Q. For the first time in five years this team is not going to the postseason. Is there emptiness here today?
A. Yeah, that is a good word to describe the feeling. We had kind of built an identity there for the last five years as far as being a team to be reckoned with in the postseason in some shape, form or fashion. Obviously this year we didn’t get the job done. It will be an opportunity for us to get away from football for a little bit and reflect and rest up and come back next year.
Q. Are you embarrassed by these last couple weeks?
A. Yeah, absolutely.
Q. Does leadership need to change in any regard with players or coaches?
A. I think we have great leadership actually. I just feel like we need to do a better job of leading by example. I think sometimes we try to be too nice and not say anything that might ruffle a feather here or there. Obviously we need to evaluate that and I guess be more hands-on approach with it.
Q. How did 5-0 become 8-8?
A. Well, the last 11 games we only won three and we lost eight.
Q. That makes sense mathematically but what about the other aspect?
A. I don’t know. You try to reflect back and look and see where things might have gone wrong or if I had done this or if we would have done this or this decision cost us or whatever it might be. The fact of the matter is we just didn’t get the job done the last 11weeks and like I said we have the whole offseason to look back and reflect back and think about what we could have done differently. It’s funny, I listen to a lot of people and listen to a lot of things people say. A couple days ago somebody told me sometimes you have to fall all the way down or go all the way back to start going forward. I use the analogy of shooting a bow and arrow. If you ever pull a bow back and pull it halfway, the arrow doesn’t go as far as it can. If you pull it all the way back, that arrow flies for days if you shoot it the right way. I am encouraged with that fact that I don’t think anybody quit, I don’t think anybody is not embarrassed about it. If you weren’t embarrassed about how we played, that is when I worry about you and think people don’t care. I talked to some guys, talked to some coaches and guys are really embarrassed about it and I am actually glad they are because you should be.
Q. Is there something that you would like to re-plant on this team going forward from the previous playoff teams here?
A. I don’t know. Obviously you would like to transplant our run defense, our defense in general. I can’t speak for the offense but I know defensively this was probably one of the worst feelings I have had in my five years now of being part of this defense. You look up in this facility of all the names that flow above us and see all the great defensive players and know the great defenses that they have been apart of. We all strive to be like that and we all want to leave a legacy here that says I was part of that 2010 defense that carried this football team to a world championship. If I was going to transfer anything from those teams, it would just be how we approach playing defense. I didn’t see the swagger that we had from previous years this year especially after the New Orleans loss. The first five games I think we played pretty good on defense but after those first five, I don’t know if we started feeling ourselves more than we should have or if we thought we were better than what we were. But we didn’t play that quality of defense that we have come accustomed to.
Q. Did that New Orleans game take away from your confidence defensively you think?
A. I think it took a little bit, but you don’t make excuses for it. We had the opportunity to come back the next week and get it right back. That has happened before. Super Bowl year we were 0-2, giving up 40 points a game and that didn’t take our confidence away. So, I don’t think the Saints game had an effect on us as much as people like to give it credit.
Q. Are people angry?
A. I can only speak for myself. I am. Embarrassed keeps coming to mind. It is hard for me to look guys in the face knowing how we finished this season. As bad as it is, there is always a shining light somewhere. We’ve got to do our best to take this offseason and think about it. I think this season itself can be a great motivation leading up until next year. I want my teammates and my coaches to remember how this feels because I don’t care who you are or what profession you are in, you don’t want to have the season we’ve had. As far as knowing the opportunities being there and having the players and coaching staff and the system in place, like we did. We, I am not going to say underachieved, I just feel like we left a lot of opportunity out there where we could have really made some noise this year and didn’t. For whatever reason it may be.
Q. Are you unhappy with effort?
A. I am still undecided. I don’t think so. As bad as we played, it’s funny, you still saw guys running to the ball. We still saw guys practicing hard in practice. Could it have been better? Sure. But I don’t think that is something to be concerned about, I guess.
Q. How would the challenge to rebound from this season change if you are forced to deal with a new defensive coordinator?
A. Change is always tough. I don’t want to get into anything about he said, she said, as far as what is going to happen with our coordinator. If they do decide to make a change or whatever it may be, that would be difficult because obviously it is another person to get used, maybe, possibly another scheme. It’s part of the NFL, we understand that if not the biggest, one of the biggest businesses in the world. Obviously, everybody is held to a higher standard, especially here. We expect to be in the running for a championship every year. When that doesn’t happen, you’ve got to look at yourself and look at the people around you. I am speaking as far as staff. You make a decision for whatever it may be, we will deal with it when the time comes.
Q. The team has said you are going to have surgery. Is that something that will happen soon?
A. It will happen very soon actually.
Q. Are you dreading it?
A. I don’t think that anybody is looking forward to surgery. I played with it all year. It was something that was hampering so we made the decision to go ahead and fix it now.
Q. How long is the recovery period?
A. I am not sure, but knowing me, I will come back a little bit before I am supposed to anyway. We will do it right and really focus on strengthening it before we do anything else.
Q. How much did that bother you this year?
A. I can just say that I wasn’t the player I was last year. Take that for what it is. It bothered me. I can’t put a percentage on it, but there were a lot of things that I wanted to do that the shoulder wouldn’t allow me to.
Q. Was it an issue of strength or range of motion?
A. Both. Confidence.
Q. Were you always in danger of injuring much worse?
A. That sling, the harness they put me in prevented me from hurting it in certain situations. In the speed of this game and the collisions we incur there were times when I broke that thing. Every play you have an opportunity, especially at the position that I play, at re-injuring it. When you get on the football field you forget about it most of the time until you really bang it up. Then you feel that pain all the way down your left side. But, for the most part, I didn’t feel it until after the game.
Q. When you said that maybe people were a little too nice and didn’t say enough, did you mean that in the meeting room, between players, to coaches?
A. I mean that in all sense of the words, on the practice field, in the meeting room, whatever it may be. I was speaking about myself and the other leaders on this football team.
Q. Do you reach out to Michael Strahan at all?
A. We talk.
Q. What kind of advice has he offered?
A. We haven’t talked about that in a while. The thing about me is that it is tough for me to say something to a guy or I guess lead a guy when I see something going on when I can’t lead by example. Because of the injuries this year I didn’t feel like I had a right to kind of say some of the things that I wanted to say because I couldn’t practice 100 percent and I couldn’t do the things that I wanted to do to kind of lead this team by example. For me, personally, it is tough to jump on some other guys for what he is doing when I am not able to do it myself.
Q. Do you think that Osi (Umenyiora) might have went through that as well coming back from a surgery?
A. Yeah, it is tough. Football is a hard game and we know that everyone is going out there and giving it their best. I know for a fact that some of the younger guys look at us as far as how we carry ourselves around here and how we go about practice and whatever it may be in the meeting room. When you are coming off an injury and whatever my level is at 100 percent, if I am not at that level it is hard for me to start criticizing other people for whatever level they are at. I want to be playing at my all-time high all the time before I say anything to somebody else on where they might be.
Q. Next year when you are 100 percent it might be easier for you to do?
A. I hope so. I think it is needed. Not just from me. This team has been great when we had leadership by committee. The years Strahan was here, obviously he was a focal point of leadership but you still had guys like Antonio (Pierce), (Amani) Toomer and Tiki (Barber), when he was here. Eli is coming into his own as a leader. I think we just have to do a better job as a group of leaders. That is when you start to see changes as far as how the young guys kind of approach certain situations.