Ready, Set, Go … Again

For Dallas Cowboys safety Mike Hamlin, the start of the team's 2010 training camp is sort of like a case of déjà vu all over again.

After being selected out of Clemson University in the fifth round of the 2009 draft, Hamlin broke his wrist in a preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers. He returned late in the season, but collected just three tackles on the season — two of which came in the playoffs.

Hamlin said Sunday that his approach to the Cowboys' training camp has changed significantly compared to last year, when he was admittedly a little overwhelmed while he tried to grasp the Dallas defense and get acclimated to playing with his new teammates.

"This year is more (of) a mental thing," Hamlin said. "Last year, I came in a little blindsided and didn't know what to expect. But this year, I knew what to expect and what to do, which is to come out here every day and get better and compete.

"It helps a lot to know what to expect, because last year things were going by so fast that I didn't really know what was going on. But this year, everything has slowed down and I can take things not at my pace, but at a pace that I'm comfortable with."

Hamlin drew the praise of Dallas owner Jerry Jones, and said that getting a vote of confidence from his boss is understandably encouraging.

"It shows that my hard work is paying off," Hamlin said. "Just from hearing the things that Jerry says about us, they all sound good. So my focus is to not let him down and keep doing what I'm doing and stay positive."

Hamlin said that not only is he progressing with his understanding of the defense, but he also is seeing a marked improvement in the way he executes what he has learned.

"I'm real comfortable," he said. "Yesterday (Saturday), I made some plays, but today I feel like I didn't make plays like I wanted to. So my main thing is just to come out here tomorrow and get better."

Hamlin also said that after a year in the Cowboys' defense, he has a better understanding of what is expected of him by secondary coach Dave Campo.

"He just wants us to compete," Hamlin said of Campo. "He is always on me about finishing plays, because sometimes when I don't feel like I did well on a play, I slow down. But he just wants me to keep going.

"Everybody makes mistakes; you just have to keep going."

Hamlin finds himself in the unenviable position of competing with Alan Ball for the starting free safety spot. But because he is entering his second year in the league, and Ball just moved to safety last year after starting his career as a cornerback, he and Ball find themselves helping each other while trying to beat each other out for the job.

The competition, Hamlin said, appears more contentious to outsiders than it is to the competitors.

"We don't really look at it from a competition standpoint — we just try to make each other better," Hamlin said. "I know if he sees me doing something wrong, he will tell me, and if I see something that he can do better, I will tell him about it. So we're just out here competing and trying to make each other better."

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