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A Week in the NFL: Patrick Kerney Speaks


Sunday
Photo courtesy Jimmy Cribb/AtlantaFalcons.com

It's game day.

Game day I'll wake up about 8:15, head downstairs to grab my breakfast, back upstairs to shower, pack up.

Is there a special game-day breakfast?

Yeah, this is pretty odd -- usually a huge bowl of oatmeal.

The biggest cereal bowl you can think of, fill that up with oatmeal; then a lot of fruit, vegetables and just, you know, drinking a lot of water and Gatorade. And then go back upstairs, shower up, go get in my car and head over to the Dome.

You are dressed in street clothes at this point?

Yeah, as I get there I a have to tape up my pads, put double sided tape on to prevent the offensive linemen being able to grab our jerseys; so I'll tape up my pads, read the game program.

Around what time do you get to the locker room?

Around 10:15 to 10:30. When I'm done reading the game program I begin getting loosened up by what's called an ART -- a guy using rapid acupuncture on me, active relief technique.

I stretch by myself in the training room and get my iPod, switch my iPod to the pre-game mix.

What's on your iPod?

Main Title theme from "Terminator 2," The Drowning Pool "Let The Bodies Hit The Floor," Public Enemy "Welcome to the Terrordome." And Metallica "2 x 4." I'll mix in a little 50 cent, ACDC...

Stretch, get up, put my pads on. To get my pads on I need our equipment manager. I think I might have the smallest jersey on the team. I just try to have it tight as a glove so that there's less to grab. So stuff my pads in them first and squeeze them on, then put on my war paint under my eyes.

I usually find myself pacing around the locker room and start to work my self into a bit of a frenzy.

What's on your mind at that point in time?

Just the violence that my body needs to have in every situation. How explosively and violently I react. I'll start thinking about some of those nature videos of cheetahs chasing down their prey, leopards, packs of wolves chasing down their prey. Just starting to get that picture. You know, putting myself in their shoes.

How would you describe the mental state?

I guess fury is the best way to describe it because playing defensive end to me is violence and fury. Every play is pin-your-ears-back, and even if it's a run down and you're trying to hit blocks, you're trying to run through the guys sternum. And then pass downs, you're trying to run around them, over them, any way you can to be as violent as you can. Football breaks out, that's when those cheetah videos come to mind and it's time to chase down your prey.

What happens just before kickoff?

We go out, do our warm up, we come back in for about 10 to 15 minutes and we'll go have a team prayer in the shower. Then I'll come back to my locker, say my personal prayer.

There's a bunch of us, we'll speak up. Usually four or five of us will say what we need to say and give thanks for the opportunity to go out there and do what we do and we'll break it up. I'll come in, say my own prayers to myself and then usually I like to go around and just give some type of slap on the shoulder, some type of fist bump to everybody on the team, just let them know that I got their back, we're together on this one. I do that while on my iPod and start to work up that fury even more.

Do you ever have any guest speakers?

We had Jimmy Carter in the locker room last week, and [he said] "I'm proud of you," the state was of us and he just wished us well, that's pretty cool.

And then coach will come out, he's as fiery as anybody on the team which is pretty awesome. So he'll come out and just give his couple minutes of what type of things we need to do to win that game. We'll break it down to team right there and take the field. The one thing that coach Mora has done that I think is great is we don't do individual introductions anymore -- we get introduced as the Atlanta Falcons, and I think that's a great thing.

Down the tunnel, we gather at midfield. Myself or Alge Crumpler, or Brooking, or Mike, we'll say something to the team, we'll break it down right there and get ready for the "Star Spangled Banner" and get things rolling.

Okay, let's talk about halftime.

Half time is back into the locker room grab my energy drink ... it's a thicker energy drink, and about five or six of those orange slices. Just like Little League soccer, grab the orange slices, chow down a bunch of those, drink my Gatorade drink, then we meet as a defense. Talk over things defensively. We break up into a defensive line, talk about our line, what we could do, what we can improve on in the second half, and that's it. Got a couple of minutes, coach Mora will come in, break us down again, take the field.

During the game, do you hear the things fans are yelling?

Not really in home games so much as away games, because it's a lot quieter and they have choice words for you behind your bench. But that's something you kind of just zone out. If someone comes up with something creative about you or any member of your family you usually get a pretty good chuckle about it and you don't even pay them any attention. You may cop a smirk.

What happens after the game?

After the game try to get undressed as quick as you can, get in the showers, shower up and by the time you get back you usually got a bunch of cameras and reporters waiting for you at your locker so you spend your time with them and give them your thoughts on the game.

We check in with the trainers, throw ice bags on anything you need iced and then go out and meet whoever. My girlfriend and her parents or my parents or any of my guests at the game will be waiting outside the locker room for us. Then sign, I don't know, about about 100 autographs right outside the door. Get on my way and come home and usually go out for dinner on Sunday night, particularly after wins, just a little celebratory dinner.

Then come home and slowly start passing out from exhaustion. Probably the hardest part of my week honestly is Sunday night. I'll fall asleep early from being tired, but then I'll wake up at 1 or 2 in the morning and as soon as I start thinking about one play from the game, it's over. I am up running every play from the game in my mind over and over and over again. I usually don't sleep too well on Sunday nights.

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