|David Goldman / Associated Press|
|Quarterback Jason Campbell leads Raiders players through drills on a high school field in Buford, Ga.|
This was a big week for player-run football workouts, but do these exercises actually beneficial or are they nothing but a team-bonding initiative? Our experts feel that at least two positions can benefit from the extra work together.
An exercise in working-class spiritThere are definitely benefits to player-only workouts, especially in the areas of team bonding, familiarity, and one that's not discussed often, helping maintain a positive relationship with a fanbase. The fans might be upset right now with all principles involved in the lockout (players included), but when they see their team coming together and still working to get ready for a season that has an uncertain start date ... well, I believe that can only help, especially if the team plays well once the season begins. Fans feel better if they see their team "punch the clock" the same way they do each day as members of the working class.
It's hard to replicate an organized NFL campI don't see much to really be gained here. Certainly, nothing is really lost either. And I applaud the effort it takes to coordinate and execute a large-scale minicamp like this, but I doubt we'll see it really translate to tangible gains on the field.
The bonding element is key. If there is something coming from these coach-less practices, that's it. If team leaders continue to step up and organize, and act like team leaders, that can't hurt. Having dinner together after practice, or the experience of the guys traveling to a quasi-remote place together can kind of replicate some of the feelings of training camp.
Again, I'm all for it. It's great as long as no one gets hurt. But it's that risk of injury, plus the lack of coaches, real team meetings and learning sessions, as well as the fact that at best there's only 30-40 guys attending, that renders these exercises as more sizzle than steak.
In a football climate devoid of any real news -- outside the classroom -- we latch on to this and kick around the merits of something that, in all reality, is less than a normal OTA session.
Passers and receivers can benefit mostPlayer-run workouts have value beyond the mere chance for teammates to get together in a football-like setting (and, yes, I am using the term loosely) at a time when there is otherwise no opportunity to do so at a team facility. Their greatest benefit is allowing quarterbacks and receivers the chance to work on their timing, which tends to be the most significant accomplishment of team-supervised drills during the offseason. But it can mean even more than that to the small number of teams with an established veteran quarterback who has a mostly veteran surrounding cast and the same offensive coaches using the same scheme. They can be a little bit more specific in what they cover and address ways to improve on certain areas from last season. I also wouldn't dismiss the importance of bonding. For most players, it is second nature to work toward unified goals that routinely are established this time of year.
This is a time to fine-tune passing gameThere is no downplaying the camaraderie-building element to these workouts, but players can actually get better -- especially quarterbacks and receivers, and to a lesser degree running backs. Offensive and defensive linemen, and maybe linebackers, might not get much out of these other than conditioning and maintaining some sight-recognition keys. However, the guys throwing and catching the ball can fine-tune timing aspects, such as how quickly one receiver gets out of a break as compared to another. Whether or not there are minicamps and OTAs, quarterbacks and receivers have routinely met during the offseason to train and work out some of the finer details of the passing game.
Risks outweigh meritPlayer-only workouts do produce team unity if most of the players attend and attendance doesn't diminish during the sessions. As for developing players and learning schemes, it's debatable that player-only workouts have merit. The risk of injury outweighs the positives.
Not the same as minicamps and OTAsThere definitely are some benefits to conducting player-only workouts. It is a great opportunity for the guys to work on parts of the game that can't be simulated in individual workouts. Offensive periods like 7-on-7 drills (pass skeleton) help quarterbacks and receivers develop timing and chemistry. Although the lack of coaching supervision limits some of the progress that can be made over the course of the summer, an experienced quarterback like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Drew Brees is more than capable of getting guys on the same page by making the proper corrections during workouts.
Defensive players are only able to get a little bit out of these workouts, focusing on individual skills and some basic cover concepts. Defensive linemen are limited because they are unable to perform some of the small group work that normally takes places during minicamps and organized team activities. I seriously doubt player-only workouts feature 9-on-7 drills (run offensive period), so the big guys don't get an opportunity to work on that critical aspect of the game. Although they will get plenty of chances to work on pass-rush skills through individual and one-on-one drills, they aren't conducted at the same tempo or intensity of the practices directed by a coaching staff.
Overall, I love the fact that players are getting together in these player-only workouts, but it still falls short of what would otherwise be accomplished this time of the year.
Odd offseason might benefit veteran playersI'm not one to poo-poo these player-led workouts. I think they are as beneficial as the amount of work the players put into them. "Jets West" is only as serious and productive as those guys take it. That said, I think you can't underestimate team bonding, nor can you fail to appreciate the work ethic of some veteran players in the league. Jerry Rice isn't the only guy who ever worked his butt off independently to prepare for a season.
While older clubs are generally looked at as being on the decline, this situation actually plays into their hands. They know what they need to do to prepare properly. Younger teams, like the Bucs and Panthers (the NFL's two youngest rosters in 2010), might struggle out the gate when the season starts if the lockout impacts training camp.