Sean Considine has heard the criticism. How couldn't he? Since inheriting a starting job, it's flown at him from all directions.
"He's soft." "He can't tackle." "He's playing scared."
Thing is, Considine, a fourth-year safety from Iowa, might not exactly disagree with any of those statements, at least because of his performance over the past two seasons. Of course, he believes in himself. He thinks he can be a starting-caliber player in the NFL.
And to him, it's more complicated than the critics say. In his mind, he knows he's been held back.
Considine has been plagued with a shoulder injury that he suffered in his rookie season. The injury resurfaced last year, put him on injured reserve and required surgery for the second time. For his tentativeness, he doesn't place blame on anyone but himself, especially not the doctors. Accepting all responsibility for his struggles, he said, is the best way to get back to playing the way he would like to.
So now, he took an invitation to go to training camp a few days early, with only one non-quarterback (linebacker Rocky Boiman) with more NFL experience than him among the early arrivals.
"This time around, I listened to everything that the surgeon said. Believe it or not, all those years of school he went to, he knew what he was talking (about)," Considine said. "After my first surgery, I spent a lot of time thinking about my shoulder and worrying about it, and it's hard to play football when you have something on your mind like that."
Considine won't even use the excuse that he wasn't 100 percent last season. In fact, he assured reporters that he felt fine for the entire season. But when playing for more than a season with a bum shoulder, he had fallen into nasty habits that didn't let him perform to the best of his ability.
Afraid to take a rough hit to it? His tackling suffered. Scared of an accidental tweak? He labored mentally.
In turn, he lost his starting job at strong safety to Quintin Mikell, a role he will have to fight from behind to get if he wants it back. So, despite being one of the more tenured players in camp so far, Considine will be learning as much as he is teaching, fighting as much as he is preparing.
He's willing to spend as much time on the field as physically possible to assure coaches that he belongs on the roster.
"I think that, right now, it's (Mikell)'s job (as the starter). There's no question about it. But, we'll play the best player," defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. "That's what preseason's about. The lineup is pretty well set. We'll use Sean a lot of different ways. Sometimes in nickel, and (Mikell) will play in dime. We'll try to get the best players on the field."
Considine knows what he has to do to show that he's one of those players. Those missed tackles that stick out in the fans' minds? Don't worry. He remembers them, too. He regrets them.
Considine said he had a conversation with head coach Andy Reid on the practice field Tuesday. Reid wanted to know how he was feeling. Considine assured him that he was in great shape, and that the worries about reinjuring his shoulder are gone. He's going back to work.
"At this level, it's just different (than college). Everybody's a great player," Considine said. "You're going to have ups and downs, you're going to win some, you're going to lose some. But, at the same time, you just got to try to minimize the negatives and just keep on learning from the things that have happened."