Mason Foster is the man in the middle. He's looking to carry on the tradition of outstanding middle linebackers in the Tampa 2 defense. Foster couldn't be in a better position having the prototype player as his teacher.
He is already seeing a huge impact from linebacker coach Hardy Nickerson.
"Big impact,” Foster said. “Sitting down and talking to him about the little things he did, little tips that he gives me, little ways to step, little things to look for."
Coach Lovie Smith is noticing
"Mason Foster is a good football player, he's made a lot of plays too, like what he's doing,” Smith said. “He's growing into the position, couldn't have a better tutor Hardy Nickerson teaching him how to do it."
Since being drafted in the 3rd round in 2011, Foster is now learning his third system under a third different head coach -- a coach that asked him to drop weight and get faster. Foster put in the extra work in the off season, and comes to camp in the best shape of his life, about eight pounds lighter.
Foster says with passing being the priority in the NFL, the league is looking for a different type of defensive player.
"You could definitely see it coming,” Foster said. “You see the way the league is changing. See the way they're getting smaller, faster guys. So you have to be able to run. It feels a lot better. You don't feel like you're straining all the time. Just feel lighter on my feet, definitely in better shape.”
Being the 'Man in the Middle' of Lovie Smith's defense requires three things: being fast, physical and having an attitude. Foster was right in the middle of the extra 'chippiness' during Day 5 of training camp.
"Got to make a statement,” Foster said. “We want to be a big-time defense. Definitely want to stop the run. So we just try to come out here and be physical. It's football you've got to play right that. You've got to start stuff up. I love it. We're all family, but right now were competing. So you've got to compete at a high level and don't get beat by the offense."
During this first week of camp, Foster and his resurrected defense have the edge.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
Didn't find what you were looking for?