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Exclusive Kevin Mawae Interview: Colts will win AFC South, Colts right to bench Ryan, Jets should trade Elijah Moore, Brady deserves more credit than Belichick

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sportslens interviews kevin mawae

In an exclusive interview with SportsLens, NFL Hall of Famer Kevin Mawae said that he believes the Indianapolis Colts will win the AFC South with Sam Ehlinger at quarterback.

Currently the Colts’ offensive line coach, Mawae also commented on Matt Ryan’s benching saying, “It’s [his] job to help the team win… Offer support to the next guy up and be a leader in the locker room.”

If you would like to use any quotes, you must credit and link to https://www.sportslens.com as the original source. 

Here are the highlights of the interview.

Full Transcript:

Nick: The Colts recently made waves by benching Matt Ryan. How can Matt Ryan continue to be a leader in Indianapolis?

Kevin Mawae: Anytime youre in a role, such as the quarterback in the NFL, your job is to do whatever it takes to help the team win. Matts a veteran player, hes been around for a long, long time, offering support to the next guy up and being a leader in the locker room. Everybody here has a lot of respect for him, for what hes done since hes been here and what hes done throughout his career. 

Its just a matter of transitioning and getting everybody on the same page. Weve got a great team, great leadership not just with him but with our leadership council. Its something that well know hell handle professionally and he has done so up to this point. Ultimately everybodys goal is to win a game, thats what hell do, hell help us win games in whichever way he can. 

Nick: Where do you see Taylor ranking among the NFLs top running backs?

Kevin Mawae: Obviously, he won the rushing title last year. He is one of the best running backs in the NFL. Ive played with a great one myself with Curtis Martin, Ive had conversations with Jonathan that I believe hes similar to Curtis in the way he runs the ball. Hes got a little more speed than Curtis did but the skys the limit for him. 

For a running back that gets the majority of the carries throughout the game and throughout the season, taking care of his body should be top priority, which he does. For us, just opening holes on the offensive lines and giving him opportunities to make the second level defenders miss. Hes coming off of injury, had a decent game last week, we expect him to get better as the season goes on. 

Nick: What’s wrong with the Colts offensive line?

Kevin Mawae: The secrets out, we run the football and everybody wants to stop our running game with Jonathan Taylor. Obviously, hes been banged up a little bit, our offensive line weve had some moving parts, trying to find the best combination. Its always about the best five guys, its about the best fit for the combination of guys that we use. We feel pretty good about where we are at now. We had a decent outing two weeks ago, we threw the ball 58 times and gave up no sacks, which was a step forward for our group. Last week, Jonathan Taylor carried the ball himself, however many times, but he averaged 5.8 yards a rush. Theres things there that weve improved upon but we still have a ways to go. We want to get one percent better everyday. That is what our philosophy is, that is what our goal is. 

Nick: The Colts are 3-3-1 heading into this week. What does Indianapolis have to do to overtake the Titans in the AFC South?

Kevin Mawae: We just have to worry about ourselves, we cant worry about what the Titans do, theyre a good team. Unfortunately we lost to them this past weekend but all we have to do is worry about ourselves and not worry about the Titans. Theres a long season left, theres a lot of games to be played, were going into Week 8, so theres still 9 games after this. Its just one game at a time. 

Nick: With the Colts changing quarterbacks already, do you see Indianapolis having a new starter at quarterback in 2023?

Kevin Mawae: I dont know, were trying to get through 2022 first. The way this whole system is built, in order to get the first rounder, the first round pick or whoever the top quarterback is in the top of the league, typically you have to be at the top of the draft list and we dont want to be there at the end of the year. But thats a long ways off and its not something I concern myself with, its not in my wheelhouse, I dont have a say in that decision. My expertise lies in the offensive line and trying to find us some guys up front. 

Nick: When the O-Line is giving up a lot of sacks or there’s some holes in the run game, what do you do as an offensive line coach to help patch things up?

Kevin Mawae: I think the first thing is you have to understand where the problems lie. Is it a physical match up? Is it a schematic match up? Thats what we are trying to determine. If its a schematic thing then we have to do better as coaches to come up with a better game plan. If its a physical thing or we just know that the guys not as good as we need him to be then we either need to coach him up or in this business, you find someone else that can do it. 

