited about him. We’re looking forward to seeing how the next weeks play out and as we get into the season.”


What are you excited to see from the partnership with Kevin (Stefanski), given that they’ve been together almost a year and a half? 

“I think from the general manager seat, it’s been pretty cool to just see their relationship continue to just come together. It’s very natural and organic, Jake. I think with Kevin’s creativity and Deshaun’s talent and work ethic, the things that I think we’ll be able to do offensively that maybe we haven’t been able to do before, candidly, I’m pretty excited to see.  I know both of them, really, from the spring have been in the lab, so to speak. We’re all going to get a chance to see how it comes together here, starting with training camp and then as we kind of figure out our identity going into the season.”


How do you think (Jim) Schwartz can help Myles (Garrett) reach another level?

“I think Jim, his scheme in this system, the defensive line in this system, they’re the engine. As he always says, he takes the seatbelt off of those guys. It’s about generating negative plays, forced errors and turnovers. It starts with the D line wreaking havoc with a premium on pass rush ability and that fits Myles to a ‘T.’ We think we have the best pass rusher in the league with him and this is tailor-made, you know, kind of match made in heaven.”


I don’t think we’ve talked to you since the Za’Darius (Smith) trade. So what do you think he adds in that mold with Jim and Myles? 

“We can never have enough rushers. I think with Z, the appeal with him is his versatility. He’s a high-level rusher who I think oftentimes people just think of him as an edge guy. I think really where he’s particularly skilled, is his ability to rush inside over a guard or center and he can do this up on the edge really well. Having someone who can win quickly inside, just gives you so much versatility to create advantageous matchups to rush the passer. Between him, ‘Obo’ (Ogbonnia Okoronkwo) with his feet off the edge, we have a couple of power guys with Dalvin (Thomlinson) and it’s a nice blend of skill sets to get after the quarterback.”


This doesn’t feel like when you look at some of the competition, it feels like it’s the back end of the roster competition. There aren’t a lot of starting jobs that are up for grabs type of thing and a lot of the players are competing for some of those remaining roster sponsor guys going into their third and fourth year. How do you feel about those two classes, the 2020 class, and 2021 class, as far as their ability to have the type of impact that you’re looking for them to have as they get deeper in their athletic career? 

“We feel good about those groups. I would say this, we feel good about the roster in general. I mean, it remains to be seen, the competition of starting spots versus maybe more supporting roles within the offense or defense. But we feel good about the competition that we have across the roster and are looking forward to some guys that will assume bigger roles. Some guys will take another step in their career, and how that all shakes out. That’s what the next thing will be.”


Is Amari (Cooper) okay?

“Yeah. So Amari, minor tweak, it will be a day-to-day thing. We’re not overly concerned.”


Like a hamstring or something?

I won’t go into details where it’s not tied to surgery or anything like that. We’re not worried about that.”


One more position group I want to ask you about. Any concerns about your running back depth beyond the first two?

“Yeah, I think – Kareem (Hunt) was here for three years, four years – anytime you move on from a vet, it gives some other players a chance to step up. We feel really good about Jerome (Ford). He had a very strong spring, particularly in his pass protection ability. The mental side of it. A big reason that we drafted him in ’22 was because of his ability as a receiver, and we think that he’ll be able to play that role really well. But behind Nick (Chubb) and Jerome, there’s going to be some competition coming and it remains to be seen who can emerge for that third running back spot. But again, that’s what training camp is going to be for.”


Kickoff return rule change – it just feels like the league is just trying to eliminate that altogether. So when you have a combo player that’s receiver and returner, how much does the rule change impact your calculus when you’re thinking not only the numbers game of the position, but the players? 

“Yeah, that’s a great question. It certainly makes a higher bar for how productive that returner is to have the player on the roster just for that value. Because you’re right, if you don’t have a strong returner, you can just fair catch it all the time and probably get an adequate starting field position. That’s something honestly, throughout Bubba’s (Ventrone) history, he’s always done a nice job when he’s had a good returner of creating a top-of-class return game. It’s something that we will still value. But from a roster-building standpoint, I would be lying if I said it didn’t give more flexibility.”


Can you see what Elijah Moore can do with this offense?

“Yeah, very much so. I think Elijah has the skill set that we’re looking for. His versatility, his work ethic, his rapport with quarterbacks. So far, we like what we’ve seen to date. We just want him to keep stacking together really quickly.”


Andrew, you mentioned Za’Darius’s versatility, does that alleviate some of the concern about bringing in another defensive tackle because, you know, he can slide inside on several things?

“I think certainly how we envision deploying Za’Darius, certainly how we also just like the way we play the front is going to be a little bit different than maybe what we’ve seen in the past. It just gives us a lot of flexibility. I think maybe the primary thing is we like the guys in the room currently. Again, we’ll assess that as we go over the next couple of weeks, but there are a number of veterans and younger players in that room that we’re looking forward to seeing.”


There are a lot of guys like Deshaun and Myles who are talking about different leadership and growing their leadership this year. As a leader of the organization, are they in your ear? Do you see them talking to you about ways that they can develop that as well? 

“Absolutely. We take pride in supporting our players as an organization, not just how good can they be on the field or how are they physically. In terms of the social-emotional leadership development as well and we want to make sure we do provide resources to our guys in that regard. Fortunately, we have a really hungry locker room with guys that are looking for self-improvement, and we feel fortunate in that regard. Also, like your J’s.”


Is there a couple of themes when you look at the roster change from here, are there a couple of things that emerge that you’re thinking about? 

“Yeah. In terms of, like, the offseason?


Yeah, the offseason. No much. You brought in these new guys, okay. There are a couple of themes about what you were doing. 

“So one of the things that we really wanted to do going into the offseason was refortify the trenches and probably really specifically O-line depth and on the defense side of the ball, add as many rushes as we can and then really continue to surround our quarterback with weapons. With Elijah being the primary person there, but guys like Marquise, Cedric (Tillman), Jordan (Akins) as well. So, that was probably the primary goal in the season, but as well as bring our team together just because we’re going to face the inevitable adversity throughout the season and we want to make sure we can navigate.”


Because of the defensive line being the engine, it took more money now to get the defensive line than you ever have before. Connection? 

“I would say yes and no. Yes from the perspective that it was a position group that we were going to have to turn over at some point. We’ve always actually devoted a fair amount of resources to them, whether it was ‘OB’ in 2020, (Jadeveon) Clowney in 2021, and then Clowney again in 2022. At defensive tackle, we typically had guys either on rookie contracts or at lower expenditures. We were just so young there last year, and obviously, our focus was on the quarterback and the receiver that cycle of roster building, where this year we can kind of get back to the trenches.”


Did Nick Chubb’s squatting video scare you?

“I always tell Nick, whenever that comes out, I shoot him a text. I’m like, ‘Nick. This is always my favorite social media clip of the offseason and the most anxiety-producing one as well.’ He’s a freak of nature.”


Any activities planned for the week?

“I want to go hiking. I’ve got to see if there’s a good hiking trail.”



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