Q: How do you feel?
VW: Feel good. Coming out here with the team and get one under our belt. We need it. Long ways to go, but at the same time it's exciting to get back going. The season has started for us. We just have to put the work in now and grind; just keep your head down. It's going to be a long season; it's going to be a long camp. Hopefully we can put one foot in front of the other every day and just get better each day. That's our goal – to get better each day.
Q: How's the Achilles feel?
VW: I feel fine. Throughout all season and just working hard, I'm pretty sure there's going to still be some stuff that I may need to do so, so far so good. I'm not looking back. I'm looking forward. I'm just excited to be here.
Q: What are you looking forward to most?
VW: Just playing; just playing. Being here with my teammates, getting another season up under your belt. We're all blessed to play this game. I'm fortunate to be at this level, to play at this level, with this organization, my coaches [and] my teammates. I don't take anything for granted. It's just excitement. It's just after practices, just getting the little stuff, little one-on-ones, it's made me feel very good. I'm very happy today.
Q: How has your approach to this changed? **
VW: It's the same as always. Just come here [and] grind. I know camp is always tough. You have a lot of stuff going in, you have different people, different coaches, different times of the day that we're doing this. We're on pass; we're working on the line. It's always the grind. If you put your mindset that you're just grinding each day and trying to get better each day then good things will happen. I did the same thing. This is the same thing I'm going to do every year. It's to come here and prepare for the best. Hopefully we get better as a team and grow as a unit and grow as a team and do some good things. But it starts now. It's going to take everyone – not just me or Tom [Brady] or the leaders. It's going to take everyone – the practice squad guys, the guys that are free agents, first rounders. Whoever it may be, it's going to take all of us, but it's going to take hard work.
Q: Has your appreciation changed at all?
VW: I always appreciate the game, but being out last year, it just made me dwell on the things a little bit more and appreciate them a lot, lot more. You think about things a little differently now going through what I've been through – my first time being injured. It's one of those things, I had a road block in the road and what am I going to do about it? With the teammates I have, with my coaches, with my family – that's a big supporter of mine, my family – just having somebody that you can talk to every day, come and work out every day and have guys surrounding you and just being able to comfort you when times get tough. Just having someone to talk to, I think this team does a real good job of that. Everybody just sending you a text or a phone call or just coming to your house to see how you're doing – it went a long ways for me, and I really appreciate it from everybody.
Q: Do you have any pain in your Achilles at all?
VW: I'm looking forward. Right now, I just feel good. I don't know what's going to happen further down the road but right now I feel good. I'm happy to be out here with my teammates.
Q: How do you feel about the additions to the defense?
VW: Everybody we have, our goal is to get better as a team and as a defense. The people that we brought in, we feel like they can help us. It's not going to be any different from us. We have to grind. We all have to put the work in. That's what camps are for – to bring the team together, compete at a high level. In eight or nine days, whatever it may be, we go on the road. But we have to take it one at a time. Right now we're practicing against one another. We have to know how to practice and get in the stances and work the kinks out. That's where we're at. It's just a start. We have a long ways to go and we understand that. But in order to get better, you have to put forth that effort. Today was the first day of putting forth that effort.
Q: How much do you relish the role of being a mentor to the guys like Dominique Easley and Zach Moore and the second-year players who were there when you got hurt?
VW: Those guys grew a lot, from the guys that stepped up last year and the guys that are coming in. Every year we try to make a smooth transition and be able to do a real good job of teaching guys how we play, how we do things around here. It won't be hard for those guys to catch on. They've been doing a real good job; haven't had any problems out of anybody. Everybody is excited. If you stay excited, good things will happen. We're excited to get camp going. A lot of people, you can't speak – probably in two more weeks I'll say I'm ready for it to be over. But right now, we're happy for the beginning. The season has begun so now it's time for us to put the work in and become a better football team.
Q: How do you manage the expectations for this team?
VW: Do your job each day. Do your job and like I said, you come to work every day to prepare, to get better each day, you'll be fine. Never get too high, never get too low, just manage expectations and put one foot in front of the other each day. Your goal is to get better. Help the team, help one another get better. That's what we've been doing and we're going to continue to do that. As long as we do that, we'll be OK.
Q: Was it hard to sit and watch the defense struggle last year?
VW: No, I'm a big believer in the past is the past. I don't dwell on the past; I can just tell you about now. Right now, it's the start of camp and we're all excited. There are things we can learn from the past, but at the same time, they're things we just have to do better. Whatever it may be, and Bill knows what it is, but for us right now at the start of camp coming in, it's ground zero. We had some camp in mini-camp, but now it's training camp. Things are going a little bit more now. Soon we'll be playing the first preseason game, and before you know it you'll be headed to your third preseason game and the start of the season. Every day is critical for us to get better as a team. Not individuals, but as a team, we have to get better, and that's always our goal. That's one of the things we always talk about, taking things that we did in the classroom and coming out here and putting them on the field. Today was the start of that. If we continue to do that, I think we'll be okay. If there are times that we don't do that, when we come out here and we don't do what we need to do, then it becomes a problem. So we try to minimize the problems.