Ultimately its about guys winning their 1-on-1s across the whole line and the team not just on the offensive line. Pass protection has a lot more to do than just protecting the quarterback, guys have to run the right routes, you have to get open, the quarterback has to see where the holes are. So pass protection is a team goal, not just an offensive line goal. Obviously, without a doubt we want to keep our quarterback clean as much as possible. 

Nick: What are your impressions of the Jets following their 5-2 start?

Kevin Mawae: Yeah because we dont play against them, I havent scouted them, I dont really watch them much. I do know that Salehs doing a great job of turning that program around because I was there for so long, I try to stay somewhat in tune of whats going on there but they are definitely doing well, the quarterback is playing well right now. Im happy for their success, I just hope that we dont have to worry about where their standings are for us to get into the playoffs. Ill be fine with anybody beating any AFC team that they play against to make it a little easier for us to get into the playoffs. 

Nick: Do you think Zach Wilson could be a franchise quarterback in New York?

Kevin Mawae: I think hes got the moxy, hes got the bravado that youd hope that your quarterback would have. Time will tell, I know the New York Jets believe that they have a franchise quarterback or else they wouldnt have drafted him where they did. Like I said, only time will tell, youll look back on his career and his record there, thats how youll determine if he was the guy. 

Nick: How does Breece Hall’s injury impact the Jets’ offense?

Kevin Mawae: Well anytime you have your starting running back go down like that and hes out for the year, somebody is going to have to step up. You hope the next guy up is in tune with what they do as a staff and what they do as a system. If not, you have to change that offensive scheme to fit what’s best for their personnel or go find a guy that fits with what they are doing. This league is all about being ready when your opportunity comes and whoever that next guy is, their team is counting on him to be able to do the job just as well if not better than the guy that was in front of them. 

Nick: Does James Robinson help the Jets in the hunt for the AFC East?

Kevin Mawae: I couldnt tell you. The thing about this business, its a team game, not one guy is going to make a difference. I think the only position that really does make a huge difference is who your quarterback is. But everybody has a role to play, everybody has to do their job individually in order for the team to work at the maximum potential. So, bringing Robinson in there, they wouldnt have brought him in if they didnt think he was the guy to help them take the next step. Again, youll look back 3-4 weeks from now, see what impact hes had on that team and everybody will make that determination. 

Nick: What are your feelings on the way the Elijah Moore situation has unfolded in New York? What happens in the locker room when a player requests a trade?

Kevin Mawae: Im unfamiliar with it but the generality of it when a teammate asks for a trade, theres always a rule as a player, keep your mind and hand out of somebody elses pocket book. Players that go in that direction, they are doing what they believe is best for them and as a teammate you dont ever really question it. Youre just kind like it is what it is, whether hes here or not, we still have a job to do. If we think he can help the team, we hope he can stay but if he becomes a distraction, he has to go. Thats the mentality of the players in the locker room or used to be, I don’t know what is now. At the end of the day, he has to do whats best for him in this business. 

Nick: What do you think of the job that Mike Vrabel has done in Tennessee?

Kevin Mawae: Vrabel has done a really good job. Hes done a great job, its a sound football team, they play sound situation ball. That’s what they are really good at, understanding the situation and playing situational ball. I think having played against Vrabel over the course of my career, where he came from and now as coach Ive played against him three times now, they are a team that tries not to beat themselves and they take advantage of the things you do. Last week we had two turnovers, they scored 13 points off two turnovers, that made a difference in the game for us. When you play sound and fundamental football and another team messes up somewhere, you capitalize on it. Thats what hes been able to do, not just against us but in all the wins hes had.

Nick: Are you looking to join head coaching ranks at all in the future?

Kevin Mawae:  Im just trying to be great where Im at right now. Im not looking to climb ladders or all that. Ive had great success as a player and I did that because I was trying to be excellent where I was at the moment. Thats kind of my same mentality here, I want to be the greatest offensive line coach. Whenever my opportunity comes and be ready for that. I am preparing everyday for whatever the next step is in my career or my life, I dont think beyond that. 

Nick: You were known as Mr. Durability during your playing career, do you have any advice for offensive linemen now to stay on the field?

Kevin Mawae: Things are a little bit different now. Theres so much tied into science and all that kind of stuff but at the end of the day a player needs to know whether hes hurt or injured. I think there’s a distinct difference between hurt and injured. Hurt means it doesnt feel good, its not right but Im not going to increase the injury or whatever it is, being injured means you just cant go and those are the differences. 

