He sat down with me for a few minutes on Friday to talk about his return, the state of the Redskins, rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, Mike Shanahan's recent "evaluation" statement and what we can expect to see from the 'Skins the rest of the way in 2012.
For those of you who missed it, Shanahan made this statement after the team's third straight loss in Week 9, via the Washington Post:
You lose a game like that, now you’re playing to see who obviously is going to be on your football team for years to come. I’ll get a chance to evaluate players and see where we’re at. Obviously, we’re not out of it statistically, but now we find out what type of character we’ve got and how guys keep on fighting through the rest of the season.
Here are some highlights of the interview.
Bleacher Report: You're finally back after breaking your arm in Week 1. How amped are you for the second half of the season?
Nick Sundberg: I'm really excited...I've never missed any games before. I didn't really know what to expect in coming back, so this has definitely become a really exciting time for me, just in preparation of coming back and working with Sav [Rocca] and Kai [Forbath] and getting my arm and body right to come back and start playing again.
B/R: How painful was it for you to play the second half of the game against the Saints with a broken arm?
NS : That was definitely not something I ever thought I'd have to go through. It was a lot more painful than I thought it would be. I thought they would be able to give me a lot more pain meds on the sideline and I wasn't going to be able to feel it. Unfortunately, they were only allowed to give me so much, and it didn't affect my level of pain like I thought it would, so it was definitely difficult. It was was a test mentally as well as physically. I just had to keep telling myself it didn't hurt, but it was really tough.
B/R: Mike Shanahan recently said that this season now becomes an evaluation for next year. Were you surprised by that statement, and how would you describe the team's response?
NS : I don't think I was surprised by the statement. It was a frustrating loss, and I think he just said what was on his mind, and I don't think exactly how he said it was exactly how he meant it. He talked to us and kind of set things straight, like, "This is what I was trying to say. This is what I meant. I haven't given up on you guys"—things like that.
In reality, any time you have a season that starts out 3-6 through nine games, it becomes an evaluation for next year. This isn't—we haven't started out great, and I'm not saying we won't make it, but very few teams have made the playoffs after starting out 3-6.
If we continue to go down the road that we're on, which hopefully we don't, but every team that starts out with a bad record through nine, ten games, it always happens this way. So, I'm not surprised by any means.
As an athlete, when your team isn't performing, everyone has to look at themselves in the mirror and kind of say, "Listen, I'm going to be evaluated through these next few games because things need to be turned around, around here. So if I don't put my best tape on film, there's a chance that I might not be here next year."
That's just the reality of sports and athletics in general, especially as crazy and as much of a business as the NFL is. Your job is always on the line. I don't think that's new to anybody.
B/R: Obligatory Robert Griffin III question. What is it like being led by a rookie quarterback, and how would you describe his leadership style?
NS : He's done a phenomenal job of not acting like a rookie. A lot of times you get guys that come in and they're kind of star-struck and in awe of being in a locker room with guys that they've been watching on TV and playing for years, you know?
He's just done a really good job of being that even-keeled guy who just came in and started working hard from Day 1. He's generally one of the first people in the building, and he's one of the last guys out. His work ethic is nearly unmatched, at least when it comes to film preparation and things like that. So, you know, he's just one of those guys who's always around.
He leads by example. Some of the guys are big rah-rah guys, some of the guys lead by example, are quieter, and just work hard and lead that way. He's one of those guys, and as a young guy, I think that is really the only way he could step into that leadership role and have any success.
It's tough for a young guy to step in and be a rah-rah guy because they haven't really done anything to prove themselves.
So, I think he's done an excellent job of just coming in and showing every single guy on the team that he's here to outwork everybody and he wants this team to succeed and he's willing to do whatever it takes to put the team on his back in the fourth quarter and make drives that we didn't think he could make.
He's just done a phenomenal job of opening up all our eyes to see how high a character person he is.
B/R: What can we expect to see from the Redskins in the second half?
NS: Hopefully, more wins.
I think this bye week is going to be good for us. I think it's time for a lot of guys to take a little bit of time off and look at themselves and I guess just try and turn things around—just realize that this isn't the direction we want to go in. And a lot of times when you get into seven, eight, nine, ten games in a row, you have the preseason, you know, with 13 games in a row, 13 weeks in a row just playing and playing, you kind of get into a rhythm.
So, having a bye week right now I think is a good opportunity for guys to kind of break that rhythm that everybody's been in and try and turn it around and get into a winning rhythm.
Nick Sundberg does a weekly show on Sports Evolution Radio with Darwin Navarrete. He is also a contributor to PickFactor.com—a weekly picks website that also features Lavar Arrington, myself and other current and former NFL players.