PATRIOTS DEFENSIVE LINEMAN MARKUS KUHN
Q: What's it like for you to be a member of the New England Patriots?
MK: [I'm] loving it. [It's a] great organization. Just to come here and be a part of this right now, really exciting for me of course.
Q: How much did Sebastian Vollmer being here impact your decision to sign with the Patriots?
MK: Honestly, before I signed here, really not much. It was more like primarily when I came here he reached out to me right away. We saw each other a few times in preseason games. We'd talk just because we're both German, which is special in this league, but other than that, when I first came here, we went to dinner and just hung out, talked, and he told me a little bit about this place here and yeah, I've loved it.
Q: Last season there were five German born players on NFL rosters. What does that mean to you as a fellow German?
MK: Honestly, I'm just happy for the football and the guys in Germany that there's a bigger market coming over from Germany and more and more guys, like all over the globe that are actually interested in the sport and getting better at it, and now even having a guy straight out of Germany [Moritz Boehringer] being drafted. I think that's a huge accomplishment and it just shows where the sport is going.
Q: What did lead you to want to come to New England?
MK: It was just for me, if you have an opportunity to play for an organization like this with a team and everything around it, it was not really much to think for me if I would come here or not. I loved the opportunity. I was excited I was able to come here and that's why I grabbed it and ran with it.
Q: Can you reflect at all on being the first German-born player to score a touchdown in the NFL?
MK: I talked to Sebastian about that too, and he was like, 'Well, who got a ring out of the two of us?' I was like 'OK, touché, touché. Not bad'. Obviously, it was a great experience. I mean especially as a defensive lineman to score period in the NFL it was very exciting. Overall, when you're out there and you're able to make a play, I was able to do that, and obviously of course the history behind it meant something to me.
Q: How much have you grown as a player since entering the NFL?
MK: Since the sport, when you play in Germany, is not really to the level that it is here, even [collegiately], it's no comparison. Every day I think I'm really still growing and now having different coaches again, having different inputs, I think it's only going to help my level of play as well, again.
Q: What do you know about the versatility in the way Coach Bill Belichick uses his defensive line here?
MK: I know it's just pretty much you just have to look that you find a spot where you fit in. The ways around are just pretty much they plug you in where they think you can excel at best. That's pretty much it.
Q: What have your conversations with Sebastian been like and what is it like having him around?
MK: It's pretty much just like a normal conversation with a teammate. Right away he has a little insight into the Patriot Way and how things are going here, which is nice. But it's not only him. I have a lot of guys on the defense who are great leaders and I talk to them a lot too so yeah, that's pretty much an overall thing.
Q: Are you looking forward to going up against him in practice? Will you ever be matched up against him on the line?
MK: If I'm a three-technique and he maybe comes down, then I'm sure there's going to be something going on every now and then. But just as much as I go against everybody else and I think it's just like if we practice hard all around it's just going to make everybody better and that's what I'm looking forward to.
Q: How much have you admired Sebastian's career from afar before arriving?
MK: Seriously, he's been from all the Germans in the league [here in the NFL] the longest. He's won a Super Bowl. He's been a very, very good player here. They're very happy with what he's been doing and just that's something to look up to. But any player, especially somebody who was the first German to be drafted in the NFL, that's something you relate to and of course you look up to that.
Q: What was your reaction when you saw Moritz Boehringer drafted this year straight out of Germany?
MK: I have two teammates who played with him on the club team in Germany, which I'm familiar with. I don't know him personally but it's just something that I was very happy about personally, of course.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the sports you may have played growing up and how you came across this weird sport of American football?
MK: It's not that weird, but exciting for sure. [When] I was growing up, almost every German boy [was] playing soccer in Germany and then I surely figured it out that it wasn't really the fit for me. [I] played tennis, played golf, a lot of outdoor sports. I started snowboarding when I was 10 years old, skied before that. Really the first sport I ever was like full into was American football and shortly after I saw there might be even a future in [that for] me when NFL Europe showed interest in me and then it was pretty much for my dad and I to decide, 'You know what, let's fly over to America and show up to some colleges," and I walked away with a scholarship and we pretty much went from there.
Q: What was the attraction to American football from there?
MK: It was just like I think [there's] no other team sport that actually team is so important. In football you can't have a star player if the frame around it doesn't really work. Everybody has to really do their job and no other sport is the entire team concept as important. Also, of course the physicality of it and that stuff.
Q: How often do you get back to Germany and what level of interest in football do you see over there?
MK: I go back usually twice a year and it's more like Germany's growing. We have a lot of big guys in Germany. I think that's actually a lack for a sport like American football and seeing when the games are televised, people [are] watching it like crazy. I was hosting and commentating for the Super Bowl for a German television station last year during the Super Bowl in San Francisco and over two million people watched it and it was in the middle of the night. So, people are very excited about it and the more games they show I think the bigger the crowd it can draw.
Q: Is working here in New England unlike anything else you've experienced?
