Stanford Routt chats with The Scores Report

It’s hard to listen to Stanford Routt speak for more than five minutes and not walk away incredibly impressed with the seven-year NFL vet.

The former second round pick out of the University of Houston is coming off his best season as an Oakland Raider, one in which he recorded 55 tackles, 15 pass deflections, one forced fumble, two interceptions and a defensive touchdown. While teammate Nnamdi Asomugha was out several games with a high ankle sprain, Routt also aided an Oakland secondary by holding his own against top receivers Mike Wallace and Dwayne Bowe. According to STATS Inc, Routt finished as the No. 2 corner behind only Jets’ playmaker Darrelle Revis, which is all the more impressive when you consider how much man-to-man coverage the Raiders’ defense plays.

Set to hit the open market as soon as a new CBA is signed, the Raiders knew how important Routt was to their secondary, especially with the possibility of losing both Asomugha and safety Michael Huff (whom are both free agents as well). That’s why the team rewarded Routt with a new three-year deal in late February to ensure he stays in Oakland for the foreseeable future.

Stanford was kind enough to sit down with me recently to talk about the impact the CBA is having on players such as himself and how he’s staying positive with the threat of a lockout looming. I also asked him to name two Raiders he thinks are ready for breakout campaigns and what opposing receiver continues to impress him year after year. Lastly, he shared information about his foundation, “Routt to Success” and how he’s trying to help children stay away from negative influences such as gang violence and drugs. It’s something don’t want to skip if you’ve ever uttered the words, “Why aren’t athletes better role models?”

The Scores Report: Hey Stanford, how you doing today?

Stanford Routt: Doing pretty good!

TSR: Good! I was wondering if you wanted to buy me lunch after signing your new deal.

SR: (Laughs)

TSR: (Laughs) We can do McDonalds – I don’t care.

SR: Yeah, I usually eat there 2-3 times a week so we’re good to go.

TSR: (Laughs) All kidding aside I did want to congratulate you on the new deal. That’s great.

SR: I appreciate that, thank you.

TSR: How are you proceeding with this offseason now that a lockout is looming? Are you doing anything differently than you’ve done in the past?

SR: Well, right now I’m just taking everything in stride like I was back in school. I’m finishing up my degree on kinesiology and as far as working out, I’m slowly starting to get back up to speed. I’ve been working out about three times a week but more so just cardiovascular than anything. But as of right now, I’m not going to panic or sound off the sirens yet. It’s only March and hopefully this thing won’t drag out too long, although a lockout does look imminent.

TSR: It sure does, unfortunately.

SR: So yeah, I’m just going to treat this like a normal offseason but when July and August come around and there’s no training camp or preseason, that’s when I’ll start to look at things with a wider eye. But as of right now, I’m just going to stay positive and optimistic.

TSR: How do players get their information during this time? Does the union contact you or are you just like the rest of us and you have to get updates through the media?

SR: The NFLPA will send players e-mails giving us updates such as options on insurance plans as well as any other kinds of tactics to help us through this process. We have the insider info so to speak, but we’re also learning things first-hand the same way everyone else is. You know, watching ESPN.

TSR: Has there been any news recently where you’ve said to yourself hey, this thing is going to get done sooner rather than later?

SR: Given the new development that came the other day with the Judge ruling against the owners using the $4 billion TV revenue, I think that evens the playing field a lot more but there are still a lot of issues that have to be resolved before an agreement comes into play. But again, it’s only March and I think the two sides have a good couple of months before things hit the fan and in my opinion, things don’t start to get nasty and hectic until July and August roll around. When training camps are missed and preseason games are missed and we start coming up on September, that’s when things start to become worrisome. But right now is kind of a dead period anyway for the NFL between March and April, besides the combine and the draft for the college guys. As long as we can get this resolved by July, I think we can move forward without there being any real wear and tear done on the league.

Oakland Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt (L) tackles Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) forcing a fumble during the first quarter at Invesco Field at Mile High on October 24, 2010 in Denver. Raiders safety Michael Huff assists on the play. The Raiders gained possession of the fumble UPI/Gary C. Caskey

TSR: I heard your name come up a couple of times while I was watching the scouting combine coverage because you ran that amazing forty time a few years back. Did you watch the combine at all?

SR: I watched a little bit, but not a whole lot. I watched a little bit of the defensive backs on the last day but that was about it.

TSR: What should Raider fans expect in the draft this year? Do you think there’s a specific position that your team will target come April or is there something that you feel the Raiders need in order to get over the hump?

