Cameron Sutton had high hopes for his rookie season, anticipating coming in and making an impact right off the bat.
Those hopes were dashed when a hamstring injury sidetracked his plans early on, and Sutton was placed on injured reserve for the first 11 games of the season. * *
"It was frustrating. Obviously, no one wants to miss time," said Sutton. "They had high expectations for me coming in. Early on I had that 'why me' type of feeling, but you get over that after a couple days and you start realizing the bigger picture. It can always be worse and your situation can always be something different. At the end you have to embrace it and take what comes with it. The guys did a good job of keeping me uplifted, keeping me around, and that helped as well and just seeing the people in the building every day, being around the team every day. That kept me uplifted and motivated to keep going."
The toughest part for Sutton to deal with was having the injury happen his rookie year. He was trying to establish himself, trying to prove to the coaches and the veterans that he was the real deal, worthy of a third-round pick.
What helped get him through it was the team didn't give up on him. The team didn't place him on IR until after the initial 53-man roster was finalized, giving him the opportunity to come back later in the season.
"I wanted to be involved with everything, whether it was in the locker room passing out our play cards, going to home or away games, being in all the meetings," said Sutton. "They definitely kept me uplifted because I just love the game. I wanted to be around whether I was out there or not. I just wanted to be involved and be around and that was really encouraging that they didn't dim the light on me."
And he did come back. Sutton returned to action for the final five games of the regular season, as well as the AFC Divisional Round game against Jacksonville. He finished with numbers nowhere near where he would have hoped for his rookie year with five tackles and a pass defense, but he made progress that can't always be measured in numbers. With the time spent on the sidelines, the mental aspect of his game grew by leaps and bounds, something that will benefit him moving forward.
"Learning from college and pro, it's two different games," said Sutton. "A lot of different rules change, a lot of different play calls and concepts, kind of similar to college but everything has different meaning, different code names. Not being out there really jump started that. I was able to pick up on a lot of different concepts and how teams were trying to attack our defense, or different player styles. We had good veteran guys in our room that have been doing it for a long time as well. I was able to pick at their minds and what they have seen over the course of the years. How has their game evolved over the course of the years and what has helped them to get to that point. Obviously, they have played teams across the league over the course of their careers numerous times, so they have seen it and done it for a long time. I was able to bounce my ideas off of theirs and what were they thinking in this situation and that just kind of helped me too.
"Even though I wasn't out there I felt like I have grown. I started more on the mental side, learned from watching. Then from physical side getting the reps, getting the game speed, seeing what happens out there, the communication aspect. Everything that goes into being a great team and a great teammate. I have definitely seen the growth in that aspect. That is going to continue to grow the more I am around and we continue to communicate and get reps on the field."