MK: I mean this is also, fortunately, only my second team. All I can say is that they work extremely hard. They're very detail-orientated and really that plays into kind of my role as well. I really admire that and that's why yeah, I'm excited to be here for that.
Q: What are your goals right now?
MK: Honestly, right now is the time of the year that everybody's just – football is especially up until now such a smaller part of it all – so you just try and be in the best physical shape you can be, try to soak in some of the new plays you have. You're just trying to be the best player as of right now that you can be and that's what I'm working on right now.
Q: You wrote a column last year about your daily life in the NFL. Is that something you'd like to continue either here or following your football career?
MK: Honestly, it's something I've not really thought about as of right now because it's just so fresh. It's just a new team. If it all works out again, who knows if I'll do it again. I know I had fun with it last year and yeah, we'll see what happens with it. So far I haven't thought that much about if I'll write some more stuff after my career.
Q: Where has most of your experience been along the defensive line?
MK: I played pretty much just as a defensive tackle. With the [New York] Giants I know it was only we played left or right, so it was either you played a shaded nose or you play a three-technique two high. So, that's pretty much what we mainly did.
Q: Where were you located during Super Bowl XLIX when Sebastian won his Super Bowl here with the Patriots?
MK: I was actually in Berlin to see my sister. She lives in Berlin. I was home with my family and unfortunately hadn't seen the playoffs that far and that's usually the time after the season when I go home. I was with my mom, my sister, my sister's boyfriend, and we were just watching it in Germany and yeah, I was definitely excited for him.
Q: So you were watching it in the middle of the night?
Q: Do you stand out size-wise when you go back to Germany?
MK: Yeah, I think people figure out right away that I'm not a completely normal guy. They say either, 'This guy likes to work out a lot or he does something', but that's pretty similar to in America as well so I definitely stand out.
Q: Are you a soccer fan?
MK: Yeah, I watch it. Especially the German national team is pretty good. So, when they play in the European Cup or the World Cup I definitely like to watch that. I don't really have enough time to follow the club football.
Q: What do you think of your fellow defensive linemen that you've worked with thus far here?
MK: It's definitely been quite a new room this year but I mean you have a guy like [Terrance Knighton] coming in who's been a really great player and he knows so much about football. I mean so much more than I do, so he's really been a great help just from like little technique things but also a young guy like Malcom [Brown]. He's been here last year. I think he had a really good year last year. He played well and he knows the system really well so you learn from an older veteran and then a younger guy who's been here before.
Q: Do you feel like you're in competition with any of these guys yet or is it just so new that you're just trying to learn right now?
MK: I think most of the guys don't have the competition mindset [yet]. [It's] more about right now the competition is with yourself as well that you're trying to work extremely hard every day. I think we're almost trying to help each other out so that we can be all the best and you just see what happens after that.
Q: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the New England Patriots?
MK: Championship. That's the first thing.
Q: And the second?
MK: 'Let's go'. We'll see.
Q: How would you sum up your time with the Giants organization?
MK: Great experience. I can't really say anything bad about it. I had great coaches down there. It was another great organization. I was happy that I was able to play and was drafted to an organization like the Giants and now I'm moving on to an organization like the Patriots so yeah, it was definitely a great time and to come from a place like that to now a place like this, I'm very happy with my career so far.
Q: What do you think of the coaching staff here thus far compared to the Giants? Is it a big difference?
MK: You know if you go people always have different approaches. You go in and you haven't really had that much coaching. When you're on the field you work a lot of with the strength and conditioning stuff and I think a lot of things we'll see when practices continue.
PATRIOTS TACKLE SEBASTIAN VOLLMER
Q: What's it like to have Markus Kuhn around as a member of the Patriots organization?
SV: I think it's a cool thing. I got to know him probably his rookie year when we played against the Giants in a preseason game. I think being a German in the NFL is kind of rare so to have two Germans on one team is pretty cool. He's a good guy. He works hard. I'm pretty excited about it.
Q: How has the offseason been thus far for you?
SV: It's good. It's a lot of new teammates obviously, so it's exciting for us to get to know them and we'll all get on the same page. OTA's [Organized Team Activities] start next week and all that stuff so its exciting times.
Q: What are your thoughts on offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia returning?
SV: Yeah, obviously I had him my first five years. He's an excellent coach. I can't praise him high enough. It's going to be – us as players can only do what we're asked to do to the best of our abilities – so we'll keep that approach the same and we're expecting good things.
Q: How much does the way last season ended make you guys want to get back out there and put in the hard work?
SV: It's a new year. I don't think we need extra motivation for anything. I think you come out here and try to better yourself as a player, as a team, as a group, all of that stuff, and putting in these hours and working towards a common goal. Now it's getting ready for OTA's next week and then we have training camp coming up so it's a long road ahead but we're just doing what we're told to do and really grinding it out right now.
Q: What makes Dante Scarnecchia so good as a coach in your mind?
SV: I think he expects the best out of us and himself. I think just the way that he coaches, it's detail oriented. I don't know. It just gets the best out of you.
