Every player has to mentally push himself at some point during an NFL season, but Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget had to do it more often than he would have liked last year.
Liuget -- who signed a five-year contract extension in 2015 worth roughly $51 million -- suffered a foot injury before training camp began, re-aggravated it in camp, and then played through an injured knee during the regular season before going on the reserve-injured list in mid-December.
This year is a different story. Now in his sixth NFL season, Liuget is healthy, confident and lighter, having dropped 15 pounds over the summer.
"[Last season] I had to tell myself, 'Your leg is okay, your foot is alright, you'll make it,'" Liuget said. "It's there. You can use it. It might hurt from time to time, but you can use it.
"[Now] I'm able to be explosive. I'm able to plant that foot in the ground and go."
Even with the injuries last season, Liuget led all Chargers defensive linemen with 35 tackles, three sacks and seven tackles for loss through 11 games before being placed on IR. This training camp, he's picked up right where he left off -- just stronger and more confident.
"He looks a lot more explosive," said teammate Manti Te'o, who trained with Liuget in Hawaii this past offseason. "He's able to react the way he wants to react. He feels great, he's more ready than he's ever been.
"I'm very pleased, especially since he's right in front of me, that he's moving the way he's moving."
Liuget stuck to a strict diet in the offseason to help enter camp at a lighter weight after he said he "ballooned out" last season.
"This year, I’m definitely taking care of myself better," the 6-2 Miami native said. "I'm making sure I do the little things that keep me on the field, keep me in shape.
"Playing a little lighter, losing roughly about 14, 15 pounds -- it's definitely showing right now in the first couple days on the football field. I feel better, I definitely feel more elusive and a little quicker off the ball, too. It helped me out tremendously. I just got to keep working, maintaining to stay at this weight."
Even if that means staying away from the spaghetti.
"I walk into the [cafeteria] and I see guys tearing up the pasta, tearing up the chicken and I'm like, 'Man, let me just go to the vegetables and have a little salad and what not," he said, laughing.
With the addition of nose tackle Brandon Mebane in the offseason, Liuget is hopeful the defensive line, which struggled last season, is off to a strong 2016.
"Having him in there is going to help me out tremendously, and help us out when it comes to stopping the run," Liuget said.
Added offensive lineman D.J. Fluker: "Corey is a great player, but I think [Mebane] is going to help take his game to a whole 'nother level."
Lighter Liuget. Brighter year.