Atkinson: “It’s a tremendous honor for me to finally put on the Silver and Black. Since I was a kid, I’ve been waiting for this moment and I’m just taking advantage and basking in it right now.”
Q: You probably had other offers from other teams too, but was there any doubt when the Raiders called that this was the place you were coming?
Atkinson: “There was no doubt at all. I was getting a lot of calls. I had to turn a lot of teams down. Right out of the gate – ‘don’t go to the Raiders. I know you want to follow your heart, but we’ve got a spot for you here.’ But I knew, without a doubt, that this was the spot for me and I’m happy with the decision I made.”
Q: Who was more excited, you or your dad?
Atkinson: “I think it was a draw, honestly. He was really excited. I could see it in his face. Right after the draft, he knew I was coming here without any doubt. We both basked in the moment. We were both excited, so it was a good moment.”
Q: If he wanted to, he could have walked out here and watched you practice today. He’s got run of the place, but he didn’t. Was that kind of something where he said, ‘look, I’m not going to be checking you out the first day?’ Was that something you guys talked about at all?
Atkinson: “Yeah, he told me yesterday, he’s like, ‘I’m not going to come out. I know you’re expecting me to come, but this is your moment. You need to be a man about it as an individual. I’m not going to be here to pressure you or anything like that.’ So that’s what I’m doing. He’ll have a chance to come out and see me practice.”
Q: So there wasn’t even a small part of you that thought, ‘maybe I better blaze my own trail here as opposed to coming to the Raiders?’
Atkinson: “No, not at all. I’ve looked up to this organization, this club, for a long time. There was no part of that going on with me. I’ve looked up to my dad and wanted to follow in his footsteps but also leave my trail, like you said, at the same time. You have to find that balance and that’s what I’m trying to do right now.”
Q: Some time in the 4th, 5th, 6th round, 7th round, when you’re not hearing your name, did you start saying maybe I don’t want to get drafted so I can control my destination?
Atkinson: “Yeah, there was a part of that set in, in the later rounds, and noticing how many backs were being taken. It’s getting harder and harder for a back to get drafted these days, but that’s out of my control. I’m here now and that’s what I’m doing.”
Q: You’re one of a lot of guys that came out a year early that didn’t get drafted. At what point do you just move straight ahead and you said, ‘all right if I don’t get drafted, I’ll deal with it?’ Is there any disappointment at all that you made that decision and it wound up not paying off in terms of the draft?
Atkinson: “There’s disappointment that sets in, but you have to move forward as an individual. It’s not all about how you come in, but how you leave and how you set your mark here in the league. So you still have to make the team drafted or undrafted.”
Q: As a practical matter, do you see kickoff returns as a big deal for you if you’re going to stick?
Atkinson: “Oh, definitely. All special teams if it’s kickoff, punt block, or punt. I’m looking at special teams as definitely a way to get on the field and contribute early to this team.”
Atkinson: “It definitely is. Definitely familiar with everybody, the staff, here, and the coaching staff here and everybody in the front office and things like that. So, it’s definitely an easy transition for me and I’m taking advantage of that and just growing.”
Q: I assume you got feedback before you made your decision to come out in terms of where you would be drafted. Did you have any anticipation of where you would get drafted?
Atkinson: “I knew that if I were to get drafted, it would be the later rounds or undrafted. I knew there was a lot of teams that had interest before the draft. So coming into the draft I thought I was going to get picked up in the later rounds, but I’m here now, so that’s all that matters.”
Q: You read a lot of the over-analysis of the draft and you look at the stuff on you and there’s stuff that says, ‘he doesn’t really catch the ball that well.’ It seems like you were catching the ball kind of smoothly out there. Is that a skill you think is underrated in you and you can catch the ball at the NFL level?
Atkinson: “I definitely think I can. I’m not going to shy away and say it’s something I need to not worry about or not work on. It’s definitely an emphasis I need to work on and I’ll be catching balls after practice and things like that just to hone in that ability to do that. It’s just a progression in all the phases, blitz pickups and all that.”