Bartell Motivated To Bounce Back
Bartell Motivated to Bounce Back
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
By Nick Wagoner
When he entered the league as a second-round choice in 2005, Ron Bartell entered a locker room full of veterans with plenty of winning experience.
On the other side of the locker room were the likes of Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Orlando Pace.
So when the news came earlier this week that Holt (whom Bartell counts among his closest friends in the league) was going on injured reserve and could be headed to retirement, Bartell couldn’t help but think of the possibility that trio would all retire in the same offseason.
Along with it, Bartell also couldn’t help but begin to think about how life in the NFL and success in the NFL can be oh so fleeting.
“It definitely puts it in perspective because I can remember when I came in back in ’05 and this is my sixth year already,” Bartell said. “It goes by fast so I am just trying to enjoy every single day.”
For the better part of the past year, Bartell is the first to admit, it’s been a bit harder to enjoy each day.
Coming off a terrific 2008 season in which he established himself as one of the league’s top cover corners, Bartell signed a lucrative multi-year contract that would keep him in St. Louis for what should be the prime of his career.
After a strong offseason, Bartell was slowed by a thigh injury early in the season that never quite went away. In part because of pride but mostly because of injuries to the rest of the corners on the roster, Bartell selflessly played through the pain even if it directly affected his play.
As the 2010 season approaches, the always self-motivated Bartell is looking for his shot at redemption and a chance to prove to everyone that he’s the player they saw in 2008.
“I am very excited,” Bartell said. “I feel like every year you should have something to prove so I definitely have a chip on my shoulder after last year. I am just excited about the possibilities of this defense. I think we are moving around faster, communicating better, more physical, tackling better. I am really excited right now.”
Bartell’s excitement was glaringly obvious in the opening days of this training camp as he emerged early on as one of the most dominant forces on the field. Pass breakups were coming by the handful and his improved knowledge of the defense was evident.
In short, Bartell looked like the player who had posted three interceptions and 20 passes defended in posting the best passer rating against of any corner in the division in 2008.
Even Bartell himself could feel his confidence and comfort level reaching new heights.
“Yeah, I felt like I was back to where I was around two years ago,” Bartell said. “I am comfortable with the defense; I know exactly what they are looking for. I was healthy, playing fast.”
Of course, Bartell used the past tense when describing that because just a few days into camp, the injury bug bit again. During the evening practice on Aug. 3, Bartell went to make a play on the ball but when he came down, he landed awkwardly on his ankle and had to be carted off the field after gingerly walking to the sideline.
The bad news was Bartell was going to miss some time but the good news was that X rays showed an ankle sprain that wasn’t high with no damage to the cartilage. In other words, it wasn’t an injury that would keep him out long.
“It was a little disappointing but I had to put that on the backburner and in the back of my mind,” Bartell said. “I just have to work on getting healthy and the training staff did a great job of getting me back as quick as possible.”
Indeed, after spending most of the past couple of weeks rehabilitating with head trainer Reggie Scott and his staff as well as spending portions of practice rehabbing with strength coach Rock Gullickson (aka the School of Rock), Bartell returned to practice this week.
Although Bartell has been somewhat limited in his return, he has participated in the majority of practices this week and has declared himself ready to play Saturday against Cleveland.
“It feels great,” Bartell said. “I’m working through it. No problems, no setbacks so far so I am feeling pretty good right now.”
Make no mistake; Bartell is taking this season very seriously. At 28, Bartell is surrounded by cornerbacks younger – and in many cases, much younger – than him.
Even when Bartell was on the sideline for practices or even at last week’s preseason opener, he was visibly into it, regularly shouting encouragement and tips to his position mates.
“(He’s) the leader for our group,” second-year corner Bradley Fletcher said. “We're all falling behind him and trying to play at a high level.”
While the thought that he’s become the elder statesman of the cornerback group is a bit shocking to Bartell, he has fully embraced a leadership role for a group in need of a go-to mentor.
“Being the older guy in the room, which is shocking and definitely weird…but you have got a really young, talented group of guys and I am always open so anything they need, I try to answer any questions they may have,” Bartell said. “And I am still learning myself so it’s a learning process. We are enjoying one another right now and everybody is getting better.”
As his NFL career has flown by at a blistering pace, Bartell has made it clear he wants to take nothing for granted.
No question from any of his younger teammates will be too big or too small for him to answer. If nothing else, he can impart on them what the likes of Holt and Co. did when he first entered the league.
“He taught me how to be a pro,” Bartell said. “You come in and see guys like him, Isaac Bruce, Marshall Faulk, Orlando Pace; all those older vets I played with taught me how to be a pro and taking each day like it’s your last day our here and coming to compete every day.”
Re: Bartell Motivated To Bounce Back
Nice, positive article. If Bartell can adequately cover the opposing teams top WR each week, our defense will be light years ahead of last years. I really think our D will come together this season with the combination of the second year in the same system as well as a young group of hungry guys ready to make an impact.