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Old 05-10-2004   #15
infantrycak
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Jason Babin learned something about an NFL playbook before he even cracked it open.

It's big.

"They give you the playbook and I said, `Man, this is the playbook?" Babin said, noting it was much bigger than the one he had at Western Michigan. "And they said, `Oh, this will be about four times as big when you come back for regular camp."

The learning process for Babin and 26 other rookies began on the field Friday when the Houston Texans opened rookie minicamp. The difference for Babin and a few teammates is that along with coach Dom Capers' thick playbook, they're also trying to figure out new positions from their college days.

Babin was a defensive end at Western Michigan, but the first-round draft pick is an outside linebacker in Capers' 3-4 set.

Capers is accustomed to training college defensive ends to be linebackers. Two lower draft picks, Charlie Anderson of Mississippi and Raheem Orr of Rutgers, were going through the same conversion as Babin.

"You have to be patient, because most of these guys making the transition have had their hand down and are used to rushing up the field, so you know that they're more skilled in rushing than they are in dropping back," Capers said. "If guys are good athletes, they'll start to get a feel for it and make the transition."

Capers and general manager Charley Casserly have a lot riding on Babin. They traded a second-, third- and fourth-round pick to AFC South rival Tennessee to get Babin, who will be expected to challenge for a starting outside linebacker job sooner rather than later.

Babin looked smooth dropping his 260-pound frame back into coverage. Then again, there are barely enough offensive players among the 27 in camp to conduct full-scale drills and no tight ends to catch passes against him.

Babin confided that some nifty footwork in practice came from personal workouts where he's been drilling himself on covering receivers.

"My expectations are just to learn as much as possible," Babin said. "I'm trying to come out here with a clean slate and an open mind and whatever they put down, I just try to make happen."

Houston's other first-round pick, cornerback Dunta Robinson, also found he had some learning to do. Where his South Carolina coaches had him backpedaling only a few yards, Texans coaches expect cornerbacks to stay with a receiver on the backpedal for much longer.

"It's like being a freshman all over again," Robinson said.

One thing Robinson won't have to adjust to much is the weather in Houston, where afternoon temperatures were in the low 80s, considered perfectly pleasant for May.

Babin, on the other hand, is coming from Kalamazoo, Mich., where it was in the low 60s Thursday.

"This is July Fourth weather in Michigan," Babin said. "I don't know if I'm looking forward to midsummer here or not. I might be a lot skinnier the next time you see me."

^Notes:@ S Glenn Earl's first pro practice got off to a rocky start. Earl, recovering from knee surgery, immediately got on a stationary bike as his new teammates hit the field. A coach who wanted him out there, too, yelled, "There's only one person in Texas who does that, and his name is Lance Armstrong." ... Because only rookies were allowed at the practice, special teams drills were shaky without a long snapper. Nate McKinney, trying to make the roster as a punter, was forced to field snaps above his head, off to the side or on the ground from a lineman pressed into duty.
Sounds like they have good attitudes. Nice job of teasing Earl.

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