For a linebacker, Rey Maualuga doesn't come off as particularly defensive.
On the field, he is just that: Maualuga posted 75 tackles, one sack and two interceptions for the 4-12 Cincinnati Bengals in his second season. But off the field, in response to some sharp criticism from Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer -- he told the team's official website that Maualuga's sophomore season was "extremely average" -- the linebacker was only constructive in remarks to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
"Now is my time to step it up and prove people wrong," Maualuga told the newspaper Saturday. "I can't be some random dude walking around the locker rooms anymore."
Drafted out of USC with the 38th overall pick in 2009, Maualuga didn't appear to take exception to Zimmer's comments.
"I think this organization expected a lot out of me when I first stepped foot in this place," Maualuga said. "Then again, I expected a lot out of myself as well. It's like you ask the fan sitting out in the stands what stood out from Rey this year, and I'm sure people won't say as much. They will say I made a play here or there. I'm not satisfied with how I performed."
Despite his criticism, Zimmer acknowledged that, with linebacker Dhani Jones expected to become a free agent, the team is preparing to move Maualuga to the middle linebacker. The new role is one Maualuga says he is ready to embrace in his third season.
"I need to start becoming a leader and the person I want to be, and then everything will fall into place. I can't sit here and wait," Maualuga said. "It's my third year in, and it's time to step it up, wake up and play. Things don't get handed to you, you have to grab it."