How banged up were you by the time the season ended?
It's football, man. Everybody is banged up by the team the season is over. As long as you come out healthy and you can get ready for the next season…
Leading tackler on the team…how did that feel when you looked at the numbers?
To be honest, I didn't really look at them, my agent told me. I was more focused on just the wins and losses. That's all we're ultimately judged by. You can have 1,000 tackles but if you're 7-9, 1,000 doesn't really matter.
On disappointment among fans and players…
The thing with that, they've been fans for a lot of years and we have great fans, but we put in a lot of hours in to what we do. And for us not to have the outcome we wanted…for one, we have to lay our head down at night and think about that. We have the offseason to think about that. That makes us sick to think about all offseason, let alone, we have something to prove next year. It also gives us that same drive to get us over that hump.
From the season, give me something that leaves you with a smile and something that leaves a nast taste in your mouth.
Nasty taste: the PI call vs. Oakland, that was probably the nastiest taste I had. That's the nastiest I've ever felt. The thing that me smile: coming back and beating San Diego. Just starting a streak from there. We had our backs up against the wall and we found a way to come back and win that game and started kind of going on a roll. Kind of kept it going for a little while.
How close was this team to getting over the hump?
Closer than a lot of people think. I have no problem flying under the radar with people writing us off, it's fine. A play here or there, having a play here or there go the opposite, and we're not having this discussion here now.
Did you expect to take on such a big role?
To be honest, when people said I was just a special-teamer, I didn't like that too much because I have a lot of starts under my belt. That's something I haven't really done before, I have a lot of starts in this league. When I was playing a whole lot more here, it felt normal. It felt like something I had always done. I've always played a lot and made plays. When they said I was just for special teams, I kind of looked at it and was like "Man, they don't think I can play defense at all." When I get the opportunity, I have to prove everybody wrong. That's just something that I live by since I got into the league. There's this picture of me and I have to prove that it isn't what everyone thinks it is.
Did you think about your days prior to breaking into the league? (Craig worked as a personal trainer for corporations, including Verizon)
It's something I think about all the time. When I kind of get down on myself, I'm like "It could be worse: You could still be at work." A lot of people don't have that story. I don't use my story for anything else besides my own motivation. It was different watching NFL games at work while I was training people who worked at Verizon. That was hard, especially during my first year out.
I was playing Aussie Rules Football as well…. I have all this ability; I can't just not use it. I can't just be in school and just work. I have too much ability, so I started playing Aussie rules football. That's a different story in its own.
Where were you playing Aussie Rules Football in Texas?
We had a team in Dallas, actually. It's something that was all over the nation. Different clubs in states and cities in Texas. We had a national tournament that was played in Austin, this was in 2011. We actually won the national title. There was a guy who was like "Hey, we need to get American football players over to Australia to play Aussie Rules Football." He was like "Look, this is a great opportunity." They just signed a guy named Greg Paulus, the guy who played at Duke. Him and someone else, they were the first Americans to go over who were ex-college athletes. Myself and Emmanuel Moody were going to be next to go over.
So you were actually plotting a career in Australia…
I was supposed to fly out December 28 or 29. The Browns called me on Dec. 15 and were like "Hey we want to bring you in for a workout." At first I thought someone playing on my phone, to be honest. I kind of joked around with the guy. "Oh yeah, I'm at work," and I hung up. My agent called me and said "Hey, did you talk to the Browns?" I hadn't talked to him, months had went by. He called me and said "The Browns just called you, right?" and I said "I hung up on them." He called me back and I said "I'll just go. I'm already going to go to Australia." I had everything set up. I was talking to my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, about going to Australia. She was down because she knew it was something I wanted to do, it was something that I was good at too.
There were 2-3 weeks left in the season and I said I would bring just enough clothes, just in case. So I took a big suitcase and they ended up signing me to the practice squad. I told my agent in Aussie that I signed with Cleveland's practice squad. It will be two weeks, so see if they can fly me out later. I'll see if I can. They signed me to a futures deal, so I said I have to make a decision: play football or play Aussie. And I'm here now.
Who's tougher: Australian Rules Football players or you guys?
We're tougher because we get hit. We hit or get hit every other play. There, you might get a hard hit twice a game. It's more strategy, rather than guys hitting with no pads. It's a lot more running... It's more like soccer.
How often do you go back to Stafford, Texas? (Craig's hometown)
Quite a bit, when I can. You only have X amount of months during the offseason, then you're back at work. Obviously when I can.
On welcoming his newborn son, and second child, soon…
We're both very excited. Having one of each, she having her little me and me having mine, it's just something that we have a family together. It's really special.
What do you want to do away from football during the next couple of months?
We have a couple of weddings to go to. A couple of them are destination. One of them we'll l take the kids, one we want. One of them is a family wedding, my brother is getting married, so we'll take the kids to that. That's in Cabo, so that'll be nice. The other wedding will be in Cancun and that'll be just us.
What has the NFL offseason has become?
You go from doing football stuff from April, all the way to December, so you need a month of rest, even just to get your sleep back. Guys are up at 6:30 and a lot of times stay until 4:30 on some days. You get some time to rest and enjoy your family that you haven't really been around that much. (During the season), when you get home, you got to watch some film, do the Dad stuff, then I'm tired. It's 11, so now I have to sleep. You get off that routine and you get on the family guy routine. You kind of do that for a month, some guys six weeks, then you get back after it. But you kind of want to get your wind back before you start getting after it. Do some cardio and start getting after it, then it's really time to start getting back in April.
Are you even watching NFL playoffs?
I watched the Cowboy-Green Bay because I have a lot of friends who play for the Cowboys, but I was even sick watching that. We didn't play either of those teams, so I was ok, but watching teams you played against play, some of the teams you beat, you just can't watch it. On Saturdays and Sundays, I say "Hey, baby let's watch a movie or TV." I don't want to watch the games.
Do you watch the Super Bowl?
I'll watch the Super Bowl. I usually have a Super Bowl party at my house for family and friends and I'll watch. But even then, I'll be playing pool or something and watch a play or two, but I won't watch it in-depth. As a player, it's hard for us to watch games because it's like we're watching film. You're kind of analyzing stuff, but you're not really watching the game like you want to.
Who do you think will be in the Super Bowl?
I don't care. I hope none of them go. With the competitor in you, you don't want to see anyone else there but you.