What's your assessment of your play in your first season as a full-time starter at inside linebacker?
I didn't really know what to expect and how it was going to play out. I was given an opportunity, and I'm just trying to take advantage of every moment. I've been trying to play well after
] went down [with a torn left quadriceps tendon Oct. 4] and trying to get better in every aspect of the game. I'm working hard with my coaches and doing extra film study so that I can become the linebacker I want to be.
left after last season, you were quickly anointed as his successor. Was that a lot of pressure for you?
When Bart was here, he taught me a lot of stuff, so there wasn't really a lot of pressure. I just couldn't wait to get some game time. That's what you look for as a kid. You want to be the guy playing out there with the greats like
] and playing against guys like
]. That's what you want, just that opportunity to go out and play. It wasn't about pressure, but more about, "Let me see how I do against a different team and different players."
You've had a tumultuous history with injuries, including a groin injury your senior year at Miami, a hip injury that forced you to sit out the Senior Bowl, a hernia that cut short your rookie season with the Ravens and a concussion that sidelined you against New England on Oct. 4. Are you concerned about injuries?
What I do is, I go full speed. If that means getting injured, that's what it is. I'm not going to slow down. I don't think about the injuries. ... I just play football full speed, and my body will handle the rest. I know this offseason, we're going to come up with a plan. If I need to be heavier or if I need to be more agile or whatever it is to help prevent injuries, we're going to do that.
With your speed, have you considered playing safety?
No, not really. Linebacker is fun. You get to match [up] against guys. I've been blessed with speed, but I've never seen myself playing safety. We have great safeties like
] and [
, so I don't know how I would fit in anyway. ... If the coaching staff didn't think I would have prosperity at the position, they would have moved me.
Who is the toughest running back to bring down?
Adrian [Peterson] is pretty fast and elusive. ... But there aren't too many guys that I can't bring down. That goes back to coaching and technique and being as fast as I am, the ability to get to them.
Did you have a childhood fear?
That I was going to lose my dad [Byron Gooden Sr.]. My mom [Sheila Gooden] passed away when I was so young, and I didn't know what I was going to do. He's been a real man to me and helped me grow up. I wasn't afraid of Freddy Krueger or any of those guys. It was just about losing my father.
Your mother died while waiting for a heart transplant when you were 10. How did that tragedy shape you as a person?
I tried out for football when I was 8, and I got hit so hard that I quit after that. I said, "This is not for me." I came back the next year and tried out. One day, my father made me late, and the defensive coach said, "I'm going to run you guys until you puke." I was like, "Run my dad. I don't have a car to get here." So I quit again after that, and I didn't think I was going to play any more football. But I told my mom, "Watch, I'm going to play this year." She told me that I didn't have to play, but I promised her that I would play. She passed away before my first game, so she never saw me play football, and ever since then, I've been keeping that promise to my mom. I've developed a passion for the game and just sticking with it.
Do you still think about your mother a lot?
Of course. It's hard not to think about the person who brought you into the world. But you celebrate life. You don't cry about it. So I celebrate my mom's life every time I go out there and play football. I live for her.
How did you get the nickname "The Business"?
I would play video games and just work out my boy on "Madden" and college hoops. I think I was a sophomore in high school, and I would just keep saying, "I'm giving you the business!" So everyone started calling me "The Business."
What's a better nickname: "Little Stump" or "The Business"?