Q: How, if at all, has the dynamic changed in the secondary this year and have you taken on a leadership role?
DM: Yeah I think when you talk about guys like Steve [Gregory] and Will [Allen] coming in after a bunch of years in the NFL and they brought in some of that knowledge and leadership to the team and Marquice [Cole] with some of the rookies in Nate [Ebner], Tavon [Wilson] and Alfonzo [Dennard, I think they’ve done a good job pointing out what we need to do and they are competing.
Q: How was working as a kick returner Friday at Tampa Bay and do you see yourself doing any of that going forward?
DM: It’s cool as a defensive guy to have the chance to get the ball in your hands. I did it a couple times in the preseason of my rookie year, so whatever coach decides to have me out there doing, I’m going to try to take advantage of the opportunities.
Q: Is returning kicks a little bit like riding a bike where you can just pick up where you left off?
DM: I wouldn’t say it’s that easy, but once you do it a couple times you get used to it. I think a lot of returners use what they have, their skill set, going out there and running hard. I know when I’m on kickoff team we go out there and set everything up so when I go out there I try to do that and help those guys block and get the offense started
Q: Can you talk a little bit about
DM: I think one great thing about him is how hard he has worked. He’s a guy who’s been limited throughout training camp a little bit with injuries, but he’s worked hard to pay attention in the film room and weight room to get back on the field. So I think it’ll be exciting once he gets out there and picks up where everyone else is. Whenever you see rookies out there you just try to encourage them.
Q: How do you feel about the progress of the secondary so far?
DM: I think we still have a little ways to go. Like you guys know throughout the season and the preseason, the goal is to get better with practice each week. I think we’ve done that throughout training camp and we’ve made progress but we’re not there yet. We have one more preseason game to go and a little over a week of practice but I think if we keep putting in the work and getting ready that we’ll be ready to go by the opener.
Q: There are two big cut down dates this week, and while you're probably never had to worry about cuts, what has it been like watching other players throughout the year and what have you learned about dealing with it?
DM: I think that’s one of the worst parts of this business of playing football is those two cut down dates. The guys have come in and worked hard every day, putting their best foot forward and letting the chips fall where they may. I remember when my brother was in the same spot as a sixth-round draft pick and I remember encouraging. I told him that he did everything he could, worked hard, so whatever happens, he should be happy with the effort he put forth.
Q: Speaking of your brother, has the trash talking for your game against each other started yet?
DM: [Laughs] No, not really. Knowing that we’re playing in the opener, I’ve tried not to talk to him. I told him to leave me alone and we’ll talk after the opener.
Q: What are you guys looking to accomplish this week?
DM: Coach Belichick has challenged us asked us to get better, as he does each week, listening to what he says and work towards it. Whatever he feels we need to get done and to improve this week, we’ll move forward. We just have to keep pushing and get better.
Q: What have you felt the challenge in returning kicks is so far?
DM: The biggest thing is trying to find an opening to hit. It’s very tough during kickoff returns because your teammates are trying to block guys and you’re running full speed at them. As a returner, we have to try to help out those guys every way as long as they can get in front of their guy and turn them one way or another. As a kickoff returner, I am trying to read the block better and go the opposite way. We have to try to help those guys out as they make blocks.
Q: Your brother just got a new contract. Does that mean he has to pay next time you guys go out for dinner?
DM: Oh yeah, definitely. I’m trying to see how many new toys he can buy me with all that money he has.
Q: Did you ask him for anything specific?
DM: Yeah I asked him for a couple things but if I let it out now I might not get it.
Q: How would you compare you and your brother as players?
DM: We’re probably very similar. I know when people watch us on film they say that we have a lot of the same body mechanics, how we run, how we move on the field. I don’t always get to watch him but people say that we are similar in the way we play.
Q: As a brother, how nice is it when you get news like that since he came in the hard way as a late-round pick?
DM: It is great. As a big brother coming in to watch his little brother come in as a sixth-round draft pick and establish himself in the NFL, he says it’s a dream come true. He said his biggest worry was trying to make it to his next contract, so to make it to the next contract and make it that big I think it shows how hard he’s worked.
