NYTimes: Where Big Talent Comes in a Small Package

You must check out this article at the New York Times
Published: September 19, 2009




TONY, Wis. — To find where Jim Leonhard stands tallest, drive east from Minneapolis on the country road Route 8. Enter Packers country, past fields of corn and oats, past the “Population 105” signpost.

Near the Tony Depot, in the center of this speck of a town in northwest Wisconsin, stop at the billboard that makes Leonhard blush, painted with his likeness and adorned with his college accomplishments. The one that says “Walk-on to All-American.”

Here, Leonhard is not an overachieving 5-foot-8 Jets safety. Here, Leonhard is a catalyst for change, a reason to remember, a source of inspiration.

“It’s like a cult following,” said his mother, Debbie Leonhard.

In his parents’ living room, next to trophies and pictures and scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings, four men sat in a circle last month. Each grew up in the area and still lives here. Each has coached, or watched, local high school sports for more than 30 years.

Don Leonhard (Jim’s father), Corky Van Doorn, Darrell Gago and Carol Heath used reverential tones to reel off at least two dozen stories about their town’s most famous athlete.

“He’s the best football player I’ve ever seen,” said Van Doorn, who coached against Flambeau High School, where Leonhard played. “He’s the best basketball player I’ve ever seen. And he’s far, far and away the best baseball player I’ve ever seen.”

Leonhard dominated in three sports while growing up in Tony, where his parents nicknamed him Jumpin’ Jimmy, and where as a child he refused to leave the gym until he hit 100 3-point baskets.

His exploits for Flambeau are legendary. The time Leonhard gained more than 500 total yards in a game. Gago, the football coach, swears no one put a hand on him. The time the offense never took the field in the first half because Leonhard ran every kickoff and punt for a touchdown.

Van Doorn remembered the time Leonhard leaped from behind a 6-4 center on the basketball court, his tiny paw of a hand snaring a rebound. Don Leonhard, Flambeau’s basketball coach, remembered the night his son drained 10 3-pointers in one half.

But the Leonhards have always been a baseball family, and some still believe Jim chose the wrong sport. He hit home runs that cleared the fence by a hundred feet. He struck out 19 of 21 batters in one game. He chose football only because the doubters said he should not.

“He heard that more from football than anywhere else,” Don Leonhard said. “That he couldn’t play, or wouldn’t last, because of his size.”

The turning point came before his senior year of high school, at the University of Wisconsin football camp. Leonhard ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, prompting Barry Alvarez, then the Badgers’ coach, to ask him to run again. After Leonhard ran another 4.4, he said, “I knew that I belonged at that level.”

Leonhard entered Wisconsin as a preferred walk-on. Alvarez called these players his erasers for recruiting mistakes, and a former walk-on served as a captain for each of his three Rose Bowl teams.

Alvarez said Leonhard never complained. Not when he led the nation with 11 interceptions and ranked second in the Big Ten in punt returns as a sophomore. Not when he broke his wrists before starting in a bowl game. Not when booster clubs made him the most requested Badger. Not even when an opposing coach sized him up in an elevator and said, “Our water boy is bigger than you.”

This pattern continued in the N.F.L., where Leonhard made Buffalo’s roster as an undrafted free agent and started last season for the Baltimore Ravens, who played in the American Football Conference championship game, before Coach Rex Ryan lured him to the Jets.

People ask Alvarez all the time to explain Leonhard’s rise.

“He looked like an altar boy,” Alvarez said. “Behaved like one, too. But on the field, wow, he was something else.”

In Tony, everyone took notice. His jerseys and pictures are displayed all over town. At Mickey’s, the sports bar where a steak costs $5 and the sporty burger comes with heaping helpings of grilled onions, mushrooms and cheese, Leonhard’s jersey hangs on the wall. High school memorabilia and the billboard assure that no one forgets.

Tony started as a logging town. Leonhard’s relatives worked for the Hein lumber mill after settling here more than 100 years ago.

Eight Leonhard families once lived on Leonhard Lane, a quaint stretch of mostly gravel road that now leads to Don and Debbie Leonhard’s house. It is the kind of place where Don teases visitors who lock their car doors.

Farming eventually replaced logging as the dominant industry. Dick Leonhard, Jim’s grandfather, once raised 50 dairy cows. As a boy, Leonhard baled hay and swept barns and shoveled manure.

