- Rashan Gary's return from injury
- Tyree Kinnnel on zone coverages
- Juwann Bushell-Beatty on his improvement over five years
- All the newsy stuff on Gary
[After THE JUMP: Does Rutgers week count as an actual gameweek? These are the questions better left unasked]
What kind of relief is it that you’re actually going to be able to play in New Jersey, in front of these fans, your friends, family?
“First of all, I just want to say, it’s good to be back practicing with my brothers, playing with my brothers, working hard with my brothers. That’s something that I missed. … Being able to play in the Rutgers game< I’m happy. I worked hard to get back out there and back now. And we still got goals to accomplish as a defense and as a team. I’m just happy now I can be a part of them.”
Is it safe to say that was one of the toughest stretches of your career, not being able to play?
“Yeah, at first. At first, I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t. But having my team behind my back, my coach behind my back and my family behind my back, they wouldn’t let me get down. They only just kept me working. Treatment, getting right so I can come back, that’s what they’ve been doing. There was no time for me to sulk. It was, ‘Alright, you’re hurt. Get healthy. We need you.’ And that was in my head. That was in my head every time.”
When did you realize that you could come back and play?
“Soon as I hit the sled, I could move my arm how I wanted it to move. As soon as I see that, and looking over in practice and watching my brothers, all that work that they put in, I can’t just leave it. So, I’ve been working. As soonn as I start hitting the sled, I’m like, ‘Yeah, it’s time to get back out there.’ ”
When was that? Last week or a couple weeks ago?
“That was in the beginning, going into Michigan State.”
Was Penn State always the goal to come back?
“It was always week-to-week, how I felt. I really wanted to comeback Michigan State, but personally I wasn’t really ready. Thank god I’ve been working hard. I want to thank all the trainers, too, they’ve been on my back telling me to work harder and harder. That’s what I’ve been doing.”
Your mom spoke out a little bit. Did you think about doing anything like that?
“No. Like I said, I’m the only person that knows what’s going on. I’m the only one that can really tell you the real story about it. Having my mom speak out about it, that’s what she did. That’s my mom, so I always support her and what she feels. But also, things like that, I can’t let that get me mad. I still got things to do. I still got goals to accomplish. And I just need to get back to them.”
Took you one play to get your first hit. How’d it feel to get back after a quarterback again?
“Man, I really don’t know how to explain it. I feel like for anybody that was hurt, they understand what I’m about to say. Stepping back on that field in the stadium, after missing those games, I got them chills back. I look to my right, I see Devin Bush. Look to my left, I see Josh Metellus. I look and see Chase (Winovich(, Carlo (Kemp), I’m like, ‘Yeah, I miss y’all. I love y’all.’ Walked out there and got our play, so happy I was put in the position to hit him. It felt good, putting the pads on somebody else. Just getting my feet back wet, I’m just happy to be back.”
Do you feel like you’re back to 100 percent?
“If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have played.”
Rashan, did it ever cross your mind to sit out the rest of the season?
“Oh, absolutely not. Absolutely not. I feel like we're in a position where we control what we want to control. And like I said, those are my brothers. So we came here together, we started something and I need to finish it. I feel like that’s how everybody feels.”
How limiting was the injury. How does it affect you playing football?
“I don't know, it’s hard to explain. It’s like, you move in some ways, I feel it. It was just that, for real, uncomfortable, I don’t like the feeling.”
What’s the rehab process like for this particular injury?
“The hardest part is, I feel like holding yourself back when you want to do more to get back on the field. It’s a process. You gotta take it slow and you gotta know when your body’s ready. Mentally, it’s like, ‘Alright, let me do this. Let me do that.’ But my body’s not ready yet. So, just standing back and being able, ‘Alright, I gotta take baby steps. Now I’m walking.’ Things like that.”
Rashan, when did you suffer the injury? Your mom said in camp, right?
“Before the Notre Dame game.”
Do you know how you did it?
