Saints getting a more refined Robinson this time around
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson sees his ease in front of a swarm of microphones as symbolic of the more secure person and player he has become since his unsatisfying first stint in New Orleans.
He left the Saints in 2015 as a five-year veteran who’d never quite lived up to expectations since being selected out of Florida State in the first round of the 2010 draft, just months after the Saints had won their only Super Bowl. Now he’s back one season after winning his first Super Bowl with Philadelphia.
“My first tenure here I was quite weak-minded, to be honest,” says Robinson, who signed a four-year free-agent contract worth about $20 million with New Orleans this offseason. “I wasn’t that mentally strong. I left and had some experiences, and that definitely helped me. So now I’m a totally different person.”
Early in his career, Robinson routinely struggled to get out entire sentences without seizing up in awkward silence as he tried to make his mouth utter the words in his head. It was known that he preferred to conduct interviews off camera.
Not anymore. And the way the 30-year-old Robinson sees it, the same growth in maturity and confidence that helped him overcome his speech impediment also helped him on the field, and he asserts that the Saints are regaining his services at a time when he’s the best he’s ever been.
“Going through the trials and tribulations — that really helped me as a person. So I’ve definitely grown since then, a lot,” Robinson said. “I’m more comfortable. I just try not to make it more than what it is.”
Robinson said a combination of self-doubt and a tendency to get discouraged by injuries kept him from playing to his potential early in his career. It also didn’t help that he played man-to-man coverage all throughout his college career. He described learning the Saints’ more exotic defense his rookie season as something akin to “a different language for me. And I was kind of lost — very lost.”
He didn’t become a full-time starter until his third season, in 2012, when New Orleans fielded one of the worst defenses in NFL history. Injuries sidelined him nearly all of the 2013 season, when New Orleans defense improved dramatically and the team made the playoffs. He returned as a starter in 2014, when New Orleans again struggled defensively, ranking last in the league, and the Saints missed the playoffs.
Robinson then spent one season each in San Diego and Indianapolis before sliding into a role as a slot defender last season with the Eagles. It seemed to suit him. His four interceptions tied his career high, first set with the Saints in 2011. Robinson added an interception for a 50-yard touchdown in the Eagles’ NFC title game triumph over Minnesota.
Now Robinson even has the confidence to discuss some of the changes he’s noticed in coach Sean Payton since his previous stint with the club.
“I’ve definitely seen a difference. Before he was just like very serious about everything,” Robinson said. “Now he’s kind of lightened up a little bit, has a bit of leeway with certain things.
“I’m not sure why, but he’s a little bit more lenient.”
Saints quarterback Drew Brees was fresh off his Super Bowl MVP season when he was invited to announce Robinson as the Saints’ top pick in the following draft. He said Robinson’s maturity has been evident in camp.
“He just doesn’t look like a young guy who’s still trying to get it and understand it,” Brees said. “He looks like a guy who’s been there, played that position, and has had that experience. He’s seen that route and that concept. … He is much better with his communication with other defensive backs out there on the field.”