When I got to practice this week with the defense, the pressure of me coming back and playing, all of that was gone. As soon as I touched the field with the defense today, I was like, “I’m out here now.” I’ve got to treat this game as any other game week. I can’t be like, “Oh, it’s the Chiefs, oh man.” No, it’s another game for me.
Some would say it’s fate with my connection to my hometown and getting injured and coming back for this game, it being a Monday night game, an important division game. It’s kind of like the stars are aligned. For me, I just look at it as just another opportunity for me to go out there and just be me. I don’t look at it as, “Oh, I’m playing the Chiefs and I have to do any more than what I do normally.” I just need to play my game and do what I’m supposed to do. Everything else that comes with it is just for the fun and for people to be able to talk about stuff.
But I do feel more love than hate when I play there. A lot of people would expect people to boo me, but it’s crazy, when I go home to Kansas City and I see that sea of red, a lot of those people are people that know me. They’re people that have known me since I was a kid: family, friends, people that, even though I’m on the other team, they’re so proud to see me playing in the National Football League.
It’s not like I go there and I get a wild hate feeling. It’s really just love, for me. I just feel relaxed. The only thing that kind of creeps in my mind at times when I play near my home is, I know if I make a mistake, everybody I know will see it. So it just makes me heighten my game. It makes me get more focused on my assignments.
This obviously won’t be the first time I play in Arrowhead. Football has given me the opportunity to play there a couple times. But of course it never compares to when you actually play against the Kansas City Chiefs. Growing up there and understanding how Chiefs fans are, they’re some of the loudest fans in the nation and they go hard regardless.
My first time stepping out there and really feeling the energy as an opposing player, I said, “Wow, OK. This is what it was like growing up watching all those legends.” I feel it, but then I relax. The pressure is off, though. It’s football, and it’s just like any of my family coming to a high school game to watch me play.
It helps that I stayed in the best physical shape and the best mental shape that I could. A lot of times you get injured and you’re going through that battle of, “Oh, when I come back I’m going to have this pressure,” or “Oh, I’m going to have to deal with this.” I don’t even look at all that stuff. It’s not pressure for me. When I step on the field, you know what I can do. I know what I can do. And if I do it, my result is exactly what I expect it to be.
So I just stay relaxed. I took it a day at a time instead of getting anxious. Of course, there were days when I was frustrated and a little bit angry, because I just wanted to play football. I just wanted to be out there. But you can only control what you can control.
It’s kind of the same way on the field. When I try to think about what would make a successful game for me on Monday, of course I want to get a sack. Of course I want to get pressures and create some turnovers. You don’t get to say in this game what you’re going to do, because people can just plan against you.
I just want to go out there and be me. There’s no set goals. Be as dominant and as explosive of a player as I can possibly be. That’s all I can ask for, and that’s good enough.