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Reunited at receiver

Posted Mar 19, 2012

New Jaguars WR Laurent Robinson on new WRs coach Jerry Sullivan: 'I learned a lot from him'

Jerry Sullivan’s message to Laurent Robinson was as clear as it was obvious.

Sullivan, the Jaguars’ wide receivers coach, said while he is not in the business of predicting success or failure or making unkeepable promises, doing so wasn’t necessary last week when discussing with Robinson the possibility of joining the Jaguars.

Sullivan’s pitch instead focused on the truth.

“I just told him there was a need here,” Sullivan said shortly after Robinson signed as a free agent with the Jaguars. “I told him there was a great opportunity to come in and establish himself in the league. He can help us win.”

Robinson, a five-year NFL veteran who caught 11 touchdown passes for the Dallas Cowboys last season, officially joined the Jaguars Thursday when he signed what has been reported as a five-year, $32 million contract.

Robinson visited no other teams in free agency. That’s not uncommon. Free agents as often as not sign with the first team they visit, and as Sullivan said of free agents, “If you get a shot, you better take it.” As for Robinson, he said there was a simple reason for the timing of his visit to the Jaguars.

“I knew the coaching staff here and I was familiar with them,” Robinson said.

One familiar face was Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey, for whom Robinson played when Mularkey was the Falcons’ offensive coordinator in 2008. But Robinson’s most recent association with the Jaguars’ coaching staff came last summer during the lockout.

Sullivan, then in retirement, spent that time in Minneapolis with Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald overseeing workouts for about 40 NFL receivers. Among those receivers was a veteran with four years experience trying to reestablish himself as an NFL receiver.

That receiver was Robinson.

After being selected by Atlanta in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Robinson spent two seasons with Atlanta before being traded to the Rams. He spent two seasons there, but during the summer of 2011, he was waiting for the lockout to end to learn his next team.

“He was coming off of an injury, and was trying to get back in,” Sullivan said of Robinson’s work in Minneapolis. “He was struggling a little bit. The first couple of weeks were a struggle, but then he got going and finished up strong.”

Robinson signed with San Diego after the lockout, spent training camp there and was released September 3. Two weeks into the season, he signed with Dallas following an injury to Miles Austin, and there he revived his career.

“I think he grew up and saw he could do it in a big fashion,” Sullivan said of Robinson in Dallas. “It was a good experience for him. He’s been in a program where the expectation level has been high. He fared well under pressure and did a good job.”

Robinson said Thursday he believed the lockout helped his career, and said he believed the chance to work out in Minnesota with Fitzgerald and Sullivan helped him as a player. He first met Sullivan, he said, when Sullivan was the receivers coach in San Francisco and Robinson was entering the draft.

Robinson said Sullivan at the time told him he liked him, but that the reality was he knew the chances of them working together were slim.

 “He said, ‘Usually when I want a player I never to get to draft them, so I just want to say good luck to you and hope we get to draft you,’’’ Robinson recalled. “It all worked out and I got to work out with him last year.  I learned a lot of things from him.

“I think he had a great part of how I accomplished so much as I did last year and to be able to play for him and learn from him every day is going to be huge.  He’s going to get me where I want to be.”

He called Sullivan “a great, detailed coach,” and added, “He’s going to harp on the little things and make sure you are doing the things exactly how he wants it. He’s one of the NFL’s great wide receivers coaches in this game.  I’m happy he came out of retirement and I have a chance to play for him.  It’s a great time.”

Robinson said that won’t necessarily be an easy process, nor should it be.

“You don’t want it to be easy because the league is not easy,” he said. “If he’s hard on you, then that means he really likes you and really wants you to do well and succeed.  You have to be coachable and realize he just wants the best for you.”

Robinson, after catching 89 passes for 1,000 yards and four touchdowns in his first four seasons, played 14 games with four starts for Dallas. He registered a career-high 54 receptions for 858 yards (15.9 avg.) and 11 touchdowns, and entering free agency was one of the more coveted members of what many considered a deep wide receiver class.

One positive, Sullivan said, was his character. “He’s a real nice kid, and has a lot of integrity,” Sullivan said.  “He has good character.”

But Sullivan said there’s more to Robinson, who Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith called “an ascending player,” than strong off-field character. Sullivan said he has the physical attributes to be a productive, impact player, and while he’s not in the business of predicting the future, he said Robinson obviously is a player he and many around the Jaguars believe not only can help, but who can do so immediately.

“He’s a long guy who can run,” Sullivan said. “He’s not afraid to catch the ball. We’ll let the process play itself out. If I had a crystal ball and could tell you everything that was going to happen, I’d have a lot of money; I don’t get into that.

“I just want him to be here, be productive and help us win. Obviously, we all feel like he can do that. You don’t pay a guy that kind of money if you don’t feel he can help you.”

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