On Robinson's shoelaces, knives, fumbles
June, 17, 2013
By Paul Kuharsky | ESPN.com
AP Photo/John RaouxThough he played QB at Michigan, fifth-round pick Denard Robinson will line up at RB for the Jaguars.JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Even in a world of rules and schemes and responsibilities, most players have small idiosyncrasies.
Jacksonville Jaguars rookie running back Denard Robinson's is odder than most: He doesn’t tie his shoelaces.
Thus his nickname of “Shoelace.”
“I wasn’t tied, but coach told me to knot it up, so I knotted it up, but loose,” he said. “It’s something I always did my whole life.”
Thursday following the team’s final minicamp practice, he let me snap a photo to share with you.
“My first year playing football I ran out of them a couple times, and I ran out of one last year,” he said. “As long as they stay on my feet. Coach told me if they come off he’s going to tell me to tie them up.”
Coach Gus Bradley said he saw a shoe come off Robinson this week when Robinson got kicked.
“If it doesn’t have an impact on the game and it’s within the rules, whatever allows you to play the best,” Bradley said. “It’s comfort level. Do you get your ankles taped or not? Players have a rhythm or a routine they like to follow. As long as it’s within the rules, I’m fine with it.”
The Michigan quarterback was a fifth-round pick of a team in dire need of playmakers. The Jags had the NFL announce "running back" from the podium, making their intentions for a guy changing positions immediately clear.
While Robinson can line up in a lot of different spots, he is in the running back meeting room and works with the group in practice.
Photo by Paul Kuharsky/ESPN.comDenard Robinson doesn't like his shoelaces tied, but the Jags have him knotting them loosely, at least.
Much has been reported about the Jaguars' desire to use him in inventive ways that can cause dilemmas for defenses.
In the first walkthrough snap of Thursday’s public practice, quarterback Blaine Gabbert lined up wide left, with Robinson at quarterback. He gave the ball to Ace Sanders on an end-around and Sanders then gave it to Gabbert who was moving back toward him. Gabbert threw it to the Robinson on the right.
"I think there is always a place for it in a game, no doubt,” Bradley said of such trickery. “Any time you have an opportunity to get an explosive play, the chances of scoring go up. Those types of plays allow for an opportunity to get an explosive play.”
I believe Robinson and Sanders, a fourth-round receiver, will do a lot to give the Jaguars a much-needed rocket charge. They've often ranked as a plodding team during their recent struggles.
But not everyone is sold on Robinson as a running back.
“I am not big on it, especially if they truly plan on making him 'just a running back,’” said Matt Williamson, ESPN.com’s resident scout. “If they have other plans, such as a specialty package at quarterback, some wide receiver routes and as a returner, then I am OK with it. But running as a quarterback versus running as a running back is just so different.
“He doesn't really run low or with power to take handoffs repeatedly out of the backfield and get downhill against defenses that are not unsuspecting.”
I do expect specialty packages and snaps lined up wide, and if Robinson picks up on stuff, those roles should grow. He could easily be the kick returner, unless the team really loves undrafted receiver Tobais Palmer in the role.
Robinson has not been completely himself in recent weeks.
He sliced a big cut on his right hand between his thumb and forefinger while working in his kitchen.
“A little cooking deal, cutting potatoes,” he explained. "I thought I was a chef, like I am. I got some new knives and I was cutting potatoes and it got me pretty good, I got 10 stiches. I didn’t think it was that bad. I was just like, whatever. But my brother and my girlfriend were there, and she was like, 'You need to go to the hospital.' It wouldn’t stop bleeding.
For a good stretch, because the stitched up hand was wrapped up and tender, he was carrying the ball only in his left hand and couldn’t really throw, but he appeared to be back to normal by the time minicamp came to a close. We saw him switch the ball to his right hand on a run toward the right sideline.
Ball security is an issue for him coming in. He put it on the ground a lot for the Wolverines.
Bradley said the Jaguars need him regularly holding the ball high and tight rather than low and loose.
“There is a lot of newness for him,” Bradley said. “He’s going on that learning curve. But he’s progressing, even with the mindset of taking care of the ball. That’s going to be a constant work in progress with him. But he’s buying into it, and he’s demonstrating it.”
On a team lacking star power, Robinson has a chance to quickly become a fan favorite. He’s saying all the right things about the chance in front of him.
“I’m a fifth-round draft pick and I’ve got an opportunity to play a lot,” he said. “Anybody that got drafted this year wants to play a lot. I’ve got the opportunity, and I want to make the most of it.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”