Q: Early in your career you probably dealt with a lot of uncertainty in a week like this with the cuts. Can you talk about what you learned from that?
KL: It's just another workday. Guys just come in, just try to do your job and get better every day. So it's just another day for us.
Q: I remember talking to you after you made the team as a rookie and you were elated. Were you surprised that you made the team?
KL: I wouldn't say surprised. I’m just still trying to work hard and hoping for the best, but at of the day I was just being blessed with that. God put me here for a reason, so that’s pretty much it.
Q: Having made the team and sustained a career in the league as an undrafted player, have other undrafted guys come to you looking for advice or support during this nerve wracking time?
KL: A couple guys have asked me questions: ‘What’s going on with this.’ When do you get a call?’ and stuff like that and I tell the guys don't worry about that too much. You can’t worry about that. Work hard every day, give it your best effort and play hard when it comes down to it.
Q: How does your approach change in a week like this now that you have gone from a guy on the fringe of making the roster to essentially a starter?
KL: Nothing really changes for me mentally. I just want to keep doing my job and getting better ever day, working harder and playing harder and faster. So nothing has changed for me; I just want to continue doing what I’m doing, but doing it better.
Q: You were recently rewarded with a contract extension with considerable more money. What does that commitment from the team and the organization mean to you?
KL: Like I said, it's a blessing and I just want to continue to work hard, play hard and keep doing my role – whatever the coaches ask me to do. I want to just continue on that road.
Q: What is your evaluation of the pressure this defense has gotten on quarterbacks so far this preseason?
KL: I’m not going to sit here and evaluate and tell you this and that. I’ll just say guys are working hard, guys are just trying to a little better, trying to pay attention to details and do the little things down to the finer points and play hard and get better. That’s pretty much it. It’s about always trying o get to the quarterback. It’s just that guys are just trying to play hard and do their roles and do their job.
Q: Is the roster cut down something that players talk about or does it kind of go unsaid because people know it’s coming?
JE: People don’t really talk about it. You worry about yourself and what you have to do to make the team and contribute to the team, so when that day comes, I’m mostly thinking about what I have to do to help this team and be a contributor.
Q: Having been in the position early in your career where this might have been a very uncertain week for you, what have you learned that might have helped you in your career now?
JE: It’s a stressful job and that’s part of it. You know getting into this that it’s a possibility. What I do is just worry about what I can control, being a better football player every day and taking coaching form the coaches and ultimately just trying to contribute and help this team win ball games.
Q: Is it hard to kind of stay within yourself and not go too far our to try to make a good impression?
JE: You just have to go out there and do what you think is best for your situation and the situation of the team. That’s what I try to do.
Q: Can you give us some insight into the difference between returning kicks and returning punts?
JE: It’s a different spin to the ball. Kickoffs, guys are usually coming at you a little bit faster and with punts, they have to block and then they come down so they come down in different levels. So, they’re a little different. That’s pretty much what I can think of.
Q: What are some of the initial challenges you encounter when you first start to learn to return punts?
JE: Just judging the ball flight is a tough thing and that’s something you learn taking punts every day and seeing it. And just situational things – where you’re at, what’s going on in the game, where the sideline is, where your blocks are coming from. There’s a lot that goes into and it’s a tough task sometimes.
Q: So how does it feel to not be the fastest guy on the team with
MS: I really haven’t given that too much thought. I Just have to continue to focus on going out and doing my job and just focus on me and he’s going to do his job and try to focus on himself and hopefully both us can contribute to the Patriots having success.
Q: Early in your career you obviously went through some uncertainty during cut down time this week, so I’m curious who you were able to handle that a what you learned from that that has helped you develop?
MS: It's definitely a tough time because you know the reality is you have to get from a certain amount of players down to 53. What I learned early In my career is not to think about and just go out and continue to do my job and try to focus on what I had to do. Really, at the end of the day, if I put forth my best effort, that was all I could control. It’s tough worrying about things that you can’t control because it can consume you. I just learned not to play the numbers game and just go out and try to take advantage of each and every day that you have hear and hope for the best from there.
