So much for any fears Jimmy Graham is not happy with getting uprooted off a Florida beach and the only NFL team he's known in his mega trade to the Seahawks.
The three-time Pro Bowl tight end and 2013 All-Pro said he is "highly motivated, highly encouraged" and "100 percent on board -- and that's with everything" after meeting coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider on Wednesday and "really feeling that everything they are about is winning championships."
"Winning is all I care about," Graham said this afternoon while on a conference call with Seattle-area reporters from his home in South Florida. It was a day after he passed his physical, one of the final steps to make his stunning trade from New Orleans with a fourth-round pick for Seattle center Max Unger and the Seahawks' 31st-overall choice in next month's draft.
Graham re-told the story Schneider said yesterday, that he had flown his six-seat Bonanza jet to the gulf coast of Florida and was on a beach there Tuesday afternoon just before 4 p.m. Eastern Time when Saints coach Sean Payton called him. When the coach of the team that drafted Graham in the third round in 2010 told him he'd been traded, Graham immediately scanned in his head the teams he knew had plenty of salary-cap space to take on the final three seasons of his $40 million contract he had signed with New Orleans before last season.
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"I was thinking Oakland, Jacksonville," Graham said of two of the AFC's bottom-feeders.
When Payton told him he was going to the Seahawks, "it put a grin on my face," Graham said.
"I realized I was going to the best team in football."
He met Carroll yesterday for the first time while at the team's headquarters in Renton, passing that physical. His impressions of his new coach?
"Man, I love him," Graham said. "He puts a smile on my face. He really is a player's coach. Walking into the building yesterday I sensed really there was a buzz there, a sense of urgency to win -- and not just win but win championships and rings.
"He knew so much about me. Half the stuff I forgot about myself. That really was something that impressed me. He called, honestly, about every person in my life (to research what makes Graham tick)."
Graham said the last time he was in CenturyLink Field, in January 2014 for an NFC playoff game in which the Seahawks beat his Saints, he noticed the number he wore in New Orleans, 80, "was up in the rafters" retired. In Seattle, of course, that is Steve Largent.
Graham even said all the right things about that today.
"Clearly, 80's done for me," he said. "They actually asked me about that yesterday. Maybe I will take 88; that's a nice, round number."
Wonder if unrestricted free-agent tight end Tony Moeaki would be OK with Graham taking the 88 he wore in half a season as a Seahawks' pickup last season(!)
"Any number they give me, as long as it's an eligible-receiver number, is fine with me."
Oh, yeah, Graham has a dog, a female Vizsla with red hair. "Kind of matches me," he said.
Courtesy of the Seahawks PR staff, here is a transcript of Graham's first public 20 minutes as a Seahawk:
TE Jimmy Graham
March 12, 2015
(On his reaction to getting the call that he was traded) Yeah, it was definitely shocking. I had worked out in the morning and I’m actually a pilot and I was in the plane and I took the plane to get some food. So I was actually on a beach down in Florida and I got the call from Sean Payton letting me know that I had just been traded. I was just working out and doing my offseason thing and next thing I know, I’m a Seahawk.
(On if he had any reason to believe he’d be traded) No, not at all really. I would say about a month ago, maybe not even a month ago, I was in the city (New Orleans) and saw Mickey [Loomis] and was talking about next season with Mickey – even once the season ended just talking with the coaches – and talking about what we’re going to do and what we’re going to work on. So it was definitely out of left field.
(On what if felt like to get traded to Seattle and what his first thoughts were) Well immediately once Sean [Payton] said that I’d been traded, I was going through the list of everyone who had a bunch of cap space so I was thinking Jacksonville or Oakland or wherever but when he told me Seattle, it definitely put a grin on my face. I’ve had some battles clearly against their defense the past couple of years. We struggled against them as a team, as a whole. It’s probably the one game that as a player you always look forward to because they’re so good as a team and it’s usually a prime time game. For me, it was moments of shock but once that shock cleared, I realized I was going to the best team in football.
(On if he’s talked to any of the guys from the Seahawks defense that he had an altercation with before the 2013 playoff game and what his thoughts are on playing with them now) Yeah, I’m excited. Whenever we’re all getting ready for a playoff game, you know how serious those games are and you’re trying to motivate your guys. There’s a lot of emotion that goes into those games. When I play, it’s all about winning and it’s all about doing whatever it takes to get guys fired up and to get the emotion running. For me, that’s just a part of the game. We play a contact sport and it’s aggressive and you have to be aggressive in everything you do. I’m excited to sit down with the guys—some of the guys have reached out and called me on the phone—but I’m excited to really get to know these guys and become one of their brothers and work towards winning a championship.
(On what kind of plane he was flying) I was flying a Bonanza – it’s like a little six-seater.
(On what he brings to Seattle’s offense) I’ve been watching some film and it seems like a lot of teams play a lot of cover zero against them because of Marshawn Lynch and because the read-option is so good. Marshawn – you have to put guys in the box, you have to bring safeties down and so when you’re playing cover zero, there’s a lot of one-on-one, there’s a lot of opportunities down the field, there’s a lot of opportunities in that middle section where you’ll have guys on these one-on-one matchups. I think eventually teams won’t be able to do that. You’re not going to be able to go cover zero just to stop the run. I think I can help open that up. Then in the red zone - that’s something I’ve always been good at. I’m 6’7”, 260 pounds and most of those are like a rebound for me. So I’m looking to fit in anywhere they need me. You know, I’m a team player and I’m all about winning. Wherever they want me and whatever they want me to do, I’m 100 percent on board, and that’s with anything.