I think every person is different, everybodys pain tolerance is at different levels and their thresholds are different. For me, if I was hurt, I was playing. If I was injured, I couldnt go. It was that simple for me. For me theres no such thing as rest days or rep counts, if Im on the practice field, Im going all out and until you pull me off the field thats the way I approached the game. Everybody has to determine that on their own. For me it was a sense of self pride, I didnt want to let my teammates down. Its accountability, your best ability is your availability, but when youre in the training room, taking rest days and stuff like that, youre not getting better on the field. You being on the field makes your team better. 

Nick: Do you see the Titans winning the AFC South once again in 2022?

Kevin Mawae: Im a coach of a divisional rival, of course no. I see us winning the division, that would be foolish to not say that. Theres plenty of football left, a lot can happen. We are half a game behind them right now, had we beat them, we would have been half a game up on them. For us its not about catching somebody thats in front of us but taking care of our job, doing our business and letting the chips fall where they may. 

But they should fire me if I say the AFC South Championship belongs to the Tennessee Titans. Absolutely not, the Colts are going to win the division this year. 

Nick: Youve seen the Titans twice now  this year, how has their offense changed with AJ Brown at wide receiver?

Kevin Mawae: I dont think their offense is so much about AJ Brown, I think its all about the running back. As long as hes healthy, hes running the ball, they’re going to do what they are going to do. Thats what their offense is based around, it’s very strong, a powerful running game and he did a great job last week against us. 

Nick: Russell Wilson left Seattle early in the offseason. There has been a lot of chatter about who was the driving force behind the Seahawkssuccess over the last decade. When something like that happens, who deserves more of the credit, the head coach or the quarterback?

Kevin Mawae: Well who deserves more of the credit in New England, Bill Belichick or Tom Brady? Its the same situation. I think many times when theres that much success with a head coach and a certain quarterback, its a partnership. Its a dual deal where both of them have responsibility in it. Theres only one Russell Wilson, only one Tom Brady, take him out of the equation, things have changed. 

Look at whats happening in New England right now, they are not the same team. Ultimately, you want to have a run like the Patriots did with a quarterback like him and thats what Seattle did with Russell Wilson. Its a player driven game, coaches can drop off all the Xs and Os they want but unless you have a guy that can do them and execute them, youre just going to be another team in the NFL.

Nick: If you had the chance to build your dream offensive line, who are you taking in 2022 at each position?

Kevin Mawae: Well I would pull Kevin Mawae out of the coffins, rejuvenate him and start there. I dont know, its way too early in that discussion for me to even comment. We wont even start draft evaluations until early February, maybe even a little earlier than that. I dont know whos out there and whos available. To be quite honest, I’m not really concerned about it right now. Im concerned about the five starters in our room and their backups. Thats what is most important to us right now. 

Nick: Which O-line position deserves more respect from fans in terms of their responsibilities on offense?

Kevin Mawae: Every position is different and has unique tendencies that you have to have. Not everybody can go play tackle. I know theres always this comment move him to guard or move the guard to tackle”, its not as easy as that. I think that the most underrated position on the offensive line is the guard position because you have to be big and stout to stop 320-340 lb defensive tackles. You have to be athletic enough to block a guy like Aaron Donald.

Everything happens quicker on the inside three guys, centers and guards because youre in such tight quarters. Its not an easy position to play, its an under appreciated position for the normal fan to be able to see that. Every team is trying to find the premier guard. When you find one and you have success with it, youre going to be able to appreciate it even more. There are guys like Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson, unless you were really in tune with offensive line play you really dont know how good those guys were until you actually watch them play. 

Nick: How difficult is it to move and learn different positions or to be asked to play out of your own position on the o-line?

Kevin Mawae: In college, I played three years at left tackle. Youre always on the island by yourself and its a very detailed, technical position to play. You have to understand angles, the way you pass hit one guy, you might need to change it up on somebody else. You need to know your opponent and be able to adjust your game accordingly to who that guy is. 

Then you move down inside to guard, where Ive played for two years. Like I said, everything happens so much faster. If youre not a bigger guard, which I wasnt, I played in Seattle at guard at 275/280, I had to be technically sound. I had to play with good pad level, good leverage, good hand placements, and stuff like that. Thats where I really developed more of my game. 

