Early in his rookie season in 2015, Buffalo Bills cornerback Ronald Darby was considered a front-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. When his play leveled off and Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters continued to make big plays, however, Darby ultimately lost out on that distinction.
Why did his play level off? Because, according to Darby, he hit the proverbial rookie wall.
"It was an abductor injury, you know from like overuse, probably strained it," Darby said last week on the hip injury that cost him playing time at the end of the season. "You know, it's a long year. Hitting that rookie wall, I was trying to fight through that rookie wall."
John Murphy, who conducted the interview from the Senior Bowl linked above, asked Darby when he thought he'd hit the rookie wall.
"About Week 10, really. Week 10, Week 11," Darby said. "That's when my body started feeling different. I didn't feel like I had that same twitch and everything that I normally have. It's natural. Everybody goes through it. I talked to (Sammy Watkins) about it, he was like, it (was) horrible for him as well. You just have to keep trying to fight through it."
In that time frame that Darby posits, the Bills were between two prime-time games on the road against the New York Jets and the New England Patriots. He would continue to play a high volume of snaps over the next four games, but the abductor injury kept him out of a Week 16 win over Dallas, and then he played just 20 snaps in the regular season finale win over the Jets.
Darby, who just turned 22 a little over a month ago, will enter the 2016 season as a starting corner for the Bills, playing opposite of Stephon Gilmore, who at present is entering a contract year.