Rookie Diary: Bryan Kehl

‘Physically and athletically I'd put myself with any linebacker in the league'

That first game in Detroit was fast, big, strong, and physical for me. But above all, it was great to be out there playing the game I love. In camp you spend so much time hitting the same people; it was nice to hit someone with a different color jersey on, from a different team. I got to run around like a mad man, like a little kid and chase people down, hit them and tackle them.

I felt I did really well and the feedback I got from the coaches was pretty much right on to how I felt. I ran around and made plays. I messed up at times, but the mistakes were things that you can fix. The most encouraging thing is that I ran around and made plays. At the end of the day, I think it's a lot easier to correct the little mistakes that I made than to get somebody that's not a playmaker and try to turn him into a playmaker. I was encouraged that I was able to get some tackles and make some plays. (Kehl finished with four tackles and another on special teams.)

Finally getting into some game action after all that time practicing really helped. You always second-guess yourself as a rookie because the game is different. You go from absolutely dominating where you were before (BYU) and practicing and having film sessions and not ever getting used to messing up or having your coach harping on you. It's tough to go from that atmosphere and mentality to where you're now messing up every day. So it was great to go out there and succeed.

I don't have any doubt that I can get to that level in the NFL. Physically and athletically I'd put myself with any linebacker in the league. That's through tests at the Combine, where my numbers stacked up as good or better as any linebacker so I just have to get the mental part down.

For me, it's like starting back at the bottom of the totem pole again. It lets you know your place, you just go through it and pretty soon you'll be one of the older guys. I may only be a fourth-round pick but at the end of the day, the guys that make plays are the guys that make their mark. Our first-round pick, Kenny Phillips, is an awesome player. There are high expectations for him and he's lived up to them.

One really tough thing so far was seeing Jonathan (Goff) get hurt. It's frustrating to see any teammate get hurt. You just hope they can recover. Unfortunately, that's the name of the game, but hopefully he'll be back fast.

I'm pretty tight with all the linebackers so far and I'm just trying to be who I am here, and that's just a friend to everybody. All the veterans are great here. Guys are pointing things out to me every day and always offering advice.

I had already played some special teams in the Lions game but when I ran out onto the field for the first time on defense there was a TV timeout. R.W. McQuarters, someone I grew up watching, was standing there. He said, ‘hey, what game did you play in college?' I said, ‘football.' He said, ‘what game did you play in high school?' I said, ‘football.' He said, ‘hey, this is just football baby. Just go out there and play.' More than anything, he was just looking out for a young guy, which was very cool.

Anybody can see from looking at the depth chart with guys like Antonio and Kiwi at the other two spots, that playing on the weak side, which I do, is really a good place to be. We're all competitors so we're all going to compete and the best man will win the job. We're all going to do our best and fulfill whatever roles the team assigns us.

I don't have any lack of confidence in myself and my abilities. I stack my skills up with any linebackers, like I wrote before, but it's just a matter of a lot of those guys have experience and I'm lacking in that area. I just have to make up for that and do my best. If I'm a starter, great. If I'm second team, great. I'm just going to work my hardest and fulfill whatever assignment I get.

(Editor's note: If Kehl keeps making plays like he did late in camp, he'll be just fine. During evening practice on Aug. 15, Kehl closed practice by picking off an Anthony Wright pass and returning it 60 yards for a touchdown.)

I know I'm going to have to make an impact on special teams. I've always played special teams and I love it. I always played it in college every year and I love it. It's in my blood.

I know Kenny (Phillips) wrote last issue about the rookies having to sing for the veterans. We sure do have to stand up and sing. Five minutes before every meeting all the guys hit their cups. You just sit there hoping that you're not the one called out. Sometimes you get off the hook and sometimes you get nabbed. It's kind of funny. You can't fight it because if you do they're going to keep calling on you. Every time I've been called on, I just stood up, sounded terrible and sat back down.

Signing off, the last thing I can tell you is that in my spare time I listen to Broadway musicals. The last one I heard was from Wicked. I bet a lot of people didn't expect to hear that.

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