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With Peter King in South Africa covering the World Cup, Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha took time away from his offseason to write today's Monday Morning Quarterback column. Asomugha is entering his eighth season in the NFL and is widely considered to be one of the best cornerbacks in the game. He's also very active off the field, lending efforts to his foundation among other charitable pursuits. Without further ado, here's his advice for rookies, Enjoyable/Aggravating Travel note and other MMQB staples.
It's a serious business being a rookie in the NFL. Your teammates expect a lot from you. Your coaches expect even more. And hopefully you expect the most from yourself.
When I was a rookie in 2003, I was not only making the transition from college to the NFL, but also being asked to make the move from safety to cornerback. It took time for me to get comfortable, and realistically, it wasn't until my third season that I began to feel at home.
Players often get a bad rap during their first or second year if they struggle with this transition, especially if they are high draft picks. I think it's important to look at a young player's work ethic, his football intelligence, and his desire to become great. Even if a player gets off to a slow start, it is those traits that will allow him to eventually become successful in his career.
So for all you rookies out there, here are a few tips of advice to help give you a smoother transition into the league:
Set your alarm for a reasonable time. If you're five minutes early, you're late. If you're late, you're fired.
Be confident in your ability to play the game. I learned from my position coach, Hall of Fame cornerback Willie Brown, that confidence is more than half of the battle. He told me before my very first game as a starter, "If you don't believe you're the best, you'll never be the best." No matter the situation, no matter the circumstance, when you believe in yourself and can fully understand that you made it to the NFL because you have an ability that is rare, you will conquer many of your fears before they even manifest.
Be smarter than you were the day before. This is where the mental part of the game comes into play. The tendency for young players is to rely solely on their athletic ability. Big ... Huge ... Enormous mistake. Understanding your role and the role of others around you will be extremely beneficial to your development as a player. Make it a point to learn something new with each day. The game will slow down for you, I promise. I didn't immediately grasp this concept, but once I did, I felt like I was playing a completely different game. Like I had the cheat code that my opponents couldn't figure out.
Don't limit your exposure. I believe that success is like a roll of film. In order to develop, you need exposure. Try to be as versatile as possible. Let the coaches see you in different spots on the field. It may seem like a headache in the beginning, but not only will it give you a better shot at making the team, but also it will make you a much better player. Versatility increases value. Value gives you job security. Make Special Teams your best friend in the entire world. We have all gone through the gauntlet of Special Teams at one point in our careers and many of us have made a wonderful living off it. If you wait until the last week of training camp to ask your Special Teams coach where you can help, you may be on the next bus out.
Stay out of the training room as much as you can. Sometimes you can't help it, and that's fine. Basically, do all of your necessary stretching and stay hydrated because an injury can make things very tricky. If one comes, shift your focus to getting better as soon as you can. As they say, "You can't make the club in the tub."
Don't count heads. By that I mean when teams are cutting players, don't try to figure out if you are next on the chopping block. Heck, don't even try to figure out where you will be on the depth chart. Try as hard as you can to keep from comparing yourself to others. You can only control your performance. If your teammate is doing well and you're having a bad day, the common thing to do is start comparing. "Well, he did well today, that must mean they like him more now. People are going to think I shouldn't be here. I wish I was doing better than he is doing." Don't let that be your thought. It will cloud your focus and your performance will suffer because you start to lose your confidence. Just go out there and be the best player you can possibly be and let the stuff you can't control work itself out. It always does.
Finally, I leave you with this piece of advice. Don't be afraid of the moment, because it doesn't last forever.
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