A few new veterans joined the fold today in the first of four OTA practices this week, including quarterbacks Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick and newcomers Ernie Sims and Darryl Tapp. One holdover who partially participated in practice was cornerback Ellis Hobbs, the presumptive starting right cornerback who is working his way back from the herniated disk in neck that ended his 2009 season prematurely.
Hobbs was on the practice field for position drills and group install sessions, but left the field to go inside the NovaCare Complex once the team sessions began. Hobbs told a group of reporters after practice that he was just following his plan, made in conjunction with the team.
"We had sat down in mini-camp and they wanted me, (and) I've been here all off-season, and I told them, 'Look, I'm here. But I really feel like me just standing around isn't getting much done. So I'll get the mental in, the install, everything that I need, everything that you guys want me to do,'" he said. "If I'm not going to be practicing full go, I'd much rather be in there training, getting my body ready, conditioning, just staying in tune. In my mind, that puts a bad image not only on myself but on the players around me that I'm just standing around and I look healthy but I'm not doing anything. I'd rather be making positive steps forward wherever I'm at."
Hobbs said that physically he feels pretty close to 100 percent, but there's no reason to really test his limits at this stage in the off-season.
"There's no need to go out there and prove you're a hero in the month of May," he said. "When we get to (training) camp, we'll definitely be full-go and ready, but it's just a thing right now of prepare your body for what it's going to go through week after week."
Last season was not exactly a season that Hobbs enjoyed. In addition to suffering the scary neck injury - Hobbs said that his entire body went numb for a few seconds following the hit he received on kickoff return - he was also unsure of his playing time at cornerback when healthy. With Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown entrenched as the starters and Joselio Hanson locked in at nickel corner, Hobbs found himself subbing in to spell Brown several times a game.
"It was terrible. I hated it," he said. "I've never been in a situation like that before, coming in hesitant. It's like you can never get into a full swing of anything, especially if you're not used to doing that and starting and stopping. It was very difficult. But there's a professional side of this game where you have to play the hand that you're dealt and I understood that and I tried to be as professional as I could about it.
"You hate that as a competitive player because you want to be out there, you want to make an impact on the team and you want to show everybody what you can do and what you have been doing your whole career."
So Hobbs is gearing up to stake his name to the cornerback position this season.
"I always feel like I'm the starter," he said. "in my mind, all the time. You guys are going to get to see a little bit more of me as far as I have a personality on me. I'm cocky on the field. I'm humble as can be off the field, and like I said I'm very appreciative of all I've got, but I believe that when I'm out there, I'm supposed to be out there. I'm not out there by coincidence. That's how I've played my whole career."
As for the injury, Hobbs made sure to enforce the point that he has been cleared to resume all football playing activities and that the neck injury he suffered does not increase the likelihood of future injury at all. So for now Hobbs will continue getting his "mental reps" and reinforcing his knowledge of the defense while biding his time for a return to contact later this summer. And when he does hit the field eventually, don't expect any timidity from the brash veteran.
"My personality is I'm a head-first dude. I dive in the water. If something's going to happen, it's going to happen," he said. "When I'm out there on the field, I'm not thinking about (injury). I'm thinking about making a play and continuing playing on."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 5:00 p.m., May 24