Originally created 08/06/99

Robinson focuses on future



GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Eugene Robinson does not live in the past, so he does not have regrets. What happened happened, and he knows he cannot go back and reverse history.

There's no escaping the humiliation of being arrested in Miami for soliciting a prostitute 18 hours before Super Bowl kickoff.

"No matter what I do for the rest of my football career, that incident will be front and center," the Falcons safety admitted Thursday. "I don't know how many times I can say I'm sorry."

This is the message Robinson is trying to get across during the Falcons training camp: He's sorry.

He admitted his wrongs after the loss to Denver in January, and he admits them now. Robinson did not lose the Super Bowl Game by himself, but the distraction he caused certainly contributed to the Falcons' flatness that night.

That the 37-year-old, bailed out by general manager Harold Richardson, got burned on an 80-yard touchdown by Rod Smith, didn't help his image.

Before that fateful arrest, Robinson served as the Falcons' pillar of strength, the one man who talked and walked the straight line, the one who always commanded the locker room's attention.

Now the safety must handle taunts of hypocrite, insincere and scoundrel, be it at his home in Seattle or the streets of Atlanta. He had an unwritten agreement with CBS that when he retired, he would join their group of NFL analysts. That's been rescinded.

The Bart Starr Award, given to him by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes during Super Bowl week for his outstanding charity work, was returned.

He pleaded no contest to the solicitation charge and was ordered to perform hours of community service. Robinson's unblemished, United Way record sits sullen and shattered.

As he gears for his 15th season, his second with the Falcons, the NFL's active leader in interceptions knows he must reestablish his credibility, both with the fans and with his teammates.

"You have to ask the guys about my credibility," Robinson said. "I'm so confident in myself, and I hope the guys know that. I go out and try to do my job on the field. When I'm on the field it's business, and I hope the guys respect that.

"I'm not trying to win these guys over, get them all to like me, you know. We all have a job to do, and that's what I'll be working on this year."

Robinson's teammates defended him after the 34-19 loss to the Broncos, and they stand by his side today.

"C'mon man, why you bringing that up again?" cornerback Ray Buchanan said. "That's old news. I'll talk about what he means to this team, but the rest of the stuff is old."

Said fullback Bob Christian: "Eugene didn't have to earn our respect because we all make mistakes. He's admitted them and we've moved on and forgotten about it."

To help his image, Robinson changed his summer routine and worked out with his teammates in Suwanee rather than his personal trainer in Los Angeles.

"None of those guys knew how I worked out because I'd always get lost during the summer," Robinson said. "They saw me all summer. They now know how hard I'm pushing myself to get better.

"Ray was talking to me the other day after practice and he said, `Man, I just feel so comfortable when you're out there barking.' That's what I hope I bring this team. I hope I bring them some confidence that I know what I'm doing out there."

Robinson signed with the Falcons after two Super Bowl seasons with Green Bay. He figures he's got two or three seasons left in his body.

"This team is good enough to win the Bowl, I'm confident of that," he said. "I want to win another one before I leave."

With wins, maybe the damage inflicted in January will finally heal.

Rick Dorsey is a sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3219 or rdorsey@augustachronicle.com.