The third-year defensive lineman has been one of the regulars at the team’s facility during the recent weeks of the quiet offseason, as he’s driven to make this year different than the injury-riddled campaign he endured in 2012.
“I just want to dominate,” McPhee said matter of factly. “That’s it.”
McPhee battled through myriad injuries last year.
He had knee surgery before the season, which knocked him out for some of training camp. He suffered another knee injury in the regular-season opener when he got chipped with a low block. Then a groin injury midway through the season set him back again.
The injuries forced him to miss four games, and limited his explosiveness even when he was on the field.
“All I could do was just take that, get angry about it, and just bust my butt this offseason and try to get back 100 percent, and try to dominate,” he said.
“Get pissed off. Get angry about it. I’m always going to have a chip on my shoulder, but when I say pissed off and angry, that’s how I like to play the game. Last year I couldn’t play like that.”
The injuries came at a time when McPhee anticipated taking on an expanded role.
An impressive rookie season in 2011 – where McPhee logged six sacks and pushed veteran Cory Redding for a starting job – increased expectations for the former fifth-round pick. He wanted to develop into a starting three-down lineman, building upon his ability to get after quarterbacks and also round out his game as a run stuffer.
But McPhee ended up starting six games all year and finished the season with 21 tackles and just 1.5 sacks.
“It was real frustrating because I was coming in to have a big year, and my expectations were high,” McPhee said. “The expectations from the coaches to me were high. And it just felt like a letdown almost.”
When the injuries started last season, McPhee didn’t want to back off and take it slow. He pushed through the pain, trying to convince himself he was healthy.
“That’s the type of guy that I am,” he said. “In training camp, guys are out there getting pushed around at the moment, and I’m like, ‘Those are my boys. I need to get out there and fight with them.’
“That’s where I messed up last year. Mentally I was 100 percent and I was telling [the training staff] I was 100 percent. And they were like, ‘Don’t rush, don’t rush it.’ I was thinking that I was 100 percent, and the whole while I wasn’t 100 percent.”
Injuries were commonplace on the defensive line last season, as McPhee and defensive tackle
General Manager Ozzie Newsome made it a priority to improve that area this offseason, and he’s upgraded the unit by adding veteran linemen
“I am really excited. Really excited,” McPhee said with a smile across his face. “We got an opportunity. Just like my first year when we had Corey Redding and a number of other guys, we had a rotation that was so crazy because we had like four people who could play every position along the defensive line.
“It’s just exciting because we don’t have to rely on just one guy. Now we can rely on three, four guys to get to the quarterback because history shows that all of them can get to the quarterback. And all of them can play run-stop football.”
McPhee also acknowledged that the new additions have brought some added competition to a suddenly very crowded spot on the defense. Along with Canty and Spears, McPhee will also be up against Jones and
“This is a man’s game,” McPhee said. “To me, may the best man win. I have no sympathy for nobody. I’m trying to break their records, my records, everybody else’s record. It’s about being selfish at the right time in camps and stuff like that. It’s not all about winning a spot, but it’s about showing that I’m going to compete no matter who is in front of me, or who I’m competing against.”
Last season McPhee put on some extra weight, bulking up to about 290 pounds, compared to the 280 pounds he played at during his rookie season. He said that he weighs about 280, and isn’t sure exactly where he’ll wind up getting most of his reps this year.
Rather than worrying about exactly which position he’ll play, McPhee’s focus is on being healthy and getting ready to have a strong training camp.
“Just go out, try to get back on the field 100 percent,” he said. “Whoever is out there in front of me, either they’re going to dog me, or I’m going to dog them.”