I was always a natural center to begin with, that was more of a mental game being able to perceive the defense, anticipate what’s going to happen, make the calls while taking care of your blocking assignments and stuff. 

I can appreciate all five across the board. Just because you play right tackle doesnt mean you can flip over and play left tackle, its not as easy as that for some people. Playing in a left handed stance at left guard is not the same as playing in a right handed stance at right guard. For those of us that know the position of offensive line play, we know the intricacies of each one of those positions. Its our goal as coaches to get whoever is in that role to develop as quickly as possible and as best as possible to help their team win.

Nick: How much of a team’s success depends on the offensive line?

Kevin Mawae: Well if your quarterback is getting killed, obviously youre not going to have a very good passing game. But you have to have a solid offensive line to have a successful offensive team. Whether youre a running team, a read option team or truly a drop back and throw all over the place team, you have to be able to protect your quarterback and open holes for your running back. Otherwise youre just going to be sitting in deadass last in every offensive category and hoping defense can keep the opponent to under 30 points. 

Theres so much that goes into offensive line play where we do self studies after every single game both from an efficiency standpoint run game to a passing game. Are we taking the right depths on our routes, breaking the routes off in the right place, just so the timing of everything is right. So we dont have to hold that block for another two seconds or whatever. Anyways, if your offensive line isnt solid and youre not playing well, it makes for a miserable season for everybody. 

Nick: How much game planning opposing teams have to do for an elite offensive linemen?

Kevin Mawae: Where I excelled was playing in the open field, getting to the second level to the linebackers and even beyond to the safeties and cornerbacks. Wherever I was, especially for the Jets, the perimeter game, the run game was huge for us, the toss sweep, the cracks and stuff like that. To have a guy that has the ability to get out in space and be able to read through all the bodies to find the right assignments. 

It creates a challenge because on one play it might look exactly the same but Im blocking the mic backer. But the next play its the same formation but Im blocking the cornerback. Many times, even Vrabel said it, a few years ago, just follow Mawae, thats where the ball was going and which is absolutely true but you have to know what play it is, you have to know the angles and stuff like that. 

When you do have to have a staff game plan because of an offensive lineman, there’s a certain particular offensive lineman that just adds another layer of difficulty for you to get ready for. Theres one thing for you to prepare for a scheme or one or two bread and butter staple plays that a team has and how they dress it all up with formations but when you have to worry about one particular offensive lineman, when you have four receivers, a tight-end, and a tailback, it just adds another layer of difficulty or preparation. 

Nick: So when a sack, an interception or a turnover occurs, who’s at more of a fault? The quarterback or O-linemen?

Kevin Mawae: Right, it depends. Sometimes its the quarterback’s fault, bad reads, just panic throws, lots of times its the offensive lines fault, he got beat quick and the quarterback had to hurry up and get rid of the ball or schematically they just got us. 

The thing about this league is you play against all pros and pro bowlers, they are just as good as you. Sometimes you just get beat, that’s the reality of playing this sport. At the end of the game, after every game, you evaluate, you make corrections and hope it doesnt happen again but protection of the quarterback and passing game is a team concept. Its not one or two guys, its not a unit. Everyone has to be in sync with one another, from the timing of the routes, to the drop of the quarterback, to the protection scheme, the offensive line whether it includes a tight-end or a running back, its an 11-man scheme. Everybody has to do their job, more so in the passing game than the running game. 

Nick: So as an O-line coach now, is there any advice that youve passed on from former coaches?

Kevin Mawae: Yeah Ive played for Howard Mugg, whos a legendary offensive line coach in this league, was an all-pro player himself in the 60s. He was kind of my mentor coming up through this, trying to get to where Im at now. Hes taught me that there’s a lesson to be learned through every stage of this journey. Theres things that youll learn about how you like to coach and how you dont want to be a coach or things youll never do as a coach. Thats just from your philosophy, your technique that you teach. 

Ive played for Doug Marrone, Mike Munchak, and Bill Muir, Ive played for four very solid offensive line coaches and I learned something along the way, not just about how to coach but the techniques we used. I still lean on my old offensive line coach Kenny Pharaoh, who I still believe is one of the best offensive line coaches that nobody has ever heard of. He coached high school ball after he retired from the college ranks and won two state championships. All he dreams about and talks about is offensive line technique.