(On Seattle not throwing the ball as much as New Orleans) In New Orleans, we’ve really been slinging the rock but like I said a minute ago, it’s all about winning. It’s all about having an opportunity and a chance to win a championship and that’s what I care about. If a team needs me to catch 100 footballs or a team needs me to catch 30, or a team needs me to catch 15 touchdowns or 5 touchdowns, I’m gonna do it. I’m going to do whatever it takes to win. I’m not complaining at all about any of that. I just want to be a part of this team and I want to be there in big moments for this team and this franchise to help us win games.
(On how the team plans to use him) I know Seattle does have some pretty good tight ends as it is. We haven’t really had time to really dive into it. It’s been kind of a crazy 48 hours ago. You know, 48 hours ago, I was answering the phone from Sean. Yesterday I actually spent the day in Seattle, meeting with the doctors and getting cleared on my medical so I stopped by and was able to briefly talk and see the beautiful facility and see my new city which was very encouraging but right now I haven’t really had time to dive into it.
(On if he’s talked to Russell Wilson and also the work that went into the chemistry between Graham and Drew Brees) The first guy to reach out to me was Russell. He called me right away, shot me a text and we just kind of briefly spoke and talked about his goals and his teams goals and what’s been going on and just catching up and sharing some things. What I shared with him was exactly the chemistry thing. I said, Listen, I’m going to go wherever I need to go and I’m going to be wherever I need to be to get with you and work on this chemistry because that’s the most important thing is chemistry. And the only way to get that is time. You’ve got to run those routes and you’ve got to catch and throw. So I’m really looking forward to getting with him and learning more about him as a player, as a thrower, as a passer. I’m excited for it. As far as me and Drew, the way we really sped that up, especially early in my career, like my second year I ended up having 99 catches, was having a full practice or OTA and after practice we’d get more reps in. So as long as he wants to throw to me, I’ll keep catching. I know we’re probably going to spend a lot of time after practice working routes – what he likes, what he doesn’t like and what he prefers – because Russell’s a fantastic quarterback. I’ve been able to watch some film on him and I’ve played against him quite a bit these last couple of years. So I’m excited about working with him and about getting this chemistry together.
(On comparing Brees to Wilson) Definitely. They do have similar games. Except Russell [Wilson] really will run with the ball. Drew [Brees] will stay inside the pocket no matter what. He rarely runs. I was watching a lot of film where Russell [Wilson] will end up breaking out of the pocket, and really that’s when he’s scary. That’s when coverages are broken down, and you have to respect him as a runner, because he’s so good at it. He’s able to get these shots down the field and these huge game changing plays. I’m really looking forward to really seeing that for the first time, because Drew really is a pocket passer. Wilson can be a pocket passer, but he is so dynamic in what he can do and he’s so dangerous outside the pocket. It’s really going to be fun.
(On his impression of the Seahawks after playing them twice in 2013) Right after the first game, the first thing I noticed was how close they were as an entire unit – not only their defense, but their offense. When their offense is on the field, their defensive guys are right there screaming and yelling, and being fans of their offense. When their defense is out there, their offense is doing the same thing. It just seems like they have a culture there that breeds a brotherhood. They pull for each other and they kind of compete. It seems like for them it’s all about winning—it’s not about individual anything. It’s all about what does it take to get the win? I’m really looking forward to being a part of that.
(On being a pilot) I’ve been flying officially by myself for maybe four or five years now. As a child I always wanted to fly. One of my favorite movies growing up was Top Gun, like a lot of kids my age. I always wanted to be a fighter pilot, unfortunately I’m 6’7”. Once I got to the league I started taking classes to get my license—got my license, got my private, my instrument, my multi-engine. Before, I was traveling back and forth between New Orleans and Miami, but I would fly myself. But, it looks like now I won’t be able to fly Miami to Seattle in that plane. It’s a little bit further of a flight.
(On his first impressions of Pete Carroll) Man, I love him. He puts a smile on my face. He really is a players’ coach. Walking into the building yesterday, it just seems like there is a buzz around there. There was a sense of urgency. Just the way the whole coaching staff is. Literally, when he [Carroll] sat me down just talking about my basketball career and going back and talking about all these things he’s heard about me, I could tell that he’s a detail-oriented person. He knew so much about me—half the stuff I forgot about. That really means something, really to anybody, that he would take the time to really learn all of these individual things about me. He literally called about almost every person that I’ve ever been involved with in my life to find out, one way or another, how I was as a person and how I was driven. That truly meant a lot.
(On what number he will wear) Yeah, it’s a funny story. About five minutes after I hung up with Pete Carroll I started thinking about it and the last time I was in that stadium I remember 80 was hanging in the rafters. Clearly that’s been retired, so 80 is done for me. Hopefully, I’m thinking, maybe 88 will be my number. It seems like more of a round number. But really I don’t care what number they give me. They asked me that yesterday actually, which number I wanted, and they can give me any number, as long as it can be an eligible receiver I’ll be good.
(On his dog) Yeah, not many people know about my dog. I’ve been able to keep her a secret. It’s actually a Vizsla, it’s called. It’s a red-haired dog, kind of matches me a bit. It’s a girl – she’s a sweetheart.
(On if it’s safe to say that hadn’t it been the Seahawks, this might have been a tougher departure from the Saints for him) Well first off, leaving New Orleans, I’ve been there the last five years of my career. I went there as a boy and am leaving as a man. I do owe a lot to New Orleans and a lot to that coaching staff and to all my teammates and to that city for accepting me and believing in me really early. But when I look at it, the most important thing to me in my career is winning championships, winning trophies and winning rings. That’s really all I care about. So for me, it’s unfortunate to have to leave somewhere where you’ve been for so long but when you go to an organization like the Seattle Seahawks, you can tell that’s all that’s on their minds is winning, and winning rings at that – winning championships. That’s their complete focus. For me, highly encouraged and highly motivated to be a part of that and to be able to contribute to that ring is all I care about at this point now.