Colts RB Simpson Relishing Challenge of Competing for a Position
INDIANAPOLIS – The only difference is not much a difference at all.
Because while Chad Simpson is competing for an NFL roster spot this offseason and training camp, and while he said he can't relax if he expects to be in professional football come the fall, he said taking such an approach won't be unusual.
He took it last season. And he took it in college, too.
He even took it in high school.
Simpson, a second-year running back from Morgan State, said that even when he has felt secure in a position during his football career, he hasn't felt overly secure.
And he certainly never acted as if he did.
"If I'm always in the mindframe that I have to fight, I'm better off," Simpson said recently during the Colts' offseason conditioning program.
Simpson, who signed with the Colts as a free agent shortly after the 2008 NFL Draft, fought to make the roster as a rookie.
He didn't make the team immediately, spending the first five weeks of the season on the team's practice squad and signing to the active roster on October 14, shortly after rookie and sixth-round selection Mike Hart sustained a season-ending knee injury.
He took advantage of his opunity.
And he did so not only as a running back, but as a kick returner, too.
Simpson, who returned a kickoff for a 93-yard touchdown as a sophomore at South Florida, returned 15 kickoffs as a rookie last season for a 22.9-yard regular-season average.
"Especially being a free agent, the more you can do, the better off you are in terms of staying here," Simpson said.
He also rushed 15 times for 45 yards.
"To me, the only difference honestly is reaction," Simpson said. "A lot of people can run, but you have to react quick in this game. It's way quicker reaction time."
Simpson said the experience of his rookie season has made this offseason more productive than last year's.
"I feel extremely comfortable, because of the fact that I know what's going on," he said. "I know what to expect from everything: practices, how competition is judged, the playbook. Now, I know how everything goes and I know what I have to do to prepare myself.
"You know what you're doing. You know what to expect, so you know how to work out and what you need to work on. I definitely feel good about that."
Simpson said his rookie season reinforced fundamentals as basic as keeping his pad level low while running.
"I'm 5-9, and guys are taller than me, but they can somehow get lower and get under your pads," he said, laughing. "That's one thing, the pad level. When I come to block, stay low to block.
"I've just got to stay low, basically."
Simpson said he has to do more than that in the offseason – specifically, he said he must impress upon coaches and team officials that he is capable.
"I have to show them I'm way more comfortable in the playbook, and in pass protection," Simpson said. "I showed them I know what I'm doing with it, but now it's more on a veteran level. I'm not a rookie anymore. There are no excuses for error right now."
And while Colts officials and coaches have made clear in the off-season that they like both Simpson and free-agent second-year running back Lance Ball, Simpson said he tries to ignore such praise.
"It's somewhat good, but hearing those things like that, you might get relaxed, so I don't pay attention to that," Simpson said. "I'm coming in the same way I always come in any year of my life – that I have to win a spot and they don't know what I can do, so have to show them what I can do. That's the only way I can do it. We, as humans, we get relaxed. By hearing good things, you might think, 'I can take a rep off here and rep off there.
"Anybody can be replaced, so even when I was in the front and I was ahead, I knew I could be replaced There are 10 Chad Simpsons everywhere. What am I going to do differently from those Chad Simpsons? I have to show I'm worth being here, too.
"My mindset is being able to make the team and staying here. I love my job, and I want to keep it."