NFL Media's Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense -- just football experiences directly from the source.
Linebacker, Carolina Panthers
Born: March 22, 1983
Experience: 13 NFL seasons
For me, I really can't see me playing past the 2018 season. This will definitely be my last year coming up. One of the reasons is I want to continue my contractual obligations. I signed on for a one-year extension, and I want to complete that. I've never been a guy to quit anything and I'm not going to start doing that now.
Even bigger than that: My kids are getting older. As a father, I want to be able to spend as much time with them as I possibly can -- and being an NFL player, that's not always the case.
Super Bowl ring. That's it. That's the reason why you play this game. It's not about the money. It's not about being famous. It's about competing with your teammates and going out and winning a ring. That's eluded me for 13 years now.
If you take [the Saints'] running game away, then you're forcing a Hall of Fame quarterback to be himself. That's kind of what we did in our last game. We took the running game away and Drew Brees threw for over 300 yards against us. That's one of the things that makes them so hard to defend because you really can't force them to become one-dimensional.
One of the things you have to do against the Vikings is have success running the ball, which is hard to do. You gotta maintain drives and keep their defense on the field because they have a very explosive offense. If you look at Case Keenum and the way he's played this year, getting the ball to (Adam) Thielen and [Stefon] Diggs, who are dangerous on the outside -- if you allow them to get into a rhythm, it's going to make for a long day for your defense.
I have a Super Bowl prediction of Minnesota vs. New England. I think Minnesota [will win[. If they can get past the Divisional Round, I think they have a really good chance.
It's the competitive balance that we have across the board [in the NFC South]. I don't think we have a whole lot of time focusing on other teams in the NFC because we understand that our division is so good. If you're able to win our division, you have a really good chance of going on and having a long playoff run. That's the mindset we take in that division. We have to be competitive in it and it's across the board. We fully expect Tampa to be better than their record showed this year, but they're a team that's definitely on the rise, as well.
Every time we play [a division rival], you feel like it's a playoff game. You know that it has huge implications. If you look at this year, the division wasn't decided until Week 17.
Other than obvious God-given talent, I think that really separates Luke [Kuechly] from everybody else is his ability to take advantage of time. He watches more film than anybody that I've ever seen. He applies himself week in and week out, and he knows what the offense is about to do before they actually do it. His ability and willingness to study.
We watch about two to three hours of film as a defense a day. After we leave and go home at 4:30 p.m., Luke usually doesn't leave the facility until about 9 o'clock at night. That's every Wednesday and Thursday.
I really feel like our linebacker room is really like a brotherhood. We really take care of each other and really look out for each other. It's not a situation where you have guys who are feuding for playing time or that are going back and forth at each other. We really care for one another.
Not having Coach [Sean] McDermott's presence [in Carolina this year] was definitely different because we've been with him for so long. He was that fiery guy in the building and, first and foremost, he was a guy who loved the Lord and coached that way. He was a great motivator and that's one of the biggest things you noticed about when Coach McDermott wasn't there. I'm not saying that [DC Steve] Wilks wasn't, because he did a great job at doing those things, as well, but it was one of those things you really missed about him.
Not at all. I fully expected [McDermott] to go in and be successful. When you look at Buffalo's roster, especially on the defensive side, they had a number of players that I felt like were definitely capable of running the style of defense we ran in Carolina. It showed up. That defense played really well this year, and I was definitely surprised to see Marcell Dareus go. All in all, they fared well.
Selfishly, we would love to keep Coach Wilks around. It's always good having someone around who you're really familiar with and who knows our defense inside and out. I think Coach Wilks is a guy who genuinely cares about his players, but at the same time, you want to see him have that opportunity. Coach Wilks made it loud and clear that the opportunity [of interviewing for head-coaching jobs] has come about for him because of what we've been able to do on the football field as players. We're definitely excited about the possibilities for him. He's definitely a head coach-worthy guy.
The biggest thing with our football team is being more consistent. We had games where we dominated from beginning to end. Then we had games where we struggled that we shouldn't have struggled in. That's really the biggest key for us. Adding a few pieces will help us out. When you lose a No. 1 receiver like Kelvin Benjamin like we did -- it didn't completely hurt us because we had guys step up and they played big for us -- but adding another veteran receiver in the room and another linebacker to help Luke and Shaq (Thompson) and (David) Mayo and those guys out will definitely help us. It'll make us a better football team.
Yes, Mr. Richardson. That's the rightful owner of the team and that's somebody who, across the board as players, we still wished owned the team.
I'm very impressed with Roquan Smith and I've gotten the chance to watch this guy play a lot. I can't say that he's going to [declare for the NFL Draft] because he hasn't come out yet, but I think he's going to. I'm very impressed with what he does. Kind of plays it like we play it: sideline to sideline. The moment's not too big for him, and he's never afraid to make the hit. I definitely think that Roquan is a guy who stands out to me.
Mike Minter was one of them [who took me under his wing early in my career]. Mike Rucker was one. Julius Peppers was another. There were a bunch of guys who looked out for me as a rookie.
One of the things that kind of stuck with me as a young player being a first-round pick was knowing you're drafted on your potential and what you can do. There's going to come a time when people stop saying what you can do and start saying that you can't do things if you don't apply yourself and don't do what you're supposed to when it's time to play. That's one of the pieces of advice I got from Mike Minter that stuck with me to this day.
Every guy that comes in, I try to share as much information or knowledge as I can, being a veteran guy, whether it's from a family standpoint, financial standpoint or just overall football tips. I'm always trying to help out.