The Inside Slant

Rashad Bauman is used to starting. Now he's barely playing, save for a few snaps on defense and a fulltime role on special teams. Players such as Jessie Armstead have told the third-round pick to be patient, using himself as a model. Meanwhile, the three players ahead of Bauman can't sympathize--each one started as a rookie. But Bauman likely will step into a nickel role next year, when Darrell Green is gone.

''It's a little awkward just playing special teams. But you've gotta wait and pay your dues and I started talking to people and understand that this is the NFL way of life. That made it easier to grasp. A lot of guys got their start by playing special teams. Jessie started that way and he's a five-time Pro Bowler. You've gotta play your role and whatever it takes ofr the team to win, you have to be satisfied with it.

''I'm happy with my role. But am I satisfied? No. I'm always looking to take it a step further. But I have to wait my turn. As long as I practice hard and continue to learn, my time will come.

''But not playing makes special teams bigger. You always want that opportunity to shine. When you get your opportunity, you have to make the best of it. I was lucky that I had opportunities this past weekend and I was able to take advantage of it.

''I played special teams in college and I like them. If I somehow start, I'd still want to be on special teams. Defense is my thing, but special teams are as well. I enjoy the reckless abandon of them and you're not playing with any rules.

''But I knew it would be like this coming in. I just came in with the mindset to take what it came with. I'm lucky to be in a great situation. A lot of people would love to be in this situation instead of getting thrown to the wolves.

''I've learned better techniques. Darrell preaches techniques a lot. I watch film with him and as long as I can learn from him and Champ, it will make it a lot easier when my time does come.

''I've improved my press coverage the most. I'm more patient than when I was in college. The receivers here are more patient as well. But my patience helps me jam the receivers at the line more. In college, you do what you want. I got up here and techniques change. It's a matter of reacting and letting them come to you instead of just going up right away.

''I always wondered what it would be like not to play. Now I'm finding out. It's a lot easier to do it now that you get paid. But my time will come sooner or later. I'm having fun and I wouldn't change this for the world.''

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