Q&A with Falcons safety Jessie Bates

Donovan Peoples-Jones (11) of the Cleveland Browns is knocked out of bounds by Jessie Bates (30) of the Cincinnati Bengals during the fourth quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Donovan Peoples-Jones (11) of the Cleveland Browns is knocked out of bounds by Jessie Bates (30) of the Cincinnati Bengals during the fourth quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images/TNS)

New Falcons safety Jessie Bates, who signed in free agency to help improve the secondary, met virtually with Atlanta media members Thursday.

Here’s what the former second-team All-Pro (2020) had to say:

On a social-media post by his agent: “I think A.J. (Terrell), Kyle (Pitts) and Casey (Heyward) did a really good job of recruiting me. Just getting around those guys, getting around the city, obviously we have the same agent (David Mulugheta) as well. Just getting around those guys and asking questions about the team and about the city and stuff like that. Just catching up, we have the same agent, so it’s always love in that instance as well.”

On how he will fit on the defense: “I think firstly, I just turned 26. Being able to have the experience that I have and be able to elevate the (group). I think we already have some really good players. ... I remember when I was going into my Year 3, just out there playing football playing some good football, but there’s always another level that you can tap into. Hopefully, I’ll be able to bring that out of Richie (Grant), A.J. and those guys and they’ll do the same for me. It’s very exciting to be here. My role is going to be a leader. Someone that has experienced (the) postseason. Has experienced the bad. Has experienced the good. So, I’ve had a little bit of it all. Just five years into it. At 26 years old, I’ll have a lot of wisdom and stuff to talk about to the guys in the locker room.”

On donating $1 million to single moms in Atlanta: “When you walk into the league you want to have an impact off the field as well. With me being raised by a single mom my whole life, being able to do some things in Cincinnati with my mom being next to me and then being able to be blessed with a new contract and stuff like that over the next four years, I’m going to comment $1 million to single moms here in Atlanta and also back in my hometown (Fort Wayne, Indiana). It’s just something that I’m very passionate about. I’m not just a football player. I’m here to impact in this locker room and this community as well. Just something to kind of throw out there right now. I’ll be a little bit more detailed with the initiatives (and) I would love to partner up with here in Atlanta. It’s going to be a very exciting time, not just for football, but the bonds that I create off the field as well.”

On his versatility as a safety: “I think that I’m very versatile, so, I’ve been in different situations. I haven’t just played post safety. My whole life, I’ve been in those different situations. So, being able to talk about my experience and talk about what I’ve seen. (The NFL) is a copycat type of league. So, once you kind of mark down the certain stuff that you see, week in and week out. ... The player I think that I am … I will be able to gain the trust of the players, the coaches and everyone in this locker room every single day that I step foot in there. So, I’m very excited.”

On the Falcons’ new defensive coordinator: “I think this is my first time going through this process. But I think you look at the potential of this team and where we can get. I’ve been in that transition year of winning the division and then going to the playoffs. Nobody knowing the Bengals were going to go to Super Bowl. So, I think it’s a very similar situation here. Where this division is up in the air. It’s for us to take, but we’ll know that’s not going to be be easy. It’s going to be tough, which is fine. I think that the guys in this locker room are more than capable of winning this division. So, yeah, not knowing, I don’t think you really focus much on the scheme and stuff like that. I was more focused on the people. What kind of people I was going to be surrounded by.”

On the free-agency process and how many teams were involved: “I can’t speak to that. I let my agent do that stuff. It was a lot of teams that were interested, but with the cap space and stuff like that, there were only a certain amount of teams that could offer what they wanted to offer. With Atlanta being one of them. … I was actually taking a nap and woke up. I was going to get my car washed. A normal Tuesday, Taco Tuesday for me. I (got) a call from agent on FaceTime, and he said he got the deal done with Atlanta. I was sold right there, and then I didn’t really talk about other teams or anything like that. That was a little bit of the process of free-agency craziness.”

More on what makes a good Taco Tuesday: “I’ve heard a lot of great things about the food (in Atlanta). ... In my family, we always talk about Taco Tuesday. We joke with my mom like she has to mix it up a little bit on Tuesdays. Because we don’t want tacos every Tuesday. So, there are some that I love. Mexican food is one of my favorites, for sure.”

On the Falcons other moves to bolster the defense and if that was a motivating factor: “I’m not sure if you guys heard, I was able to catch up with (other Falcons signees) Kaden (Elliss) and David (Onyemata) and really figure out where each of us were. We were just sitting in the car for two hours in that traffic jam. Just meeting those guys and knowing that they’re really good football players, but they’re really good people. The atmosphere …you can kind of feel it. Kind of see it on the film as well, what kind of team the Atlanta Falcons were even when things were going well, last year, you know, they’re very physical team. I feel like that’s the identity here in Atlanta. I’m just looking forward to being a part of that, continue to build and elevate that on another level.”

On where he sees the Falcons in their rebuilding process: “Yeah. You know, they are, I don’t know, as much as far as the past couple years with the draft and stuff like that, but I do know that what the roster is right now and some of the core pieces that we’re continuing to bring in. Having conversations with coach (Steve) Jackson and coach (Ryan) Nielsen and just talking about the pieces that they’re going to continue to add what type of players they’re going to continue to add gives you nothing but motivation (about) where this team is going to be. ... You turn on the film last year, it’s a great place to build off of for sure.”

On how the other new additions – Onyemata and Elliss – look on defense: “I think it looks really good. The guys that come in, the new guys usually get a lot of attention, but I think you look at what’s already here and being able to add on pieces and pieces that complement each other, it’s going to be really fun to do. I haven’t been able to play with Kaden or David, but Kaden did say that he loved playing behind David (in New Orleans). Being able to line up … with them is something that is pretty, pretty cool. Once you hear from peers, from player to player, coaches can tell you this guy is a great guy, but once you hear it from the guy that you go to war with every Sunday and between those lines, I think it holds a lot of weight for sure.”

On what they talked about in the two-hour car ride through traffic: “You got big Ol’ David in there. Kaden being the guy that he is, sat in the back. I (had) a nice little seat. I was good. But yeah, those two hours, no, just asking each other. ... Everyone’s journey is so different in this league, and it’s so unique because of how hard it is to get here, first of all. But just hearing Kaden’s story and how his dad (Luther Elliss) played in the league. How he had younger brothers that (were) with the Eagles last year. Just chopping it up and getting to know each other on that level. Then hearing David talk about being from Nigeria and him not going to college (in the United States). He went to (college in) Canada. His whole family still lives in Nigeria. So, this is part of building a good team. That’s part of getting to know your brother and getting to know where they come from. That way when you communicate and have those conversations, you actually have stuff to talk about. Not just about football. There were multiple conversations that we had. We joked around with the atmosphere being, the difference from New Orleans, what they liked, what they didn’t like. What I liked in Cincinnati and what I didn’t like. So, you better have genuine conversations, like I said stuff not just to keep us busy while we were in the car, but stuff that I’ll remember and talk about, you know, when we go to OTAs or training camp and all that good stuff. So, I think that’s very important.”

Georgia Tech running back KirVonte Benson (30) eludes a tackle by Wake Forest defensive back Jessie Bates III (3) in the first half of an NCAA college football game at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, October 21, 2017. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM


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