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Chiefs DL Mike Catapano: "I feel like I've had a fire ignited inside of me."

After a missed season, the third-year defensive lineman appears to have the right mindset heading into training camp


Better is not the word.

That's his answer.

The question is one that has been asked to Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Mike Catapano dozens of times since last season, one he said Thursday he missed because of a compound between virus and concussion symptoms during training camp.

Mike, how are you feeling?

The Chiefs placed Catapano on the injured reserve list on September 22, 2014, ending his season the day after their third game against the Miami Dolphins. He had yet to play a snap and of course, now wouldn't.  

In a year hindered by early injuries, he was another casualty. Mirroring the seasons of Mike DeVito, Derrick Johnson and Jeff Allen, he was forced to watch as his teammates played out the year knowing he wouldn't touch the football.

"Of course, it breaks your heart," Catapano confessed. "These are my teammates out there and I want to be out there fighting with them and helping them any way that I can. This sport has been the love of my life since I was 8 years old, so of course it broke my heart."

But the thing was, Catapano, while acknowledging the heartbreak, refused to let the unfortunate situation break him.

He started by snubbing any idea of feeling sorry for himself and forgot about what he couldn't control.

Instead, in his own words, he "flicked a switch."

"I said 'You know what? I have time now to take my body to a whole level that it's never ever been on,'" he said. "So that has been the whole focus for this offseason. That has been the whole thing—turn this into a blessing that I never could have had unless this happened.

"Right now, my body is on a level that it never could have been without this time."

As the Chiefs are in the midst of Phase Two of the offseason, Catapano looks intimidating and visibly powerful. He weighs just more than 290 pounds now and appears poised to get back into what he sees as his niche—rushing the passer and making an impact in defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's subpackages.

DeVito, who has also returned from his season-ending injury and has been working with him every day, recently said that he feels Catapano might surprise some fans this season.

"Jaye (Howard) and Catapano, those are two guys, if they went to the Pro Bowl I wouldn't be shocked," he confidently told the media a few weeks back.

"Coming from him, there's no greater compliment," Catapano said. "I respect him more than any player in the game right now, so I hope to make him proud, but of course I believe that I'm capable of that."

Being able to overcome a negative situation is one thing, but Catapano did more than that. He successfully turned it into a positive due to his mindset. 

"I really believe that this maybe could have been the best thing that ever could have happened to me with the shape that I'm in," he said. "My mentality has never been stronger and I'm just ready to roll like I've never been before.

"I feel like I've had a fire ignited inside of me right now."

The moment he was cleared in the middle of the season, he began training as if camp was the following month and it paid off.

In February, Catapano tweeted this:

Well if better isn't the word, then what is?

Catapano had a couple.

"Fantastic. It's unbelievable, It's rocking and rolling," he said. "I just can't wait to get back out there and show all the hard work that I put in. All these guys are working hard, but I just can't wait to go out there and show it."

Technically speaking, Catapano has been in the midst of his offseason for eight months now, and that extension has triggered an inherent hunger.

"The offseason is fun and all, but I'm itching at the bit to get out there again."

Better is certainly not the word.

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