MS: It’s an exciting time. The beginning of a new year is always very exciting as you integrate new players. Obviously, there’s been a lot of change around here this offseason. [Head Strength and Conditioning Coach] Moses Cabrera has done a tremendous job preparing us physically, so that’s been really exciting and then to get on the field and see the hard work in action, so to speak, has been great. You asked, ‘Do we think we’re where we need to be and what not?’ It’s really too soon to tell. I really think we just have to attack each day as its own, take it one day at a time, and realize that we’re a long ways off from being a competitive football team at this point. So, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.
Q: How do you see the rule changes to the kickoff affecting the game?
MS: There’s a lot of speculation as to the future of the kickoff. I know this year I think it’s going to be interesting to see how teams approach it because [the touchback] just gives the team the ball on the 25 [yard line]. That changes field position quite a bit. It seems like just five yards but it’s going to be interesting to see how we approach it and how other teams approach it, and I’m very disappointed obviously in the way that we’re discussing the future of the kickoff. The kickoff is a big part of the history of the NFL and the history of football and for us to be sitting here talking about maybe doing away with the kickoff; it’s very disappointing. I can think about days all the way back to watching my dad when he played with the Rams and thinking of returners like Ron Brown and people of that nature that made a career out of doing this. You think about Steve Tasker and his impact on the game of football, Bill Bates, the list goes on. The kicking game has meant a lot to the game of football and to a lot of players individually and it’s enabled guys to have careers. You think about Larry Izzo, you think about myself. Without the kicking game we don’t have a career. I’m very disappointed in some of the things I hear in regards to getting rid of the kickoff. I surely hope that’s not the case. I hope that’s not the direction that we’re moving in but we’ll see.
Q: There’s been some speculation that by moving the ball to the 25-yard line on a touchback it may increase the amount of kicks returned. What do you think about that? Read
MS: It might backfire. We’ll see, we’ll see. I don’t know how other teams are going to approach it, and quite honestly I don’t know how we’re going to approach it yet. Right now we’re just practicing our techniques the same way we would as if it was last year. So, we’ll see but I certainly think there’s a possibility that a lot of coaches are not just going to want to hand teams the ball on the 25-yard line. So, we’ll see.
Q: Why is that extra five yards such a big deal?
MS: That’s a half of another first down and moving that thing up, that field position is so big. I’m not 100 percent familiar with the numbers but I think drives that start at the 25 certainly do end in scoring more often that drives that start at the 20 or behind that. Football to the common fan, they may not understand this, but it’s a game of field position. Field positon is big in the game of football and if you’re just handing some of the great quarterbacks in this league an extra five yards I think it certainly changes the game. I certainly don’t want to give Tom Brady the ball on the 25-yard line. I’d rather him have it on the 20 if I’m playing against him or behind the 20. Field position is huge in this game and you’re adding an additional five percent of the field to the offense. I don’t feel like that’s the best thing for the game. I understand that they’re trying to do what’s best in terms of health and safety and I respect that. I’m obviously our union rep here so I think that there is nothing more important than the health and safety of our players, but I do not think that the kickoff is a hazard that we need to be thinking about getting rid of.
Q: Is the other part of the equation the fact that now the kickoff coverage team has the ability to try and pin the team inside of the 20-yard line? Read
MS: Certainly, and I obviously have strong feelings about it because of what guys like myself are able to do, but you’re certainly taking away from – you think about how many times last year Brandon King ran down and made plays inside the 10, [Nate] Ebner making plays inside the 10 or inside the 20. That’s a weapon for a football team when you have players like that. So, I think it’s certainly taking away from – if you get rid of the kickoff – it’s taking away from what some of those cover guys are able to bring to the game of football.
Q: As a union member what do make of the amicus briefs being filed recently in regards to Tom Brady’s ongoing case?
MS: Well, without going too deep into that, it’s a very complicated situation. There are a lot of layers to it and there are a lot of layers that even I don’t understand and don’t see so I don’t think it’d be right for me to give a comment on that. I will say, as I’ve said several times in the past, that we support Tom. We stand by him. He’s been nothing but a great teammate and a great leader for this football team. I understand this is a difficult situation for various different reasons and we’ll just have to see how it plays itself out. But I know the guys in that locker room – we support Tom and we’re just going to continue to work hard and focus on the things that we can control. A lot of that situation is out of our control and we can’t spend time worrying about, ‘This court, that court’, because we don’t understand that. We don’t have the full knowledge and understanding of what’s going on so all I’ll say is we support Tom and we’re just going to continue to work the way we have been. However it plays out, it plays out.
Q: How closely have you followed Nate Ebner’s pursuit of rugby since he’s been away from the team?
MS: Well, I was definitely on Nate even before the season ended knowing that his contract was up and I obviously wanted him back selfishly, because he enables me to do a lot of the things that I do on the football field. I’d say Nate is one of the hardest working, just great energy, and overall best players that I’ve played with during my time here in New England and I have so much respect for Nate Ebner as a football player. As far as what he’s going to potentially do here this summer, how awesome is that? How many guys can say they won a Super Bowl and played in the Olympics? So, we support him 100 percent. I hate the Google machine and I always check out – he got blown up there a couple of weeks ago. I had to send him a text and be like, ‘Hey man, we can’t get you hurt out there’, but we’re certainly excited for him and what he’s doing. We support him 100 percent. I’ve got to get a jersey of my guy and represent him, but what a unique opportunity that is. We’re all proud of him and the opportunity that he has.
Q: How impressive is it for a guy like Malcom Brown to be able to step into a leadership role in just his second season?
MS: Well, I think Malcom, he was a unique young guy last year. He came in with a sense of maturity about himself that you don’t often see out of a young player and it’s no surprise that he’s stepping up and leading now. I think he has a great demeanor about himself that kind of guys are drawn to him. He works extremely hard and he’s very productive on the field and all those things result in some form of leadership and guys are going to look to him, and I think that he’s handled that responsibility well. We have a number of young players that have stepped up with the changes that we’ve had, as we do every year, and are doing a great job of leadership. So, Malcom along with several other young guys are stepping up and leading and that’s what we need if we want to end up where we want to be. Read