“It’s one of those hard-working, prototypical blue-collar towns,” he said. “It’s that typical small town that you always hear about.”

But Tony had never seen anyone like Jim, the middle child of Don and Debbie Leonhard’s three sons. He played with toughness handed down from his mother, who grew up with 10 siblings, mostly brothers, and who once coached while pregnant. He played like the son of two coaches, a point guard like all the Leonhard boys.

Athleticism rendered his size irrelevant. Leonhard first dunked as a high school freshman, and he won two dunk contests against his Wisconsin teammates, once defeating a player a foot taller.

“That Jimmy Leonhard is something else,” Gago said. “I used to tell people I was from northern Wisconsin. Now, I just say Tony, and they know exactly what I’m talking about. ‘That’s where the Leonhard kid is from.’ ”

The athletes at Flambeau changed the school’s culture, forcing coaches to add off-season conditioning programs and to enter more tournaments. This led to four recent state championships in girls basketball and better athletes in all sports.

Ted Alberson, who runs the Depot convenience store and coaches girls basketball, said that athletic experience, led by Leonhard’s class, changed the town.

“It was unifying,” he said. “A winning team in a small town is probably as good as it gets. And when one of those guys makes it, everybody does.”

Leonhard has never changed. They love that about him here. Neighbors call his parents continually and fans travel hours to seek autographs. Others stop at Tony Lumber and Supply, where Don Leonhard works, to ask about his son.

This summer, Leonhard asked his parents why people cared so much.

“Around here, that’s what people have,” Debbie said she told him.

The small guy from the small town now plays in the nation’s biggest market. Teammates say he looks 18, even at 26.

People here laugh at all the jokes and watch Jets games on satellite television. Leonhard remains their proudest export.

“No wonder he goes back there,” his teammate Bart Scott said. “That’s the one place where that little dude is huge.”

Thank you Greg for a great article on Jim!

@ Houston

from newyorkjets.com

Article Update

Buddy's boy comes by gift of gab honestly
By JIM LITKE - AP Sports Columnist
2009-09-17 19:16

And win the Jets did in Ryan's debut, putting a 24-7 hurt on Houston last week. Even more impressive, his aggressive defense yielded only 183 yards to a Texans offense that averaged more than double that total last season.

``And we straight demolished them,'' cornerback Darrelle Revis said the day after.

``We feel if we can make it a brawl, we're going to win,'' chimed in safety Jim Leonhard, who played for Ryan at Baltimore last season.

That hardly sounds like a team that needs firing up, but Ryan apparently thinks their fans might - with good reason. The Jets open at home Sunday against a Patriot team that's beaten them eight straight at the Meadowlands - tied for the longest active streak in the league. So he picked up the phone Wednesday and left a 70-second message for every season-ticket holder.

``I just wanted to let you know how much we need you this week. You know, I've already admitted that, hey, the Patriots have a better head coach and they've got a better quarterback than us. But we're going to see who's got a better team.''

Matt Waters

Jim Leonhard was equally assured. “We feel like we have a great game plan going into this week. As a secondary, we feel like we can’t have any busts in coverage. We can’t have any miscommunication between us. If we play well in the back end, that front seven is going to play well.”

Rhodes’ candor seems to speak to another challenge facing Rex Ryan as he stalks the sidelines this Sunday afternoon. The Jets are pumped and primed, but will they be in control? With a frenzied home crowd and self-imposed high stakes both a factor [Kris Jenkins called it “Our Superbowl”] discipline may just fly out the window. And handing New England’s high-octane offense free penalty yardage is not in the Jets’ best interests. Ryan acknowledged Rhodes’ disgust. Did not chastise his safety’s honesty. “Our franchise has been embarrassed (with) eight straight losses at home. You’ll have to ask Kerry if that’s what he meant, but that’s probably where that tone was coming from.”

