FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Sheldon Richardson appeared perfectly at ease in front of the New York media, smiling and laughing as if he had done this hundreds of times.
Playing in the spotlight of the big city? No big deal for one of the newest New York Jets.
“It’s just conversation,” the big defensive lineman from Missouri said Friday. “You just have to know how to answer questions and not give you guys too much to write on, and be professional.”
Richardson, drafted No. 13 overall Thursday night, and Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, taken ninth, were formally introduced at a news conference during which the two often joked with each other — and reporters. While Richardson was drafted with the pick the Jets acquired from Tampa Bay for Darrelle Revis, Milliner will have the responsibility of trying to help replace the star cornerback.
Milliner, widely considered the best defensive back in the draft, also seemed laid-back and isn’t worried about the comparisons to Revis that will inevitably mark his early career with the Jets. He had a feeling New York would go after a cornerback early in the draft.
“When they traded Revis, I didn’t know who they’d get or when they’d get it,” Milliner said, “but I figured they’d have to take one.”
And, he thought, it might as well be him.
Milliner could start opposite Antonio Cromartie, or play in the slot if Kyle Wilson, the team’s first-round pick in 2010, beats him out for the job. Milliner had six interceptions and 36 pass breakups in his three seasons with Alabama, and will be asked to play man-to-man defense in New York — as Revis did.
“I don’t really worry about the pressure,” said Milliner, who met with coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman before the draft. “I just want to come here and be my own man, go out there and compete and try to make some plays. As far as comparisons, that’s not for me to do. That’s for you all to try to do that, and hopefully I’ll come out and be great.”
Milliner is the highest-drafted defensive back in team history, going one spot earlier than safety Russell Carter in 1984.
“He’s probably as complete of a corner as there is in this draft,” Jets senior personnel executive Terry Bradway said Thursday night. “To have the ability to take him at (No.) 9 was good. We look for him to come in here like everyone else and compete, and hopefully win the job.”
While he probably won’t be ready to practice fully until training camp in July, Milliner downplayed the health concerns some might have had. He has had five surgeries during his career, including having a torn labrum repaired on March 12.
“If I’m in the game, I play like I have no injuries,” he said. “All of them — nothing major.”
Both Milliner and Richardson talked about competing for roles on Ryan’s defense, although Richardson acknowledged that he has grand plans.
“I want to start,” he said, smiling. “They didn’t draft us to sit behind anybody.”
And they’re both the physical-type players Ryan loves building around. Milliner played mostly running back and wide receiver in high school but always preferred being on defense.
“Because you get to beat up on people,” he said, smiling. “If you play offense, you only get to catch the ball and then get hit.”
Richardson, who is an athletic 6-foot-2 and 295 pounds, attributes his ability to be so fast for a big man to playing different sports as a young kid. But playing on concrete sometimes had some serious drawbacks.
“Hurting other people’s kids wasn’t going down easy,” he said, laughing.
Richardson played mostly in a 4-3 style of defense at Missouri, but could be part of a potentially solid rotation in New York that includes two other first-rounders in Muhammad Wilkerson (2011) and Quinton Coples (2012), a third-rounder in Kenrick Ellis (2011) and newly signed free agent Antonio Garay.
“I’ll be wherever they need me to be,” Richardson said.
Richardson did some talking in college that got him in a little trouble, so it wasn’t a huge surprise that the St. Louis native was so chatty Friday. During the week leading to Missouri’s game against Georgia last season, Richardson said the Bulldogs play “old-man football.”
And, yeah, that didn’t sit well with the Georgia faithful.
Well, the Bulldogs won 41-20 and Richardson apologized to Georgia coaches after the game.
“Oh, man, the media takes stuff and runs with it,” he said. “It was a joke.”
What he meant to say, he insisted, was “old-school” football.
“They hand off left and right, and they had an offensive playbook of about 14 plays,” Richardson said. “Toss left, toss right, a little play-action here and there. But they’re a powerhouse team and I understand why.”
Richardson was also suspended for Missouri’s game against Syracuse for breaking an unspecified team rule. He has said it was a situation in which he was immature, but has learned from it. He also leans on his rough upbringing in St. Louis to get through the toughest times.
“You’ve got to have thick skin,” he said. “You’ve got to watch your back a little bit. Battling adversity is what I do and I’m trying not to battle it anymore. I’m trying to prosper from now on.”
NOTES: OT D’Brickashaw Ferguson agreed to restructure his contract for this season, saving the Jets about $5.1 million in salary cap space. According to several reports, $6.41 million of his $7.25 million base salary will be converted into a signing bonus that will be prorated over the last five years of his contract.
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