Bryan Randall Rookie Diary #7: Off to Altanta, Free Agent Deal in Hand

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Saturday I watched the draft at my house [in Williamsburg]
with my family. I had some family come down, some intermediate family from my
mom’s side. My brother and his wife were there at our house. My mom cooked,
and basically we just sat around and watched the draft. It didn’t really
bother me to watch the draft. Some people say they can’t watch it because it
drives them crazy, but I pretty much watched it for the whole day Saturday.

When Sunday came around, pretty much the same thing. I sat
at my house and watched it on Sunday. By about the middle of the 5th round I
started anticipating that I might get that call. I was watching it a little more
intensely. After awhile, it was just like “I don’t know.” I just kept
telling myself “maybe in the next round” and so forth, but it never came. I
watched almost every single pick.

I thought I would get drafted. I was thinking anywhere
from the 5th to the 7th. I was really confident that someone would take me in
the draft. But you know, it didn’t happen. When the 7th round came around, and
I was looking at the teams that had picked, and any teams I thought would pick
up a quarterback such as myself, a mobile quarterback. Then I saw the backup
quarterback from USC [Southern California’s Matt Cassel to New England] go, I
pretty much knew then that it wasn’t looking too good.

During the draft, there were teams calling me and telling
me they were interested, not really knowing how interested, but a lot of teams
were talking about free agency. But I still didn’t know going into the draft
what teams were really thinking. I mean some teams would call and get your draft
day phone number, but you didn’t know if they were going to draft you or just
call you about free agency.

Everybody was just sitting around and waiting. It wasn’t
like everyone was just watching the TV, everybody was pretty much doing their
own thing, but it was kind of disappointing. I know my mother was disappointed,
my dad was disappointed. We were just sitting there watching, and I don’t
know, I guess we just had high expectations. Not necessarily that not getting
drafted is the worst thing in the world, but it was just something that we were

The draft ended early on Sunday. I think it was about 7 or
8, I really don’t know. During the 7th round Arizona called me, and they told
me that if they didn’t take me with the next pick then they really wanted me
to sign with them as a free agent. That was right before the draft ended. By the
time the draft ended, within a minute or two Atlanta called. They spoke about
free agency. Then Arizona called back and spoke about free agency. So I was
talking to Atlanta and talking to Arizona almost at the same time.

I was doing the actual talking to the teams, not going
through my agent. The quarterbacks coach called me from Atlanta [Mike Johnson]
and I talked to the quarterbacks coach at Arizona also [Mike Kruczek]. Basically
they were just doing their sales pitch. Telling me that the opportunities there,
the quarterbacks there, the systems and what they would like to get from me and
things I could do to help them. It was kind of weird because everything is going
so fast and you really don’t have that much time, because if I don’t sign
with them, they are going after other people to make sure they get somebody for
the positions that they are looking for.

I didn’t have a chance to talk to anybody else like my
agent or my family. When I was talking to Atlanta, my agent was actually on the
phone, so we were kind of going back and forth. At the time I was looking for
somebody to talk to. I was going to call Coach [Kevin] Rogers and talk to him,
and talk to my parents, but it really wasn’t enough time to do all that. I
even asked a guy one time if I could take a half an hour to think about this,
and he was like “well, if you take that half hour, I’m going to tell you
right now that I’ve got to call other people.” It was almost like do or die.

It wasn’t a lot of time to try and sit around and
contemplate. But I already had a good idea of what teams were interested. I
already knew Atlanta was interested and I had thought about that situation even
prior to the draft. I never really thought about Arizona until late in the draft
when I talked to Coach Rogers and he told me he had talked to the Cardinals’
quarterbacks coach. He talked to Tampa Bay also. Those are the three teams that
called me after the draft. I already had a pretty good idea and a good feel.

It was a decision that came down to what I felt would be
the best opportunity for me to get on an active roster as soon as possible. In
Atlanta, they’ve got three quarterbacks, when most teams carry four, and the
fourth quarterback is usually in NFL Europe or on the practice squad. The deal
with Atlanta: they’ve got Ty Detmer, Matt Schaub and Mike Vick. Ty Detmer’s
37, so he’s heading into his last years. Matt Schaub, which was a value pick,
is probably going to be wanted around the league. He’ll probably end up
getting traded so Atlanta can get something in return at the end of his third
year of his contract. This will be his second year coming up. Even if he doesn’t
get playing time this year, he has value in the league.

Basically, I never even got off the phone with Atlanta.
Even when I talked to Arizona, Atlanta was still on the phone. I’m on my cell
phone with one team and on my house phone talking to the other. Atlanta offered
me a deal, then I went to Arizona and told them the deal Atlanta was offering
me, and they said they could offer me more than that. It wasn’t really
necessarily about the money at the time, because the amount of money that I’d
be making is just going to be pocket change compared to the amount that I could
be making if I make the right decisions. When it came down to it, Atlanta
offered me more money, but that didn’t really make a difference. I told them
what I wanted, what I’d like to see them offer compared to Arizona, and they
agreed. They sent the contract the next day, I signed it, and I’m on my way to
Atlanta on Thursday [April 28].

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As of right now, I have a two-year contract. The way I
look at it right now is to go in this year and be the fourth quarterback, and
it’s very likely they are going to carry a quarterback on the practice squad.
The practice squad doesn’t make the amount of money as you do if you are on
the roster. That’s the way I’m looking at it right now. Detmer has a
one-year contract. I don’t even know about the NFL Europe thing. Maybe they
will send me there, maybe they won’t. I’m anticipating that next year [2006]
I’ll at least come in and be the third string quarterback. I don’t really
have a preference right now for NFL Europe or playing on a practice squad. I’ll
have to wait and see.

We’ve got a four day mini-camp starting up this
Thursday. Then after that, we report back on May 16, and from May 16 we’ll be
there from June 12. So we’re there for a while then. Then we have a little
time off, and I think we actually report again, I don’t know, it may be around
the 25th of July. The first preseason game is in Tokyo, and I think that’s on
the 6th of August.

One thing about the preseason is that Atlanta plays five
games, as opposed to four for most other teams. And they don’t play Mike in
the preseason. He might get a series or two. Then they’ll play Matt, and Matt
will get some reps. Then they won’t really play Ty because he’s been in the
NFL so long and knows the system. So it’s a good opportunity for me to have a
lot of reps in the preseason.

I’m excited about the opportunity. I think its going to
take a little bit of time to adjust, but at the same time it’s like going off
to college again and starting something new. It’s a chance and opportunity to
discover new things about myself. So it’s something that I’m really excited
about and I’m looking forward to it.

I think I’m mentally prepared for the business end of pro
football. I’ve been through a lot of things in my career, and when you really
get down to it, it’s almost a business in college. It will probably be a step
up business-wise, but I think I’m mentally prepared for a lot of things that
are going to be thrown my way.

I talked to the quarterbacks coach yesterday, and he told
me there is going to be a lot learned in a little bit of time. We’re going to
jump right into it. Also another thing that he mentioned to me was about special
teams. He said I’ll get an opportunity to meet with the special teams during
the next four days and I’ll have the opportunity then, so we’ll see how that

I told him I was open to it, if it will help me make the
roster while I’m waiting. Another thing he said to me was, “I promise you
are a quarterback.” But you know, the more things that you can do, the more
value you have.

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