Q: How much of an impact did Tony Sparano have in your decision to come to Oakland?
Howard: “As you all know, I am very familiar with Tony Sparano, very familiar with his path and all the success he has had as an offensive line coach with this organization as well as with other organizations. He gave me a call and we were very excited to hear from him. He is a familiar guy, familiar coach, and I really love his style of coaching. Once we got that call, it was honestly a no-brainer decision to get on the plane and make the trip out to Oakland.”
Q: Given that you were an undrafted guy and had to work your way up from the practice squad all the way to this point, how gratifying was it to sign your name on the dotted line and show how far you’ve come?
Howard: “The underdog mentality has kind of been my thing since high school. In high school, I won four games my entire four years in high school. I ended up going to a Division I-AA college, which was the best thing for me. We won a lot of games there and was blessed enough to get a look and make Philadelphia’s active roster my first year. And then I went to the practice squad in Baltimore and then from there to the active roster on the Jets’ squad. I never have minded being the underdog. I have never really set out to prove anything to anybody else. I believe that having these experiences I’ve had has just kind of given me that mentality of knowing how to have a better work ethic and knowing how to progressively get better each and every season, each and every day. D’Brickashaw Ferguson is a guy, Willie Colon, guys who have had very lengthy careers, Jason Peters the same way. In fact, Jason Peters was a guy who I liked to kind of resemble myself after. He was a guy who didn’t get drafted, played tight end and then became a huge name at left tackle. Having the experience of playing under these guys and playing with these guys has really taught me how to have the work ethic and the determination to have a lengthy career, to make a name for yourself in the league. That is actually one of the things that I am most grateful for.”
Q: What did Dennis Allen and Tony Sparano describe as the vision for the way they want the offensive line to play?
Howard: “As we all know with coach Allen and coach Sparano, we all believe that the game is won and lost up front in the trenches. It’s a tough position to play, offensive line. We want to be a powerful, dominant force. What else can you say? We want to go out there and we want to beat the guys up front, we want to lead this offense up front and we want to have guys in this group that can collectively play together and win together. As far as what I’ve seen since we’ve been here, we can see that happening. Like I said, we are excited to get this thing going and get with the group and start getting this thing worked out.”
Q: Can you talk about last season, specifically. Giving up only two sacks as a tackle, that’s pretty good. Was there something prior to last year that you fixed or you honed in on that really kind of helped you attain that level of success?
Howard: “I’ve had the absolute honor of being coached by some awesome coaches. My first year, Juan Castillo, Coach Sparano again, then Mike Devlin, Ron Heller. These guys really, really helped me solidify that position at right tackle. It was something a little foreign to me because I was used to the left side, but in my second year when they put me at the right tackle position, they really helped me, bringing me in early, going over the footwork and the techniques and even coach [Bill] Callahan, who is now with Dallas, he was a guy, the pre- and post-practice work that we put in every single day. So, I’d have to say just having those coaches coaching me up and teaching me the position and really spending their time and taking their time – which they didn’t have to do – to allow me the time and all the effort they put in helping me get better.”
Q: Is it your understanding that you’ll play right tackle, or might they move you to the other side?
Howard: “They understand that I am very familiar with playing right tackle, but this is a league where we need to have the best five guys up front. We want to win some games. I have a lot of pride in playing right tackle, but I have even more pride in winning games. Wherever I can help, that’s where I’ll be. I have no problem with that. I believe and understand that.”
Q: They obviously put a priority on offensive linemen day one of free agency. Were you a little disappointed with how things worked out with Rodger? That he’s not on board?
Howard: “Rodger is a tremendous guy. We were excited about maybe getting the chance to play together. But, you know, that’s the way this business works. He’s a tremendous guy, a tremendous athlete. I believe he really would have fit in well here and we would have been really excited to play together. That’s how it goes. It’s very unfortunate, but I know that he’ll take this time to do whatever he needs to do to get back to playing. Who knows what can happen in the future.”
Q: Was that part of the attraction to coming here? Knowing that Rodger was already there and they were really committed to bolstering that offensive line?
Howard: “Honestly, I was excited to meet all the guys here. I understand that they have a very good group of guys here on the offensive line. It was probably the biggest attraction for me and my fiancé to come just because we know coach Sparano and they presented a great opportunity to us. There’s going to be some changes when you move from team to team and we expected that; getting to know the guys and getting to know the area, so we were honestly just excited to get out here.