Covey still confident he can be great NFL returner


Britain Covey is six games into his pro career and despite a couple hiccups he still believes he can be a great return man in the NFL.

Covey, 25, acknowledges a few missteps and eagerly admits that he has a lot of room for growth, but he views that as a good thing. And he’s ready to take that next step.

“I also feel like the coaches have confidence in me, the players have confidence in me and that gives me confidence,” Covey said this week. “It’s one of those things, and we’ve talked before, but being great doesn’t happen right away sometimes.

“And I truly believe I have the ability to be a great returner in this league. And I want it to be right now but it’s taking a little bit. I feel confident back there and comfortable. But I knew it wasn’t going to happen right away.”

While he didn’t begin the season on the 53-man roster, Covey has been the Eagles’ primary punt returner all season and took over on kickoffs a few games ago. He has returned 3 kicks for 69 yards (23.0), which ranks ninth in the NFL. As a punt returner, he has 15 returns for 99 yards (6.6), an average that ranks him 21st in the NFL.

That low average along with a couple muffs — which weren’t entirely his fault — qualify as a somewhat disappointing start for Covey, who was a dynamic returner in college.

At Utah, Covey was electric. He average 11.9 yards per punt return, 25.4 yards per kick return and had a total of 5 return touchdowns, including 3 during his final season.

“I seen some highlights,” said fellow receiver and special teamer Zach Pascal. “He was sliding. He was nice.”

The Eagles think he still is.

And one of the greatest return men in NFL history believes in him too. Former Eagle Darren Sproles was helping coach up the returners during training camp and has kept in touch with Covey throughout this season.

During the bye week, the two texted each other and Sproles called Covey one night this week to go over some extra practice tips.

“He gives me tons of confidence,” Covey said. “He believes in me and that’s the biggest compliment that I could receive.”

One of the biggest adjustments for Covey in the NFL, aside from game speed, is his role. At Utah, he was playing a ton on offense and was heavily involved as a receiver. His role is different with the Eagles.

Because he hasn’t played a single snap on offense, he gets just a few chances each game to have a positive impact.

“Everyone here, we’re all so used to playing every play,” Covey said. “And a lot of these guys go in and have a couple bad plays to start off but it warms them up. You can’t afford to have that.

“You try to not make the moment bigger than it is. It’s easy to do that (make the moment bigger). To say, ‘This is my one chance probably this whole half, I gotta make something happen.’ If you do that, you psyche yourself out. You have to get into the mindset like you’re playing every play on offense, defense and let your natural abilities take over.”

Over the last few games, Covey has had punt returns of 14, 15, 12 and 12 yards. Those type of returns are evidence to the Eagles that they’re close to breaking one.

“Oh, we’re close,” Pascal said. “We talk about it every week. Not saying that I’m not excited with someone else back there, but with him back there I’m super excited.”

Through six games, Covey’s long punt return was 15 yards and his long kick return was 23 yards. That’s not the type of explosiveness the Eagles want from him, but they’re hoping that comes soon.

And Covey is confident it will.

“Once that happens,” Covey said, “I feel like that will open the flood gates.”

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