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A Confident Kendall Fuller Having More Fun In Camp The Second Time Around


Another year removed from his knee injury, cornerback Kendall Fuller is enjoying training camp fully healthy and taking advantage of having his college coach with him.

Watch cornerback Kendall Fuller run across the field at training camp – to make a tackle, break up a pass, start a drill – and you'll see a different player than last year.

Chalk that up to a variety of things, but they all funnel from his good health, something he didn't have consistently at the start of his rookie year.  

The team's third-round draft pick from Virginia Tech had microfracture surgery on his right knee in fall of 2015, which kept him out of spring practices and made Richmond, Va., the first opportunity to show off the skills the team coveted.

Because Fuller didn't get to enjoy a full offseason of recovery and training, he had a quick initiation at camp and preseason. Fuller's talent was enough to paper over some of the cracks – he finished with 11 total tackles and an interception in August – but his knee's strength remained a point of concern.

"When you're on the field, you're just playing but, I mean, yeah, [the knee is] a little bit in the back of your head," Fuller said. "Especially in camp, because that was the first time I was really going."

Fuller was thrust into a starting nickel cornerback role due to a string of injuries to the secondary. That experience, the restful opportunities afforded to him by having a full offseason and the return of his college defensive backs coach in Torrian Gray have eased his mind and made the start of his sophomore campaign fun again.

"I just don't have to worry about it, you know?" Fuller said of his knee. "I don't got to have a question of whether or not this cut is going to feel good or if I jump, is it going to feel good [and] is it going to feel the same as the left? Those thoughts, they're not in my head no more, just go out there and just go."

Fuller also said he feels he's moving at a different pace, and it shows. During team drills on Tuesday, he zipped across the field to make a tackle on tight end Niles Paul, who had caught a screen pass on the opposite side of where he was stationed. Later he zipped in front of a Kirk Cousins pass and batted the ball down in front of wide receiver Matt Hazel.

"He's more comfortable, more relaxed, more cool," cornerback Josh Norman said. "You know a little erhhhh at first but now he's like [calm sound]. Kind of got the ropes a little bit, all right, we ain't getting hit by them rocky waves. He's got his coach with him so he's definitely more comfortable… I'm just waiting for this year for him because it's going to be pretty big I feel as far as what he has coming to."

"I think he's more confident in the injury that he's coming off of," head coach Jay Gruden said. "He looks stronger, he looks faster, so it's good to see. He's moving around also, he's playing some nickel, playing some corner, and he's doing a fine job."

In certain blitz packages in nickel coverage, Fuller will take on the duties of a safety, rolling back into coverage while D.J.Swearinger or Su'a Cravens blitzes. It's part of Greg Manusky's aggressive scheme, but it's also a an indication of trust from the coaching staff that Fuller can take on those responsibilities.

"You just got to be versatile, you know? You can't just be stuck at knowing one thing," Fuller said. "You got to be able move around, do different stuff. It makes it easier for Manusky as a D-coordinator, it makes it easier for everyone on defense."

The hope is that with Norman and Breeland, who is looking for a strong season in his contract year, Fuller will take the next step in his game, something that Gray will help facilitate as he preaches technique and a return to the fundamentals of the position.

It's certainly eased Fuller's camp and returned him to the practices of his college days.

"Yeah," he said, "feels exactly the same."

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