Tom Brady Q&A, 9/16
09.16.09 at 2:32 pm ET
By Christopher Price

Q: What did Darrelle Revis do against Andre Johnson on Sunday and has he emerged as one of the more dangerous corners in the league?
TB: He’s a very good player and — going into his third year — I think he’s really … He had a Pro Bowl, I think, last year. He’s kind of got all the skills. He’s got all the tools. He’s big. He’s got long arms. He’s fast. He’s quick. He’s a very fluid athlete. He catches the ball well. He’s got very good route recognition. He can play inside. He can play outside. He matches up against small guys and does well. He matches up against big guys and does well. He’s a very good player, along with Kerry Rhodes, in that secondary. [Jim] Leonhard really gets everyone sorted out and he plays with a lot of anticipation out there. So it’s a really good secondary, along with Lito Sheppard, who we’ve faced. I’ve thrown plenty of interceptions to him in the past.

NY Jets approaching game against rival New England Patriots 'like it's the Super Bowl'
By Bridget J Wentworth
September 14, 2009, 10:27PM

If Jets coach Rex Ryan's comment in June about not coming here to kiss Patriots coach Bill Belichick's rings isn't enough bulletin board material for Sunday's showdown at the Meadowlands, how about this one from Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kris Jenkins:

''We're going to be playing this game like it's the Super Bowl,'' said Jenkins Monday as the Jets quickly put their 24-7 season-opening dismantling of the Houston Texans behind them.

Although former coach Eric Mangini is gone -- he was 2-5 versus the Patriots in his three seasons, including one playoff loss -- the ill will between the two teams has increased, something many thought was impossible given the deep-rooted dislike that Belichick and Mangini had for each other.

But here we go again with the rivalry that keeps on giving.

Since Ryan's arrival in January, he has been saber rattling with his tough talk. His comment about Belichick made national headlines.

''I laughed,'' wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. ''A lot of people want to say it. He said what he was feeling at the moment and you have to love it. He's leading this team. Whatever he says, we're going to be behind it.''

For the record, the bad blood between the Jets and Patriots began in 1997 when the Jets lured Bill Parcells away from New England. Then, in 2000, Belichick turned down the Jets' head coaching job and went to coach the Patriots. Both moves were marked by controversy.

Since Belichick went to New England, the Jets are 6-13 versus the Patriots. New England has won six AFC East titles and three Super Bowls.

''This is a great test,'' said safety Jim Leonhard. ''This is going to say a lot for our season. It's a game we really want.''

So does Ryan. He conceded that the Patriots have the edge at head coach and quarterback in the matchup but he's not willing to go any further.

''We'll find out who has the better team right now,'' he says. ''We'll see.''

Ryan even challenged Jets fans to show up at the Meadowlands and do their part.

''We need to be loud and make it miserable on them,'' Ryan said. ''I believe in our fans, too. Our guys are going to show up and our fans are going to show up and it's going to be on.''

Jets linebacker Larry Izzo, a long-time Patriot, said the rivalry ratcheted up when Mangini left the Patriots to coach the Jets, but he said New England players don't actually dislike Jet players.

''It wasn't so much a team-wide hatred,'' he said.

Jenkins, though, has no love for the Patriots. He said Monday he learned of the importance of the rivalry last year.

"The reality of the situation is this, if I'm going out there to play a football game, I'm going to do the best I can to try to knock your teeth out. Now, if you have any reason on top of that to up the ante, somebody better get their chinstrap on tight because if they don't, they might have a whole bunch of problems.

''This is a statement year," Jenkins continued. "Not just for Rex. It's a statement year for this team. We're trying to set a precedent here of what is to come for this organization and that's something we're not taking lightly.''

After months of bravado from Ryan and his players, the Jets backed it up on Sunday against Houston. They held the Texans to just 183 yards total offense, 38 yards rushing, and blitzed quarterback Matt Schaub into submission. They sacked him just twice but hit him repeatedly and he seemed to become gun-shy.

Offensively, the Jets rolled up 462 yards (190 yards rushing) and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez (18-of-31 for 272 yards, one TD and one INT) had a sensational debut.
The Jets converted 10 of 18 third-down situations. On third down, Sanchez hit 12 of 15 passes for 191 yards -- most of those were third-and-long --and one touchdown, and had a 141 passer rating.

''That's outstanding for a rookie,'' said Ryan. ''It's unheard of, really. That would be nice for a veteran quarterback.''

The Jets dominated the Texans in nearly every phase of the game. They had shown flashes of being that type of team in training camp and the preseason, but now it's out there for everyone to see.

''It's a game you want to put out there early to the r
est of the league and kind of show them what you're all about,'' said Leonhard.

In Person: Jim Leonhard

Tony (WQOW) - Jimmy Leonhard. He's got game.

