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How to watch training camp practice

Ten tips for seeing the game through eyes of a coach

Posted: Friday July 27, 2007 9:58AM; Updated: Thursday August 2, 2007 4:39PM
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Marc Trestman, right, working with Jerry Rice when he was offensive coordinator of the Raiders.
Marc Trestman, right, working with Jerry Rice when he was offensive coordinator of the Raiders.
AP
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Marc Trestman is a former NFL offensive coordinator who's writing a weekly scouting column for SI.com.

One of my great thrills growing up in Minnesota was taking the 90-minute drive with my dad to watch Coach Bud Grant's Vikings train in Mankato, a small college town in the southeastern part of the state.

It was a thrill to cross paths at camp with my boyhood idols, Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page, Bill Brown and Carl Eller. Part of the fun was getting autographs, and a large majority of the athletes were cordial and took the time to shake hands and spend a minute with fans. The same can be said of most of today's players.

The tradition of visiting training camps has changed over the years. There are fewer players in camp than years ago, and teams might already have met three or four times with OTAs and minicamps. But it's still a big thrill to see your favorite players up close.

That said, what else should you really be looking for during these trips. Here are 10 tips for watching training camp like a coach and looking for the things they consider important:

1. Protect the QB

Most head coaches will tell you that as much as they want tough, physical practices their most important job during practice is player safety. The Collective Bargaining Agreement and salary cap makes an injury to a starter a catastrophic event. The staff tries to instill a "common respect" in players and demands they make a conscious attempt to avoid a situation that could lead to a teammate's injury.

This starts with the quarterbacks. They wear different colored jerseys in practice for a reason. Obviously an injury to the starting QB would be devastating. Therefore, the defensive coaches must be specific on a daily basis, clearly communicating to all pass-rushers (including LBs and DBs blitzing) that they must avoid the QB. The quarterback should always be allowed to complete the entire throwing motion on every play in practice.

You should never see a defensive player "ducking" in front of the quarterback, because the QB could get his hand caught.

A defensive player should run by the QB if the defender gets free. Also, a defensive lineman shouldn't be pushing an offensive lineman back into the QB with a "bull rush." This not only can cause injury to a QB's throwing arm, but also exposes his legs to injury.

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