SR: As far as the draft goes, we’re picking somewhere in the second round because we traded our first round pick a couple of years ago to pick up Richard Seymour in the 2009 season. As far as what they’re going to use their picks on, I have no idea and I haven’t given it too much thought. But whomever they choose I’m sure will be the right person for us and I don’t see too many weak spots on our team to be honest with you. We went 6-0 in the division last year and 8-8 overall. We didn’t make the playoffs but we did sweep the division, which isn’t something that too many teams do in today’s game. Adding new talent on the team is always a good thing, but I don’t really see one position that must be addressed. Everyone did a fine job last year and if we can limit the big plays and mistakes, I think last season goes much differently than it did. If three or four plays swing the other way throughout the course of the season, I think our record and our season would have been completely different.

TSR: One thing that often gets overlooked when it comes to the Raiders’ defense is how much man-to-man you guys play. Considering that the majority of the teams a play Cover 2 can you talk about what it takes to play corner in Oakland? I don’t think everyone realizes how valuable the position is on that team.

SR: Oh man, let me see here…well, we play a lot of man. And when I say “a lot,” I mean every snap outside of maybe a handful of plays to give us a breather. You know, have us play Cover 2 or something like that. The front seven is up there to stop the run and we just let the four down linemen hunt; get after the quarterback, especially on third down. I think we have the best front four or front five in the league – just look at their sack total from last year. But as far as the backend goes yes, we play a lot of press-man. Going into games, teams already know that and when we start getting into those tight contests, opponents try to use are aggressiveness, speed and our scheme against us. But that’s just part of the game and football is a game of chess not checkers. There are weaknesses of playing mostly man but we find a way to come through.

TSR: From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like your and Nnamdi Asomugha’s contract situations were tied together. If the Raiders fail to bring you both back, then they’re in a lot of trouble. But if they lock one of you up, then maybe they can’t sign the other. I’m sure you guys are friends and it must be difficult to go through a contract situation at the same time, so fill me in on your thoughts about him and his future in Oakland now that you’ve signed your deal.

SR: Obviously I knew I was going to be a free agent coming into this offseason but I didn’t quite know that he was with that void in his contract. Our secondary has the potential to take a major hit with Michael Huff being a free agent, Nnamdi being a free agent, I was a free agent up until about a week and a half ago. So you know, it was a situation where the front office and Mr. Davis wanted to address because you don’t want to lose 75% of your back end because, for the lack of a better word, you would be starting from scratch. But I think it’ll all work itself out. Once free agency opens up and the smoke clears with this lockout situation, we’ll see what happens. But I definitely want Huff and Nnamdi back. Definitely.

TSR: Give me one offensive player and one defensive player that you think are ready to have a huge impact for the Raiders next season, barring that there is a season, of course.

SR: Wow…hmm…so basically you’re just asking for somebody that’s underrated or under the radar?

TSR: Yeah, just anyone that you think is ready for a breakout year. Obviously if you say Darren McFadden everyone knows who he is and everybody already expects a lot from him. So I’m looking for more under-the-radar guys.

SR: Wow, okay. On offense I would probably have to go with Darrius Heyward-Bey.

TSR: I bet a lot of fans will like to hear that. They’ve been ready for him to breakout since the Raiders took him in the top 10 two years ago.

SR: I think he’s definitely going to hit stride this year. On the defensive side of the ball, wow, that’s a tough one.

TSR: You didn’t think I was going to challenge you today.

SR: I didn’t, no. I would probably have to go with myself for somebody who is under-the-radar and ready to explode. But I don’t like to talk about myself or toot my own horn so I’ll probably go with Mike Mitchell – one of our backup safeties. I think he could have a really good year.

TSR: Mike Mitchell – second rounder a couple of years ago.

SR: Yes, sir.

TSR: I remember him well because on draft day, Mel Kiper said that he was a huge reach and that the Raiders could have had him later in the draft. Then it came out that Jerry Angelo of the Bears was ready to take him right after the Raiders so Oakland was wise to grab him when they did. That’s interesting that you said him because pundits said he was a guy that could potentially develop down the road and here we are, it’s down the road and you’re saying he’s ready to breakout.

