By all accounts Bills cornerback Ronald Darby had a fantastic rookie season. He finished third on the team in tackles, had a pair of interceptions and set a franchise mark for pass breakups with 21, which ranked fifth in the NFL. He was also named to the PFWA All-Rookie team. But Darby also dealt with the difficult physical demands of a 16-game NFL season and admittedly hit the rookie wall.
"About Week 10, Week 11 really, that's when my body started feeling different," said Darby, who was in Mobile last week at the Senior Bowl to support former high school teammate Tayvon Young. "I felt like I didn't have that same twitch that I normally have. It's natural. Everybody goes through it."
Darby talked to second-year players in Buffalo's locker room to get some tips on how to deal with it. There wasn't much advice to offer other than to take care of your body the best you can every day.
"I talked to Sammy (Watkins) about it," Darby said. "It was horrible for him as well, but you just have to try to fight through it."
For the most part Darby did battle through the muscle fatigue that comes with transitioning from an 11 or 12-game college season to a 16-game season. He missed only the team's Week 16 game against the Cowboys due to a groin injury, and had to leave the team's season finale early one week later when the injury resurfaced.
"It was an abductor injury," said Darby. "Overuse, I was probably straining. I hit my rookie wall. I was trying to avoid that rookie wall. I'm just resting now. It's going good."
Rookies often run into this problem because once their final college football season ends they're preparing for the NFL Combine and pro days, which require far different training than real football. An NFL offseason conditioning program is far different from any pre-draft training.
That's why Darby expects to be far better prepared physically for his second year in the NFL. Being in the Bills offseason strength and conditioning program has him confident he can handle the demands of a 16-game season in 2016. In fact Darby is hoping he and his teammates play more than 16 games this fall.
"I'm looking forward to next season, because I'm going to come back harder and I know the Bills are as well," he said. "Go out there and compete and play hard and win. That's the biggest goal, really. Win. It's going to be a great year for us."