Much like hundreds of other draft picks across the league right now, Patriots fourth-round pick Cedric Cobbs is in the process of feeling out life in the NFL. With the draft, rookie mini camps and most of the offseason behind him, the former Arkansas star is focused on the final hurdle that remains in the jump from college to a job with the defending Super Bowl champions – training camp.
After missing most of the team's mini camp in early June with a leg injury, the now-healthy 6-0, 225-pound running back is intent on arriving in training camp as prepared as possible. While the missed mini camp reps may have set him back slightly, Cobbs is making the most of the remaining preparation time.
"As far as learning the plays it may have slowed me a little bit," Cobbs said of being sidelined for mini camp. "But I know my assignments, it's just a matter of practicing and going through the motions to really know it by heart. I am lacking experience but as far as my assignments, I know them. I just need to get into the groove."
It is likely the mental side of the game in which Cobbs must excel in order to expedite his development in the pros. Despite impressive numbers as a senior with the Razorbacks, including 1,329 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns, the Little Rock native has limited experience in the passing game, both in terms of catching the ball and pass protection.
"I am starting to feel more comfortable with all that," Cobbs said. "Like I said, I am lacking experience and I just want to get myself back out there to have that feeling that I know what to do instead of thinking about it. I have had some experience during the mini camps and everything as far as the blitz pickups and the passing game, but I wasn't full speed then so I wasn't really doing every drill.
"On certain plays you have different responsibilities that can vary based on the defensive formation. So you need to know both offensive and defensive formations and know the assignments. They can change with the different defenses. It's just a process of learning and knowing what you have to do."
But having already missed time with the leg injury and considering the Patriots stringent conditioning test requirements at the start of training camp, Cobbs knows he also must be physically prepared for the work that will officially begin on July 29.
"I am getting conditioned and ready for training camp," the former All-SEC ball carrier said. "I am getting as much in shape as I can to give myself a better shot with the team. I've heard about [the conditioning run]. That's one of the things that I want to focus on is getting in top shape so that I won't have to worry about putting all my effort into just trying to pass the conditioning test. That's just the beginning and the most important part is training camp and how well you perform in training camp. So I don't want that conditioning test to break me and leave me hanging in training camp."
Another aspect of Cobbs professional preparation, as well as that of every other NFL draft pick, took him to San Diego during the last week of June for the NFL's annual Rookie Symposium.
"It was real educational," Cobbs said. "They gave us a lot of helpful hints on things to look forward to as far as financially and all the different distractions that might come -- a lot of off field things that could happen to you and problems you might face. They just broadened everybody's enlightenment on things off the field."
Regardless of how prepared Cobbs is headed into training camp though, the fact remains that every rookie faces an uphill battle for a roster spot and playing time.
"I have the goal of going into camp fully focused and being physically ready and just doing the best that I can do to show my true talent," Cobbs said. "That's my goal. As far as numbers, I don't have any goals for that yet. First I have to get past training camp. That's what my mind is on right now. The way I look at it is you are going to get what you earn and that's the reason why I just want to go into camp the best that I can so I will know that I did my part and I won't have anything to worry about."
Any early contributions that Cobbs may be asked to give the Patriots will likely come on special teams, an area in which many former college stars aren't necessarily prepared to produce. But that doesn't worry the 128th player taken in April's draft.
"Actually up here I am on all the special teams, all but one," Cobbs said of his mini camp roles. "I feel that I can get an edge on special teams because I feel that I am an athletic person and strong enough to be helpful. I definitely want to open up some eyes on special teams."
But all that is still a few weeks away. Right now, in the lull of the NFL offseason, Cobbs is just one of the many would-be professional football players trying to find their way through unfamiliar waters.
"I feel like I have my foot halfway in and halfway out," Cobbs said of his life as a Patriot. "I am not exactly all the way in yet and I sense that. But I definitely have one foot in and if you have one foot in then the rest is up to you, making it my responsibility to get ready to the best of my ability.
"I've always had high expectations for myself and I always work hard. I am real anxious and excited to see what I can do in the NFL and what kind of player am I going to be."