Amazing what you can find out when you finally get to talk to a guy.
Reporters covering the Eagles have wondered what Ellis Hobbs thought about being named the starting right corner, after the team traded Sheldon Brown to Cleveland last month. Through the Eagles, Hobbs had declined requests to be interviewed, but he was more than willing to talk yesterday, after taking part in individual drills as a few more "select" vets joined rookie camp at NovaCare.
Turns out Hobbs never knew, he said, that general manager Howie Roseman designated him as the starter in the wake of the Brown trade.
"That's my first time hearing you say that, that Howie said that," Hobbs, 27, said. "I don't get involved in that stuff, man . . . as far as the politics of the game and whatever . . . I feel like you lay all the cards out on the table and what's going to happen is going to happen . . . All I can do is go out there and play when I get my opportunities, and I try to do the best that I can all the time."
But with Brown gone, does Hobbs think he should be the starter?
"I always feel like I'm the starter, in my mind, all the time," Hobbs said. "You guys are going to get to see a little bit more of me as far as, I got a personality on me. I'm cocky on the field, I'm humble as can be off it. I'm very appreciative of what I've got. But I believe when I'm out there, I'm supposed to be out there. I'm not out there by coincidence. That's the way I've been my whole career."
Of course, though Hobbs was a fine kick returner, he was not a starting corner here last season, after being touted as a contender when the Birds traded with New England for him in April 2009. He struggled in coverage; nobody watching the team would have put Hobbs on a level with Brown before Hobbs suffered a potentially career-threatening neck injury against Dallas Nov. 8, ending his season. That was why it was a little surprising when Roseman declared him a starter, and even more surprising when the Eagles didn't address cornerback until the fourth round of the draft, with Kentucky's Trevard Lindley.
"It was terrible. I hated it. I hated being that way. I've never been in a situation like that before," Hobbs said. "It's like you can never get in a full swing of anything, especially if you're not used to doing that, and stopping and starting. It was very difficult. But there is a professional side of this game where you have to play the hand that you were dealt. I understood that and tried to be professional about it."
Hobbs sounded more upset with the playing situation than with the injury, suffered as he struggled for extra yardage returning a kick. He said the hit caused him to briefly lose feeling in his legs.
"For a brief second, I couldn't move. I stood up, after what seemed like an eternity - maybe 5 seconds or so," Hobbs recalled. "Walking funny afterwards. The doctors sitting right there, seeing me on the sideline, said I had every symptom of, basically, the type of injury I had - a disk that came out. It's just one of those things where, after the fact, you look at it [as having been] more scary than when it did happen."
Ultimately, an anterior cervical decompression and fusion gave him the green light to return to football. Hobbs said he never doubted that would happen.
"That might be my schizophrenia out there, being a little crazy. But I never thought it," he said. "I said, 'I know you can't feel it right now, but get up.' I didn't will my way to get up, but it happened. I guess it built that stupid confidence in me, knowing that you continue on and play. But I go out there full force. I've played through injuries, I've been through injuries, that's second nature to me now. Things happen. The biggest thing I thought about was, 'How are we going to work around this?' . . . I was trying to get back out there."
Hobbs said his understanding is that since his surgery was limited to one disk, he is in no greater danger of suffering such an injury again than any other player.
Some observers still predict an Eagles move for a corner before the season starts, but no one from the organization has given any indication that might happen - the official stance is that the Birds will be fine with New England's starting corner tandem from 2007, Hobbs and Asante Samuel.
Hobbs doesn't seem to be worrying. He was asked yesterday about one of his tattoos, which reads, "If not me, who?"
"In this game, especially at cornerback, the light's always on you, on that island by yourself. A lot of the times, you feel alone," Hobbs said. "You can mope about it, you can complain, or you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps and continue on. I feel like with that tattoo - and they all have meanings - no one is going to sit here and cry with you. You've got to keep pushing on and fighting the good fight.
"You can either be the big guy, and do what I just said, pull yourself up, or you can be the world's smallest man playing the saddest song. Nobody's going to hear you or see you."
Hobbs will play this season on a 1-year restricted free agent tender, worth about $2.8 million. He said he expects to be full strength and ready for contact when training camp arrives, in 2 months. Hobbs said he wants to continue to return kicks.
"I feel fresh, I feel healthy, I feel like me, mentally and physically," he said.