- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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Physical skills can often offset mental immaturity in the NFL.
A guy who’s got it all together is great, but if he can’t run or cut or track the ball or hit, his togetherness doesn’t matter.
Nate Washington is a physically gifted player who made it as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted rookie out of Tiffin and was part of the 2005 Super Bowl team. After four years he got a big free-agent contract from the Titans.
But through six NFL seasons, he could still be classified as immature. He was a boisterous guy in the locker room, too easily riled up over unimportant stuff. And he was an inconsistent player who dropped passes and didn’t always own his bad moments.
His transformation last season, his seventh in the league, was a giant one on the field and well beyond.
He caught 74 passes for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns, all career highs. And he was banged up for a lot of it.
I don’t expect Washington will match those numbers -- if Britt is healthy, and first-round pick Kendall Wright contributes, receptions and yards should be spread around.
Washington said on The Midday 180 on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville that the new coaching staff really helped him mature. (Full disclosure: I’m part of the show.)
“From a personal standpoint, the new coaches that came in did a lot for me. I had a meeting with each one of them, from coach (Mike) Munchak, coach Palmer, to coach Ragone. They made me aware that I had some abilities in me that hadn’t been brought out, and it was going to take some sacrificing, changing some different attitude things that I had going on when I came to football.
“I was very willing and ready to make those changes for them and give them a chance of making me a different person. From a personal standpoint, there were some things I needed to look in the mirror about. Some things that I needed to have a reality- and self-check about… that I took from my personal life and as far as my career. I think it just has a lot to do with growing up.
“This game can be very brutal on the body and the mind… A lot of people don’t realize that. This is a more mental game than it is physical sometimes. They always say this is chess not checkers. It was more so me getting some personal stuff right with me before I could come out and make sure I try to do the things that they ask.”
Physical skills can often offset mental immaturity in the NFL.A guy who’s got it all together is great, but if he can’t run or cut or track the ball or hit, his togetherness doesn’t matter.