The biggest lesson Pat Surtain learned as a rookie was off the field
May 26, 2022, 1:42 PM | Updated: 6:37 pm
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Much of life is about the lessons we learn and how we apply them in the future. The same is true for being a young player in the NFL.
Which is why it was interesting to hear a common thread linking the sentiments of Pat Surtain II and Javonte Williams on Thursday. When they players reflected on their 2021 rookie seasons and shared what they wanted to do differently, both mentioned the same thing:
For Williams, it was the most difficult aspect of his transition from North Carolina to Denver.
“I feel like the hardest part last year — it wasn’t football. It was off the field, honestly, just everything I had going on off the field,” Williams said. “I feel like I’m just better with my time now.”
For many players, at first it seems like the time stretches in front of them like an ocean. After college years spent juggling classes, study halls, learning the playbook, film study and practice, the focused environment of the NFL often seems to offer nothing but open space on the schedule.
It quickly fills up.
“I knew when you came into the NFL, you have media and things like that, sponsorships. I just didn’t know that it was so taxing on your schedule,” Williams said. “As soon as you finish with practice, it’s like, people want you here, they want you here.
“You’ve got to study. You’ve got to do all this kind of stuff. So, you’ve just got to know how to manage everything.”
And once the studying begins, it’s about maximizing that time.
“It’s a lot more going into the film room, utilizing that time, utilizing the meeting-room time with your defensive coaches and all that,” Surtain said. “Coming in the second year, it’s all about building on that and growing and being bigger and better than what you was the year before.”
To that end, Surtain said that he will spend the downtime before training camp starting his early-season preparation. He said Thursday that he plans to study Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf and 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel. Surtain will see both of them in the first three weeks of the regular season.
The rookie years of Surtain and Williams were successes by any reasonable measurement.
Surtain pushed for Pro Bowl honors, and by the end of the season, had become a lockdown corner. In Week 15, he played a massive role in Denver limiting Cincinnati’s Ja’Marr Chase to just a single catch for 3 yards, easily his worst game of the season.
Williams had the highest rate of forced missed tackles by any of the 79 running backs with at least 50 attempts, per Pro Football Focus.
But by applying something as universal as improved time management, each believes they will be better the second time around.
“I think the next step is to keep on building on that, keep on growing, keep on learning every day. In the league, you learn from experience,” Surtain said. “That’s the best thing about it: growing and utilizing your time wisely, so you can understand what it takes to be a pro in this league.”