While Ryan Kerrigan was rewarded for his hard work over the past four seasons with the Redskins with a contract extension, the Purdue product said his mindset for the game will not change.
Will Ryan Kerrigan sit back on the credentials he's already accumulated, enjoy his new contract and act as if he's already "made it?"
While he was happy to sign a reported five-year contract exension with the Redskins on Wednesday, Kerrigan – who is considered by many to be the backbone of the team's defense – knows there's still plenty of work to be done both individually and as a team.
Whether he signed the deal on Wednesday, or headed into the season without a new deal, Kerrigan said his outlook would've never changed.
"I don't think it would've been a distraction [his contract] had I not gotten it done because I would've been under contract for another season anyways," he said. "So, nothing would have changed had I not gotten it done and nothing's going to change now that I do have it done. Because, I mean, I have a lot to prove this year to myself, to rest of the football world, and we got a lot of making up to do for the past couple of years"
Kerrigan has been a model of consistency for the Redskins since the franchise used a first-round pick on him in the 2011 NFL Draft. In four seasons, he's recorded 247 tackles, 38 sacks, 16 passes defensed, 15 fumbles forced and two interception returns for touchdowns.
His 38 sacks are the sixth most in franchise history and needs just two more to tie former teammate Brian Orakpo for the fifth most by a Redskins player.
Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan was named the 78th-best player in the NFL in the NFL Network's "Top 100 Players Of 2015." Take a trip back through Kerrigan's career with the Redskins.
It wasn't that long ago, though, that Kerrigan was looking up guys like Orakpo and London Fletcher. Now he's in the same role those two were in when he came into the league.
"Yeah, it has been a slow transition into me being one of the older guys in the room, but I like that," Kerrigan said. "I like the role that I have now, I like that a lot of the guys kind of look up to me in some way. That feels good and I look forward to being able to help not only in the meeting room, but the defense and the team in general."
And while Kerrigan admitted he won't be a "rah-rah guy" ever, he's hoping to quietly lead by example.
"I've always been a guy that works hard, but now with this kind of contract and being an older guy in the room, I have to work even harder," he said. "I have to do the right things to an even greater level, and do all the little things that will help not only make myself better, but help make the team better."
Kerrigan heads into the first practice of training camp on Thursday itching to get back onto the field after undergoing a minor knee procedure in May.
Despite the fact the operation sidelined him to mostly cardio work during OTAs and minicamp, Kerrigan said he'll be "ready to go" Thursday, all depending on what the coaches' plans are for him.
"I'm really champing at the bit to get out there and get to work under this defense," he said. "It's a defense that allows the front guys to play in the opponent's backfield a lot. That's always a great thing when you can put an opponent in a negative yardage situation. That's the thing that has excited me the most about this new [defense]."
Taking His Game To The Next Level
In the past, Kerrigan has said he wants to be "consistently really, really good," and while he has been, head coach Jay Gruden believes the pass rusher can raise up his game even more over the coming years.
"He can get to another level," Gruden said. "We have to give him a better chance to get to another level. We've got to play with a lead, make teams have to throw, you know, in the fourth quarter, where he can get his numbers up, his fantasy football numbers."
Kerrigan is the classic player that coaches and teammates just love working with.
"We feel good about having Ryan Kerrigan as a defensive end or playing inside as a stand-up guy or dropping," Gruden said. "He can do it all. He's an accountable guy. He's never had an issue off the field here, being late to a meeting. Like I said, his work ethic is outstanding. He's a great example for younger players and he's going to get better as years go on."
Support System Was Always ThereKerrigan said his family is very close and have always been supportive of his academic and athletic decisions dating back to his days playing football, basketball and baseball at Muncie (Ind.) Central High School.
When he learned that the months of negotiations reached a final decision last night, he let his family know right away.
"Yeah, it's a great level of excitement for them, as well," he said. "I've always had great support system with my family, we're very close, and I called them last night and told them that we have come to an agreement. They are very happy for me, happy that I'll be staying there too because they like the way Redskins fans and the area have embraced me. I'm glad that I am staying."