Playing alongside seasoned veterans like
But that doesn’t diminish his outstanding play in the burgundy and gold.
Since coming to Washington, D.C. out of Purdue in 2011, Ryan Kerrigan leads all Redskins with 21 sacks and eight forced fumbles, wreaking havoc in opposing backfields by any means necessary.
“If you are getting pressure and other guys are getting sacks, that’s cool. You want to be affecting the game and getting in negative yardage situations. Getting sacks is really important.”
Despite playing most of the season without fellow Pro-Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo last year, Kerrigan still managed to up his sack total from his rookie season and was a late addition to the Pro Bowl squad after the 49ers made it to the Super Bowl.
“Going to the Pro Bowl was an awesome experience,” he said. “You get there and see, there’s Peyton Manning, there is Drew Brees and here are all these great players from around the NFL.”
For Kerrigan to return to Hawaii, he knows that the pressure is on him to continue to refine his game and improve.
“It’s a big motivating factor for me and it was an honor to be out there,” he said. “When I got back that following Monday, I got right back to the gym to work out. I want to be back there.
“If I am not playing in the Super Bowl I want to be playing in the Pro Bowl.”
Now that the Pro Bowl is played in the off week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, the Super Bowl participants are naturally excluded from participating in the exhibition game.
“It’s been a little bit of a bummer, it’s been that way my first two years in the NFL,” he said. “We beat the Giants two times my rookie year and they won the Super Bowl. We beat the Ravens last year and they won the super bowl.
“It’s frustrating but that motivates me to work even harder. We’re really close.”
In order to improve his own performance, Kerrigan has taken into account his entire preparation process, from Monday through gameday.
“You can leave it all out there every day on the practice field because you know that Wednesday and Thursday are tough days but Fridays are a lot lighter,” he said. “Saturdays are pretty much a day off, a mental day.
“So if you’re taking care of yourself, eating right, getting in the cold tub and doing what you need to do to take care of your body. You are going to feel more than fine to be ready for a football game on Sunday.”
While some teammates get worked up to the point of physical illness pregame, Kerrigan lets his naturally calm demeanor and sense of humor take over in an effort to level him out.
“Guys have different ways of getting ready for a game. We all know Fletch’ (London Fletcher) is a very intense dude and that’s how he gets ready,” Kerrigan explained. “Some guys around the league like to talk and woof it up.
“I usually try to calm myself down or joke around a little more on gameday. On some games in high school and college I would get too psyched up and wear yourself out. I try to laugh a little bit before games because I don’t want to get psyched out and too caught up in it.”
Kerrigan gets up early on gamedays and has a big breakfast before catching the early bus to the stadium to get his body game-ready.
“I get in the contrast tub: cold for a couple minutes, hot for a couple minutes. I do that for about 20 minutes or so,” he said. “I’ll do these NormaTec boots, which are recovery boots that flush out all the lactic acid in your legs. I’ll foam roll after that, then after that I’ll get stretched and get ready for the game.”
Once the game begins, Kerrigan knows that he will be judged by his sacks and numbers, but sometimes consistent pressure allows teammates to make plays.
“Of course you want the numbers because like you said that’s what you get judged on but at the same time your coaches watch the film,” he said. “They know what you’re doing every play even if its not getting a sack, they know if you’re getting good pressure or not.”
After Kerrigan’s rookie season, position coach Lou Spanos left the Redskins for a defensive coordinator position in college. While Kerrigan meshed well with Spanos’ fiery style, he has improved his technique with the tutelage of current linebackers coach Bob Slowik and his son Bobby.
“I think on the surface, you can definitely tell the difference in personalities,” Kerrigan said with a grin. “Spanos was obviously very loud and was always lively and was funny to be around. Coach Slowik is a little more calm.
“It has been good to take bits from both of them because Lou [Spanos] was a little more wide open, he would say ‘go make a play.’ It’s important to have that mentality but it’s also important to have the technique to make that play.
“That’s what the Slowiks have brought into it. They are both very detailed, especially breaking the game down from a technique standpoint.”
After the team’s disappointing 1-4 start to the season, Kerrigan said that emphasis on technique is a good reminder for him to not go out and try to do too much to make a play and end up being caught out of position.
Even as the pressure mounts within the locker room to break through, Kerrigan understands that the plays will come.
“It’s not just getting the sack; you want to get the turnover too and give the ball to your offense so they can go and get some points,” he said. “But when you see a guy miss a tackle because he is going for the ball on a running back or receiver in open space, that is a bad idea to go for the ball.
“When you’ve got a quarterback lined up and you’re like ‘OK, I know I can get the sack but let’s try do a little more and get the ball out.’ It’s different when you’re in that position vs. if you’re in the open field and trying to strip the ball because most of the time it’s not a good idea.”
Looking ahead to the Bears game this week, Kerrigan said he was excited to play more of a physical offense than the aerial attacks the team has seen to start the season.
“They have a tradition of running the ball more for Matt Forte and you kind of like facing teams that like to get after it as a defense,” he said. “It will be a good change of pace from all the finesse teams we have faced thus far.”