The New England Patriots were so enthralled with Ras-I Dowling's unique skill set that Bill Belichick and his staff selected the talented cornerback with the first pick of the second round in the 2011 NFL Draft. Now, after what many would consider a lost rookie season, Dowling is back in New England and focused on returning to the form which saw him drafted so high.
"Just trying to get better, healthy, striving to get back," an extremely focused Dowling said after completing the final day of the Patriots mandatory minicamp on Thursday.
Dowling played in just two games for the Patriots in 2011, recording a mere three tackles before sitting out with a hip injury that ultimately landed him on injured reserve, ending his season early. The 24-year-old acknowledged that he's not yet 100 percent, but remains focused on getting healthy.
"Just rehabbing, getting with the trainers, it's a great group we have there with the training staff," Dowling said of his recovery. "They're giving me stuff to do and I'll just continue to work hard."
The entire Patriots roster has been dedicated to putting in the necessary work to improve this offseason. And among them, Dowling appears to be one of the hardest workers.
Teammate and fellow defensive back Devin McCourty has been impressed with Dowling's commitment to preparation with his work both on and off the field.
"He's a guy that you always can see how eager he is to try to get better and to learn. Last year with him being out, he did a lot of just trying to study film and stay in it that way," McCourty said of the cornerback. "I'm happy now that he's getting the opportunity to be out here and he's working hard."
Dowling expressed his excitement to be back with his defensive crew, and is more than ready to leave his injury-plagued rookie campaign in the past.
"It's just good to be back out there with those guys," Dowling said of working with the defensive backs. "Last year is in the past. I'm really not looking to that. I'm just looking forward right now, and continue on to training camp."
The cornerback is confident that he will return to his pre-injury form, and even more so remains focused on proving his worth to the Patriots come training camp.
Photo via Twitter/@MikeReiss