Q: How are OTAs going?
JOHNSON: “It’s going great. Just the same as off-season training. OTAs are the same every year with a new vision. Every team is different. Every year is different. It’s a special excitement every time, personally, I step out on the field. I’m excited for this year.”
Q: How do these voluntary sessions get you ready for next week and then training camp?
JOHNSON: “Well, the voluntary workouts get you ready for training camp and we will get four weeks or so off after this session is over. We’ll go back and workout and be ready for training camp physical condition-wise. Mentally, this is the time to get everything down so that when we get to training camp, we can move faster mentally on the field so we can show up pretty quick.”
Q: When does the ‘defensive swagger’ begin?
JOHNSON: “It’s the potential of the defense that the swagger has just because adding an extra rusher, another athlete to the bunch, but training camp tells a lot. Right now it’s kind of hard to tell what we have because we are just running around in our shorts and helmet. You separate the men from the boys when you put on the pads. You’ll see early, in training camp what we have.”
Q: With Bob Sutton as the defensive coordinator, how comfortable do you feel going into season?
JOHNSON: “I feel very confident, a lot more confident than last year. Last year, we were just putting this crazy system in. I call it crazy because it’s very exotic with blitzes coming from everywhere. I have a lot of responsibility in this defense. It’s fun and at the same time this year is different because I know it. It’s the first part of our install of plays. I’m not even writing anything down just because I know it already. It helps me to move out here fast on the field during this time. Of course, as we get later in to our installs and put plays I’ll have to do more notes, but at this time there are not very many notes for me because it’s the same defense as last year. It’s early right now.”
Q: How do you marry the two concepts of having the same goal and new vision?
JOHNSON: “It’s the nature of the beast, the business. Even though we’ve got the same nucleus of players, this year’s a different team so the vision is different. Our focus is more about that family atmosphere. Just different words are thrown around differently from last year to this year, but the same goals. We’re trying to win it all. The chemistry is a lot better than it was last year obviously because the coaching staff has come back. I can’t wait and the reason is for coach. He’s going to have us ready.”
Q: How much does the offense help out the defense this year now that they are more advanced?
JOHNSON: “Right now, defensively we are pounded about getting more interceptions and more turnovers.
Q: How was today different in terms of getting your hands on more balls?
JOHNSON: “You know, they come in bunches they say. We definitely don’t want to get discouraged when we don’t have a lot of picks or don’t knock the ball down. Today, we had a lot of PBUs. Myself, I had a couple of PBUs. We just have to get on the Jugs (machine) a little bit more so I can catch the ball.”
Q: What’s it been like playing next to
JOHNSON: “Joe brings that physicality to the game that I love, especially for our mike backers. He’s a guy that’s been in the league and very proven. People know Joe Mays around the league that he’ll probably knock your head off. So, to have him next to me, he’s a smart guy too. We talk a lot. Our chemistry is great and I can’t wait to put the pads on and make a couple assist tackles with him. It’ll be good.”
Q: What is this different team vision you talk about?
JOHNSON: “When I say the vision, it means different words are getting thrown differently this year. Family has been the biggest word that I’ve heard this year.”
Q: What was last year’s word?
JOHNSON: “I can’t even remember. It’s one of those things where I got hit in the head too many times so I can’t remember what happened last year, but this year it’s a family word that’s getting thrown around. That camaraderie and that chemistry that we need and is making us like a family and looking out for our brothers—that’s the vision for this year.”
Q: How’s your diet going?
DEVITO: “It’s going really well. You can feel it, you can tell, huge difference. I feel like I can move a lot better and my wind, I feel like I can have a lot more energy out there. So, you can tell even changing just a couple of pounds that the muscle has been good.”
Q: How many pounds?
DEVITO: “I’m probably about the same weight I was anywhere between 305 and 310, but I think my body fat is way down. It has made a real difference and if you can feel it out here in OTAs, I’m sure I’ll keep it up in training camp even better.”