He excelled at Flambeau High. He thrilled at Camp Randall. Labeled an underdog at five foot eight and 186 pounds, Leonhard has made a career of overachieving. He made the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2005 and last year went to the playoffs with the Baltimore Ravens. This fall he's the starting strong safety for the New York Jets.

I have to admit, I've never been a Jets fan...before. But I'm rooting for Jim. And here's why:

Bravado is epidemic with professional athletes, yet we the fans reach the saturation point of annoyance very quickly around braggadocio. Entertain us, but show some humility while doing so. Be Nolan Ryan, not Ricky Henderson. They say "it's just a game," but when you're paid 20 times the rest of us, you'd better show some gratitude for that chance to "play."

Well, Jim Leonhard has got his helmet screwed on straight. When you hear him talk you think "Here's a 26-year-old young man who was raised right." Good going Jim. Good going Don and Deb.

So here's the full conversation with Wisconsin's favorite underdog, where you can learn all about the difference between coaches and teachers. On how crazy you have to be to return punts. On who will win the Super Bowl. On lessons learned while at play.

We've reserved a seat on the fifty-yard line for you. Only on "In Person." Get your game on.


Jim Leonhard Plays Like A Jet

By Ed Thompson
Scout.com Senior NFL Analyst
Posted Sep 18, 2009

By Ed Thompson
Scout.com Senior NFL Analyst
Posted Sep 18, 2009

In this exclusive interview with Scout.com's Ed Thompson, New York Jets safety Jim Leonhard talks about last week's win, this week's big game against the Patriots, the important role he played during the offseason, why his head coach, Rex Ryan, will make the Jets a success--and much more.

Ed Thompson: Before we get talking about football, I heard you were in a big golf event early this week.

Jim Leonhard: Yeah, I got invited by Jay Feely, he’s the big golfer on the team. Somehow we got hooked up through the Jets to play in the Eric Trump Foundation Golf Invitational. It benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. We were a little out of our league, but we're decent golfers, so we held our own on the golf course.

Thompson: Are you a frequent golfer?

Leonhard: I love golf. Obviously, I don’t go often enough during the season, but during the offseason I definitely enjoy it.

Thompson: I've really enjoyed following your career. I think the last time we talked you were still finishing up your final year in Buffalo. You went from being an undrafted rookie in Buffalo to playing for Baltimore, and now for the Jets. As you look back on that path, in what ways have you developed as a player since leaving the Bills organization?

Leonhard: I think the biggest thing is getting that opportunity in Baltimore last year. I learned so much from the coaches and from the players that it just rejuvenated my career--and mentally how I was feeling about football. To play with guys that are that talented, that care so much about each other and about winning, it was a lot of fun. And obviously, going that deep in the playoffs doesn’t hurt either. Everyone is happy when you're winning and I got to meet some great people last year. And now, it’s coming to New York as someone that was wanted. That was really the first time in my NFL career that I was being pursued by a team. It gave me a lot of confidence going into this year.

Leonhard had a breakout season in Baltimore in 2008.
Getty Images/Chris McGrath
Thompson: I’ll bet it did. You posted a career-high 85 tackles last year and you showed your skills as a playmaker during the playoffs with an interception, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. But one thing that’s really a bit of an oddity about you is that you have all this productivity at the safety position, and yet you still go out there and put yourself in harm’s way as a punt returner. How much of that is your desire to play both positions versus the team just seeing your skill and saying we need you out there returning punts as well?

Leonhard: I think that’s just part of my role. I’m not at the point in my career yet to where I’m strictly a defensive player. My role is still going to be on special teams in some aspects, and I’m glad it’s returning punts rather than running down on kickoffs. I really enjoy returning punts. It’s something I feel I have a knack for and I realize how helpful it can be for the team.

Thompson: Talk about that a little bit, though. Because I think that as a punt returner, you're one of the most vulnerable people out on that football field--staring up there at the sky, waiting for the ball to come down as you hear those footsteps thundering toward you. It takes a different kind of person to be able to handle that pressure.

