Brandon Graham knows what you're thinking. He knows you're comparing his three career sacks to the 21 career sacks put up by Jason Pierre-Paul, who was drafted two picks behind Graham in the 2009 NFL Draft. He knows you're writing him off as a wasted pick.
"I haven't (done) anything really," Graham said after the first day of Organized Team Activities. "Right now, I'm a bust, so I'm going to deal with that. I'm a bust and I'm going to keep being a bust, even when I make plays, I'm going to still act like I'm a bust, you know what I'm saying?"
Fully healthy for the first time since tearing his ACL in the 13th game of his rookie season, Graham is using the criticism often heaped upon him as motivation for what he hopes will be a breakout season. Last offseason, Graham was unable to run because of the recovery process from his knee injury and he ended up weighing 285 pounds when he was activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list mid-way through the 2011 season. Now, Graham is down to 265, the trimmest he's been since his junior year at Michigan.
"Coming back (last year), I still wasn't as in shape as I needed to be," Graham said. "But now, that's not a problem at all. I just need to keep getting in game shape, even though by (training) camp you still won't be in game shape."
With Jason Babin absent from OTAs, Graham was able to work with the first team at left defensive end. The third-year player is in the midst of his first full offseason in the NFL, after his first offseason was stunted with rehab and the NFL work stoppage. The fabled year-one-to-year-two jump could be on tap for Graham one year later than normal.
"Just getting a whole year and a half under my belt, now I don't really think about my knee as I did when I was coming back," he said. "That's what I was doing a lot, I was favoring it. Now ... I just go as hard as I can and just take it one day, just keep getting better.
(Having the full offseason "is big because now I can sit in there and watch film and sit and look at myself from last year and my first year, the film that I do have. Just keep working on the little things that I need to work on from that year and last year."
So now, Graham continues to ready himself for a season that he hopes will change the public perception about him. He knows some people have already given him the "bust" label, and he's prepared to do something about it.
"Just going through that whole thing last year, not playing, I just grew as a person, that was number one," he said. "I've moved on from it. Now it's time for me to defend myself."
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