What did you get accomplished this spring that you set out to do – I wanted to fix my footwork and work on my leg strength so I can stay low and fire off the ball. I think I did that for the most part. You never take those things for granted for what I do, even at this point in a career. Every year, guys come with new moves and new things. You always have to adjust to them. It’s an on-going challenge.
What motivation do you have now that is different than in past seasons – Nothing is different. I always want to play my best football, to be at the top in every level for my team. When my number is called, I always want to show up and do my part. I never want to be the one to cost us a game. That approach never changes. I want to be more accountable, one of guys a teammate can look to when he needs help with something. When a teammate needs extra motivation or energy, I want to be that guy. It’s always been an internal drive for me. It has to do with pride, and I want to play with a chip on my shoulder. I want to play like we have everything to lose. You don’t show up just to show up. You show up with a plan. It keeps you going.
What activities and travels will you have before training camp – My two best friends and I are going to Spain for a week. I like to see new museums and learn about the history of places. I like to travel. It’s my first time going there. I’ve been to Italy, England, Germany and France. Just looking at countries we’ve been to, we picked Spain because we hadn’t been there. It looks like a fun place with things to do.
What do you know now about training camp that you didn’t as a rookie – You have to be in tip-top shape. You just can’t show up. If you’re not in peak shape, you’re going to see it right away. You’re going to be struggling. You’re probably going to get injured. One thing about being in shape, the more you are the harder you’re going to go. Our coach in Detroit used to say, ‘Tiredness will make cowards of us all.’ Sometimes you want to make an extra block or take an extra step, and your body says, ‘I can’t do it.’ Maybe that would have been the play that would have kept you on the team. Maybe that was the play you would have changed a coach’s mind about you. You have to help yourself out by being in shape.
What teammate impressed you the most with his work this off-season and why – I think
Which teammate do you expect to have a tremendous season in 2014 and why – I’d have to say
Who was the NFL player you wanted to meet the most before you made the league and why – It was ‘The Freak,’ Jevon Kearse. In high school I played defensive end and we used to watch those guys. Jevon was one of those guys I wanted to be like. I met him my rookie year. We played him on Thanksgiving. My goal was to not give up any sacks (laughs).
What is the most fun thing about training camp – It’s the fact that it’s all of us. We have the mindset that we’re in this together. When we’re tired and sore, we feel the same type of pain. The stupid things that go on wouldn’t be funny to most people, but they are funny to us. You can say things about building who you are as a team, but training camp is the time when you do that. We spend so much time together. Whatever we do, we do it together. We come together so much as a team in camp. It’s a unique environment that builds the brotherhood, especially for us on the offensive line. We all have our lockers next to each other. As we’re getting dressed, we’re sharing stories. Those stories may not be interesting to people outside the locker room, but they’re fun for us. We make fun of and tease each other. At the end of the day, we know we’re having a good time.
If you could pick three people to share a meal with, who would they be and why would you include them – I’d pick Nelson Mandela, Mohatma Ghandi and King Leonidas. Sometimes you read about guys like Nelson Mandela or Ghandi, they’re so calm and positive. When you put a guy in prison for 27 years and he comes out with a smile on his face, that tells you so much about the person. Personally, I don’t know what I’d do. You might be having a bad day and you think about him (Mandela), how could not pick yourself up and have a good day? When you talk about Leonidas, you admire the mindset. Everything the Spartans did, they saw things about five or six steps ahead. I like the mindset, which is like the Marines or Navy Seals mindset. If we all had dinner and I had the chance to be around them, I’d pick up the check (laughs).
Do you have a favorite quote? If so, what is it and why does it mean something to you – Our offensive line coach at Boston College used to teach us not just to get the job done, but to dominate, to be your best. He’d say, ‘If you’re at your best, I don’t care what they do.’ I thought, ‘He’s right.’ My best will beat anybody’s best. I started feeling that way in college. It’s an inner belief I live by. It’s not cocky, and it’s not something I say out loud. I say it to myself, and it’s my belief. If I said that to someone, it would sound cocky. It really has to do with myself. If I show up to a game, my feet and hand placements and mindset are right, it doesn’t matter what my opponent does. I’m going to make it all about me. If I’m at my best, nothing else matters. If I’m at my best, I’ll beat anybody.