JACKSONVILLE – Bjoern Werner is self-aware. The Jaguars' newest player knows well why he now is in Jacksonville and not Indianapolis – and he knows his NFL reputation.
Werner knows this, too:
He is happy to have signed with the Jaguars last week, happy this worked out. The fourth-year veteran pass rusher – and that's very definitely how he sees himself, as a pass rusher – very definitely thinks this franchise is the right place for him.
"I wouldn't have signed here if I didn't know this was the right spot," Werner said early this week following an offseason workout at EverBank Field.
Werner, the No. 24 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft by Indianapolis, played three seasons with the Colts, starting 16 of 38 games played and registering 6.5 sacks. But he said this week he never felt he fit as an outside linebacker in the Colts' 3-4 defense, and he said he wasn't overly surprised when Indianapolis released him March 8 after he was a healthy inactive six games last season.
Werner, who played collegiately at Florida State University, said he is happy to be in Florida, but mostly he said he's happy to have a chance to play the pass-rushing defensive-end role at which he exceled collegiately.
"It's a fresh start," Werner said. "I'm excited to get back to Florida, and excited to be a defensive end again. That's the plan and I'm very thankful for this opportunity. I'm looking forward to this working."
Werner sat down this week with jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser. Here's that conversation:
Q: You mentioned being a defensive end … that's a big deal – to be able to play with your hand on the ground again?
A: That's what I had done my whole career, basically. Now, I can focus on pass rush. That's what you get judged in the league – production. That was a big part of why I was released with the Colts.
Q: And you didn't get the chance to focus on pass rush with the Colts?
A: [As a linebacker] In a 3-4 system, you have to focus more on setting the edge, dropping, pass combos … you lose sight of the pass rush, but because it's the NFL they want to see numbers. I'm the type of guy who needs to train and work on fundamentals in the pass-rush part of the game to produce on the field. The last three practices [with the Jaguars] remind me of my time at Florida State where it's all about, "Put your hand down and work on your craft as a pass rusher." I'm excited. It's a lot of fun. Even though it's just a couple of days I feel so refreshed and excited to work on that.
Q: There's a perception that 4-3 end – which you'll play with the Jaguars – is the same position as the 3-4 linebacker you played in Indianapolis. But that's not the case, as you see it …
A: It's not. It's the same when it comes to third-and-long or second-and-long. That's when you go into sub-package. Every team does it differently, but as a 3-4 outside linebacker when you're in a two-point stance [on early downs] you can't get the same takeoff. When I came into the league, I had never pass rushed out of a two-point stance. I had never done that in my whole life. I'm still uncomfortable with it. I'd rather put my hand down, but there are certain things [as a linebacker in a 3-4 scheme] that you're trying to sell to the offense. You don't want to put your hand down on first or second down so they know you're coming on the blitz. My time with the Indianapolis Colts made me an all-around better player when it comes to dropping and when it comes to understanding the defense, but at the end of the day the fun in the game for me is getting after the quarterback. This is why I was drafted with the Colts, but I was turned into a linebacker and I had to learn a lot about coverage and setting the edge. People want to say I was a disappointment and all of that stuff; I take pride in what I did the last three years. I had a few injuries here and there, but I made plays in this league before and I've changed a few games. I'm proud of it and looking forward to putting the hand down and going after the quarterback all day long.
Q: You've smiled during pretty much every answer of this conversation. You seem genuinely excited to be in this situation …
A: I'll be honest: good things happened to me in Florida – at Florida State. I love the sun. It keeps me happy. I'm just happy right now. I'm the new guy right now. I'm just trying to learn everything, but that's OK with me. I need to show out there on the field my respect for these teammates and I am positive I will do that.
Q: How difficult was the last year in Indianapolis – and did you stay confident in your ability?
A: I stayed confident the whole time. Once you lose confidence in yourself, you may as well retire. That's how it goes because these are the best football players in the world. If you're not confident in yourself, you're not going to do anything. Last year was a disappointment with how things went. They cut me off before the year started; that was my personal opinion. There wasn't much communication between me and the coaches. I'm not a guy who wants to be a locker-room cancer and call people out. At the end of the day, I'm going to come in, be professional, work every day and wait for my chance. One week I was playing, one week I wasn't, one week I was playing … it's very frustrating and there were some tough days, but I feel like every player has gone through that at some point in their careers. That's behind me and I'm looking forward. People are already talking bad about my name, so what else can happen? People talk about first-round bust and all of that stuff. That's OK with me. They can do that. Now, I can just sit back, work. People can talk about me and once things get going people are going to come back. I know that.
Q: Very few expectations on you here …
A: I have to fight like everybody else to get a job. I've been in this position before and I love it. It wasn't like I wasn't motivated when I was with the Colts. I was motivated – every day I wanted to play and every day I wanted to be better. Sometimes things don't fit well. I tried to learn every day, but it was tough … I'll be honest.
Q: Was there a sense of relief when you were released?
A: It just seemed like it was going to better for both sides. It was time. Sometimes things just don't work out. Some relationships just don't work out. That's how I see it. I saw it coming. People talk to you and people don't talk to you, but I stayed confident. I know I can play. I think it was just time. They didn't want to deal with it. I was just happy to see who believed in me.
Q: And now you're here …
A: I'm OK. I've been through some adversity. Now, I have a home and it's about what I make out of this. I'm ready to go."