Raiders Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Oakland Raiders

December 16, 2008
Lechler, Asomugha discuss the Pro Bowl

ALAMEDA - Shane Lechler and Nnamdi Asomugha spoke to the media about being named to the Pro Bowl.

It's Lechler's fourth selection. Asomugha will play in the game for the first time after not being able to catch a late flight to the game in 2007.

Asomugha has 37 tackles, one interception and 10 passes defended.

Lechler leads the NFL in punting average (48.8 yards) and is second in net punting (41.3 yards).

Here's some of what they had to say:


Q: Your reaction to the news?
Asomugha: It was crazy. John (Herrera) actually called me. I was in bed just chilling, just trying to figure out what remote place I was going to go to and hide out but then John called me and let me know and then I just, he remembers, I was like, 'Are you serious? Could that really happen?' He was like, 'No, I'm serious.' I was like, 'Don't lie to me, you know, that's not fair.' And he's like, 'No, no it really happened' so I just started going crazy. So it was good.


Q: Did you sense a groundswell of support being built up with all the media attention season about teams not throwing at you?

Asomugha: Yeah, I was aware of it because in the past, that attention wasn't quite there, even in the 06 year with all the interceptions, the attention still wasn't quite there. I mean, we had the attention here from you all down here in this area but the national attention wasn't as much so, but I did definitely notice it a little bit more this year. Talking with Shane all the time, and he has connections in the league and he would let me know on plane rides, you know, 'Your chance is better this year than any other year.' So I would take that into consideration a little bit.

Q: What are these connections Shane?
Shane: I've been playing this game for a long time now. That was, with the way things worked out in the past it's always been pretty much a shoo-in that Champ (Bailey) was going to go in Denver. For him to sit 9-10 weeks, whatever it is, and Nnamdi not having the exact stats that a corner has in the league but fair is fair on the opportunities that he's had to have the interceptions and the numbers that he put up like you said in 06. But he's had a solid performance. It's obvious, when quarterbacks drop back they don't look his way any more. I mean, it was obvious there was a reason behind not having interceptions and stuff. I figured he had a legit chance and he made it. Now that he's made it, it's just how this league works. He should make a lot more in a row.

Q: Afraid record might hurt your chances?
Asomugha: A little bit. That has happened in the past. It definitely does hurt your chances, because when you have a guy that, even when we were doing the voting, so I can't even pull myself away from this, when we were doing the voting, if you had a guy that had similar stats, regardless of their position, you would go off the better record. Even us, as players, we're like, that's what's hurt me in the past, but we're like, you've got to do it. So, of course, I thought about that a little bit, maybe they might go with somebody else because of a better record.

Q: Did you give thought that, knowing you were both having Pro Bowl years, Shane you've gone alone the last few times, and 3-11 teams might get one guy so did you think one would get left out?

Lechler: You're exactly right. We talked about this a couple of weeks ago at practice. It's probably only going to be one of us, so to get the news today that it was both of us to go and represent the Raiders, it was a good feeling. Like I said, I've been there, three times, two times it was just me, and you get hit with all the questions like, how is it in Oakland, and what's going on, and this and that. Now Nnamdi can answer all those questions.

Asomugha: Right, and John can attest to this, the first thing that I asked him was did Shane make it? And when he said yes, I was like, OK, great, because every year that we've gone through this, Shane has always kind of been like, even starting in 06, Nam, this is going to be your year and when we get there this is what's going to happen. You're going to love this. He'll always pump me up for it, then I'll be deflated when it happens. This year he's done the same thing, so I was like, we'll see what happens. It's good that he made it along with me.

Q: Shane is it still a thrill to make the Pro Bow?

Lechler: Oh, it definitely is. Any time you get voted in by your peers, the guys around the league, I've had numerous guys call me today, other punters, and just congratulating me. Any time you get voted in by your peers and they respect what you do, and they truly congratulate you, it's not a grudge deal, and it feels good. I was ecstatic. I called my wife, unfortunately she's not in town right now, her grandmother passed. I had to call her, she was on a connection flight in Ohio today, and I was like, listen, we made it. So everybody is happy. I've had numerous calls today, been on the phone all morning with people. And it still feels like the first time.

Q: San Diego punter Mike Scifres gave you a pretty good run?

