Robinson recovers from bad start to lead Panthers' return game Print
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Thursday, 27 December 2007 11:03
NFL Headline News

 CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -Ryne Robinson came to Carolina's training camp cocky. The Panthers' fourth-round pick planned to return punts and kickoffs, and surprise the coaches enough to earn time at receiver.
By Week 3, the former Miami of Ohio star hadn't cracked the rotation at receiver, and was so tentative and ineffective as a returner that he was replaced at both positions.
Robinson's confidence turned to fear.
``I think the job security thing scares everybody,'' Robinson said. ``Once I started getting taken off of stuff, I was like, if I'm not playing receiver, punt returner or kick returner, then I don't have any place on this team. What am I going to do?''
Robinson asked for a meeting with coach John Fox, who was blunt with his rookie.
``I asked him what I had to do,'' Robinson recalled. ``Right out, he said, 'You've got to hit the wedge harder. You've got to run harder. This is a contact sport. You've got to know you're going to get hit from time to time.'
``I took his advice and I just started running harder.''
Robinson also sat down and watched film of his college days, when he racked up 1,677 punt return yards, second-most in NCAA history. He saw himself anticipating holes instead of waiting for them to open.
Robinson changed his ways, and it slowly paid off. Back as both punt and kickoff returner, Robinson is coming off his best game as a pro against Dallas on Saturday when he set career highs with a 42-yard kickoff return and a 34-yard punt return.
``I was just second-guessing myself,'' Robinson said. ``Instead of going with what I know how to do, I was just doing whatever and kind of dilly-dallying around back there. I think I've got the hang of it now, and it's working out for us.''
Robinson reached his goal of getting time at receiver, too. He caught his first NFL pass from fellow rookie Matt Moore in Carolina's upset win over Seattle two weeks ago, and had another catch against the Cowboys.
``Last year I was the guy on my team. I caught 91 balls and I was the go-to guy,'' Robinson said. ``Then I had to come here and step into a situation where I had to be a role player, play special teams most of the year. Now I'm finally getting a chance to get out there and show them that I can be versatile.''
Still, the Panthers' main hope is that Robinson develops into a reliable, explosive return man. It's why they drafted him after having the league's worst return game last season.
While Robinson ranks 34th in the league with a 21.5-yard kickoff return average and 14th with an 8.6-yard punt return average, his recent improvement has pleased Fox.
``As is the case with a lot of young players, when you're out there thinking, you're not playing as fast as you can,'' Fox said Thursday. ``It was just a matter of him getting adjusted to the speed of this game and not thinking where that block is going to be. He's gotten better with that, no doubt.''
Robinson's confidence is also slowly creeping back.
He still hopes to follow teammate Steve Smith's path. Smith, who like Robinson is only 5-foot-9, was drafted as a return man and developed into one of the game's top receivers.
For now, though, Robinson is just happy to have a job.
``Everything is slowing down. I can see where I'm going ahead of time,'' Robinson said. ``I can take peeks at places and know that's where I'm going before it even opens up.''
 

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