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Ross Cockrell takes different approach to football after injury
Panthers cornerback recovered after broken leg
 
Published Wednesday, May 22, 2019 5:31 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Ross Cockrell, who missed all of the 2018 season with a broken leg, is back for another year with the Carolina Panthers.

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Ross Cockrell did not need to be on the football field to change.

A fractured tibia and fibula in his left leg landed the Carolina Panthers cornerback on injured reserve last season. After wide receiver Torrey Smith fell on his leg during training camp in Spartanburg on what Cockrell described as a routine play, Cockrell did not waste time during nine months of recovery.

Cockrell, who signed a two-year, $6.8 million deal ahead of last season, was expected to compete for the starting cornerback position opposite James Bradberry. However, that position became rookie Donte Jackson’s after fellow cornerback Kevon Seymour joined Cockrell on IR after shoulder surgery. Jackson, who played all 16 games, finished with four interceptions.

“With the year off physically, I did have to take some time mentally to watch and study,” Cockrell said. “That was one of the blessings of the injury. It allowed me to kind of sit back, watch, learn some of the things that are most important, like watching Donte, for example. I got to watch Donte attack the football. That was very impressive to me, what he did as a rookie. It’s something that I’m trying to incorporate into my game now, just making sure no matter what is going on, I’m attacking the football at all costs.”

Previously, Cockrell took a different approach.

“My style was more being in position—trying to make sure that I was in position to get my hands on wide receivers,” Cockrell said. “I would knock the ball down more often than not.”

Offseason training activities are underway on the Panthers’ practice fields, and coach Ron Rivera is pleased with Cockrell’s progress.

“He’s had a couple of really good days of work,” Rivera said. “Yesterday, he did a really great job. Today, he did another solid job. It’s good to watch him come back, especially after what he’s been through. It also speaks of the hard work that he has put in, in terms of his rehab, and just getting himself back on the football field.”

Rehab has not ended for Cockrell, who had to learn how to walk again after screws and a rod were placed in his leg.

“I’m still going through the rehab process,” he said. “Even though I’m out here running around, doing a lot of things that I normally did, I’m still going through that process.”

Cockrell, who was drafted by Buffalo in 2014, spent two seasons with Pittsburgh as well as 2017 with the Giants. He produced two picks for the Steelers in 2015, and three in New York.

“I’ve had some interceptions here and there, but I was more [focused on] trying to be in the right place at the right time to make sure that the receiver did not catch the ball, not to be in the right place at the right time to make sure that I catch the ball,” Cockrell said. “That change of mentality will help me out a lot.”

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