Leonhard: You definitely have to have a different attitude, and you have to have a feel for it. Obviously, there aren’t that many great ones that play today. There are a lot of really great athletes in this league, but it takes a certain feel and a certain mindset to return punts--because it is a little nuts (laughs). You are very vulnerable. But for some reason I’m crazy enough to enjoy it, I really do like doing it.
Thompson: Let’s talk a little bit about your head coach, Rex Ryan, and your relationship with him since you talked about how you were pursued by the Jets this year. You must have formed a pretty special bond with him during your time in Baltimore for him to come after you the way that he did during the offseason.

Leonhard: I think he was one of the main guys responsible for changing the way that I felt about football last year--seeing a guy that was as well-liked of a coach as him. Most coaches distance themselves from players, and they kind of make it seem like they are above the players, but Rex makes it feel like he's truly one of the guys. He's going to coach the hell out of you, and you’re going to get done everything you want to do. But he actually cares about his players, he actually enjoys being around his players, and his entire staff is the same way. You always think that coaches believe they can't get too close to the players because then there’s not enough discipline and there’s not enough fear in the players. And to see a guy do it the way Rex does--which I feel is the right way--and have success, it makes you want to go play for a guy like that. Obviously, this offseason, that was huge in my decision to come to New York, just knowing that that guy coaches the right way. I think everyone in New York is buying into that as well. You saw that just in one game--the passion, the energy that we played with last week. And that comes straight from the top.

Rex Ryan has inspired Leonhard to take his game to a higher level.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
Thompson: When I was at the NFL Combine this year and Rex did his press conference, one of the things that really popped out at me was when he said, “Plays like a Jet, that’s going to mean something this year in New York.” From a player's point of view, what does that phrase mean to you?

Leonhard: I think the main thing he tried to get across is just playing with passion. If you really enjoy the game of football, you're going to go out there and play it the right way, and I think that’s where it all starts. You saw that with Baltimore. You always talked for years about how hard they play, that they actually look like they care about each other, they actually look like they want to win for each other. I think that’s where it starts, with a certain level of competitiveness that you don’t always see players have. He demands that. He won’t coach effort, it’s not going to happen. If he has to coach effort, you’re not going to be there. Schematically, they develop a scheme--one, that players like, and two, that will put you in position to make a lot of plays and have a lot of success. If you’re a player that doesn’t want to play for coaches like he has, and in the scheme that we have, you probably don’t belong in the NFL. I think that’s kind of what “Playing like a Jet” really comes down to.

Thompson: Outstanding explanation, Jim. I think you really hit the heart of it. Talk a little bit about Rex’s transition over there. Did he bring enough of the Raven’s approach, playbook and defensive scheme to the Jets so that it was pretty much a lateral move for you so you didn’t have to learn a whole lot new in the playbook this year?

Leonhard: The majority of things that we're doing have been things that we did in Baltimore. Obviously, in his position, he can throw out some of the things he didn’t like or that were confusing. He and the coaches can tweak some things. Any changes that we did make were for the better. Rex has talked about it. It was an easy decision for him to come to New York because you look at all the talent that’s on the defense and the team in general. Especially on the defense, it’s not like you have to take more out of the game plan or not really give the players as much, because you look across the board and there is so much talent on this defense. We feel like we can be successful starting right out of the gate.

Thompson: In addition to the talent you and a guy like Bart Scott bring to the field, did you also get the sense that the addition of the two of you was a way to help transition the rest of the Jets defense top Rex's scheme? In other words, that you could help the others along because you guys already had this down pat?

Leonhard: It was definitely part of it. He sat both of us down and talked about it. Both Rex and Coach Pettine sat both of us down at different times and said “You have to be our coaches this offseason. We only have so much time that we can be with you guys and solve things. You kind of have to take that leadership role.” I think we both handled that very well, and it’s a role that we both wanted. I haven’t had that since college, so I really looked forward to it and enjoyed this offseason. Bart was in the shadows a little bit in Baltimore. Obviously, he got a lot of recognition playing behind one of the best linebackers to ever play the game--you don’t get quite the credit that you probably deserve. They also brought in Marques Douglas up front, so we had a guy at each level that really could try to sell what Rex was trying to preach. I think we did a good job, and guys bought-in really early. And that’s why we’re able to have success right now.

Thompson: I’ve talked to safeties around the league, and some of those players say the strong safety position isn’t all that dramatically different than what’s expected from the free safety on their team. What about in this Jets defense? Is your role similar or dramatically different than that of the free safety?

