The first half of Angel Navedo’s conversation with Nick Mangold revolved around his fascination with all forms of technology. From Blackberry and Apple devices to player ratings in EA Sports’ Madden franchise, the man known in Ohio State as Mangod let you know what’s on his mind when it’s not football.
But with training camp in full swing and the season a little over a month away, Mangold goes into detail about his relationship with his teammates, his appreciation of the minds around him, and his expectations for the offensive line in 2009.
AN: Now, you were drafted as an immediate replacement to Kevin Mawae after he was released. How did you handle coming in knowing you’d be filling a role he defined?
NM: It was difficult coming in and having that kind of a player here before you. You have that hanging over your head. But I do appreciate Kevin. I’ve talked to him a couple of times when we play each other.
But he really set up the center position in New York. People really know about it because of Kevin and what he was able to do. I appreciate him alerting people to the position. I’ve been fortunate to be able to follow in his footsteps, and hopefully give the fans something less to worry about having me in there.
AN: I don’t know how much you’ve spoken with Mark Sanchez since he’s been in New York, but there’s a belief that he faces a similar dilemma following Brett Favre. Is that realistic?
NM: I don’t know how it works with quarterbacks, but I imagine it could be something like that. But, you know, with Brett, it’s different. Kevin had been here so long that he built up that fan base. Brett had a fan base because he’s Brett, me being one of them. I grew up watching him. But it’s not like he had the die-hard group following him after an eight-year career in New York.
AN: It’s definitely not Green Bay.
NM: Yeah, it’s a little different situation coming in.
AN: Say it’s an actual game day, what are you doing to psyche yourself up before the game?
NM: I pride myself on being a controlled-aggressive person. I’m not banging my head against the locker before a game. I’m more focused on who I’m going against and what I have to do. I’m slowly amping it up.
If you get all amped up at 8:00 in the morning for a 1:00 game, you’re spent by 10 and your day is ruined. I try to keep it mellow. I let the cold ball of nervousness that sits in your stomach grow so it explodes after the first play. Then you have all that energy throughout the game.
AN: Now, you said you think about the person you’re going up against. With training camp coming up, the next month will be spent lining up against Kris Jenkins for most drills. What’s it like going up against him, then facing the rest of the league?
NM: Going against Kris is horrible. I have to do it every day, sometimes two times a day, and it’s miserable. People that play against him — unless they’re in the division — only have to worry about him one Sunday. I have to worry about him for a whole month, and then some during the season. It’s miserable.
AN: It sounds agonizing.
NM: He’s a great player. Going against him every day has helped me, especially last year. Being able to go to the Pro Bowl was due to his help, because going against Kris, you gotta be on top of your game every day. That was huge when going against everyone else in the league.
AN: So everybody seems a little bit easier after him?
NM: (laughs) Not everybody! But some people, yeah.
AN: Do you still see areas where you can improve when you watch yourself on game film?
NM: Oh yeah. There’s a ton of stuff. It’s amazing, you look at it and you’re like, “I don’t know how I got by doing that horrible of a job.” You look at it, and there’s times where you’re like, “Why would I do that?”
That’s a big focus of the spring and making sure I’m doing all the right things exactly at the right time. I think it’s great having Brandon [Moore] and Alan [Faneca] next to me. With their kind of combined experience around me — something like 20 years — it’s been great being able to bounce things off them.
AN: Brandon Moore was released momentarily at the start of the offseason. I know you have to deal with the business aspect of the game, but what was it like when you thought you’d be losing one of your guys on the line?
NM: It was tough. Brandon was here when I got here, you know? He’s been a great friend, and a great player next to me who’s helped me out a ton. That one-week period that he was gone was tough. I wondered, how am I gonna deal with him not being in the locker room?
But then we resigned him, and all was right with the world again. Having us five together for another year is going to be huge in making our game — pass and run — that much better.
AN: That chemistry is critical.
NM: Oh yeah. It’s huge.
AN: Given the wealth of experience around you, how much of an impact do you feel a coach has in cultivating a player’s talent?
NM: Well, it all depends on an individual player, first and foremost. But — especially in my situation — having Coach [Bill] Callahan come in, with the knowledge he had on offensive lines and offensive systems, was a huge help to my success. I try to give him credit every time that I can.
Having a good coach is huge. If you have a guy telling you exactly what you need to do and how to do it — and then you can be coachable and do it on the field — you have a great opportunity to do well.
AN: Do you feel like there’s somebody poised to have a breakout season this year?
NM: I haven’t really thought of that. Going through the spring, I’ve been more focused on the offensive line. We did well last year, so I would say the offensive line is poised to have a huge year. Being together for another season, we’re hopefully doing the right things.
AN: So, if everything works out, you feel like you guys can definitely open it up for the running backs again?
NM: When you have Leon [Washington] and [Thomas Jones] running, you don’t need to open it up that much. They get the job done. Having those guys back there and knowing that if you give them an extra inch, they’re gonna break it. Those guys back there are fantastic.
AN: It definitely sounds promising. Thanks for your time, Nick. I really appreciate it.
NM: Not a problem.