Q: At this point in your career, how much is this about keeping your body in peak condition?
DEVITO: “That’s a huge challenge. You know what I mean? Your body wants to start to go down so it’s always a fight about keeping yourself healthy and keeping yourself strong and fast and all of those things. You’re right because you’ve got the techniques and obviously you’re going to learn, but you’ve got that stuff pretty much on and now it’s about keeping your body in shape.”
Q: Are you seeing any difference from this year to last year as far as the defensive schemes?
DEVITO: “Bob will throw in a wrinkle here and there, but I think for the most part it’s been about keeping the same stuff that we were doing from last year which is good. It gives everybody a chance to get your ‘master’s degree’ if you know what I mean. Now you can play a step faster and you can learn the minute details of the defense.”
Q: How does
DEVITO: “Great. You can see his ability to get off on the ball makes me a little jealous. He can fly off that rock and is already picking up the defense which is difficult because there’s a lot to it. He’s a smart player and you can tell he loves football which is a great thing.”
Q: Do you veterans act as coaches to all the new faces?
DEVITO: “It does help, no question, when a lot of the starters and the other guys that have been around the defense now for a year. It’s easier for us to relay that to the younger guys and teach the younger guys because we’re not trying to pick it up as well. It does have a ripple effect to the second and third groups.”
Q: Do you see this as an armed and dangerous defense?
DEVITO: “That’s definitely what we’re going for. We’ve got the guys to do it. We want to be the team nobody wants to play against. That’s our goal and we’ve got to continue to build that mentality and that culture and that’s a big emphasis during training camp.”
Q: Do you want that attitude to start in training camp?
DEVITO: “It starts now, but once you get the pads on you can start really letting it rip. That’s when you start to see it flourish.”
Q: How do you balance self-preservation and mentoring the younger guys?
DEVITO: “It’s funny because when I first got in the league, there were a lot of older guys. They took me right under their wing and helped me out. I’m taking that same approach. I’m going to continue to help guys out and do my best to mentor them because I can handle what I do on the field. Me helping someone else out or not isn’t going to make or break that. I’m always going to mentor and help guys out.”
Q: How much growth have you seen from
DEVITO: “It’s unbelievable that jump he’s made from last year to this year. Usually you see a guy put on 10-15 pounds slow down a bit. It’s not the case. He’s more explosive and faster than ever. Mike’s going to be a dangerous weapon and I’m glad we have him on our side.”
Q: The way you talk about Mike Catapano, you sound very self-secure. A lot of insecure people would be reluctant to help the younger guys.
DEVITO: “I’m sure you see that some places. But I feel like I’ve never really seen it happen with the teams I’ve been with. I don’t know what kind of benefit you get from that. I think you always want to try to reach out and help guys out.”
Q: You can probably relate a little bit to Catapano?
DEVITO: “Because we’re Italian?”
Q: Going from NCAA Div. I-AA or FCS now, and him going from an Ivy League school to the NFL and what the process has been like making that switch?
DEVITO: “Sometimes we ask him, ‘What were you thinking? You could have made this money with your brain but you’re out here killing yourself.’ But yeah, he’s made the jump and he made it a lot faster than I did. Like I saw with Dontari (Poe) last year, you just see something in these guys, there’s something special there. I see that with Mike now.”
Q: Now that you’ve been around it for a while, how does this locker room compare to others you’ve been around in the NFL?
DEVITO: “You know I was so impressed with it last year. Coming off a 2-14 year, to come in here and see how close guys were. You see something like that, you come in here and expect it to be shattered. But when I got here for OTAs last year, guys were so close. This is a great locker room – the best I’ve been around. And that’s a huge asset during the season when you have so many highs and so many lows, that foundation of us as a family is really important.”
Q: Is it the players or the coaches that create that environment?
DEVITO: “I really think it’s both. I think the coaches bring a culture and a philosophy and I think the players buy into it. But I think in that locker room it’s about relationships, not just on the field, but off the field as well.”