Q: How much does your familiarity with him and vice versa help you guys out?
SV: I don't know. There are new players at every position in a year, so I don't think that matters too much. Again, I think you kind of redo your whole thing every year and prepare yourself as good as you can. It's not like we're doing something completely new here, so if you've spent a year here or more, then there's some familiarity with the whole system, obviously. I feel like you approach every year like you've never heard it before. I think that's my approach. I think that might be best for maybe picking up a couple things you hadn't realized before, so I think it's just starting from scratch and building a foundation again.
Q: What do you remember from Markus telling you his story of being the first German-born player to score a touchdown in the NFL?
SV: Good for him. I think especially in Germany that blew up pretty quick. It's a cool thing and obviously goes with him and he's going to remember that for a long time.
Q: Do you remember your response to him?
SV: I don't. I probably gave him a hard time.
Q: Something about you having a Super Bowl perhaps?
SV: That doesn't sound like me. I don't know, maybe.
Q: There have been discussions that the NFL could play a game in Germany in 2017. What would that mean for Germany?
SV: I think it's a great fan base out there. From what I remember – that's a while ago – Germany was probably one of the bigger countries over there that got excited for football. The London experience was great. I think the game sold out real quick and people were excited about it. I'm not sure everyone really understood the rules. The punter got a lot of cheers every time he kicked the ball. But I think it's going to be a great thing. But I think it helps the league grow and I think for the fans over there and obviously my parents and my friends, they watch it on TV and stuff, so they'd have to go to a game.
Q: How proud are you of being able to be one of the few Germans to play in the NFL?
SV: I don't know. I don't look at myself as any different from anybody else in the league. I think hard work, a lot of work goes into it, and obviously a lot of luck and help from other people as well. I don't know. I don't have personally much to do if Germany is going to be a part of that [NFL International Series] or not. If I get a chance to play there it would be a special thing playing on your home turf, if you will, but yeah I don't know if pride plays a big role in anything. It's just an exciting factor.
Q: Do you do anything different now in the offseason in preparation for the upcoming season?
SV: I don't know if it's different. Obviously, you're kind of told what to do. But I think you learn from year to year. If it's extra stretching, conditioning, whatever it is you kind of experience what you need, what gets you ready and I think you learn from season to season, 'I was in great shape', or, 'I wasn't in good shape', or whatever it was and I think you try and take the good things and try to eliminate the bad things.
Q: Do you now as a veteran take the younger guys under your rope and prepare them for what to expect?
SV: Yeah, I still remember how it is being a rookie. Everything is new, head is spinning, it's a lot of plays, it's a lot of new things that are expected of you. If you've been a rookie, a 10-year veteran; the expectations are the same. So, if anyone can help – especially a younger guy – that can only help the team essentially and those guys, too. I think they're doing a great job and it's a long road for us and for them between now and just all of us [are] trying to get better.
Q: Has anything changed for you coming into the last year of your contract?
SV: No, it's the same thing. I'm just preparing for the season. That's really all that matters.
Q: Do you have a natural friendship with a guy like Markus Kuhn when he arrives because of your shared background?
SV: Yeah, the first day that he walked in I made a point to talk to him. I like him, he's a cool dude. Obviously, it doesn't really matter what country he is from. He's a good teammate and he's working extremely hard. He's a strong boy, a big boy, and I think he can only help us. On a personal level, I think he's a great guy to hang out with.
Q: Have you pointed him in the direction of any good German food in the area?
SV: With the massive German population we have here? I did, we went to dinner. We did do that. Obviously, it's a little bit different than New York compared to Foxborough. Again, whoever you can help a little bit, show them restaurants, show them whatever they need I think that goes a long way, but obviously he's a grown man. He can find his way around Foxborough so I think he can figure that one out.
Q: Has retirement changed Dante Scarnecchia at all?
SV: I don't know. You'd have to ask him probably. We'll find out in training camp. Again, I think the expectations are the same. We better work hard and he does the same and it's all about the end result, whatever it comes down to.
Q: Is there any remorse amongst the offensive line for not doing enough to allow Dave DeGuglielmo to keep his job as the offensive line coach?
SV: I think every team has the same goal in mind, especially in this phase now. If ultimately your season comes to a crashing end it's never a good feeling. I think you do a lot of self-evaluations of things you could have done better and like I said earlier, the following year you're trying to implement the good things and really cut out the bad things. I don't question anybody's effort. I think we all gave whatever we could and in the end it wasn't good enough. It's onto a new year for us now.
Q: Can the offensive line come in with a chip on their shoulder due to how things ended?
SV: Again, I think that might be all sounding good for the media to play things up but it's a new year. It's new people on our team and their team and everywhere in the league. You're trying to rebuild – well, not rebuild – but build something new. It's just not the same team for anybody. It's just starting over.
Q: So is saying you guys have a point to prove overstating it?
SV: I just think I come in here and work as hard as I can to have a good season.