GREEN BAY - Quinten Rollins knew his finger was dislocated. The shooting pain was his first sign. Its gnarly alignment was a dead tell.
The Green Bay Packers second-year cornerback swiped at the football in his first organized team activity practice last month. The ball won.
It wasn’t until Rollins came to the sideline that he saw just how bad this dislocation actually was. A tiny, white speck of bone tore through the skin in his right hand.
“Caught a helmet,” Rollins guessed when asked how he dislocated his finger. “I don’t know. It happened so fast. Just a reaction thing. I looked down at my hand, and I knew it was dislocated. But then I didn’t see the skin was broken until I got to the sideline.
“Bone ended up coming through the skin. So I had to stitch it up. I got the stitches out on Friday. So just making a slow progress, trying to get back.”
Rollins hasn’t practiced since the Packers first OTA session, though Monday afternoon was a step toward returning to the field. He went through position drills with cornerbacks for the first time since his injury, working exclusively on footwork.
Rollins still isn’t catching passes and probably won’t until training camp.
“We just want to take it slow,” Rollins said. “We don’t want it to bust back open and then be out even longer.”
It isn’t the easiest time in a career to show patience.
Before the injury, Rollins had hoped this offseason would build on a successful rookie year. He arrived as a young and, in his own words, “raw” second-round draft pick a year ago. After four years as a college basketball player, last season was only his second playing football since high school.
Rollins said he feels like a “different” player now. He’s better able to recognize route combinations, which helps him anticipate where the football will be thrown. He’d just like to be on the field to put his expanding awareness into practice.
“The game has slowed down a bunch for me,” Rollins said. “So hopefully as the years keep going by, it’s going to slow down even more. I’m seeing things better, and just knowing this time last year we were still learning the playbook. This time this year, I still know the playbook.”
Rollins will get his chance soon enough.
After the Packers watched cornerback Casey Hayward walk away in free agency, Rollins will be a key figure in a young secondary. He figures to be the Packers nickel back — playing in their predominant defensive package — with fellow 2015 first-round corner Damarious Randall starting on the perimeter.
Rollins said he could get some snaps on the outside, however. He’s ready to be a versatile piece in the Packers secondary. This season, he’s making no excuses.
“The one year of football is kind of behind me now,” Rollins said. “I’ve already had my opportunity to play a year in this league. So that’s behind me. That’s out the door. It’s about getting better, trying to improve on what I needed to improve on last year, and coming to this year at full stride ready to go.”