CINCINNATI -- Rey Maualuga acknowledges that his first season as an NFL middle linebacker didn't live up to expectations. But he also understands there are heightened expectations based on his college pedigree.
"I’m not Jesus. I’m not Superman. I’m just going to be best football player Rey can be," he said before Tuesday's practice. "Everyone talks about my other fellow companions who are being very successful, Brian [Cushing] and Clay [Matthews]. Where’s that guy that we thought we drafted from SC [Southern Cal]? My mindset is I can’t worry about what people think."
It's tough for Maualuga not to make comparisons to Cushing and Matthews, all of whom were linebackers at USC and were drafted in the same year (2009). Cushing was the 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and Matthews is a three-time Pro Bowl player.
"It’s in the back of my head," Maualuga said.
Maualuga believes he will play much better this season after having his ankle surgically repaired in January. He severely sprained it while leaping for a pass in practice on Oct. 13. Maualuga missed the next three games and wasn't the same when he returned.
He said the ankle "is doing fine" and has held up during camp.
Another issue was an assault charge, which was settled in mediation. The NFL could have disciplined him for his second off-the-field incident in two years, but Maualuga said he hasn't heard from the league.
"I think that's a positive note," he said. "We can move past all that and get to playing football."