Safety Kerry Rhodes, backpedaling during Monday's OTA, has a new outlook on life, football after an injury-filled 2010 season.
The hint was there when Kerry Rhodes dropped off the Twitter landscape, an abandonment of a social media medium that wasn't permanent, but showed where the veteran safety was in his life now.
"It's just for the summer," Rhodes said Monday after the Cards' organized team activity. "I'll probably be back on it soon, but I just wanted to see how it feels, maybe not letting everyone know everything I am doing all the time.
"It's been a good change for me. I am seeing life in a different way now."
Rhodes insisted the outlook about Twitter didn't have anything to do with his 2011 season, when he missed eight games with a broken foot and another game because of an ankle injury. His new view of life and his career was impacted by the time away, however.
Never before had Rhodes missed time because of a major injury. While he had always cared and enjoyed playing the game, there was a realization of what he would lose if he wasn't playing it. It was the kind of story told by the recently retired, the kind of lesson that can only be learned through experience.
The knowledge dovetailed with Rhodes' self-admitted maturity as he reached age 29. Sparse with specific details, Rhodes would just say he is now a "different person, in life."
"In football, I think I've always been a good player," Rhodes said. "But in life I've grown so much, and learned how the world really works. In this life, everyone is not your friend. They can smile in your face and everything looks great, but … sitting down and looking at everything, I'm in a perfect place right now in my life. I know I am poised, if I stay healthy, to have a big year this year."
He smiles about his prospects for this season, and the prospects for the defense as a whole. Rhodes had a big season in 2010 – that year, Adrian Wilson was named to the Pro Bowl yet said he thought Rhodes should have been going instead – and felt he had started well last season before the foot injury in the fifth game of the season.
Defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi said Rhodes was doing "fine" before getting hurt, which has to be praise considering the struggles of the defense as a whole the first half of the season.
"When I first got here he was labeled as a guy who might be a little bit selfish, and he has done everything he can possibly do to make it not that way," Cioffi said. "He applies himself more, he communicates better with guys, he works where his weaknesses are, he has improved his tackling immensely. He has made strides in his game."
Rhodes said he finds his "soul" within the team, feeling like he understands his place in the organization and that they look to him as a leader and playmaker. He isn't sure outsiders appreciate what he brings, but he is confident his teammates do.
Outwardly, whatever transformation Rhodes might be going through hasn't impacted that.
"He's always been a guy who has worked hard, and he's doing the same things," said fellow safety Rashad Johnson, whose locker is next to Rhodes' spot. "He may be a little more quiet than normal, but everyone goes through changes in their life."
Rhodes has two years left on his contract, making $3.5 million this season and $4.5M next season (plus $1M reporting bonuses both years). In today's NFL, those kinds of numbers usually mean big seasons are necessary to stick around.
Rhodes' confidence in that feels genuine, even if he isn't about to announce his new outlook on Twitter.
"I think I needed that perspective," Rhodes said. "I think it was, in a weird way, for the best."