Casey Hampton: What a rush!

We're crazy about Casey Hampton here at, and why not? The Steelers' nose tackle roared down the stretch last season. In the Week 16 Monday night win at Tampa Bay, Big Hampton had a sack and forced two fumbles. In the playoffs, he made seven tackles, forced a fumble and was credited with the ever-so-rare pass-defensed. Here's Casey:

CASEY HAMPTON June 12, 2003

Reporter: Does playing in the nickel have you excited?
Casey Hampton: I played in the nickel last year but we really didn't use it much.

R: It looks like you're going to use it a little more this year.
CH: Hopefully, then that'll give me an opportunity to get out there and rush the passer a little bit. Another thing I want to do is rush the passer.

R: Tell me about your nickel responsibilities.
CH: They've got me playing over the center. I would like to get out there and rush the passer, get up the field. We'll see. I feel like once I show them that I can get out there and do a little something I can get on dime and nickel.

R: Do you think they'd put you on dime?
CH: One thing they're confident I can do is keep everybody fresh. If they can have a fresh team out there, I think they'd do it.

R: What about fullback? I saw you return that fumble. You had the stiff-arm going.
CH: Oh, man, my running back days are over. I ain't got no moves. I'm a straight-ahead guy. I can't run that fullback.

R: What was your assessment of how you finished last season?
CH: I think I started taking advantage of some of the opportunities they gave me to get up the field and things like that. We were doing a lot of two-gapping and stuff, and at the end we were doing a lot of stuff to get up the field and I was just taking advantage of it. That's what I do best is get up the field and when they gave me an opportunity I showed them what I can do.

R: So it was a case of you taking advantage of opportunities instead of you getting better. Or was it a combination of the two?
CH: It was about the same. Me understanding the defense allowed me to know when I could go and when I couldn't and taking advantage when I could go. Our whole thing is we do a whole lot of crossing plays and things like that, and you get in that mindset to cross the face all the time, and not get up the field. But at the end of the season I started getting up the field and making more plays.

R: This could be a big year for you. How are you thinking coming into this season?
CH: I just want to improve on last year. They have a lot more confidence in me and I think they're going to give me a lot more opportunities to make plays.

R: Is a Pro Bowl possible?
CH: Ain't no question that's one of my goals, something I'd like to do.

Jim Wexell

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