The Carolina game was a tough one to lose. There were plenty of times that we felt we could and should win. There just weren't enough big plays on our part. We didn't control the pace as we should have. It was frustrating and demoralizing. The plane ride home seemed very long.
I thought that the defense played pretty well on Sunday, but any time that your team loses, it means that you haven't played well enough to win. There isn't a player on this team who likes that situation. I had some pretty good plays, but again, I think that there is a lot of room for improvement. Once I've looked at the game films, I'll have a much better idea of where I can be doing a better job.
Nobody will have trouble getting up mentally for the game against Tampa. It's a nationally televised night game, and it's our final appearance in front of the crowd in Champaign. Also, everybody wants to make a good impression on the coaches. We know that they will be watching the game films during the off season deciding who will continue to play and who won't. It's always good to leave them with a very positive impression.
Looking ahead to the off season, the things that I am going to be concentrating on are my speed and my strength. Everybody in this league plays at an extremely high level. To keep up with them, you have to be very sharp physically. A lot of time in the weight room would help me quite a bit.
Much of the rookie year is spent just familiarizing yourself with the overall system. You have to learn the plays. That takes a tremendous amount of time and effort. You need to become acquainted with your teammates. So much of this game depends on the proper communication. If you can't anticipate what the guy next to you on the line is going to do, you could be in big trouble.
This first year, it's also necessary to mature as a person, and to learn to handle things on your own. By that, I mean becoming acquainted with life in the NFL. There's a lot going on that takes your attention, and there are constant demands on your time. You need to learn how to deal with the media and with the fans. It's a matter pacing yourself, setting priorities, and not getting distracted.
I know that I'll look back on this season with mixed feelings. It's been a time to get a lot of game experience, more than rookies with other teams have had. That's one of the few positive aspects of all the injuries. Untested players have had to step up. As a group, we should be ready to play at a higher level. It's been frustrating to lose, but it's also been a bonding experience. We are still in this together, giving it our all each and every game. Hopefully, we'll come back next year as a very positive force.