Karl Paymah has never been an NFL star. In four seasons with the Broncos and another with the Vikings, he has been a spot starter and special-teams player, and he’s seen a lot of work in nickel and dime packages. He was originally a third-round draft choice in 2005.
Lately, though, he has been a fixture at cornerback with the 49ers’ first team. Shawntae Spencer and Nate Clements have been avoiding voluntary practices, and Paymah has been one of the big beneficiaries.
I talked to Paymah during this last round of OTAs. If you read my piece on rookie LeRoy Vann, you got a glimpse of a brash young athlete (even the gold teeth seem to fit the picture). Paymah has a much quieter demeanor, but underneath he seems to be just as confident.
Here are some highlights of our conversation:
Good to get so many reps with Spencer and Clements gone?
“Obviously I’m the new guy, and the hardest part is just catching on, and just feeling comfortable out there. You gotta know what you’re doing to go out there and play fast, and that’s really helping me as far as the multiple reps. Just bonding with the guys, playing off each other – that’s all big right now.”
What were your expectations of playing time when you signed?
“Talking to Singletary, he basically formed my mentality, changed everything around. Basically, you gotta be out there on the field. You want to be the best one out there, and you can’t shoot for nickel, you can’t shoot for dime, you can’t sell yourself short. I mean, if you got the ability, you got the talent, you gotta compete against the best of ‘em. That’s my mentality, and whatever happens happens. My plan is to go out there and be the best.”
Early impression of scheme?
“It definitely fits me. It’s definitely the best one I’ve been in. Vikings was a Cover 2 scheme. It was like a shock to me. It was the first one I’ve ever been in. But I got used to it. And it’s beneficial to me right now, cause they were mainly Cover 2. I mean, it plays a lot in our defense here, too. And in college [at Washington State] I played quarters my whole career. Forty-Niners is basically putting both of ‘em together. And that’s what I need in my career at this time, just to be in the right fit, and I definitely feel this is the right fit.”
Any contact with Spencer or Clements?
“No. They haven’t been here. Haven’t really had the chance for that yet. But Dre Bly was a good friend of mine, played with him [in Denver]. I mean, I picked his brain a little bit before I came here, and he had nothing but good things to say about the players, and that really helped out a lot.”
Is it hard to evaluate your performance with no contact?
“It’s definitely harder right now for a corner, because you can’t really bring in a finish-the-play aspect. You kind of like have to hold off. You can’t really go through the receivers or go get the ball, so you’re kind of holding back. But I mean, when you have on pads, I’m like a physical corner, like aggressive. That’s what I’m known for. If a receiver catches the ball, chances are he’s not gonna hold onto it. Right now if he catches the ball, if he goes up for it, you have to stay down.”
Confident the staff knows how physical you can be, though you can’t show it now?
“I guess I’m showing ‘em more than they expected. So I mean, it’s a good thing. I just want to go out there and get better, make it noticeable. I want the trust of my teammates at the back end, cause at some point in time I’ll be out there with ‘em, and I want them to know I got their back, and they got my back. Let’s go out there and play.”