Q: How much do you notice the absence of Nicks and Cruz?
A: I think the guys have done well.
Q: Do you still feel that Victor is going to show up at some point?
A: I hope so.
Q: Do you see improvement in
A: Yeah. A lot of times that second year you have a better feel for what’s going on, what his assignments are and the ins and outs of the offense. He’s confident out there. He’s got a great skill set. I think he’s had a great spring. I think he’s done a lot of good things, made a lot of plays for us and I think he can be a great playmaker for us this year.
Q: Are you concerned when JPP has back surgery?
A: I try not to get real concerned in June. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of football, a lot of practices and a lot of time. You’re going to work on things. This is a time where you experiment with some new things. You try to fine-tune some things, but we’ve got time to get everybody back and get great work in and prep for the season.
Q: How do you handle wanting Victor and Hakeem here, but then having to be the leader here?
A: I have to worry about the guys that are here. That’s all I can do. I’ve got to worry about each practice and trying to get better, making sure I know what I’m doing, working on the things that I need to improve on and then talking over with the guys who are out there on the field about each play, watching film with them, making sure we’re on the same page and we have a chance to go out there and win the practices.
RE: loss of Jason-Pierre Paul
A: Losing JPP for the time period that we will lose him – will hurt this defense. He is an awesome football player. But we have a lot of people that are vying for the opportunity and they are hungry and want that opportunity and a lot of times that is the spark that a lot of other people need. So we will see what happens. The fastest that he can get back, obviously, it would be better. Like you just said, a lot of people have to step up, me included.
Q: What is your message to those younger guys that have a chance to impress the coach?
A: Keep doing what you are doing. Football doesn’t change. So my message is continue to work and we have a great coaching staff; great schemes. You continue to work, you will start seeing things turn your way. And I think that is what they have. But that’s how they’ve approached it.
Q: So do you have to be more ferocious with JPP not around for a while?
A: Absolutely. We all have to pick up the slack. With him, Osi, the guys that we had last year that won’t be part of this d-line, at times this season, so we all have to pick up.
A: Again, I really like what we did with the draft, especially Damontre because he’s a guy that’s going to get after the quarterback. He’s very athletic and hungry. You could tell. He wants to learn. He was asking me to work with him in the offseason and working with him after practice. I like what I am seeing from him early. But again, it’s OTAs. We’re out here in shells and shorts. We don’t get the full effect until you put the pads on and see how they adjust to that. But again, I’m excited about him and Hankerson for that matter because those types of rookies don’t say much. They’re going about it the way rookies should. Just trying to be a sponge in the meeting room and learn everything they can learn and go on the football field and execute. So I’m pretty excited.
Q: You’re going to be back at your natural defensive end position.
A: That decision was already made. That was a decision we made going into this year. Having another man down means that we’ve all got to step up and I’m ready to do the job.
Q: How confident are you that you can pick up the slack in JPP’s absence?
A: There’s no doubt in my mind. That was the position I came into this league playing and I’m looking forward to the opportunity. Obviously, we would love to have him back and I’m sure he’ll be back ready to go at a certain point, but we’re not going to rush him back for any reason.
Q: Watching JPP last season, could you tell he was operating at less than 100 percent?
A: Yeah. I know him. We talk all of the time. It was obvious that he was in pain and he was hurting, but he was trying to push through. That’s the kind of player he is, but at a certain point, it’s hurting yourself and you’re hurting your team. I think he realized that and decided to have surgery, which I think is the best thing for him at this point in his career.
Q: They’re going to have to count on you now.
A: Yeah. I’m ready to go. It’s easy for me to slide back into that position because that’s what I’ve been doing.
Q: Do you finally feel back home?
A: I feel home anywhere I go as long as I’m out there on the field, to be honest with you. Being able to just have your hand in the ground and not have to worry about going from one position to the other, it makes it more comfortable when you’re out there. I can’t lie about that.
Q: Is it going to be up to a lot of the guys to pick up the slack, especially if JPP is not back for a little bit?
A: Absolutely. I think up front a lot of people pay a lot of attention to him. So it’s going to take meeting time away from what they would normally be doing so they’re going to be focused on us and the rest of the guys are going to have to be able to step up and meet that challenge.
Q: Do you think there are guys here that will step up?
A: Yeah. There’s no doubt. I think in addition to what we’ve got so far, we’re ready to go. We have a good group of rookies coming in and added some quality veterans.
Q: What expectation will you put on yourself knowing that you’ll be a full-time defensive end?
A: It’s the same expectation I put on myself at any position. You have to go out there and give 100 percent and then try to dominate your position.
Q: How does moving back to defensive end change your mindset?
A: I just think it changes the group that you’re going with. It changes the caliber of guy you’re going to see in practice everyday, so it’s an opportunity to improve and get better and the spotlight is on you. It’s an opportunity to shine.
Q: When you got here, it was assumed you were going to be a starter but it didn’t happen.
A: It’s been a long road for me. I’ve been starting at multiple positions. I’ve been up and down and back and forth. Moving around and changing… that’s not the big deal to me. The big deal for me is going out there and making sure that I do my job correctly and when I get the opportunity, I make the best of it.
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