How hard of a transition was it for you as a rookie coming into the NFL?
TD: It was a pretty tough transition for me, probably more so than other rookies because my position status was really unclear. We didn't know where I was going to be playing.
Was there any memorable "rookie hazing" incidents?
TD: Nah, they picked me up and put me in the cold tub – they tried to pick me up and put me in the cold tub; it took the whole secondary had to pitch in to go ahead and put me in the cold tub because I wasn't going easy.
Speaking of your weight, how much do you weigh right now?
TD: I'm about 235 right now.
Is that your target weight or do you plan to gain more?
TD: It just all depends on how I feel. You know, if I get in a situation where we're practicing against each other and I feel it's a good weight, then I'll stay right here. If I feel that I can add a couple of pounds or drop a couple of pounds to help me perform better, then that's what I'm going to do.
I assume with the number change, the weight gain and coach comments, you're going to be full time at linebacker. Are you going to be strong side or weak side and do you have any preference?
TD: It really doesn't matter to me which position it is, but I've been practicing a lot at strong side.
Do you guys expect Kris Jenkins back at 100%?
TD: We definitely expect Kris to be back at full go. With the addition of Ma'ake, we feel we have two of the best D- tackles in the league.
How do you think Jenkins and Kemoeatu will affect you guys back there at the line backer position? Last year it was Carstens and Buckner, who performed admirably well, but this year it will be a former All-Pro and a 350 pounder.
TD: That's going to be a great addition to our team. We're going to have two guys who are going to take up a lot of space and demand a lot of attention. It's going to help out guys like Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker on the ends so that teams can't put a lot of attention on doubling those guys because you have to concentrate on the two guys in the middle. For us at linebacker, it's going to help us out when we line up to blitz and different things of that nature.
Will you be used in any specialty roles like the "joker" position you played last year?
TD: We're still going to try to make those same things work. It's going to be all about how much I can learn.
How much has Dan Morgan helped you in your development? How much have you picked up from him?
TD: He's helped me out a lot. Dan has been a guy who has really been there for me and given me a lot of information to make this transition a lot easier. He's a guy who really helped ‘Spoon out when he came in and he's a guy I look to continue helping me.
Who's the fastest player on the defense?
TD: Aaaaahhhhh… I'm not sure who's the fastest player on the defense, but I'm pretty sure if you lined us all up it would be pretty close, but I think Chris Gamble would probably come out on top.
How about the linebackers? Are you the fastest one?
TD: Uh… That's to be determined; I mean we have a great corps of linebackers who have a lot of speed. You have guys like Dan Morgan, N'ail Diggs, and the addition of Keith Adams; we have a lot of guys who can really run. So, who knows who's going to be the fastest linebacker this year, but I would probably say that it will be me.
TD: Ummmm… That's hard to say. Who knows...? I think Drew may have Steve by the slightest of margins, if any.
Getting back to you, what is the biggest thing that you need to improve upon going into this season?
TD: The biggest thing that I feel I need to improve on is just my knowledge of this game at the professional level. It's a step up from the college ranks, so if I improve on my knowledge of the game, I'll just be that much better of a player. It'll allow me to just go out and play fast and not have to think about what I'm doing.
How did it feel last season playing such a big role against Michael Vick in the two wins against the Falcons?
TD: I mean, not even containing Michael Vick, but any time I was on the field helping my team I felt good. Any time you can go in and do something positive, it's going to help the team it's going to feel good. So at any point I was able to come in and do something positive, I felt great.
Is Vick as fast as he looks on tape?
TD: Ummm… He is fast and I knew from watching him in college as an Atlanta fan – which I was in college – I knew he had great ability and it would be tough to contain him. When I got the opportunity to face him it was a whole new thing. He's a tremendous athlete.
Through training camp and pre-season, you worked a lot at the strong safety position. You even started the first regular season game there. How did you feel when Marlon McCree took over the starting role there? Was that your decision, the coaches' decision, or a joint decision?
TD: It was the coaches' decision. Marlon was a seasoned vet and he was a lot more prepared for the game than I was. There were no hard feeling from me and the coaches were doing what was best for the team and the best thing for the team at the time was to put Marlon in and he did a great job for us.
Do you feel that you're a better fit at line backer than you were at safety?
TD: That's hard to say because I haven't really had the opportunity to play line backer – I didn't get much of a chance to play safety at this level. But speaking from my college experience, I was a better safety than a line backer. Hopefully I can turn that around now that I'm at line backer and become a better line backer.
To get the record straight, is there ANY chance of you being moved back to safety?
TD: I will answer that question with a 99% "no."
In the off-season, what did you do to work on your coverage skills and do you feel that you will be better able to cover tight ends this season?
TD: The one thing that you have to do as a player is that you really have to study your guy. You have to pick up tendencies of people and know what they like to do. If you're athletic and you can move, that's half the battle. But once you get into this league, you learn how to study film better. That's the main thing I had to do as a young player – learn how to study film. I feel like I learned how to study film better and that will help me out a lot in coverage, more than actually going out and improving my speed, because I'm not going to be asked to go out and cover a wide receiver – so, speed really isn't an issue. You just have to know your guy.
What do you think is the biggest thing that you're going to bring to the defense this season?
TD: The one thing that I would say will be the biggest thing that I will bring will be the passion that I play with. I'm a guy that's going to come out and work hard every down, on every snap, do everything it takes to be successful. That's just my passion and love for this game.
Last year, playing special teams, how much did it affect you when you found out that you ended the career of Terrence Murphy, the 2cd round draft pick of the Packers' last season?
TD: Oh, he's not playing any more?!
(I then explained to Thomas that he did not receive medical clearance to continue playing due to a narrowing of the spinal column and that he was released from the Packers. At this time, Murphy is not on an NFL roster and it appears as if his football career is over.)
TD: Okay. I had no idea that was the case. I mean, that's never something that you try to do when you line up to play football, you never want to try to hurt anyone. Unfortunately, the contact that we had led to something like this. I tried to contact him after that to check on him and just try to do the right thing. I really had no idea it was like that.
Is there anything you would like to say to all the UGA Bulldog fans out there who still follow you?
TD: Hey! Expecting big things out of the ‘Dawgs this year. Stay behind us as we try to found out who our quarterback is going to be next year.
Were you surprised the Panthers didn't take fellow Bulldog tight end Leonard Pope when he slipped in the draft? Many thought he was a first rounder.
TD: I was surprised, but the coaches have their players and they know who they want. Unfortunately for Leonard, he did slip, but I would've loved to have him on the Panthers. I felt he could've helped our offense as much as any other tight end that got drafted that day.