Drew Brees has gushed about the benefits of player-organized practices during the lockout, declaring that he and his New Orleans Saints teammates are putting themselves far ahead of the competition.
Of the two extremes, it's easier to accept that what Hawk told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he has heard about "different guys' workouts from different teams" is closer to reality. He cited poor high school fields and shoddy equipment as the main drawbacks that players have shared with him. Should that come as any surprise for athletes who are generally used to team-run drills being held at first-class facilities? Hawk went on to say the workouts held little value beyond the chance for teammates to get together for the sake of camaraderie.
Generally speaking, though, the positives probably outweigh the negatives.
Brad Smith, a free-agent wide receiver who played for the New York Jets last season, said he believes Mark Sanchez has done an excellent job with the so-called "Jets West" camp the quarterback put together in Southern California. Although Smith admitted it's difficult to exactly duplicate team-run practices, he believes "Jets West" has come reasonably close.
"There are certain things that (coaches) want to work on and improve -- certain, little nuances that they can provide us, their expertise," Smith told me during a recent interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "But I think it's pretty much right on. We had route-concept plays, and we don't expect them to change too much (from what the Jets ran last season). Guys who have been in the offense (some as long as) four or five years can kind jump right in."
The practices also are an ideal opportunity for Sanchez, with just two years of NFL experience, to enhance his leadership skills that have steadily grown as he led the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Games.
"The situation kind of requires him to have to do this type of thing," Smith said. "I think a lot of guys probably would try to do it, but I think Mark is doing it exceptionally well. He was proactive (before the lockout) about getting all the information, all the film, things that he would need just in case. He really kind of excelled. He prepared for it."
Having teammates recognize as much about their quarterback is, by itself, a true benefit of something that otherwise is easy to deem a waste of time.