What’s the secret for you staying in the league for 10 years?
“Just maintenance, I have learned a lot along the way about taking care of your body, stuff like that. It keeps you young hanging around these guys. I have four kids of my own so they have to keep me young too.”
Are you excited to get out here and get your legs loose?
“Yes, the first few days, we have been out of football so what we have been doing for the last few months is kind of awkward. Your body feels kind of awkward, but now I feel like I am playing football again. My legs are getting back under me. The biggest thing I think for me is running the plays. It’s one thing to sit in the meetings and kind of know what the chalkboard says, but when you actually go out and run it, that’s when you really learn and it becomes your own, so I am out here doing that this week.”
What is it like to be in a room with guys like Drew Brees and Tom Brady?
“You have to be on it because they are. And those types of quarterbacks really challenge the whole offense to raise their play to another level because they are able to do so much. There is a lot on a quarterback like Drew Brees or a Tom Brady or a Manning, these are quarterbacks that can kind of orchestrate the game under center and get you out of bad situations. So, on offense as a tight end you have to be ready for any possibility, and so a new player makes it a little tougher sometimes because you have to learn so much. But, they do a good job of breaking everything down and building you up to a place where you can be confident to go out and play.”
How much do you feel like teams won’t know what to expect from this offense when you and Jimmy Graham are on the field?
“It can play out a lot of different ways, offensive football a lot of the times is about mismatches whether it’s two tight ends, two running backs, empty, or all wide receivers, you want to be able to disguise what you do. I think one aspect of this offense is before we line up we kind of blitz the defense in a way and to kind of give them different looks. As far as Jimmy and I go, I am here to help this team win in any way possible and if that means coming out and both of us playing tight end creating those mismatches on linebacker and safety that would be great.”
How is it with a new team and missing the offseason?
“It’s definitely an acclamation process, and again, especially by missing the offseason as far as being able to go out and actually run the plays there is an acclamation process, getting your legs underneath you. I haven’t played football since last December, our last game in Cleveland. The training staff here and the coaches do a good job of what you can handle and increasing your workload every day. The biggest hurdle I think is learning what to do and be confident in what you are doing. Each day I am getting better, each day I am hearing the plays come out of Drew’s (Brees) mouth at the speed of light and trying to remember what to do, but the more I hear them, the more second nature they become.”
In what way do you and Jimmy (Graham) help each other?
“A funny thing about football, you end up having more conversations about non-football issues than football, and that’s the great thing about being in this setting where you are with these guys all the time. You end up talking about stuff that’s not football related, you talk about the fact that I have a wife and four kids and he is single and what would that look like for him one day or maybe not one day. What are the pitfalls? What are the good things? What are the bad things? You start to grow together; all of us in our tight end group are starting to gel. And then on the football end, I remember coming into the league and there was a guy named Daniel Graham, Christian Fauria in New England, and those were the guys that kind of taught me what it meant to be a pro. Obviously, Jimmy is at a place where he’s athletically gifted and he’s an awesome player, he really is. But, he wants to know how have you played this long? What are some things to take care of your body? What are those things that I am going to look to when I get in my seventh or eighth year so those are some of the things we talk about as well.”
Your reputation is that you are a good locker room guy, how important is that?
“With the teams that I have been on that have been successful (all of them) had a good locker room. They had veteran players who were professionals, who came to work every day when they didn’t feel like it and they were hurting. But, they were able to set a good example. They had guys that were willing to sacrifice sometimes and it wasn’t always about them, maybe it was about the team. They kind of set the tone. I just learned from guys, I just learned from guys like I talked about Daniel Graham, Teddy Bruschi, and Tom Brady and all of those guys that I looked up to when I was a rookie and I was coming into the league. They kind of set the tone in those locker rooms. So, a lot of success in football is obviously about the x’s and o’s, but a lot of that goes behind that to the discipline and how your locker room is.”
When you first got into the National Football League, did you picture yourself being in the league this long?
“No, not at all. I say all the time, I remember feeling like, man if I can make it five years I’ll be happy. My first year I had an ACL injury. I had MCL’s. I had concussions. I had all these ankle injuries and everything. My first five years I had a lot of those things. It’s one of those things where God opens a door and you keep walking through it until he closes it and moves you somewhere else. If he would have closed it after five years that would have been great. It’s been 10 years so he obviously wants me to continue playing football. He opened a door for me to come to the New Orleans Saints, so I know that my family and I are here for a reason because he has us here and just keep walking until he brings something else for me.”
Do you see similarities with the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots?
“Yes, I have been here (only) a short time, but I have also talked to guys like David Thomas and Heath Evans, guys who have played here and actually came (over here) from New England. Coach (Sean) Payton will tell you that a lot of our organization we model after the New England Patriots with the success that they had. Obviously, (he does things) with his own spin on things, but there are certain tenants of a good football team that you copycat around the league. So, yeah there are definitely some similarities, but Coach Payton has done a good job putting his own spin on it and he’s a great coach in his own right.”