Lechler: Oh, he had a fantastic year. We broke the NFL record last year in net punting, and Mike is right there to break that one, a record that stood in this league for a long time. To have it broken in back to back years is great, because the numbers are getting better, the punters are getting better. I talked to Mike, I was like, whether you want to believe it or not, if I don't go, I truly hope you go, because if somebody else goes out of the AFC there's something wrong. And I hope he believes me because that's how I feel. I would have been just as happy for him because he's a great punter, a great guy, and he deserves a shot.

Q: Shane, ever had a better coach and supporting cast on punts than you have right now?
Lechler: The guys that are on my punt team right now, it's so fun to punt for those guys because every single time they go down there with a purpose. They study the film, know team's tendencies and they have been excellent. I'm not going to get into naming names because I'm going to leave somebody off. I'm not going to make anybody mad about it. But my punt team has been outstanding. And the speed and the tenacity that those guys play with, it's been fun to punt for them. Now I've really, really enjoyed it. And Coach (Brian) Schneider has put together a really good group for me to work with and a good philosophy and a good understanding of what the punt game means in this league. And Brian's done a good job with that in helping us to kind of find out how to win the hidden yardage game and put our team into chances to win football games.

Q: How good was it to see Isaiah Ekejiuba named an alternate on special teams?
Lechler: Very good. That was something well deserved. If you watch now, after the first four weeks Ike was getting singled every time making play after play after play. Now watch on Sunday, he's getting doubled every time down the field and he still finds a way to make a play. He's been solid in every aspect of the special teams.

Q: Shane, is there Pro Bowl rookie hazing and will you warn Nnamdi?
A: I'll prepare him for some of it, not all of it.

Q: Nnamdi, did you call Charles Woodson?
A: No, he called me. He called me. He said he was going to wait because he didn't know whether or not I was in. and when he found out he said he'll wait until one. Then he saw I got in and then he gave me a call. I was pulling up in here actually. And he was just excited because in 2006 we had planned everything that was going to happen. We both had eight interceptions, we were excited and everything and then it didn't happen. It was just great hearing from today that we both made it in. It felt good.

Q: How tough was it to sit around after the season as an alternate the last two years?
A: Yeah, that's an interesting situation because you're in the offseason and you really just want to relax because the season's over and you don't want to do much. But then you're like, well should I stay in shape because they might call me with two weeks left or something like that. I don't know. It's a tough situation. It goes through your head as your watching games like did 'did anyone get hurt? Did anyone call and say they're going to pull out?' it's a tough thing to deal with but I'm just happy it turned out this way.

Q: Shane, do you enjoy the game or the golf courses more?
Lechler: The golf is phenomenal. But it's fun to be around that many good football players and to hear the stories and just to hang out with the guys away from the game ...

Asomugha: You said it's not about the game, didn't you?

Lechler: It's not really about the game. The whole week is fun from the second you get there. The team meeting that night, when you finally get to sit down and meet everybody, meet the new guys coming in and some of the old ones that have been there year after year after year, it's always just good to hang out with them. It just so happens there's a game at the end.

Q: Which one of you should be franchised?
Lechler: Next.

Asomugha: I could have thrown you under the bus.

Q: Nnamdi, when did you realize you could be among the NFL's elite cornerbacks?
Asomugha: That was probably some point during the 2006 season. When you say with the elite, some point during the 2006 season I was like, 'OK I could compete with the best guys.' We played against Cincinnati and they had two great receivers and I was able to come away with a pretty good game. Those types of games helped boost my confidence a little. It was back in '05 when I actually said, 'Oh I can play corner in the league.' But '06 was like, 'Oh I'm at a different level now.'

****
Asomugha hosted students from the East Oakland Youth Development Center and needy families today at the facility.

Students with improved grades are recognized and given gifts while families are helped out.

Asomugha holds the function with little fanfare every year. But with his being named to the Pro Bowl, the media was invited to check things out since we're here.

*This is the first time more than one Raider has been selected to the Pro Bowl since 2002.

Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice, Lincoln Kennedy, Rod Woodson and Barrett Robbins made the team following that season.

--Jason Jones


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About Raiders Blog and Q&A

Matt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee's sports staff in fall 2011.

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