Curl taking leadership to next level in Commanders' secondary


Kam Curl is not a guy who will be screaming on the sidelines or constantly trash-talking his opponents. He hasn’t acted that way during his so-far, so-great NFL career.

But, entering 2022 as a sure-fire starter as one of Washington’s safeties, Curl is starting to find his voice as a leader in the secondary, much to the enjoyment of both himself, his teammates, and his coaches.

“I’ve always been a lead-by-example type dude, but I feel like we…gotta take everything to the next level,” Curl told NBC Sports Washington as Wednesday’s OTAs session ended. “Now I’m a starter, so everybody needs to hear my voice more so they can get comfortable with me out there.”

Curl hasn’t been the only one to note that, given his increased presence on the field, his vocal leadership has increased drastically leading up to his third pro season. Last week, Ron Rivera noted specifically that Curl is “a guy that’s kind of starting to find his voice,” and that the unit as a whole has seen improved communication.

But, as Curl made sure to note first and foremost, he’s a lead-by-example player. That’s easily visible during OTAs, as you can often see Curl kneeling beside one of his fellow defensive backs on the sideline.

Curl’s story mirrors that of two of the Commanders’ new arrivals—Percy Butler and Christian Holmes. All three are late-round DBs who had to prove their worth during the all-important rookie offseason. At OTAs on Wednesday, Curl was often sighted chatting with one of the two for much of the on-field workout.

“It’s just teaching them, keep staying in the playbook and taking special teams serious, because that’s how you’re gonna make the team, really, as a rookie,” Curl said. “So just trying to give them that advice that I used for myself my rookie year.”

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Last year, Curl was on the other end of the spectrum, taking notes from the now-departed Landon Collins. Soaking in all the information he could get his hands on helped turn Curl, who burst onto the scene as a do-it-all rookie with tremendous upside, into one of Washington’s most sturdy, versatile, and important secondary pieces. 

“It’s easy because when you’re a starter, they’re automatically gonna look up to you,” Curl said. “By doing the right thing, showing them, doing the right thing every day on and off the field. I hope they follow me.”

Curl’s intangibles obviously aren’t the only reason why he’s solidified his spot as a stalwart of the Commanders’ defense. Last season, though he wasn’t able to replicate the numbers he enjoyed his rookie year—when he posted three interceptions including one pick-six with two sacks—it’s apparent during practice and games that the coaching staff has given him a vote of confidence.

Curl covers tremendous ground in the secondary with ease. His offseason routine helped him with his ball-hawk mentality.

“I did a lot of ball drills, worked on my feet, studied tape—just to try to get advantages on our opponents,” Curl said.

Bobby McCain might be the most apparent leader of Washington's secondary unit, having signed a two-year extension over the offseason on the heels of his best pro year yet. But he, too, has been impressed with the tremendous steps his younger teammate has taken this offseason, both regarding his on-field technique and his leadership skills.

“He's growing, man, it's his third year. People tend to forget he's young,” McCain said. “So him just playing how he's been playing and doing what he's been doing so early in his career, it's really good for him. Now he's able to sit back and things are slow, and you can tell he's become more of a leader and he's become more vocal, and that's really big for us and really big for him."

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