I know guys appreciated you staying around the locker room and being a major part of the team even after your injury.
The one obvious tough thing with my injury was not being able to be on the field, and not just on the sidelines and the meeting room. There are just certain things you can convey when you're doing it. I needed it as much as they needed it. I want them to succeed and I think all of them have a great chance to have great careers. I'm at a point in my career where I still feel like I'm in my prime and have years left, but I want to impart wisdom and experience as well to the guys that are going to take it and carry it on. I had veterans do that to me when I was coming up, kind of passing the torch on so to speak; teach them how to do things the right way. The great thing about our group is they all want to learn. My high school football coach, Ed Thomas, said one of the most important things you can do as a player is just care; show up and care. If you just care we can get the rest of the stuff done, but you have to care. Our guys do. Being around the league, that is the main ingredient, get guys that are motivated to want to be professionals every day and compete every day. That's rare and I think we have a number of those guys in that room.
Anybody that has been around you knows that you're not a guy that blows smoke and exaggerates a lot. You truly believe this team has the parts to be successful.
Listen, we can run the football, we can pick up chunks in the passing game. Defensively, not that we weren't this year, but we are going to have a very formidable defensive line with the possible rotation we have. I really think that is where you can excel with having that second wave come in and not have much dropoff. That's one of the benefits to my injury as well, because it gave great experience to Austen (Lane), (Jeremy) Mincey and Larry (Hart). It gave more leadership to those guys and that's going to be huge this year. We have that many guys in the rotation and we get D'Anthony back. Instead of playing 75 snaps, especially those guys inside, you cut that down to a more manageable number and those guys can really haul tail.
Speaking of Jeremy Mincey, here's a guy who entered the year with nine games played, played most of the season with a cast on his wrist and led the team with five sacks. He seems to fit the mold of the guys that 'care.'"
Definitely. That's vital. He'll continue to make plays because the 4-3 defense is set up for defensive linemen as long as they are guys that know how to use their hands, get off blocks and rush a little bit. There are enough plays to go around for everybody. If you play hard then you're going to get some numbers.
A veteran who has been with the Jaguars for a long time told me that you were the best free agent he has been around. He said you didn't come in and try to take over the locker room; instead, you went about your work and led with your actions. Does that mean a lot to hear those words?
It really does. I had seen the same thing, being around the league for a while. I have seen guys come in and they're high-priced guys and they think they're this and that. The coach or personnel guy built them up so they feel like they have to come in and lead the team. It never was received well. I think the big lesson about leadership is it's not about you; when you truly understand that it's really not about you, then people know that and they see it and they will appreciate it. You are not in it for yourself. You truly have the team mentality first. That goes back all the way to Coach Thomas (high school coach) and being at a place with Kirk Ferentz at Iowa and that staff. That has always been the idea. That's why my approach was to keep my mouth shut and work hard. Respect is earned, it's not given.
Where are you physically and mentally right now? I know you have to be a little more comfortable now knowing where you are going to be compared to this time last year.
You have to look at the context that I was in this time last year. You just hit rewind to exactly one year. I'm in Green Bay, Wisconsin as the leader of my home family. I can't provide any definite answers about security and future in terms of where we're going to be living. For my wife, I can't say, 'Hey, we're going to be here and we'll have a home, you'll be able to put the kids in school.' That's number one. Secondly, my knee was coming along and I know the results are going to be good. Everything is coming along really well but I can't go out and run a forty-yard dash if someone wants to time me. This year we're settled and my wife has a stable environment for her and our children in school. We're getting to know other people in the community. We are so much more comfortable but not in a complacent kind of way, more so in a way that I can focus even more attention on tweaking and adjustments. I moved my family twice in two months, albeit six blocks away here in Jacksonville, but I still moved them. Just having that out of the way is great. Physically I feel great. I have some objectives to hit in about six weeks and once I hit those I'll be right where I want to be. I have some work to do over the next month or so. This will be a good period for me and then I'll be able to take some time and be ready to crank it up when the offseason starts.