The Oakland Raiders signed free agent CB Ron Bartell March 16 after seven seasons with the St. Louis Rams. He spoke with the media after OTA earlier this week.
Q: The neck, that was a pretty big issue last year. Are you 100 percent? Coach seems to think you’re pretty close, if not.
Bartell: Yeah, I feel great. I’m 100 percent. I feel great. I’m just happy to be back on the field. It’s the first time I’ve ever been injured. You get banged up a lot in this game, but it’s the first injury I’ve ever had where I had to miss a significant amount of time. Luckily for me it was not a simple injury, but it was straight-forward. The fracture and everything healed up fine. I’m just ready to play ball, and I’m happy to be back.
Q: Having an injury like that, do you have fear? When you go out there, did they say that you’re risk of something worse to happen?
Bartell: No, I don’t have any fear at all. The funny thing about it is when I had the injury, I didn’t actually know I had fractured my neck. It felt more like a stinger. I walked off the field on my own power, I was actually about to check back into the game and they just held me out, since the game was pretty much over. We didn’t find out about the fracture until I got the CT scan. I never had to go through that anxiety of getting carted off the field or losing feeling or paralysis or anything. So from that standpoint, I never had to experience it. So for me, once I got the clearance, I’m fine and I’m ready to go.
Q: When were you back? When were you healthy? When did you finally feel like you were back?
Bartell: The fracture healed; I was in the brace from the time of the injury, which was during the first game, from September to mid-to-late December. I came out of it, the brace, they said the fracture had healed. So after that it was just getting back the range of motion and strength - that took about a month or two. So I would say I’ve been completely 100 percent since about March. I feel great. The injury happened early in the year. I didn’t get a lot of wear and tear on my body because I played one game, so I feel fresh, a renewed spirit, just excitement to help to get this team back to where it should be. I’m just ready to play ball.
Q: What are your impressions of what this defense is going to be like so far?
Bartell: I love the scheme. I love the scheme. It’s a multiple-look scheme that puts a lot of different people in position to make plays. Some schemes are predicated on d-line, some are linebackers, some on the secondary play. But it puts everybody on every level of defense and gives you the opportunity to make plays. It gives guys a chance to show their versatility. So from that standpoint, I’m excited. Coach [Jason] Tarver, he’s a young, energetic coordinator. We’ve got some good DB coaches, a young staff. So it’s just a lot of excitement right now. So from that standpoint, we’re just ready to get everybody on the same page and see what happens.
Q: What’s it like to walk in there and have a good opportunity? It’s not like you’re coming into a situation where they had a couple guys, it’s your opportunity.
Bartell: For me, being in my eighth year, being in St. Louis seven straight years, to see guys come and go, to have the type of injury that I had; from that standpoint, just being able to get back on the field and compete that’s all I could ask for, another chance, another opportunity to play again. The way I look at it, the chips will fall where they may. They’re going to put whoever they feel is best for the job out there on the field. If I’m one of those guys, more power to me. If not, I’ll play my role.
Q: You like the fresh start? After seven years in the same place, you’ve got a whole new team and a new part of the country. Is it all kind of invigorating?
Bartell: Yeah. Definitely was some reservation at first. You’re somewhere for such a long time, especially in this business being one place for seven years, you have reservations about moving on. But for me, it’s a good situation. It’s a good opportunity. There’s some guys on the staff I’m familiar with. A chance to be around some fresh faces, some young energetic guys. A whole new city, like you said a whole new part of the country, new organization. It brings some excitement for me, so I’m looking forward to it.
Q: What do you feel like your strengths are as a cornerback?
Bartell: Consistency. I think I’m a consistent football player. You know what you’re going to get out of me, week in and week out. I’m gonna challenge guys. I’m gonna challenge wide receivers. I’m gonna be where I’m supposed to be. Just having a guy in a role, we have a lot of young guys, so just having a guy in a role who’s played a lot of snaps, a lot of football, seen a lot of variety of things and just being able to bring a calm influence into the room; I think that’s what my strengths are. Hopefully I can help us rank a little bit higher in the pass defense, but we’ll see what happens.
Q: You taking on kind of a mentoring role also? Are you trying to bring young guys along?Bartell: Yeah. Me and Shawntae [Spencer], we’ve played a lot of football in this league, we’ve started a lot of games, been in a lot of battles. We’ve got some young guys,