Hard-hitting Nick Collins Makes Play of The Day

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Unsuspecting running back Chris Robertson ran toward the middle of the field when safety Nick Collins leveled him, not so politely informing who patrols that area.

The crash of the shoulder pads could be heard from the sidelines.

"That ball's coming out on Sundays the way he hit it," defensive coordinator Jim Bates said. "That's what we're looking for ... We'll definitely show that play a bunch of times to our defense."

The rookie safety drove his helmet into the football to force a fumble. The play during a 9-on-7 drill became the day's highlight and earned him praise from the coaching staff.

The demonstrative Bates jumped up, putting an arm around Collins' shoulder pad and screamed: "Get this guy a drink of water! Get this guy a drink of water!"

He explained his exuberance.

"It's just a recognition ploy," Bates said. "It's to point out ... when you make a play, we're going to reward you."

As training camp continues, he may have a lot more highlights to applaud. Collins only weighs 200 pounds and played cornerback at Bethune-Cookman last year, but he prides himself on his hitting.

"That's one of my main focuses," he said. "It makes them nervous. When they run the ball instead of going downhill, their eyes open, looking for the player to hit him. It sets a tone."

With those instincts, Bates said he has a good shot at a starting position.

"This guy is a football player," he said. "He is going to improve every day."

Collins, a second-round draft pick, is one of two rookie safeties, along with Marviel Underwood, pushing for playing time behind seasoned veterans Arturo Freeman, Mark Roman and Earl Little.

Despite the competition, the older players have made an effort to inform the younger players. As a young player with the New Orleans Saints, Little played cornerback before making the transition to safety. There, Pro Bowl cornerback Eric Allen gave him instruction, telling him what he did right, what he did wrong and how to break down film.

"I'll never forget he told me, 'when I pass this knowledge on to you, you've got to go ahead and pass it down the road,'" Little said.

Armed with that knowledge, Underwood could force his way onto the first unit if he becomes more consistent.

"Marviel's been up and down. He's gone through what all rookies go through," Bates said. "Today he came back and made some nice plays."

The two rookie safeties room together during training camp at St. Norbert College. They diagram plays and quiz each other on formations during the night and can empathize with any difficulties making the transition to the pro ranks.

"He's like a long-lost friend to me," said Collins.

Both players could provide the future for the Packers secondary for years to come with Underwood occupying the strongside and Collins occupying the free safety position.

"That's the plan," Underwood said. "We can get in there, hit the spot early and carry it on for a couple of years."

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