My philosophy comes from what I did as a player, what I knew worked as a player, what I learned from my coaches. You kind of melt all that together to become your own coach and instill that in the players that youre working with.                                  

Nick: The Colts play the Patriots in a couple of weeks. How do you prepare for a matchup versus Bill Belichick and the Patriots?

Mawae: Well, Ive played against him like 16 times when I was a player and now coaching against him, hes the same coach. Its the same system. Hes a week-to-week gameplan guy. Like this week, he will be a four-down defensive front, structured defense and the next week it will be all nickel and dime. Its all based on what they think gives them the best advantage to beat the opponent for the week. A lot of teams are who we are and this is what we do and were going to stop you with what we do. But Belichick, his MO, has always been to change his defense from week to week. 

So, you dont know. And when the time comes, well break down the film and Ill give my input. 

Our focus at this moment is playing the Washington Commanders this coming up this week. And well get to New England, when we get to them.

Nick: Can LSU compete in the SEC with Brian Kelly as head coach?

Mawae: Theyve had some good games. They did a great job last week against Ole Miss. They were favored by one point. They blew them out. So, as long as they win, thats all that matters to me. I think they can be competitive, LSUs always had great talent. After the 2019 season, when they won the national title, their talent got depleted because like 20 guys got drafted into the NFL. So, its hard to rejuvenate that over a two-year period. I know they are doing well on the recruiting trail right now. They did pretty good last year with their signing class. 

As long as they can continue to win and recruit high level talent, then they are going to be back in the running. 

In a couple of weeks, they play Alabama and that is always going to be a true test. I think Alabama has been struggling right now. Theyve had some ups and downs in the past couple of weeks. I think LSU, competing in the SEC, is always going to be one of the top teams. They are always going to be fighting for the division title in the West. 

Its always about Alabama and sometimes Texas A&M can sneak up in there. LSU and Alabama dominate the West division.

But for me, its all about beating Alabama.

Nick: Will LSU cover the spread against Alabama?

Mawae: Belichick, well no. Might as well say Belichick because they are the same person. Nick Saban, hes going to have his team ready. You know, all of his kids in Alabama know that the match going 

LSU needs to be ready. Fortunately they are playing at home. Historically, it was always the visiting team that has kind of owned that record. Whoever travels has always been up on that record.

Thats always one game that I kind of make sure that I tune into. Its going to be a big one but well see. Well see how it goes.

Nick: What does LSU have to do to become a national powerhouse again?

Mawae: Win. (Laugh) I think LSU has always struggled at the quarterback situation. 

Now, they have a stable of quarterbacks.

You got Jayden Daniels, whom I was with at Arizona State. You got Walker Howard, who is redshirting this year. Hell have an opportunity to play next year. He is the son of my former teammates. His dad, Jamie Howard, was a quarterback when I was at LSU.

Thats always been LSUs problem. They can get running backs. They can get offensive linemen. They can get DBs, its DB-U. They just need to land that one franchise quarterback that can stay there for two or three years to develop and take the team where they need to go. 

In Les Mileslater days, he had Zach Mettenberger who took them to prominence, and there was some time in there when they didnt have anybody. Then, Joe Burrow showed up on the scene and everyone knows what happened with that. Its finding a quarterback thats consistent and that can play at a high level there. I think thats always been LSUs struggle over the last several years.

Nick: When someone gets hurt, who is responsible for taking them out of the game — the player, coaches, or medical staff?

Mawae: I think its collective. Everyone has to be a part of it. A player has to be honest with his situation and hes got to be honest with where hes at. Its hard when youre a high level competitor in the NFL. You want to be on the field. You want to be accountable to your teammates and show that youre a tough person — that you can fight through some of that stuff.

But, theres a reason why theres an independent medical examiner on the sideline or watching the games. They can make unbiased opinions on whether or not a guy, from a head injury, is able to come back in the game. And coaches know their players better than anybody else. If a coach is seeing something that is off-kilter or whatever, then they have to speak up.

Its a collective effort by everyone involved. And everyone has to be honest. The priority needs to be the health of the player, not the health of the game. And thats what it boils down to. 

Nick: How big of a role do you think concussions play in a players decision to retire early?

