voluntary workouts around the NFL have begun, and when Connor Barwin returns to
"I'm just excited," he said, "to not be a rookie any more."
Not that being a rookie was bad for Barwin. Although he didn't earn much playing time early in the season, he slowly caught on and ended up leading all rookie defensive linemen (including the three who were picked in the first round) with 4 Â½ sacks and finished third overall among first-year players.
But if you know Barwin, you know how extraverted the guy can be, how big his personality can shine. That's not a great personality trait for a rookie to showcase in the NFL. That's why he's excited to move on from his rookie season. At least he can voice his opinion every once in a while.
"The first year for me, I kind of stepped back and watched and tried to learn how things are done," he said. "In your second year, you can be yourself more and do more things how you want to do it. You have a small voice, but it's still a voice in the locker room or in your position meeting. As a rookie, you can't say anything. You can't do anything. You just watch and learn. I'm excited to take that next step."
The rookie season for Barwin was also tough because he expected so much more out of himself. His stats, he said, were fine. His performances were adequate. But it didn't go quite as well as he expected or as he wanted. That was a tough blow for him.
But the Texans clearly were pleased with Barwin's performance, and they plan to make even better use of him this season.
"We were extremely impressed," Texans defensive coordinator Frank Bush told the team's official Web site. "The kid didn't have a whole lot of defensive experience, but he had a lot of talent. He's a guy that can run. He's got somewhat of a knack for the pass rush; he's a little bit slippery. I think he was able to excel because he understood exactly what he was and exactly what his positives and his negatives were."
The plan this season is to enhance the positives and improve the negatives.
"It was a lot like the transition from high school to college," Barwin said. "You get out there and you're playing with guys who are bigger and faster, but in your head, you know you can play. You kind of play tentative at first, but then you just adjust. The second half of the season, I was playing a lot more comfortable and you're playing a lot better. That's what happened.
"It was by far the most I've ever been challenged. Being a second-round draft pick, you're expected to do good things. I had a coach who was one of the most challenging coaches in my career. It's hard, and I told this to Craig Carey: if you're going to make it next year, you're going to have to be mentally tough. The mental aspect of something like that, you really can't prepare yourself for it. That's a lot different than college football."