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John DeShazier: Patrick Robinson returns to Saints a different player, person

Posted Mar 19, 2018

Robinson: 'I had to find myself as far as my mental strength'

It’s not just that Patrick Robinson looks different and sounds different.

He is different.

That’s what experience (he’s 30 and an eight-year veteran), struggle and triumph will do to a man. And for Robinson, who was the New Orleans Saints’ first-round draft pick (No. 32 overall) in 2010, and spent his first five NFL seasons with the franchise, it’s a better different.

It’s a more confident different, the kind of different that helped make him a Super Bowl champion with Philadelphia and a signature free agent addition for New Orleans after three seasons away.

“When I left, I think I had to find myself as far as my mental strength,” said Robinson, who signed a four-year deal to return to rejoin the Saints. “My first stint here, I was not mentally strong enough to play at a high level. That’s just me being brutally honest with myself.

“I went to San Diego (in 2015), and I had a lot of success there (an interception, eight passes defensed, a forced fumble and 49 tackles in 16 games). But when I went to Indy (in ’16), I was kind of injured (seven games, five passes defensed and a forced fumble) and then my confidence went down. And that’s kind of like, for a player that’s been in the league for five or six years, going to Indy, I had to try to deal with that type of stuff. I think now, I’ve been through so much, it’s definitely helped me.”

Part of the rebuild was last season, when Robinson earned a reputation as one of the best slot cornerbacks in the league with the Eagles. He started eight of 16 regular-season games, tied career highs with four interceptions and 18 passes defensed, and added 47 tackles. In the playoffs, he added an interception that he returned for a touchdown against the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game.

“I definitely had to get away and try to build my mental strength,” he said. “But my journey has definitely taught me a lot and I think I’m a lot more equipped to play at a high level here again. I’m extremely excited.”

There are several reasons for the excitement.

Among them, Robinson said he was eager to get back to New Orleans, and he had a lot of help in making the decision.

“From a business side, it made more sense,” he said. “And besides the business, my wife was kind of speaking all of this into existence. She’s been talking about New Orleans the last couple of months for some reason. They called and it was kind of like, ‘OK, we might be going back home.’ She kind of helped make the decision.

“She’s from Miami but she’s got a lot of friends, which we consider family now. She was very excited about it. She’s the wifey. Happy wife, happy life.”

Second, Robinson is joining a talented secondary that includes two young cornerbacks. Marshon Lattimore was NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and second-year player Ken Crawley didn’t play the first two games, then started every game thereafter to give the Saints one of the league’s best tandems.

“I saw these guys on TV a lot,” Robinson said. “These young guys are hungry, flying around, making plays. The same way – when I was in Philly, we did the same thing, we just flew around, made plays, did our jobs and that’s exactly what I see here.

“I’m very familiar with (the defensive scheme). So when I come in, it’s not going to be a huge learning curve for me to learn a whole new playbook. A lot of these things that (defensive coordinator Dennis Allen) has in his playbook, I’ve already run for two years. So it’s definitely going to be a little easier as far as the playbook, coming in and trying to adjust to something different.”

Robinson will add championship-caliber experience to a Saints team that was one play short of advancing to the NFC Championship Game.

“It’s kind of simple, in my opinion,” he said. “I think if you work hard and just really focus on doing your job, you really have a chance to get a ring. It’s a lot easier said than done, but I think if you really work at those qualities of being accountable, working hard, studying like you’re supposed to, taking care of your body, staying in the weight room – things that the coaches ask you to do – that will always give you a chance.”

It’s a chance he wants to take with the Saints, the team that drafted him out of Florida State the year after it won the Super Bowl. And it’s a chance he gets to take with the coach, Sean Payton, who drafted him.

“It felt good to hear Sean’s voice again,” Robinson said. “Me knowing what type of coach he is definitely helped with decision, knowing that he runs his ship a certain way and I definitely like the way he coaches and runs his team. That played a big part in it.”