“Honestly, I kind of left on a bitter note, so I definitely didn’t think I’d be back here,” he said Tuesday (June 12).
That bitterness didn’t come from anything in particular. Instead, that was Robinson’s way to describe his five-year experience with the Saints, one that didn’t have the kind of personal success he expected.
Like most NFL players, Robinson was among the best players on any football team for which he played before turning pro. Finally, during his time with the Saints, he experienced adversity as he struggled to meet the expectations that come with being a first-round pick.
“I think for me, I think I needed to go through that experience,” said Robinson, 30, the 32nd overall pick in 2010. “Growing up, I was always very talented, one of the better skill players on the team. Going through that whole stretch of up and downs, getting injured, I think that was definitely something that I needed, and over these past years, I’ve learned a lot.”
It took Robinson a while to find his footing in the NFL, but in 2017, he finally played consistently to the level people expected when he entered the league. With the Philadelphia Eagles last year, Robinson had 18 passes defensed and four interceptions, both of which tied career highs. He started part of the season as an outside cornerback, but he truly found his niche covering receivers on the inside, a role that helped him make significant contributions to the Super Bowl champions.
Robinson’s performance last year made him one of the top free-agent cornerbacks this year, and the Saints made a move to bring him back, signing him to a four-year, $20 million deal. Robinson is the favorite to be New Orleans’ top inside cornerback in 2018.
And now that Robinson is back with the Saints, coach Sean Payton is seeing more confidence from him than when he played here from 2010-14.
“I think when you come off a season like he had and the production he had, it’s easy to come into a lineup and certainly feel like you can excel and not just belong,” Payton said.
Robinson had plenty of time to learn from his initial Saints experience before his return. His second stop in the NFL was with the Chargers in 2015, and he quickly earned a significant role, playing 16 games with 10 starts.
Robinson’s performance with the Chargers helped him earn a three-year contract from the Colts in 2016. He played seven games with six starts that year, but after he dealt with injuries throughout the season, the Colts cut him in March 2017 to create extra cap space.
Then, Robinson landed with the Eagles, which proved to be the best move of his career. Because of the success Robinson had in Philadelphia, most of the public reaction in New Orleans was positive when he returned. Thinking back four years ago, it would’ve been tough to imagine Saints fans being excited to see Robinson in the black and gold again.
Robinson, though, said he doesn’t pay attention to what the fans are saying, knowing that can lead to unnecessary emotional highs or lows. He’s just focused on his job, and that concentration paid off.
“Honestly, when I left here, I kind of left everything here,” he said. “I kind of started on a clean slate. When I went out to California, it was pretty much just cut off the past, and I was just going forward.”
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