Linebacker Stevenson Sylvester is hoping with the departure of James Farrior that his role on defense will increase this year, but he also knows that contributing on special teams will be a key for him just as it has been in his first two seasons.
"It's so vital to the game," said Sylvester of special teams. "Field position is huge at this level. People overlook that. I love being part of having the opposing offense start inside the 10-yard line. That helps our play calling, allows us to run blitzes. When we have an offense backed up and they have little opportunity to open their playbook then that will make us that much better. We are better when we are blitzing and pressuring the quarterback.
"Coach Al Everest tells us we send a message and whatever message you start the game with, it sets the tone. That could set the tone for the entire game for everybody to come out fired up and make the same plays."
And there is nothing Sylvester likes more than being the player that delivers the hit that buries the other team deep.
"It's like you are in the 100-yard dash and near the finish line and number two and three are behind you," said Sylvester. "The ribbon is right there and you know you got it first. It's the same thing. It's an amazing feeling. You just unload and take out everything you have on the returner and to get the clean hit is everything."
Sylvester knows there is a certain mentality you have to possess to play special teams, one that combines drive, passion and no fear.
"You have to be able to win, to want to win," said Sylvester. "You can't settle for just being there. If you just sit there guys like Antonio Brown will get by you. You can never be lackadaisical. I take my job seriously. I love to be on the field."