Unrestricted Free Agent LB Chris Chamberlain signed a three-year contract with the New Orleans Saints this afternoon. Entering his fifth NFL season, Chamberlain, 6-1, 238 pounds, was originally picked by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round (228th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft. In four seasons in St. Louis, the former University of Tulsa standout has appeared in 59 games with 19 starts, where he’s notched 112 tackles (70 solo), two sacks, one interception, three pass defenses and one forced fumble, while contributing extensively on special teams with 73 stops. He enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2011, starting 13 of the 16 games he appeared in at weakside linebacker and finished fourth on the Rams with a career-high 84 tackles (51 solo), two sacks, one interception, one passes defensed, one forced fumble and seven special teams stops. Chamberlain spoke with NewOrleansSaints.com about his new team after signing his contract.
NewOrleansSaints.com: Can you discuss your visit to the Saints and what ultimately led to your decision to sign with the Saints?
Chamberlain: I had a great visit yesterday and today. I got to meet some of the coaches I haven’t known. In my breakfast with Coach Payton, I was extremely impressed with him, Ryan Pace and everyone else I got to meet. One thing that was also a factor was my relationship with Spags (Steve Spagnuolo) and Ken Flajole. I already know their system and how I can fit in. I also met the special teams coach (Greg McMahon) and he was great and was excited about what he had to say. It’s a great fit for me and I’m excited to come down here and compete for a championship
NewOrleansSaints.com: You met with Steve Spagnuolo, Joe Vitt , Greg McMahon as well as Sean Payton. What impressed you with what they discussed during your visit?
Chamberlain: I think their mentality. Obviously the organization’s going through a little adversity right now and their mentality is impressive. It’s unfortunate, but we’re going to use this as momentum and fuel, rally together and work harder against the odds. They’ve been through much worse adversity before. I’m just excited about being part of a championship-caliber team and having the opportunity to work towards winning a lot of games.
NewOrleansSaints.com: When you started out, you were a seventh round pick out of Tulsa by the Rams. Could you discuss how your career has progressed as you made an immediate impact on special teams, eventually working your way into becoming a starting linebacker?
Chamberlain: Yes, as a seventh-round pick coming into the league, I wasn’t guaranteed anything, wasn’t guaranteed a roster spot. I came in and fought my way through training camp. Special teams was my avenue where I was able to earn my spot. That’s what my focus was and was able to go out there, be a difference maker, make plays and do what my coaches want me to do. Now if you would have asked me four years ago, if I would have played four years in the league and then signed a contract with the Saints, I would have said no. I’m extremely blessed and thankful for the opportunity. My formula throughout my career has been to be a hard-working overachiever who does whatever my coaches want me to do to the best of my ability. I’m looking forward to getting to know my teammates and trying to win a bunch of games.
NewOrleansSaints.com: Can you talk about you familiarity with Coach Spagnuolo in your three seasons with him, his defensive system and how you think this will help you in getting adjusted in New Orleans?
Chamberlain: Spags is a great guy and a great coach. I’ve been with him the last three years and really enjoyed getting to know him and his family. One thing about his defense is they put a lot of pressure on offenses. He does a lot of stuff with different defenses and a lot of multiple looks. Once you know the system it’s extremely organized even though it can look chaotic. I’m excited to get the chance to continue to learn and grow in his system as well as helping my teammates and sharing my experience and knowledge. I’m excited to fit in the system. I know it well. I’m just excited to play.
NewOrleansSaints.com: Although you started at the weakside position in St. Louis in 2011, you’ve worked at various linebacker positions. Can you discuss how you think your versatility will help.
Chamberlain: Throughout my career, I’ve played primarily on the weakside, but I’ve played all the other positions and I know as sheer value it brings something to the table. Most of my playing experience is on the weakside. I’ve backed up the middle linebacker position and I’ve also played on the strongside as well. I think it just helps you overall knowing what goes on in the defense and in the system. Last year I had a better understand for what’s going on.
NewOrleansSaints.com: As a player who wasn’t guaranteed a roster spot as a rookie, the impact you made on special teams immediately took care of that, as well as you being the club’s leading tackler in that area in 2009 and 2010. Could you discuss the value you feel you can provide to the team in that area as well?
Chamberlain: I met the special teams coach (McMahon) today. I know they’re going to expect a lot of me on special teams as well as on defense. Of course my goal is to win a starting linebacker spot and play there, but you never know how that’s going to shake out. One of the reasons why the Saints wanted me and brought me in was because of what I can do on special teams as well, so I’m a guy who feels whatever role they put me in will help the team. I just want to help the team win and meet the common goal. I’m excited to see what my role’s going to be, see how I can help out and do whatever they’re going to ask me to do.
NewOrleansSaints.com: You played in the Superdome once as a Saints in 2010 and enjoyed one of your best games that season. Coming from a team that played its games in a dome, can you discuss how you feel about having the opportunity to continue to play in a dome where the noise advantage can really help the defense, especially in a place like the Superdome that is one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL?
Chamberlain: I’m really excited about getting to play there. I know the advantage it is for the home team to be in a dome like that, especially with fans like that. I really enjoyed St. Louis, the fans were there and I had a great time, but I’m very excited to be in this environment, playing for fans like this. All they told me all week was how crazy everyone is here for the Saints and I’m excited to be a part of it, looking forward to it.
NewOrleansSaints.com: What would your opening message be to Saints fans today?
Chamberlain: I commend them for everything they’ve been through. The reputation they have created in New Orleans for guys like myself and throughout the league to want to come here, they play a big role. They make a huge different. I want to commend them for everything they’ve done and tell them to keep it up. I’ll do my job. I’m looking forward to meeting them and giving them something to cheer about.