- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Had an unknowing observer walked into the dressing room today, he would have sworn that the Chargers were getting ready for a regular-season football game rather than a scrimmage. The usual prepractice jabber was absent. Some men were silently putting on uniforms that were still damp from the morning practice. Others were taping pads on their hands and arms, or having them taped on by the trainers. A few of the rookies were making a last desperate attempt to master the assignments from the play books. Everybody had their game faces on: somber faces, tightly set jaws and lips that took deep, loud, nervous breaths.
In the early part of training camp, players make the team by knocking their friends around. This is one reason why scrimmages are not popular. The other reason is that a player feels if he gets injured in a scrimmage it is a pointless, unnecessary injury. If one must get injured, make it during a game, not on the practice field.
Earl Faison was already resting a sore knee and was being withheld from the scrimmage. Bob Mitinger started in his place at left defensive end. George Gross, the strong, bulky, 275-pound rookie from Auburn, started at left defensive tackle. Tobin Rote took advantage of the relative inexperience of these two (this is Bob's second year) and called a draw on the first play of the scrimmage. The job of the right guard and myself is to set up as if we were going to pass-protect, the guard enticing the defensive tackle to rush to the inside, I enticing the end to rush from the outside, and as soon as they take the bait, we pop into them with a shoulder and wheel them away from the play. Bob Mitinger is so quick that I decided to throw my body at him instead of just a shoulder. It worked, and our fullback, Gerry McDougall, bulled through for 15 yards before being smothered by defensive backs and linebackers. It was going to be a good day, I thought as I jogged to the huddle.
On the next play I had to block down on the defensive tackle. Gross must have read the play perfectly, because as I came down on him he was braced and waiting, exposing only a low shoulder and knee to hit. He moved into me, dipping his shoulder and shrugging my block off, and got into the tackle. Maybe it wasn't going to be such a good day after all, I thought to myself as I walked back to the huddle, mad at myself for missing the block, looking at Paul Lowe brushing himself off after being thrown to the ground at the line of scrimmage.
The defense had warmed up and were coming hard. The rest of the scrimmage was a slambang affair. Hard charges...hard running...tired...gang tackling...big pile ups...gain yards...lose yards...out of breath...fumble...complete passes...miss blocks...swear...make blocks...be thankful...bruised muscles...coaches yelling...faster...harder...and then the final whistle blew and it was all over.
It happened today—Joe almost cracked up. I noticed it in the meeting tonight as the squad was reviewing the films of the scrimmage. You would have thought we had lost a league game the way Joe carried on. True, the offense didn't exactly blast the defense off the field, but that is normal for a first scrimmage. The defense doesn't have as much to learn, and so they are usually ahead of the offense in their development. We catch up to them as soon as we receive and polish our entire system.
As we watched the films, Joe ran each play back many times, stopping the projector before the play was completed, making assorted caustic comments and then running it over again. He soon had all of us dizzy and nervous from watching ourselves never complete a play. The screen would show us run to the line of scrimmage, get into our stances, begin to make a block, and then Joe would throw the film into reverse. So the screen would then show us coming off our blocks, back into our stances, raising up from our stances and running backward to the huddle, and finally disbanding the huddle. It was slapstick comedy at its best.
Ernie Wright started counting the number of times that Joe was rerunning each play. When the total on one reached 17, Ernie leaned over and informed me that Joe had just broken a four-year record. Joe heard him.