Q&A with Jeff Hartings

<b>JEFF HARTINGS</b> <br><br> <b>How did the line transform itself?</b><br> I think it's pretty simple, really. Marvel got healthy and Oliver and Keydrick just got better from last year's experience and digging in in the off-season.

I remember Keydrick specifically telling me that it was good he got that experience because in the off-season he was able to think about it and reflect on it and work on what he knew he needed work on. I think the same thing happened with Oliver. And Marvel's healthy.

When Marvel went down we had to move around so much. This year we've been in a rhythm. Last year we couldn't find it.

How good of a line coach is Russ?
He's the best one I've ever had. He does a great job of x's and o's to start with, the game plan. And also he does a great job of teaching us about defense and how defense plays. That's the biggest thing he's taught me.

Russ says you're playing at a Pro Bowl level. Do you feel that way?
I feel the same way. I definitely think last year it was easy to kind of pick on my knee as one reason the O-line wasn't doing too well. People were saying I should be replaced or retired, but all it did was re-affirm what I already kind of feel, that it's very difficult for media to know exactly how well or how bad an offensive lineman is playing. You just basically look at rush stats and sack totals. It's the same way this year. We rush the ball a lot so all of the sudden the O-line's playing great. When in fact there are probably games this year we haven't played any better than last year. Jerome's healthier; Duce was in there. That makes a big difference.

Don't you think you're playing better this year?
Oh, absolutely. My knee did hold me back. I couldn't do certain things I'm able to do this year. But at the time last year, I really felt like I was playing well. Even when I watched the cut-ups in the off-season I surprised myself by how well I played, considering how bad my knee hurt. That was basically the biggest motivation and incentive to come back. I didn't want to go out and kind of wonder. As well as I played it was still disappointing because I knew I could play a lot better once my knee got healthy.

What about plans for next year?
I plan on coming back right now. I'm sure that'll be a hot topic of conversation because my cap number's high.

Before that article came out last Sunday, did you know you had the highest cap number on the team?
Yeah. I'm not stupid. Plus I renegotiated about three times. Every time I went in there, I was like, What are you guys doing? Trying to make my cap number unfeasible for next year? But I don't have to worry about it for awhile.

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