Flowery Branch, Ga.-- When the 2009 season ended, two Atlanta Falcons rookies had drastically different ideas about how their seasons concluded.
Safety William Moore, a second-round pick (55th overall), was expected to compete with incumbent Erik Coleman for the strong safety job, picking up where he left off during a standout college career at Missouri.
Cornerback Chris Owens was a virtual unknown coming out of San Jose State in the third round, but by season's end he was not only starting opposite Brent Grimes in the Falcons' secondary, but also intercepting passes, closing the season with a pick in each of the final two games.
Moore struggled through injuries, undergoing knee surgery in training camp before hamstring issues put an end to his rookie campaign in mid-October after seeing action in only three games.
Owens started in the final six games of the season, the last four alongside fellow starting corner Grimes. Atlanta went 3-1 in that stretch, with Owens and Grimes combining for six interceptions and eight passes defensed.
Owens believes the experience of starting and the lessons gained from being tested as a rookie will benefit him as he enters his sophomore season.
"It was a confidence boost," said Owens recently. "I take the experience for what it was. I can still learn from some of the mistakes I made. I want to carry on all the success I had. It was definitely a great experience for me."
Moore could only watch from the sidelines as his secondary mate blossomed. He felt he disappointed himself and his team, but he believes the lessons learned will better equip him to stay on the field in Year Two - starting with his approach to training.
Moore started hearing the "injury-prone" label during his college career.
Following an All-American junior season at Missouri, the 6', 218-pound safety fought through a senior year frought with trips to the training table.
"That was definitely a frustrating experience especially since I had high expectations of myself," said Moore. "I love the game and I love to be out there. A lot of people come up with speculations about my legs getting hurt again. I learned from that experience to train myself better. I know I'm going to stay out there this year and do some big things."
Moore believes the training aspect, while not something he ignored as a rookie, had a significant impact on his playing time. He spent his rookie season learning some valuable lessons about the differences between taking care of your body in college and devoting your life to the upkeep of your body in the pros.
"The NFL is totally different from college, so your training aspect and how you go about it is totally different," he said. "You've got sixteen games instead of what you had in college, plus the preseason."
He spent his offseason in Atlanta working with the Director of Athletic Performance, Jeff Fish. After a minor setback in minicamp in May, Moore describes himself as 100 percent. Additionally he's spent hours in the classroom honing his grasp of Brian Van Gorder's defense and in his words, he thinks he's "got it pretty good right now."
Owens returned to his native Los Angeles, California following his rookie campaign and, similar to Moore, focused on the health of his body in preparation for an even better 2010 season before rejoining the team to focus on his craft.
"I wasn't injured at all, but I want to be faster and stronger for this upcoming year," said Owens. "I felt like I did that during the offseason. Now that we're back in OTAs, I'm focusing all on technique."
Both players feel they gained confidence from what they experienced in 2009 and feel more prepared and settled into the defense.
If rookie years are about treading water and nearly drowning, second seasons are about learning to swim. With those lessons come players capable of playing more and thinking less.
Moore is especially thankful that is second season is coming quickly. Following his rookie disappointment, he's relaxed and assured.
"As a rookie you really don't know what to do," explained Moore. "You know what to do, but you're not certain or confident. You're out there running around like a chicken with your head cut off. That definitely goes into how your body reacts. Now it definitely helps in OTAs and going into training camp because I'm more confident in what I'm suppossed to do and I get to play ball. I can be loose."