Mawae: I dont know. Everybodys different.

The money is so great right now in the league that a guy can play one contract and be like Im goodand he can retire just because he doesnt want to play anymore or he fears getting hurt.

For me, I was going to play until the wheels fell off. I really wanted to play two more years beyond the year I retired, I just didnt have the opportunity. Everyone has to make personal decisions, personal choices on what they think is best for themselves, their families and their career. But injuries always do play a part.

One thing I know is that 100 percent of the players that leave the game will leave the game hurt with some kind of injury or surgery. 100 percent of the guys are going to be hurt when they leave the game. Its not a matter of if, its just a matter of when. Some guystimeline is a whole lot shorter than others.

But concussions are always going to be on the forefront because they are the most damaging right now. It became the focus in 2011 and the game has changed because of the safety and welfare of the players. In some regards to the better, and in some, its kind of like mehthe jury is still out. But at the end of the day, the players health has to be the priority.

Nick: Has the NFL hid data and information from players regarding concussions?

Mawae: I cant say what the NFL has done. I really dont. I know there was a lawsuit in 2011, it was a concussion lawsuit that led to a settlement. Part of that settlement was to get disclosure to get information on what the NFL knew over the course and history of the league and part of the settlement was that they didnt have to disclose anything.  

For those that were named plaintiffs in that lawsuit, at the time I was disappointed that they didnt take it to the end. But there are some guys that are getting older and felt like they were never going to see any money that comes out of any settlement if it went to the very end. 

I guess part of that lawsuit settlement was that the NFL disclosed what they knew. As far as I knew, the NFLPA didnt have any data on that information. Its not our business to collect the data and it wasnt at the time. So I dont know. 

Nick: Do you think that the NFL is doing enough to protect players from concussions?

Mawae: Well youve changed the way you can tackle, youve changed the way you can hit guys across the middle, youve changed the way you can block guys chasing the play from the backside, youve changed the way you can hit a quarterback, youve changed the helmet that they use and the helmets that they wear. 

Youve limited to a certain number of types of helmets, adding technology – youve put contact tracers in helmets so you know the level and severity of impacts. I dont know what more you can do. At the end of the day football in general is a violent sport, its not a contact sport, its a collision sport. Guys are going to get hurt. 

For players that have said I didnt know about concussions”, theres a sticker on the back of your helmet that says that this sport can cause injury, harm or death. You make a conscious decision to play this game, the risk you take is that you could get hurt whether it be head injury, paralysis, knees, elbows, whatever, you take an inherent risk to play the game. 

The question for you that you have to ask yourself is is it worth the rewards you are going to get?

For me it was absolutely worth the rewards, its an opportunity of a lifetime, its an opportunity to set yourself beyond this game whether you play for four years or fourteen years, it doesnt matter, 

For a guy that played as long as I did, its an opportunity to create generational wealth for your family and your familys family. Its a contact sport, people are going to get hurt playing this game. 

For anyone to think that its something other than that, they are fooling themselves and they are living in a dream world when it comes to football. 

Nick: Is the league doing enough to compensate retired players that have been injured while playing in the NFL?

Mawae: More has been done for the former players in the last 20 years than has ever been done for them before. And its not the league. For every dime that the NFLPA negotiates for the players on their behalf, they are the ones responsible for taking money out of current playerspockets and giving it back to the former players.

The last CBA in 2021, and I dont know all of the details of it, but everybody that ever played the game, their pensions who ever played the game got bumped up.

Healthcare is always going to be tough. Everyone wants lifetime medical but theres no company in the world that gives lifetime medical. It doesnt matter if you work for Walmart, a Fortune 500 company, or whatever. 

So, theres a reason why theres Medicare. There is a reason why they have Grover policies. This game is not intended for your play until 65 years old into retirement.

Your lifespan in this league is — if youre lucky, youll get five years, and if youre fortunate, you’ll have 10-15.

So its upon the players to figure out ways to save their money and prepare for a life after football. When you talk about older guys who played in the 60s and 70s, the game was a lot different then. More has been done in the last 15 years and the last two negotiations to help those guys than ever before but that wasnt on behalf of the NFL. That was on the NFLPA and the leaders that negotiated those deals to give back to those guys.

