FOXBOROUGH – Ellis Hobbs is always waiting for preparation to meet opportunity.

Sometimes, opportunity stands at the door step but doesn’t knock. Hobbs was preparing himself to become the Patriots’ No. 1 cornerback, the guy that drew the assignment of covering the opposition’s top receiver. Then Asante Samuel, New England’s No. 1 cornerback last year, ended his holdout on Monday.

But the way Hobbs looks at it, all of his preparation will not have been in vain. There are still a lot of opportunities he hasn’t had the chance to meet yet.

“Whenever you have the opportunity to make a play, make the play,” Hobbs said. “Whether it’s knocking the ball down, stripping it, making the pick, just go out there and make that play.”

If Hobbs has his way, head coach Bill Belichick will give him more opportunities to make plays by tabbing him the Patriots’ kick returner. It is a role the third-year Iowa State product has thrived in in limited time, particularly last year, when he averaged 36 yards in 10 returns, including a 93-yard touchdown against the Houston Texans. He got 10 more chances in the playoffs and averaged 30.7 yards, including an 80-yarder against the Colts in the AFC Championship.

Hobbs is eager to show the Patriots he can balance the cornerback and kick returning duties full-time.

“It’s a big responsibility,” he said. “When I go out on the field, I’m not going out there ready to make excuses like I’m always tired or I couldn’t hold onto the ball because I was thinking about the play before. They expect me to do the same job at corner and do the same job just as well with kickoff returns.”

But what about increasing the risk of injury as a kick returner with 11 opponents gunning to take him down?

“I can get hurt falling out of bed,” he said. “I trained for this position. I trained for the job. Injuries come with the role. My main goal is not to go out there thinking about the injuries but going out there to make a play.”

If anything, Hobbs thinks making the leap from year two to year three in the NFL poses more of a danger to him than exposing himself more to injury.

“I like to say it’s a safety hazard,” he said. “Don’t get too confident now that you’ve been in the league a couple of years. You think you know what’s coming, you have all the answers and this and that. By no means do I have any of the answers. I go out there every day ready to learn, willing to learn, and trying to understand what I can take away from the field today.”

Patriots safety and secondary leader Rodney Harrison said that is a sign of Hobbs’ maturity.

“I think he understands the level of intensity he needs when it comes to taking care of your body and when it comes to being a professional, and not just when you want to but all the time,” Harrison said. “Ellis is working hard. I see him in the weight room every day. I see him out here working his butt off, making plays, and that’s all you can ask for.”

“My biggest thing is to stay humble,” Hobbs said. “Having fun out there is important to me, but as long as I’m humble to myself and my heart, at the end of the day, then that’s all you have to speak for.”


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