Adjusting to life and football in the NFL is a trying task for any rookie, let alone one who is learning an entirely new position.
This is the task with which the Cowboys have charged TCU product Stephen Hodge. Hodge, a safety in college, is being groomed as a reserve inside linebacker behind Bradie James and Keith Brooking. Early in camp, the learning curve has been predictably apparent.
The sixth round pick came into camp banged up, sidelined the month preceding the first practice after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee; also, he's dealing with a calf strain; also, there's that whole 'trying to learn a new defense and position' thing.
Yikes. This guy could be a Tennessee Williams character.
"Stephen Hodge knows he has no room for error at Dallas Cowboys training camp" is the title of Jeff Caplan's article today in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram; and it's true.
He will be helped by the fact that (a) he played a version of the safety that was similar to an outside linebacker at TCU, setting up in the box and so forth, and (b) that he is an absolute special teams beast, who figures to remedy Dallas' longstanding insufficiency with respect to coverage under new coach Joe DeCamillis.
But Hodge must prove he can learn the inside linebacker position in order to make the final roster. If he does, his impact will likely be immediate, on special teams.
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Hodge still has a long, lesson-filled road ahead, something of which he is well aware. "I’ve been out a month and I haven’t been preparing myself, well, like I should have been as far as learning the plays and knowing the plays, so I have to take responsibility for messing up on that," Hodge said to the Star-Telgram. "[Linebackers] coach [Reggie] Herring was telling me to stop messing up and just know your job, know what you do because there’s no room for messing up."