Leonhard: It depends. It can be dramatically different, but I think the best thing that they do in this system is they force you to learn both. They don’t specify one player as a strong or free safety. They let you basically work it out with the other safety that you’re playing with, which for me right now is Kerry Rhodes. It makes it very unpredictable. An offense can’t look at a safety and say, "well, this guy is going to be in the box, or this guy, he’s going to do more of their coverage." They really have no idea, and I think we’ve done a great job with that this offseason. It helps in your understanding of the defense when you learn what everyone is supposed to do rather than just your individual position. In this defense, they’ve definitely put a lot on the safeties. You’re put in position to make plays all the time, and you saw that in Baltimore with Ed Reed.

Leonhard took on a leadership role to help his teammates transition to a new defense.
Getty Images/Jim McIsaac
Thompson: Absolutely. Tell me about Kerry Rhodes and the chemistry you guys are developing. What is it that you see in his game that you admire?

Leonhard: I think the biggest thing when you watch him, you can’t hide the fact that he is so extremely talented--just the range that he has and his ability to make plays. There aren't many safeties that can do that. I think the biggest thing is seeing that he's putting in the work. He's really trying to learn this defense. He understands the potential as a team and also for himself. He's really looking to kind of break out this year and get that recognition across the league, I think. He would never say that, but I think you can see it in the way that he has attacked this offseason and tried to learn everything.

Thompson: Jim, last week against Houston--a team that has a lot of offensive firepower--why do you think your defense matched up so well against them?

Leonhard: I think it all started up front. They really didn’t block us very often up front, and it allowed us to kind of do whatever we wanted as a secondary and with the linebackers. The other side of it is just the pressure we were putting on Matt Schaub. There aren't too many quarterbacks that can handle that for an entire game. The third part of it, offensively we put pressure on them. We got ahead and we never let up. We pounded them a little bit when we were on offense and put them in a hole. It’s hard to come from behind in this league, especially if you’re facing a defense with the caliber we think we have. But it definitely starts up front. You get guys going like Kris Jenkins, Bryan Thomas had a great game, Bart Scott, David Harris--who I believe was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week--and he’s the fourth guy I talked about (laughs). We did a great job up there, and it allowed us to do whatever we wanted on the back end to confuse them.

Thompson: This weekend, your first regular season game at home as a Jet, you’ve got New England coming to town. It doesn’t get any bigger than that, does it?

Leonhard: You have to love playing divisional games, especially rivalry games like this, early in the season when you're feeling good and you’re not beat up yet. It means a lot. Rex always talks about divisional games like this one because they’re really worth about a game-and-a-half as far as tie-breakers and playoffs--not that you look that far ahead now, but they do mean a little bit more. To go against Tom Brady--who’s making his comeback and is trying to prove to the entire league and to a lot of fans and doubters that he is 100 percent back--you have to like that challenge. And we’re going to give him everything we have.

Thompson: The Jets players who have been there for a few years are familiar with Brady, and you have seen plenty of him from your days with the Bills. What can you possibly do to try to slow down a guy like Tom Brady?

Leonhard: I think you have try as hard as you can to confuse him, or at least give him different looks. A quarterback of that talent, if he knows the coverages, if he knows what you're giving him, you're in trouble. He’ll just sit back there and pick you apart. Just like any quarterback, you've got to try to put him on his back a few times, get him a little gun-shy or get him to speed some throws up. Because if he can sit back in that pocket, he's going to cause a lot of trouble for you.

Thompson: Let’s talk about your quarterback now, Mark Sanchez. He’s a guy coming out of college that I spotted as a guy that’s got the spunk, he's got the confidence, he’s got that "just go out and play" type of attitude that I thought was going to serve him well in the NFL. What have you noticed about Mark and about how quickly he's jumped into this role as your starting quarterback?

Leonhard: I think like you said, from day one you could tell he had a presence about him. There's something about him that not everyone has, and he’s really done a great job of learning this offense. You could see that in the confidence he played with last week. He played with that confidence the entire offseason and training camp. We’re looking forward to big things--obviously, we know there are going to be ups and downs, and he is going to hit some speed bumps--but that’s where we feel like defensively we can bail him out. We feel like he can rely on us, he can put things on our shoulders rather than really trying to go out there and win games on offense.

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A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com.

P.S. sorry for the recent lack of posts!