Could there be more that can be done? Yeah, Im sure there is. But thats going to be up to the leaders that are in those PA positions right now to make those decisions in the next CBA which doesnt take place until 2030 or something like that.

The deal about the CBA, and I learned this when I was a young player rep under Gene Upshaw. The CBA is a living, breathing document, it changes every year.

The negotiations are not going to sit around and wait for the next nine years or eight years. There are always micro-negotiations taking place throughout every year and things that change that nobody ever knows about. 

I think there is a responsibility on the former players that they have to take care of themselves. You cant keep giving guys money and stuff like that. 

Theres also a level of responsibility that the NFL should take, an understanding that this is where these guys are at, they produce the product that they sell and there should be something. But at no time do I ever think that you think you should just get it just to get it. You have to have earned your right. A guy that played 16 years should be able to get more benefits than a guy that played one season. So, theres a level of meritocracy there that should take place.

Nick: How has Tom Brady played in the NFL for so long?

Mawae: You have to know what works for you and be adamant about how you take care of your body, how you prepare every season. I played 16 years, I missed a handful of games here and there, but at the end of the day it was about understanding what it takes for me to be ready for the next game. And again it goes back to if Im hurt or injured. Can I play through that and what its going to take me to get back on the football field?

Toms at a whole different level. Hes like an anomaly. The only time a guy has played that long were mostly old school kickers, but hes done a great job. If you can still do it, go do it. As long as somebody finds value in what youre able to do whether youre 25 or 45, more power to you. 

Everybody does talk about the NFL stands for Not for Long, so while youre in it, get as much as you can while you can because youre one play away from your career ending. 

Nick: Speaking of Brady, he gets the ball out really quickly. How much does that help an offensive line?

Mawae: Every offensive line hopes its the quarterback’s philosophy and he doesn’t sit back there and pat the ball 100 times. If you get the ball out as quickly as possible, it makes your job a whole lot easier.

Ive played with some great quarterbacks, Ive played with Warren Moon, Vinny Testaverde, Kerry Collins, those veteran guys, they didnt sit back there in the pocket, they got rid of the ball. 

The older you get, the harder the hits feel and hurt more. Youre not going to sit back there and take that hit, you get that ball out of your hand and dont take the sack. The older you get, the smarter you play and then you make smarter decisions. 

Nick: What was your role as the president of the NFL PlayersAssociation and can it be a distraction during the week?

Mawae: If you let it be. If anybody has any distractions during the season as NFLPA president, it was myself. I got elected in March, the following training camp Gene Upshaw, the entire season of 2009 – I spent time traveling from Washington D.C, Dallas and everywhere across the country on Mondays and Tuesdays to do interviews. I executed a national level search for the new executive director during my playing days. It all depends on your priorities. I take care of business on Mondays and Tuesdays but when I got on the field on Wednesdays, it was all about ball and it was actually a reprieve from all the extra stuff I had to worry about. 

But when you take on the role as a president, you have to take on the role of everything that goes with it. Thats about prioritizing your time, your teammates and your duties as the presidents. You have to figure out how to make that work. 

Nick: You mention the CBA expires in 2030, do you see there being any trouble in negotiation, a lock out or anything like that coming?

Mawae: I dont know. I know in the last deal there was a no opt-out clause, the NFL cant opt out of it early, so they are going to take this one all the way to the end. The big thing is on both sides of the fence, who are going to be the leaders overseeing that negotiation eight years from now, thats the most important thing. 

For the sake of this league and the business of this game, which is the greatest game in the world. We are arrogant enough to believe that in the United States that theres no other sport better than the NFL but in order to keep it going both sides have to come to a level of understanding that this is whats most important for the game and not whats most important for the dollar. 

Nick: Do you have advice for kids growing up playing football, anything you want to share with the youth that are coming up trying?

Mawae: If I have to say anything to the kids that are playing the game now and even to the parents, enjoy the game, dont prioritize one sport over the other, play as many sports as possible. Let your desires, talents and passions take you to where you want to be. But if youre playing for the sole purpose of getting a scholarship and making it to the NFL, well join the other 33 million kids that are doing that. If your purpose is to have fun, build character in yourself, accountability, and get better as a person, football is the greatest sport in the world. Its a selfless sport, you have to be selfless in order to play it. Enjoy it, have fun with it and let your journey be a joyful one, not just a stressed out one trying to figure out whats next. 

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