Quarterback Kerry Collins can empathize with the hard knocks Houston Texans QB David Carr is taking this season as a rookie playing for an NFL expansion team.
Or at least most of them. As the first draft pick of the Carolina franchise in 1995, Collins wasn't sacked anywhere close to the 53 times Carr has already been decked in just 10 games.
"It's not fun. It's not easy a lot of times," said Collins, whose Giants (6-4) visit the Texans (2-8) on Sunday. "I can remember times my rookie year when I didn't want to run out on the field because your confidence can really be tested. That's part of it. It's part of learning, part of understanding what the game's about."
Carr, who has called this season "a learning experience," was the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft. The Houston offense is ranked 32nd, or last, in the NFL. Carr, on a pace to be sacked an NFL-record 88 times, has completed 148 of 271 passes (54.6 percent) for 1,797 yards, nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Carr said he "definitely" will benefit in the long-term from playing so much so early in his career.
"I think that's the only way you can learn is to be there on the field and actually have the bullets coming right at you," Carr said. "You can only watch so many films and watch other guys do it only so many times before you have to get in there yourself and learn how do it."
Collins, who started 13 games as a rookie for a Panthers team that went 7-9, was sacked 24 times, completed 214 of 433 passes (49.4 percent) for 2,717 yards and had 14 touchdowns and 19 interceptions for an offense that ranked 26th of 30 teams. In his second season, Collins led the Panthers to the NFC Championship Game.
"I don't think any rookie quarterback should play, honestly," Collins said. "There's a certain maturation, a certain time period that should go by until you step out on the field. We'd like to all have the luxury to learn, but when you're the first draft pick or the fifth draft pick of a new franchise, people want you to play. It's hard not to have you out on the field."
In his eight NFL seasons, Collins has matured considerably. His well-chronicled problems in Carolina came to a crashing halt in 1998, when he was released. He signed with the Giants in 1999.
Of Carr, Collins said, "I hope he maintains some semblance of privacy. That is important."
If Collins feels a sense of kinship with Carr, it is for another sound reason. Like Collins in Carolina, Carr plays for coach Dom Capers. Collins and Capers clashed during part of their time together and haven't spoken since. Time, however, has provided healing.
If he gets the chance Sunday, Collins said he will speak to Capers.
"I think after a certain period of time, you chalk it up to life and experience and you move on and it's not so important anymore," Collins said. "I've learned from it. I can't speak for Dom, but I think there's a lot to be learned in that situation. I know I did. You just have to say that was a part of my life, a period in my life, that happened. You acknowledge it and move on."
Collins went on to say he has "a lot of respect for Dom." In a conference call Wednesday, Capers seemed to indicate there is a mutual respect.
"I think that Kerry has matured a lot, like most young players do," Capers said. "We had very good success early and then we kind of fell on hard times a little bit. I think that you measure a man by how he bounces back when he has been knocked down and Kerry has really bounced back. It says a lot about what he is all about."
Collins is one of several players, along with coach Jim Fassel, to warn that a loss Sunday would do more than just end a three-game winning streak.
"I think we've gotten ourselves back in position to make a run at the playoffs," Collins said. "Three weeks ago, we weren't there. But we fought through some tough times and put together some wins. We've got to keep it going. I wish (Capers) all the best, just not this week."