Vinny Curry made the decision once the 2013 season ended. He would attack the offseason like never before, changing his diet and working harder than ever to find his place in the Eagles defense.
Once a 262-pound end coming out of college, Curry has matured into a 280-plus pounder. He is off red meat. He stays away from dairy. He is working more than ever on explosiveness and power and strength and everything it takes to find the right fit here.
A second-round draft pick in 2012, Curry's progress has been affected by the scheme change for the defense. A 4-3 end at Marshall who was the 2011 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year after recording 11 quarterback sacks, seven forced fumbles and 22 tackles for a loss, Curry's push for playing time in the NFL has been halting.
Curry's rookie season was, largely, a washout. He played in only six games, despite the team's 4-12 record. The coaches were reluctant to give Curry an extended shot, so he worked in the background and learned the NFL way.
Last season, the Eagles had a new coaching staff and a new defensive scheme and instead of lining up off the edge in a 4-3 front, Curry plays end in a 3-4 front -- although, to be fair, he sees reps when the Eagles use the 4-man front in their interchangeable defense -- and is required to do a lot of things that he never had to do in his college days.
And, so ... the wait. The development. The understanding that when Curry is called upon, his job is to deliver some juice.
"My focus is to show my improvement from last year and to help the team in any way I can," says Curry, always upbeat as the Eagles began Organized Team Activities on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex. "I'm like the sixth man in basketball. I want to be that guy. I'm fighting for my place on the team and to give the team a spark whenever I'm in there."
Curry's hard work this offseason started long before the Eagles began their strength and conditioning program in South Philadelphia, and it's paid off. He says his body-fat percentage has decreased significantly. He is leaner, meaner and improved.
How that translates to playing time remains to be seen. The Eagles have a promising group up front with Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton and Bennie Logan and Damion Square and rookies Taylor Hart and Beau Allen and Curry. The level of competition is going to be extremely high in the summer.
That's fine with Curry, who made the most of his playing time last season. He ranked third on the team with four quarterback sacks and was third on the team with nine quarterback pressures despite playing just 26 percent of the team's defensive snaps. That's a sack rate of 1.3 percent (1 sack per 79 snaps) and a hurry rate of 3.5 percent (1 hurry per 29 snaps). Both figures ranked first on the defense in 2013.
Curry has learned the art of patience. He knows now what line coach Jerry Azzinaro wants in terms of technique and production, and as Year 2 in this defense dawns, Curry is optimistic about what is ahead for him and the rest of the unit.
"I'm trying to find my place and my role to make this defense better," he said. "I know the assignments now and I have a better understanding of what the defense is all about. I feel like I held my own last year and I improved as I went along. I watched a lot of film and feel like I got better.
"Now I'm ready to take it up a notch. I approached the offseason that way. I believe that good things come to those who wait and I'm a good teammate. When I get in there, it's my job to provide a spark. I want people to say, 'Vinny Curry helped the team win.' The only thing you can do is improve and improve every day, and that's what I'm doing."
Curry is looking for a leap forward in his game and he knows that if he does his part, the reward will follow. He will get more snaps. He will make more of an impact for the defense.
It's Year 3 for Curry. It's a critical time in his career.
"It's that way every day in the NFL," he said. "You have to make the most of every day and take advantage of your chances. I feel I'm where I want to be. I've worked so hard since last year ended. I am ready to play football, to help the team win games."