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Ras-I Dowling has some catching up to do, but how much?

08.24.11 at 7:18 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Clearly, the Patriots and Bill Belichick believe Ras-I Dowling has the potential of being a very special cornerback in the NFL or they wouldn’t have spent their second-round pick (33rd overall) on him this past April. After all, there aren’t many defensive backs who stand 6-foot-2, weigh 200 pounds, and who can hit, cover and possess a 4.4 in the 40.

But early on in his first NFL training camp, Dowling suffered a hamstring injury that forced him to miss 13 practices until returning to full pads practice on Monday.

“Just happy to be out there, happy to be out with the team and just try to get better every day,” Dowling said.

This is a player who — as a freshman at Virginia in 2007 — played in 12 games recording 44 tackles and two interceptions. As a sophomore in 2008 he started nine of 11 games. He finished the season with 43 tackles and a team leading three interceptions.

In 2009, Dowling was voted All-ACC second team. He was voted ACC Defensive Player of the week vs. Indiana with nine tackles and the first sack of his career. Dowling ended his junior season with three interceptions. Dowling was voted 2010 Pre-season All-ACC selection and second team All-American.

But on Wednesday, Dowling showed he clearly got the message to play it close to the vest and act like a rookie, humility and all.

What are his goals for the two weeks leading up to the season?

“Just get better every day, take one day at a time,” he said.

Since they went through some of the same growing pains, have young defensive backs Devin McCourty, Darius Butler and Patrick Chung offered advice?

“I’m just trying to get better day-by-day and just be out there,” he said. “I’m just worried about myself. That’s the only thing I can worry about right now.”

Will going up against the veteran receiving corps help in practice?

“Going against all the receivers,” Dowling said. “We’ve got a good receiving corps but I’m just focused on myself right now. Everything I can possibly do to get better. That’s all I can do.”

On Wednesday, Patriots personnel director Nick Caserio did add that Dowling has been in the team meetings and is finally getting the chance to work on his techniques on the field, something a first-year NFL corner needs desperately.

“He has been in the meetings,” Caserio said. “He’€™s taking the information in there. When he’€™s on the field, he’€™ll be able to work on his craft and his technique. So, when he’€™s out there, then he’€™ll be out there. All we really have to go off of now is what we’€™ve seen, so nothing has really changed in that respect.”

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