Q: Does today strike you a tense day because of the cuts tomorrow?
MS: There’s a little bit of stress that comes with that, but I think every day around here is an up-tempo, tense day. We have to have sense of urgency every day around here because we have a lot of things to improve upon and a lot of things to get done. Obviously we understand what time of year it is and what happens, but that’s part of the game and we can't do anything about that to change it.
Q: Since you were a Pro Bowler last year on special teams, do you feel like maybe there’s a bigger bulls eye on you with guys wanting to prove themselves against you?
MS: I’m sure that's a possibility, but in my mind, last year was last year and I'm not a Pro Bowl player at this point; I’m just a guy who’s trying to earn his way and earn his keep on the team again. I know that as a young player, when I went against guys who had been nominated for the Pro Bowls, I liked to step it up and challenge myself and maybe that will be the case and maybe it won’t. But in my mind that was last year and I have to do something this year to make a name for myself again.
Q: You guys made a few really interesting additions in the offseason with two true special teamers with
MS: All the guys – Nate, Marquice and the rest of the bunch that we have in here – have really doe a great job of buying into Coach [Scott] O’Brien is teaching and his philosophy on how to play the game and Coach Belichick coaches us. Everybody on the whole has done a good job of preparing and just trying to improve day in and day out. Each guy has his own knack that be brings to the table and I think each guy is going to bring something that’s going to help our team get better .So all these news guys have been fun to play with, as well as the old veterans.
Q: What were your initial impressions of Jeff Demps?
MS: I think he’s been doing a good job for us. He’s come in here and he’s working to get better each and every day just like everybody else around here. Like any player in this league, he has talents that he brings to the table and working to refine those talents just like the rest of us are and we're moving forward day by day.
Q: Can you give us some insight on the differences between returning kicks in college and in the pros from a returner standpoint as well as from the standpoint of a guy up front?
MS: I think the schemes are a little bit more complex at this level. There’s more that you're asked to do and a lot more that you're asked to do in all 11 positions on that phase of the game. And obviously the level of talents of the guys covering down has changed; these are guys that are covering down kicks for a living now. The stakes are much higher, what you're being asked to do is a little bit more challenging, so that definitely make for a difference between collegiate and pro.
Q: Are those nuances something you're still learning ever day?
MS: No question. I think that an art that takes a lot of time to master, a craft that takes a lot of time to master and you never really have all the answers or have it totally figured out. Like Coach O’Brien says, ‘If you're not getting better, you're getting worse,’ so I think there’s always room for improvement in those areas.
Q: In general, what’s the atmosphere like around the team right now with the impending cuts?
MS: Obviously we all know what’s at stake and we understand that this is an unfortunate part of the profession. It's a numbers game and you have to get down to a certain amount of guys, but the atmosphere is no different than it usual is around here. We have a sense of urgency at all times. Every day you walk into this, there’s a sense of urgency. Obviously guys understand what’s at stake and understand what’s up for grabs, but we have to go out and continue to do our job and take advantage of every day that we have here.
Q: Along those lines, how challenging is it to not be overly affected when guys you're close with get cut?
MS: It is challenging and that’s one of the tougher parts of this game: you work alongside guys and guys come and go. We understand that that’s part of the business we signed up for, but that doesn't make it easy, by any means. It is a challenge to stay mentally strong through these times and move forward. But we have to realize the end goal and realize that we're privileged to be a part of this and it's very special and we’ve been blessed to be a part of this. We just have to take advantage of every day we have together and every day we have as a team to move forward.
Q: How do you guys deal with tough preseason losses like this past game and maybe how did you move on from your third preseason loss against the lions last year?
MS: Any time you go out and don’t perform how you'd like and the outcome is not what you would like. There’s things to be taken away from that. And even in victory, there are things to be taken away from the game. What we have here is an opportunity to respond to an adverse situation, learn from the mistakes we made, learn from the things we did well and move forward. But we can't dwell on the past; this is a game that happened. Like I said, the outcome wasn't what we wanted, but we can’t hang our heads. We have to go back to work and continue to refine what we're doing and hopefully improve and move forward.