- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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Washington Redskins linebacker Perry Riley has improved steadily in his two-plus years as a starter (he'll be making his 29th start Sunday), but he doesn’t receive a lot of attention -- mostly because he doesn’t like a lot of attention. The kicker: Riley can be one of the more insightful players. He touched on a variety of topics, from adding "Jr." to the back of his jersey to his blitzing. By the way, his son is named Perry Riley III.
You went with Perry Riley Jr. on your jersey this year. Why is that?
Perry Riley: No real specific reason. I am a junior. I feel it would be showing my dad respect. He had mentioned it to me before about putting the "Jr." on the back of the jersey after seeing Helu Jr. on his. I just thought the time was right to put it on there.
Was he happy?
PR: My mom said he cried. I didn’t tell him I did it. The first time seeing it was the Monday night game [against Philadelphia]. It caught him by surprise and my mom said he got emotional. That made me happy. I haven’t talked to him about the name change itself, but I did talk to him after the game.
You’re very good at interviews, but you don’t like to do a lot, especially in front of cameras. Why?
PR: Cameras make me nervous. I’m not a guy that likes to be in the spotlight. I like to do my job and be off to the side and worry about me. I feel like doing interviews gives a lot of outside people the ability to judge you and pick every word you say and twist it. I like to stay away from that and stay safe.
But it’s funny because you went to LSU, a high-profile college and now are with a high-profile NFL team.
PR: In college they tried to make me do interviews and tried to work with me. I’ll do interviews to a certain extent, but with TVs I still can’t get over the cameras. Newspapers and Internet, I’m OK with now. But I still can’t do the cameras.
What do you like to do away from the field?
PR: Spend time with my family. We work a lot of hours in this building and when I have off time I like to chill at home. My fiancé has the kids all day and it’s hard on her to take care of two toddlers by herself so when I get home I try to help her as much as possible.
Any off-field activities?
PR: In the offseason I love playing basketball.
Could you have played in college?
PR: Certain colleges, not Duke or anything. I could have walked on and made some Division I colleges.
Where are you better as a football player?
PR: Just knowledge, understanding the game, understanding my assignments. This is my fourth year in the defense and I really feel I know the ins and outs of the defense. I know how the coaches want the position to be played and just knowing what the offense wants to do. My first couple years I was just out there reacting. Now that I know what’s coming it allows me to play faster and make more plays.
You get free a lot on blitzes. Sometimes it’s the scheme or someone else freeing you up. But you don’t always see guys coming free. Why do you feel you usually do?
PR: Just being able to disguise. I show coverage. When I blitz up the middle a lot of times I don’t show that I’m blitzing, not unless the coaches want me to show it. Disguise is the biggest thing. If they can’t figure out which fifth guy is coming, the offensive line can’t slide or the linemen get confused and that allows me to come free a lot of times.
[Jim] Haslett talks about how well you play in man but wanting you to improve in zone coverages. Are you better there and why has that been harder for you to learn?
PR: At LSU we had zone coverages, but our zone was like a man. You had zone to a certain point and then once you’re into your zone you latch on so it’s like a match-man. I’ve been playing that all my career; even in high school we ran mostly man. That’s what I’m more natural playing. As far as zone drops I hadn’t worked at it until coming here and I have gotten a lot better at it but it still is the weakest part of my game. It’s still something I can get a lot better at. But I have gotten better.
Could you take over London Fletcher’s spot when he retires?
PR: Whatever the coaches decide. I feel confident enough that I know all the calls and I know all the signals, know the checks. I definitely feel confident enough to take over at the Mike position. But you never know what the coaches think. They might want me to stay where I’m at. They’re similar assignment-wise. If someone motions on offense, we don’t always switch. I’ll go to the Mike and he’ll be the Jack. I know how to run that position. I definitely think I could take over the Mike.