Dimitri Patterson stayed after practice on Tuesday to work on grabbing the ball at the highest point when trying to intercept a pass. Patterson said he was working on "finishing" because "interceptions change momentum." Two days later, Patterson saw the fruits of his labor when he skied high in the air to deflect a Kevin Kolb pass during a two-minute drill, with the ball falling softly into the hands of cornerback Geoffrey Pope.
For Patterson, fine tuning the little things is what the spring is all about.
"It's just getting better and working on the little things, the footwork, your eyes, just doing things the right way and being consistent in doing that," Patterson said. "The good players in this league are consistent. You come out here every day and you try to do the same thing every day and do it a high level and be consistent in that. So that's what I work on."
"I mean I've only been here a year. I haven't been here four or five years, so I can't walk around acting like I know this defense like the back of my hand. I'm familiar with it, I know it, I pick up things quickly, but at the end of the day I've only been here a year. I don't mind being out here, it's a chance for me to get better and work on the little things."
The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Patterson, 26, is in his fifth year in the league, but he has a chance to really stick somewhere for the first time in his career. After a stop in Washington as a rookie, Patterson spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, mainly as a special teamer. After making the Eagles roster coming out of training camp last year, Patterson's original contribution was also on special teams. But injuries elsewhere in the secondary led to Patterson getting some time at cornerback where he showed significant promise.
"You want to stick wherever you're at, but we all know the NFL is a business of situation," Patterson said. "It's a business of opportunity. It's all situational, and people don't really know that from the outside looking in, but it's all situational. It's about being in a good position, in a good situation where the opportunity is going to be there. And the guys who are given the opportunities and they show, they're able to stick. I came here and I was able to get in the mix and that was good for me, I was able to take advantage of those opportunities and I plan on doing that more, so the more opportunities I get, the more I'll show that I'm ready, and then I'll be able to stick."
But with all the new faces in the secondary brought in to Philadelphia this off-season, Patterson will again be fighting for his job. That's not something he shies away from though, and Patterson won't be satisfied simply by getting on the field, he wants to make a mark.
"I'm a competitor just like anybody else in any sport or business," he said. "No one's going to say to themselves that they want to be second, let's be real. I'm not going to sit here and say I want to be second, that's not the truth. But, whatever's put in front of me, I'm going to make the best of it and I'm going to do it at a very high level with expectations of one day being that guy. That's the only mindset I can have, that's my everyday approach.
"Wherever they want me on the field, I'm going to be on the field, but I'm not just going to be on the field, I'm going to be productive. That's my thing ... wherever they put me, however they want to use me, that's on them. But when I'm out there, I'm going to do it on a high level, that's my main concern."
Versatility in the secondary is something Patterson prides himself on. He's capable of playing both on the outside and on the inside in nickel situations - something he said takes a lot more precision because in the middle of the field, you don't have the advantage of using the sideline boundary to your advantage. Furthermore, Patterson says, there is more time to recover as a cornerback on a throw to the outside simply because the ball takes longer to reach the receiver. Plus, it's more difficult to be physical with a receiver who is lining up two yards behind the ball.
"You have to work every day," Patterson said of fine-tuning technique inside. "You talk to a lot of the top guys in the NFL, they don't want to go (inside) and there's a reason why ... There's a certain level of patience that one has to have, on top of that, you can't have any mistakes, because one mistake, one false move, and you're beat. And it's hard to recover in there because they have so much room."
So Patterson will continue working on his own game this off-season and not worrying about his competition. The veteran has a good sense of his place in the game and the hard work it takes just to contend.
"It's the NFL, it's not going to stop for anybody," he said. "It was here before me and it will be here after me and that's part of the business. Like anything else, you can't get concerned with numbers or personnel or decisions or articles or the draft, this is a game, a very intense game and you have to be focused at all times.
"And you have to worry about yourself. The things you can't control, you have to let that be, because when you start to worry about things beyond your control, that's going to affect your play. And I've been here long enough to know that I have to work on myself every day and let everything else take care of itself."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 2:17 p.m., May 28