Q: Have the other new pieces fit into the defense yet?
VW: I'm always excited to see how the team is going to shape up. That's the start of camp. Everybody is excited; everybody is back. This is exciting to play the game that we all love. It's a start.
Q: Do you feel like you need to re-prove yourself?
VW: I just have to prove I can come out and give my team what they need. That's what I have to prove. Me as a person, I've never been a selfish player; I was a team player. If I wanted to be selfish, I could have been a shot putter. I've done that. I was a state champion shot putter, but it wasn't my thing. My thing was to be with teammates, a good group of guys, and we're all working toward one goal and that's to be able to win and push one another. That's why I chose football. For me to prove anything, no; I have to prove to my teammates they can trust me when the time is on the line. They have to do the same thing with me. It starts now. Camp is, that's the platform for everything. If you can get a better football team in camp, you'll be pretty decent.
Q: Fans are excited about this defense. Does that excitement make you feel better?
VW: I've had good defenses and I've had OK defenses and our goal always is to put the best team on the field. That's what we're going to do. Whatever it may be, I don't care how we look on film, how we look on paper'; you have to be able to put it together on the field. The stepping stone from that is now: it's camp. It's the start of camp. You can't look at last year, you can't predict the future. You can go about now and what we're going to do each day. This first practice is in the books. We're going to go in and see things we did pretty well and things we probably didn't do pretty well. At the end of the day it's not good enough. We have a long way to go. I'm not going to sit here and say how great we're going to be or how this person looks. No, it's a building process and right now we're in that building mode right now.
Q: Do you feel like you're starting over again or you're just picking up where you left off last year?
VW: Hopefully I'm picking up where I left off. I don't know. Like I said, I try not to think about it. That's me. The future, you never know what happens in the future. Like I said, I'm not going to dwell over the past. Right now I feel good, I'm practicing, I'm excited about being here and I'm going to keep that excitement.
Q: Do you feel any limitations?
VW: If I had limitations, I wouldn't be practicing. Like I said, my job is to help my teammates the best way I can, whatever that may be. The only way for me to help my teammates is to be on the field and be healthy. Right now, I'm on the field and I'm healthy. If anything happens in the future, I can't predict that. But right now my job is to help this team the best way I can and get better each day and that's what I'm going to do.
Q: What does it mean for a defense to have guys like Will Smith and Darrelle Revis who have proven track records?
VW: Like I said, it really doesn't matter at this point because it's the start of camp. You know about everybody that we have on [the team], you mentioned them. But at the same time we have to be able to put it together. It starts in camp. Right now we're trying to put it all together so we can gel together. That's what camp is for is to build a team, build a defense, build your offense, the whole team coming together, when it's time to play against one another, compete at a high level. I think we have guys that compete at a high level in practice. I think that's one of the biggest things that's going to help us as a team is when we come out and you see Tom Brady competing and getting pissed off that he threw an incomplete pass and you see Jerod Mayo or Darrelle Revis mad because somebody caught a pass, that's competition. The young guys look at that and say, 'You know what? For me to be successful in this league, I have to practice like that.' We have a bunch of guys that lead by example because they don't say much, they just go out and do it. Great group of guys but we have to put it together on the field. That's the goal: put it together on the field. Today is the first day. We have a long way to go. Today was a good stepping stone for us. We'll go in and watch film and see what happens after today.
Q: Are the expectations for this team not vocalized, but rather conveyed by example?
VW: I think some of your best leaders don't need to talk. You take Tom [Brady] – however long he's been in the league – you take [Darrelle] Revis, myself, Devin [McCourty] – we don't talk a lot. We do a lot of talking in between the lines playing the game. Sometimes you have people learn vocally and some guys watch and learn visually. It's good to have a mixture, but the way we do things, the coaches give us every bit of ammo we need coming in each day, competing and showing us film on what we need to do to get better. And just to take what we did in the classroom and come out and then go back in and say, 'This is what we're talking about,' and understand what we're trying to be. But it starts here on the field. It always starts on the field. It doesn't start on paper. It starts on the field, getting dirty, grinding in and out, hurting. There are going to be times when you want to quit, and those are the times when you show your true character – who you are. When we're in there on fourth-and-one and we've got to have it, or we're backed up, who's going to be the one to come out and play? It defines itself in these times here in camp. That's where we're at. [We've] got a long ways to go, but excited to be here.