With four sacks, you rank fourth on the defense. Have you been surprised by your success in your rookie season?
Because of the lockout, you were unable to participate in the offseason workouts and minicamps that rookies in the past took part in. Did that put you at a disadvantage?
Well, it was during the preseason games that I finally realized that I could play with the veterans and the pros, be on the same level as them without losing a step. That did kind of surprise me. But I had a good preseason — from the first game against Philadelphia, and it kept going on to the game against Kansas City. So I felt kind of good off the preseason. I had a lot of confidence, and a lot of the veterans were behind me. I just had to go out in the regular season and put it on tape again.
Do you feel like you've played well enough to be a starter?
No. I love my role. I love when [defensive tackle] Haloti Ngata and [defensive end] Cory Redding are beating up on the offensive guards and the offensive tackles, and then I can come in and finish them off. So I love my role and what I'm doing right now. I just love the way we're playing ball.
Does it feel strange with work alongside Cory Redding while also competing with him to be a starter?
We just call it teamwork. He's a very humble guy who took me under his wing in a very respectful way. He's seen that I have a lot of ability, but he wasn't like, 'Oh, this kid has a lot of ability, so let me separate myself from him and don't teach him anything.' He's been more like, 'Let me add some of my knowledge that I got from the game.' At every practice and every game, he's talking to me. If he sees something that I don't see, he tries to tell me, 'Hey, they're going to do this. If you see this, they're going to do this play.' It's just been a real great experience because a lot of guys don't have that.
What's been the high point of your season thus far?
I really haven't got a high point right now. I'm just trying to stay humble and try to go out there and make plays and celebrate with my team.
Not even sacking rookie quarterback Andy Dalton to cement the team's 31-24 win against the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 20?
That really wasn't the high point for me. I was just going out and playing great defense and having fun with my teammates and winning every game that we could.
Has there been a low point?
Yeah, in practice. You get beat up a lot in practice, but it's kind of fun going against the starting offensive line. It's been a great experience for me. I can't do anything but just take it and roll with it.
Which of your teammates has been the most influential in your young career?
I could say several guys. There are a lot of vets behind me, cheering for me and hoping that I make the right decisions. Guys like Cory Redding, Haloti Ngata, [outside linebacker] Jarret Johnson, [inside linebacker] Ray Lewis, [outside linebacker Terrell] Suggs — all of those guys are right behind me. They're always saying, 'Good job, kid,' but they're always trying to let me know that I should stay level-headed and don't get the big head. Be consistent and don't get complacent.
Defensive line coach Clarence Brooks has a way of lifting you up and bringing you back to reality, doesn't he?
Yeah. That's part of being a coach. You've got to stay on top of the young guys. This is our first year, so we didn't know what to expect. Right now, our college season is over with, and he's been staying on me, saying that I've got to come out every day [for practice] and perform like I'm in the game because really, my games are Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. That's basically my game [in determining] how many reps I get [on Sundays]. So he's still on me a lot, and he'll always be on me. But that's just a good life experience.