Is the atmosphere this week almost playoff-like with the intensity higher than normal?
It’s been like that the last couple of weeks. The teams that we have played, and the way we played, we play with high intensity. It does go up each week. We understand what is at stake. We just need to go 1-0 this week and then 1-0 next week and so forth. It’s about getting into the tournament right now. It doesn’t matter how you got there, it’s just about getting there and once you are there everyone is fair game.
How strong is that desire to get there, to be a playoff team?
It killed me last year to be sitting at home. I told my wife I love you to death and love being around you, but I would rather be playing ball now. I didn’t want to be home in January. The season was over way too early. I want to be playing and riding this thing out for as long as we can. I don’t want to be home in January.
Do you talk to the younger players, let them know what to expect right now?
They have an idea. They know they want to keep playing, the positives if you keep winning. They want to experience the playoffs. They see how big the regular season games are, but we tell them wait until the playoffs, it’s even bigger. They know how important it is. We don’t have to tell them how big the next few games are for us.
You have received some positive feedback from coaches, teammates. Is that a good feeling?
That is what you are trying to do. You want people to speak positively of you. I want everybody, not just Coach (Mike) Tomlin, but my teammates to respect what I am doing. You have to earn that respect. I am working hard and trying to do my best in my craft.
What makes you that spark plug that Coach Tomlin has called you?
I play with passion, I play with energy. You never know when it’s going to be your last time. Whenever you are out there on the field you want to give everything you have. You want to play with emotion, show that you are playing for your teammates, God, fans, the organization and my wife and son. I give my teammates everything I have.
You mention never knowing if it’s your last time on the field. What was it like when you were released earlier this year, the emotions and all?
It was mixed emotions. I didn’t want to be upset, I wanted to understand the business side of it and learn a lot. I knew I never wanted to put myself in that situation again. I don’t want to experience that ever again. It was the first time I experienced it and hopefully the last. I want to make sure of it by the way I work, the way I play. I don’t want there to be a decision again about should we keep him or release him. I want them to feel like they have to have me, he has to be out there playing, and we need to give him more playing time.
What do you think was the reason you were released?
That would be something that only the coaches, staff could definitely answer. Obviously I didn’t do enough. I use it as motivation. I have a chip on my shoulder. I play with that ticked off mentality, that I am upset. I have always played with that attitude, but I have taken it to a higher notch. I am making everybody regret what they did, including the teams that didn’t pick me up when I was waived. I want them to regret every decision about it.
Was it hard not having a team pick you up?
It was tough. It was a humbling experience for sure. It made me look at everything different. It made me look at the situation and want to just go out there and play hard. Whenever I got my chance I wanted to go out there and make them regret every bit of it.
Does that chip on the shoulder really shine when you are fighting for those tough yards on short yardage plays?
I think it shines through every time I am on the field now. Not just on game day, not just when I am getting the ball. Any time I am on the field I want to show I am working hard, I care about my craft and I am going to be on point with everything I do and I am reliable. I want to show in any situation they can depend on me to go out there and make something happen for my team. When you run the ball you have that mentality, but I have that mentality all day every time I am on the field.
What did you learn about yourself then?
I learned I am mentally tough. It made me tougher, stronger. It made my family and I become closer. It made us understand God is in control of the situation and he made things happen the way they did and turn out for me. I look back on it now and I am glad I went through that situation. I know how it feels and I am going to do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.