Hamlin feeling safer in second year

IRVING, Tex. - When the Dallas Cowboys selected him in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft, safety Mike Hamlin was expected to make a significant impact in his rookie season.

The team lacked depth at the safety positions, and Hamlin, who showed the ability to make plays in coverage and provide physical run support during a standout college career at Clemson, was expected to back up at both safety spots.

But that plan was derailed when Hamlin fractured his wrist during training camp over the summer. He made his way back to the field, playing in six games, but was active for just six games. His in-game contributions consisted mainly of special teams duty.

But as the Cowboys get ready for the start of training camp, Hamlin has a chance to become a part of the picture at safety - especially when Dallas cut starting free safety Ken Hamlin earlier this offseason.

Hamlin told CUTigers in a recent interview said he is experiencing no lingering discomfort in his wrist, and while he can play either safety position, he is working solely at free safety. In fact, in the Cowboys' first OTA (Organized Team Activity), he worked with the second-team defense, behind converted cornerback Alan Ball.

"(The coaches) haven't said much about that," Hamlin said when asked about the pecking order at free safety. "Right now, they're teaching all of us."

Like many young players, Hamlin said one of the biggest changes he expects in his second season is in his physical stature, thanks to a re-vamped offseason regimen.

"I worked hard at Clemson, but it's different when you're in college," he said. "When you're in school, you've got to go to practice, you've got to work out, you've got to go to class, you've got to study.

"But at this level, this is what you do. This is all you have to do. Over the offseason, I was here by 7:30 in the morning most days, and I'd work out for about three hours."

The work, Hamlin said, has paid off.

His wrist doesn't bother him at all, and he says he is significantly stronger.

"I don't know that I'm bigger," he said, "but I'm definitely stronger."

More than his physical improvement, however, Hamlin said he has made a monumental leap in terms of the mental preparation for the upcoming season.

"At mini-camp and OTAs last year, I was lost," Hamlin said. "I had no idea what I was doing, or what I was supposed to be doing. But even when I was hurt, I was learning. I was in meetings, I was in the film room. Gerald Sensabaugh reached out to me and helped me a lot. So when I got back on the field, I had a better idea of what I was doing.

"Now I understand the defense. Now I know the terminology. Now I know more about what the coaches expect."

Hamlin said that while he can play both safety spots, he is glad that coaches have decided he should focus on playing free safety, rather than strong safety.

"I'm probably a better fit at free," he said. "At free, I can sit back and make plays on the ball.

"I've just got to show them I can do that."

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