To survive in the NFL, growth has to be a constant. Doesn't matter where you are in your career, you can't stay the same. You always have to take the next step.
Stephon Tuitt understands that.
Tuitt, who will be entering his fifth season, knows there is plenty of room to grow, but also is pleased that he saw that growth last year.
"It can always be better, but I had a tremendous amount of growth last year and I am excited about that," said Tuitt. "I grew in new ways that they wanted me to, new ways of me discovering things about myself to become the player I can be."
Some of that growth came from a change on the coaching staff. Karl Dunbar took over last year as the team's defensive line coach, replacing John Mitchell, who as the assistant head coach is handling other duties. Dunbar put different demands on Tuitt, ones that he responded to.
"He demanded me to be a great player," said Tuitt. "To be confident to know you are a great player. He has a whole different style than Coach Mitchell. Coach Mitchell brought a lot of great stuff out in me. Coach Dunbar brought out some different stuff. At the end of the day he taught me skills that pertain to what I have naturally, and helped me heighten those skills. Skills like hand usage. The ability to understand protection. The ability to understand formations. My hips. Things like that. To be able to play faster from those. "
That faster aspect of play is one that Tuitt knows can benefit him. Especially when it comes to sacks. Last season he had 5.5 sacks. But he knows in his heart he could have had more.
"All of the defensive linemen, we joke about me," said Tuitt. "I get there right before the quarterback is ready to throw the ball. It's just understanding what I need to do to get there faster. Taking the next step to get there. I am there. I am always there. I just need to get there faster.
"You can make the impact play. You stop the drive, stop the offense at the line of scrimmage. The ability to stop them. The ability to be confident in what you are doing. The ability to be faster. That is the key."
Sounds so easy, right. Just get there a little faster. Forget the fact that someone is getting paid to try to prevent him from doing that.
"It's a lot of hard work trying to get a sack," said Tuitt. "It's the offensive line's job not to allow you to get a sack. When you get one it's like you are taking away from what they are getting paid to do. When you get in the quarterback's head, and the person who is getting paid to stop you from getting there, that is an exhilarating feeling. That is like I am dominating you and I am going to keep dominating."