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Learning the ropes


I arrived in Tampa for training camp on February 29, and checked into the DoubleTree hotel. The NFL had everything set up for us to get checked in, take a physical and meet our new coaches. We also had to get our passports but I didn't have my birth certificate so I couldn't get mine, so of course something had to go wrong! The physicals took forever – they were almost four hours long. We had to sit outside in the heat with our team so at least it was a good time to meet everybody. During the physical they gave me an eye exam, they checked my blood pressure, they gave me an EKG and I saw a dentist, it was very intensive and not a whole lot of fun.

We finally put the pads on March 2. It felt really good to be back on the field. There are some really good players down here. I know a lot of guys here I already knew from the Hula Bowl that I played in my senior year. My roommate, Joe Gerda, and I were actually on the same team at the Hula Bowl so it was great to see him.

My offensive line coach, Vince Martino, is also the offensive coordinator. I have been working with the first team in practice and it looks like I will be starting at either left or right tackle when the season starts. I haven't played guard or center since I've been here so it looks like tackle will be my position.

Wake-up call is at 6 a.m. every morning and we eat breakfast and get taped before the bus leaves at 7 a.m. for practice. The field is about forty-five minutes away at Dundin High School. Practice starts at 8:30 and goes until about 10:00 a.m. We then get a half hour break and go from about 10:30 until 12:00. I lift weights after practice before I head home, so it's a long morning.

Practice is very similar to the ones we have in Jacksonville. We start with a walk-through, then we run and stretch, we do nine-on-seven and one-on-one with the defensive linemen, then we have a team period. It's kind of hard to rate my performance, because I'm a person who always thinks I can do better, but I can say I'm improving everyday. It was tough at the beginning because they had me start at left tackle and I haven't played left in a while. I think since training camp last year, so it was tough. It didn't help that my team has one of the best defensive lines in the league. I've been going up against some really good players.

We scrimmaged Konrad Dean's team last week and I felt like I played well, but there is always room for improvement. My brother Jonathan always tells me when I talk to him that he's played this game for nine years at a very high level and he's still not perfect, he's close to it but not perfect. All I can do is fight to get better every day.

The main thing I want to work on is improving my technique. Footwork is something that either you have or you don't, but technique is something that you can always improve on.

The highlight of my trip so far has been getting to hear Dante' Hall from the Kansas City Chiefs speak. He told us that he knew how we felt. He knew that some of us didn't want to be there and were unhappy about having to go to Europe during the off-season, but he said if he hadn't had the opportunity to play in Europe he wouldn't be the player that he is today. I totally agree with him. I feel that if I wouldn't have had the chance to come to Europe this year, training camp would be that much more difficult for me in July. So I'm really glad that I'm here.

My goal was to come over here improve as a player and become more consistent. When I get back I'm confident that I'll have done that. This is not a pushover league - there are some good players here and it's been a great opportunity for me to come and work on my game. The only way I'm going to become a better tackle is to get repetitions and I'm getting that here.

I'm anxious to get to Scotland. Some guys that have been there before said they have first class facilities and it's a great experience, so I'm very excited.

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