If you’re the sort of football player who has trouble with intense media scrutiny of you and your team, the New York Jets were about the worst possible team for you to wind up playing for in 2012.
Wide receiver Stephen Hill is just such a player and he admits that the glare of the spotlight trained on the team last season was one of the reasons why he struggled to perform well after a two-touchdown debut in a rout of the Bills. Hill explained to Conor Orr of the Newark Star-Ledger that dealing with the media as well as trying to handle a new offense while battling through injuries left the second-round pick at sea in his rookie season.
“It’s not hard, it’s just annoying,” Hill said. “We’re always on ESPN for something, and it was just a lot. It put pressure on learning, and then having to explain if I messed up, so that’s where most of the pressure was. It probably did throw me off during games, you’re just out there running. That’s what it felt like. I was out there running but I didn’t understand the whole football concept.”
Hill says he’s now looking at the whole year as a “learning experience.” For his sake, you’d hope that one of the lessons learned was that leaning on things like injuries or the media as excuses for poor play don’t tend to engender much sympathy when you’re a starter in the NFL since they are difficulties everyone has to deal with during their careers. Hill is hardly the first rookie wideout to struggle, though, so there’s plenty of reason to think he’ll be better the second time around, including Jets wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal’s outline of a systemic plan similar to the one he used to help Darrius Heyward-Bey steadily improve after a rough rookie year when both men were employed by the Raiders.
The play of the quarterbacks will surely have a lot to do with how much Hill is able to do in his second season, but an understanding of the “whole football concept” is going to be a necessary thing for Hill to get regardless of who is throwing him passes.