Chiefs defensive end Mike DeVito is no different than most of his teammates who reported for voluntary workouts this week.
He’s still hurting.
The sting of the season-ending 45-44 loss at Indianapolis in the playoffs, in which the Chiefs blew a 28-point lead in the second half, still gnaws at DeVito more than any defeat he experienced in seven years in the NFL.
“I’m still not over it,” DeVito said earlier this week when the Chiefs convened for their voluntary off-season program. “Of all the games I’ve played losing two AFC championship games (with the Jets in 2009 and 2010), I don’t know if I hurt more than after that game.”
DeVito started 13 games in his first season with the Chiefs, mostly as a run stopper, and was often replaced on passing downs.. Because the Colts were running three and four receivers for most of the playoff game, DeVito participated in just nine defensive plays.
He wasn’t happy.
“Being so mad about that last game, I started thinking, ‘How can I fix this so I can get out there and be able to help my team?”’ DeVito said.
The answer was changing his diet. Since the end of the season, DeVito, a 6-foot-3, 305-pounder, embarked on a diet and conditioning program that he hopes will enable him to become agile enough to better rush the passer and contribute more to the defense.
“There was some statistic that teams we played against were in (three wide receiver) personnel 70 percent of the time last year,” DeVito said. “So that’s on me. I have to get it right.
“I have a specific thing that I’m good at, but the way things are going, the way games are being played, I need to work harder this off-season so I can contribute and get my butt on the field. For me, it’s going to be about changing my diet and turning my weight to the same weight, but better weight, so I can move around better and be a little more shifty with quicker hips.”
DeVito has done away with bacon and eggs in the morning and begins each day with fruit shakes.
“It gets your metabolism going,” said DeVito, who hired a nutritionist to supervise his diet. “You get some protein, some carbs in there, but it doesn’t sit in your stomach so when I go out there to work out, I don’t have that heavy belly, food sitting in my stomach. It burns up quicker, but it gives me the energy I need.
“I do that until lunch and then it’s all about smaller meals, trying to get better quality foods, and supplements, vitamins, fish oil can take away from inflammation and help you stay healthier.”
DeVito, 29, doesn’t believe his focus on improving his pass rush skills will come at the expense of stopping the run.
“No, there’s a balance there,” he said. “I’m not going to go on a fast for three months and get down to 275. I want to keep my weight and strength where it is, but maybe turn these love handles into abs.”
DeVito was credited with 28 tackles last season and did a lot of the dirty work for his teammates on early downs. He received a game ball for his role in the Chiefs’ 24-7 win over the Raiders because his five tackles against the run contributed to putting Oakland in second- and third-and-long situations that led to the Chiefs recording nine sacks.
But he did not have a sack last season and has just 2 1/2 in his career, a number he wants to increase.
“After the Indianapolis game, I asked, ‘What can I add to my game?’” DeVito said. “When you get into year eight now I’m going to be 30 years old, and there aren’t as many (years) in front of me as there are behind me.
“I need to pay attention to what I’m doing. I want to provide for my family, but I want to be able to add to this team and help us achieve the goals we want. It’s trying to find those little things you can to your game through nutrition, mental skills. Everybody is big, fast, strong, so it’s about finding the little things.”
DeVito, like several of his teammates, has yet to watch the tape of the Indianapolis game. But he hasn’t let it go.
“To be so far ahead and let it slip away ” he said. “You can’t dwell on it and let it bring you down. You don’t want one game to beat you again. So you want to use that as motivation going forward.”