He is a quick learner, so having to catch up on lost time is a challenge, not a burden, for safety Kurt Coleman. He graduated from high school half a year early and enrolled at Ohio State and then graduated in four years, and if anybody can make up for three missed weeks of Eagles practices as a rookie, it is the cerebral and confident Coleman.
A seventh-round draft pick, Coleman participated in the team's post-draft camp, but then missed the entire Organized Team Activity period because Ohio State did not conduct its graduation until Sunday. Thus, Coleman missed all the on-field time, all the reps in shells and shirts, all of that valuable teaching time that young players so desperately need.
"It was tough because I felt I had a lot to contribute to the team and there were things I could have done to get better for myself," said Coleman. "I did everything I could to prepare myself for when I got here, because I knew I had a lot of catching up to do."
Coleman missed all of the practices, and then arrived at the NovaCare Complex last Thursday for his on-the-job training. He went into the classroom for chunks of hours at a time -- 10 on his first day -- and worked with the coaches to cram all of that information into his brain. Coleman is a smart kid, obviously, and while he was home studying his playbook, he learned all of the terminology. He memorized designs. Fine. Super.
But when a player is away, he misses the chance to see what a coach wants in certain situations, what kind of leverage to use against receivers running certain routes, how to recognize formations and make the proper adjustments.
"You have no idea how a coach wants you to learn the defense," said Coleman. "It's just drawings in a playbook."
Coleman graduated on Sunday, a proud moment for him and the Coleman family. That night, he hopped on a plane and returned to the NovaCare Complex.
"I can learn things several different ways. I can learn it visually, being out there on the field and seeing everything happen. And I can learn it by writing everything out and memorizing that part of it. But, of course, the more reps you get will help you out. Not being here hurt me," said Coleman, "but I'm making up for it by writing everything out, by working now with the coaches and getting the finer details of the assignment.
"These last few days have been busy. I've logged a lot of hours and it is worth it. This is something I want to do well. I want to be a good safety for this team and in this league for a long time. I'm doing everything I can to catch up to where everyone else is. I don't want to be a step behind in training camp I feel really good about where I am in the defense."
There is no brain drain, Coleman insists. He is fresh and eager and diving into the Sean McDermott defense. With Marlin Jackson shelved for the season, the Eagles are leaning even more on their young safeties. Second-round draft pick Nate Allen is the starter at free safety now, and Coleman is in the mix behind him along with rookies Devin Ross and Ryan Hamilton. Veteran Quintin Demps plays both safety spots.
There is good competition. Coleman intends to make himself known right away at Lehigh.
"I can retain a lot of things fast and a lot of things at a time. I know this is just starting. I retained a lot from the post-draft camp and I have some time here to make up for what I missed. Coach Mike Zordich said that when I go back to Ohio, he will be in Ohio, not far away, and he can help whenever I need to see him," said Coleman. "I went to Ohio State and wanted to gain something meaningful out of my time there. I'm young for where I am, so I've always been the kind who has had to catch up.
"This is no different. I'm catching up again, and I'll get there."