You do know, but you’re not gonna tell?
How much do you feel that you and Josh (Metellus) have progressed since early in the season?
“I feel like we’ve progressed a lot. I feel like, after the Notre Dame game, we’ve played extremely well. I think we’ve gotten better each week. Our game grades are going up each week. Less mistakes are on the grade card, so I feel like we’re doing a lot better than we were earlier.”
What do you do this week to avoid a letdown, given that you’re a 40-point favorite?
“Just keep the same thing we’ve always been doing. Practice harder each week. Watch the film extremely hard. Get on the tendencies. When we come out there Saturday, play hard and as fast as we can as a defense. We don’t want a let down, we want our confidence going up and up.”
With the time of possession, does the defense at all feel pressure?
“Yeah, I think Notre Dame was around 60-70 snaps. Now we’re around low-50s. Not accurate, but we see it. We feel it on the sideline. We feel like we’re on the sideline more than usual, and that’s good for us. With the offense managing the game like that, running plays and doing as well as they are doing.”
Josh said after the game that the David Long interception was in zone. Is that one of the very few plays that you played zone?
“Actually, Brandon Watson’s pick-six was in zone, too. But coach (Don) Brown switches up — everyone thinks it’s just strictly man. We switch it up. We play zone, play man, got different types of coverages. We try to switch it up. Those two picks were in zone.”
Are you guys playing more zone this year, or pretty much the same as last year?
“I would say the same, if I had to guess.”
Are you better at it?
“Earlier, our trap — our zone coverages were a little bit loose. We gave it away a lot, our zone, they knew we were in zone. The long touchdown in the Notre Dame game was in zone. At Notre Dame, we kind of blew it. I feel like we’re better in our man and zone coverages. A lot of that’s coming from disguise, though.”
Have you thought of the journey that you’ve been on, from a recruit at Paramus, now fifth-year, going home?
“I don’t think about that often,but it does cross my mind sometimes. I think about that starting point, back where I’m from, playing football back in my freshman year of football until now. Wanting to continue that journey to the next level.”
Where do you think you’ve grown — Jon Runyan was here talking about, the other day — from the Notre Dame game on? That made him sick, watching that film. Obviously, he’s evolved. How about you? Where have you come since that game?
“I agree with Jon. My thoughts are, we didn’t play well. I’m not satisfied with it. I know all the work that we put in has proven that — in our eyes — that we should be playing better ball. I think from that week on, we took the bull by the horns. We knew we had to put better stuff on tape, play better. There’s just a certain level of expectation that we have for ourselves. I think after that, we hold each other accountable for our actions. Pay more attention to the details, pay more attention to what’s important studying the film, our techniques.”
Juwann, was there a point in the offseason where you maybe flipped a switch, realized this is your last chance, it’s gotta work now. Everybody talks about your focus — was there a point in the winter or anything where you really turned that?
“I don’t think there’s a specific point where I decided I had to turn things around. It’s always been in my mentality that I want to go out there and do great things. And more opportunities were given to me this past season than before, and I took advantage of them. Especially being my last year of college ball, I wanted to be able to improve.”
How much has coach (Ed) Warinner helped you get to this point?
“I think coach Warinner has had a big role in helping me get to this point. I think coach Warinner taking the time to simplify things from the beginning, having a certain mentality about how we play bball, what we have to do and finishing. I think that’s played a large role in what is happening this year and what’s gonna continue to happen.”
Rashan mentioned that you’re more patient in pass protection than you were at the beginning of the year. Is that something you focus on a lot?
“Yeah, I think that’s probably one of the biggest things for me, is just focusing on being patient. I pride myself on having good feet and being able to adjust to rushers quickly. And sometimes, it’s not all about that. Sometimes, it’s not all about that. You got to be more patient in pass pro and be more precise and specific with your movements. And I think, going against those guys, the assortment of moves they have and the assortment of guys they have rushing can teach you to be play more patiently.”