Five Questions: Lofa Tatupu

Five Questions: Lofa Tatupu

Jay Adams

Published April 24, 2012 at 2:39 PM

The signing of free agent linebacker Lofa Tatupu was one of the storylines of the offseason that got overshadowed pretty quickly by a number of different factors. It’s no matter to Tatupu, who seems like the type who prefers to fly under the radar.

His play, however, tends to not allow him to do that often. Simply put: The man is a beast — a three-time Pro Bowler while with Seattle who can be as productive as they come at the middle linebacker position.

After a year off last season due to injury and other variables, Tatupu is hoping to make Atlanta the home for his comeback. I had a chance to sit down with him this afternoon, and here’s our conversation.

Jay Adams: You mentioned in your press conference today that having the year away from the game helped alleviate some of the mental stress, but on the other side is the emotional aspect of not playing. How tough was it to not be out there doing the thing you love to do?

Lofa Tatupu: When you’ve been playing the game since you were 7 years old, every part of it is engrained in you and when you’re playing in college, you’ve got more of a job — you’re regimented. So, I’m waking up at 6, 7 o’clock like, “I’m supposed to be somewhere right now.” My body knows, even though I don’t have anything to do or anywhere to go, I feel like I should be at breakfast right now, going to my 8 o’clock meeting after that. That was kind of the weirdest part about the whole thing.

JA: When you get to the point where you’ve got teams calling and you’re planning to work out for some teams, it seems like a pretty big departure from where you were as a Pro Bowler. Was there a moment where you thought, “I’ve got to prove myself,” and how strange was that for you?

LT: Oh, man. That was definitely foreign territory for me. It was funny because I’ve had other guys, after I did (worked out), I had other guys calling me telling me what to expect and I talked to a couple of buddies about what to expect, too. But it was kind of, at this point, like I know I can play, you know? I did just finish 2010. I finished that season. I played all 16 and I felt like I played well within the scheme we were in. I don’t think it played to my strengths, necessarily, but I’m going to do whatever I can, whatever I’m told to do, to help us win and be successful. Not that I ever sat back and was like, “I’m the man,” but it definitely does bring a taste of reality to you. I look forward to the challenge, most definitely, yes. I definitely have a chip on my shoulder and I’m looking forward to it.

JA: Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like a new path now for you. You’ve got your foot in the door and that was your first challenge done, but when you’re taking that next step, how do you feel about the significant challenges around the corner?

LT: Absolutely. I have to earn the respect of my teammates and earn their trust, but also earn a place on this roster. Just because I’m signed — nothing’s etched in stone, so I earn a place on the roster and compete for a starting position. That’s why I came here because they said I could compete for a starting spot, and I don’t expect anything to be given to me. I just wanted the opportunity to fight for a spot.

JA: The linebackers are a very tight-knit group. How do you go about infiltrating this group? Do you get away from the field? Do you take them out to dinner? How does that all work?

LT: Yeah, definitely. It’s kind of like when you came in as a rookie. You came in as a rookie and all the older guys — I was a pretty high pick, a second-round draft pick and I was like I’ve got to get in with a new linebacking group and figure out what’s going on. Never mind all the things going on in your head — “Oh, I’ve got to find a place to stay. I’ve got to get a car,” things like that. When I was talking about chemistry (in my press conference), that kind of thing you find. From top to bottom, this organization and the guys they’ve brought in, they’ve been great, standup guys. I don’t see attitudes or egos coming between any of us. I look forward to working with them but also getting to know them off field. It’s tight. It’s like a family here. Some teams don’t have that feel and people just kind of go in their opposite directions.

JA: Speaking of all the other things that go on in your head, where are you in the process of making Atlanta your home?

LT: See, we didn’t know any of this was going on so even before I signed, my wife and I were in the process of buying a home in Massachusetts, where we grew up. We’ve got a house to get rid of in Seattle. But I’ll have her come down here and take a look and see what’s around. I came down here in February and it was 71 (degrees) and I’m not used to that, so I was pretty excited.

JA: Wait until August.

LT: Yeah, I’ve heard. I’ve heard. I’ll have to invest in a fan and a couple of water sprinklers.

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