SR: Oh yeah, definitely. The biggest thing that I can tell you in the NFL or even in basketball, or baseball, or what have you, is that a lot of fans think that whoever is starting or on the field is the best players on the team, which is rightfully so. But people assume that just because you’re a backup that you’re not really that good. That’s a big misconception. There are a lot of players on every team that I guarantee is just as good as the starter, hell, maybe even better, but they just haven’t been given the opportunity to go out there and show it. That’s one thing I know a lot of people overlook and that’s why every year there’s a backup that turns into a starter and everyone’s shocked about where he came from. In all actuality, he didn’t come from just anywhere, he’s always been there but now he’s getting the opportunity to show what he can do.

TSR: Give me one opposing receiver that you face every year or you have an opportunity to watch every year that continues to impress you. I don’t want to do the whole, “Who is the best receiver you’ve ever faced” bit. But give me guy who continues to impress you whether it be with his route running, his ability to always get open or his hands.

SR: Each and every year? Man, that’s a tough one…

TSR: If this is easier, give me a receiver that you think fans don’t even know how good he is.

SR: One guy that I faced a couple of times this year that I’m not sure people know how good he is, and he plays in my own division, is Brandon Lloyd. Even though he led the league in receptions last year, I don’t think people realize how fluid and how athletic he is running his pass routes, going to the ball and just his hand-eye coordination.

TSR: I know you’re involved in a lot of off-field events, which includes your own charity. Can you fill readers in on what you have going on right now and what we can expect this offseason from you off the field.

SR: Let’s see, I always do my annual camp for the kids out here in the city of Houston. I pick a date in the summer and I go work out with them, run them through a couple of drills and you know, spread some knowledge; just go ahead and answer some questions they have going from middle school up through high school. I also sponsor a YMCA youth league basketball team down here in the city of Houston.

TSR: Very cool, I love the Y.

SR: Those are the two things I do every offseason and you know, there are always things here and there. Matter of fact, one of my good friends from college coaches the track team out at Summer Creak High School and I went out there to talk to the kids and go run around with them yesterday.

TSR: What can you share with them? You don’t have any speed, do you?

SR: (Laughs) I still have a little bit. (Editors Note: Stanford ran a 4.25 at the 2005 scouting combine and is considered one of the fastest players in the league.)

TSR: (Laughs)

SR: But yeah, one thing about me is that I’m real big on kids. I don’t have any of my own but I love kids. I really believe that it’s all how you start and that has a lot to do with how you finish. Your start doesn’t have a 100% bearing on your finish, but if you start on the right foot I believe the more likely it is that you’ll finish on the right foot. One thing I try to stress through my foundation is the choices we make when we’re 15, 16, 17-years old can affect us for the rest of our lives.

TSR: Definitely.

SR:

Especially for me growing up. I had homeboys and I had friends growing up that probably were more talented than I was, at least back in high school. But you know, drugs, teen pregnancy, bad grades, not going off to school, stuff like that gets into the mix and then all of a sudden certain people fall by the wayside. One thing that I believe is being positive and having positive people around you so you can make the right choices in life. This also goes for adults too but more so for children, you know, idle minds are the devil’s workshop. Growing up in middle school and high school, you get out of class at 2:30 or 3:30 and your parents don’t get home until about 5 or 6. I think those hours between 3:30 and 6 o’clock are the most important hours of the day for child development and the highest chances of kids getting into trouble. Because usually, right between those hours of when they get home to when the parents get home, that’s when they’re not being supervised and it’s the time for the negative to start seeping in. Drugs, gangs, violence, you know, you name it.

TSR: Absolutely, that’s a great point.

SR: I know one thing my parents always had me doing was, I was always in sports. I was in football, I was in basketball, I was in track, I was in baseball all the way up until about high school, and so I always had something to do. I never had the chance to ride the school bus and get home at 3:30 or whenever. I was always getting home at 6 or even later than that so when I got home, my parents were already there. So I didn’t have a chance to run around and get those negative influences. And that’s the main point of my foundation, “Routt to Success.”

TSR: Stanford I wanted to thank you for today. I’m very fortunate in my job to talk to a fair amount of athletes and I can honestly say that I’ve never had a bad one. But some guys will give one-sentence answers and the interview is over in five minutes. But with you, we’re running close to 20 minutes and it sounds like you’d be willing to talk for another hour. You’re very gracious and I appreciate your time today – you were an absolute pleasure to talk to.

SR: Oh, no problem – thank you, thank you very much.

TSR: Again, congratulations on the new deal and I wish you nothing but the best in the future. Hopefully they can get this CBA worked out so we can all stop sweating the possibility of no football next season!

SR: Definitely! Thanks again.

TSR: Take care.

SR: You, too.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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