You talked earlier this offseason about expecting to gain a lot from having an entire offseason program for the first time. Now that it’s in the past, how did it help?
I just got a chance to work on technique. Technique is so important in this league and I’m glad we got the time to spend with coaches. Going out there in OTAs and minicamp definitely helped everybody. We saw progress, and for myself going into the season I think it definitely helped me.
It’s the middle of the NFL’s so-called dead period, yet you’re here at EverBank Field working out on your own. Is that dedication, convenience or just wanting to stay in the heat?
(Laughing) The facilities here are nice, and I live right across the river. I figured I’d stay here, and get used to the heat for camp.
A lot of the rookies have talked about the process of getting used to the heat – and of course, the humidity – in Northeast Florida. You went through it last year. Is there any way to really know what to expect from it?
I’m from Georgia and it’s hot there, but it’s a totally different story here. The humidity is crazy and it’s hot as well, so that combination is just crazy. You have to experience it. There’s nothing like it any other place, I don’t think. Your body adjusts, but you have to get used to it and condition your body. I remember last year during camp we’d have a walkthrough during the day, then have the actual practice at night. We switched over once the actual season started. That first week, everybody was worn out. I was running first team and scout team and being in the heat at 1 o’clock was a huge difference. This season, I think guys will be in better shape and the veteran guys will be more used to it.
This time last year, you were three weeks from your first NFL training camp, waiting for the lockout to end and doing so having spent zero time on an NFL practice field or in an NFL meeting room. Strange to think about that, looking back?
It’s crazy. I was up at my school just working out every day, but not necessarily knowing what was going to happen or even what I should do. I was working on my technique that I learned in college, but when I got here, it was a total 180. It was completely different than what I learned in college. I had to hop into it and adapt really fast. We had two weeks until we played our first preseason game, so I had to learn the NFL in two weeks. You know what you’re getting yourself into now. Knowing what to expect plays a big part of it.
And along the offensive line, you’re not changing a whole lot from last season, correct?
The technique is pretty much the same. There’s different terminology that (assistant offensive line) Coach (Ron) Prince brings in, and a different way of coaching things. I think that helps us, but overall, it’s just offensive line technique and making sure we’re mastering it. For me, the offseason was great, because we were able to get that time, get the new plays and understand the new schemes and what we’re trying to get done with certain plays. We had so much time to be in the classroom and be on the field, whereas last year we just kind of rushed everything – where you’re going out there just trying to remember the plays and not understanding why we’re doing certain things.
This has to be a great feeling for you right now. Not to say you didn’t know what you were doing last year, but the idea of going into a season prepared has make you optimistic.
It’s exciting. I can definitely see the progress from last year. You can see what the coaches have brought in and I think we’re going to have something special, something good. I’m excited. I know what to expect playing against certain guys.
Any changes physically for you in the last few months? Did you try to get bigger, lighter?
They want us all at certain weights. I played around 307 last year. I’m going to try to play around 310 or 311 this year. During OTAs and minicamps I played around 317 to try that out, but I’ve definitely gotten bigger and stronger. I feel like the change will be good. You can’t really gauge it with no pads on, but I feel like I moved better than I did last year. I wanted to be bigger, and based off how we did in OTAs and minicamps, we decided to go with that weight.
There has been a lot of talk in the offseason about this new coaching staff. What strikes you the most about it?
There’s a big attention on detail. The words in our workout room, they expect us to know all of that stuff – being violent, working together. They quiz us on those things. There are certain things every week they want us to focus on. I like the approach they’re bringing to the table.
People might not understand why that’s important . . .
Everybody has to be on the same page and work together to be successful. In this business, guys come and go. It’s important to instill those kinds of things in every person that comes in. They remind us every day to make sure we’re not just reading it, but we’re actually following those things.
Has there been anybody that you’ve gravitated to who has helped you this offseason?
I’ve worked closely with (starting left tackle)
There’s a difference between having a solid work ethic, and knowing how to work in the NFL. Talk about where you are in that process.
That’s a big thing. Guys can work a certain way, or work the wrong way. You can be a good distance runner, but we don’t do that in football, so I can do that and still be gassed. Working the right way is important. Last year in the offseason I wanted to be in shape, so I’m up there running five and six miles not knowing that at my weight and my position I’m not supposed to be doing that. My body started to break down a little, so I had to cut that out. Now, I’m working with the weight coaches and the conditioning staff to do the right thing.