by Marc Vandermeer @TexansVoice
It’s off season practice time at the Methodist Training Center. Some media types will tell you it’s no big deal. But those connected to the game sing a different tune. Welcome to the 2013 season. It’s in progress. Now is the time to step up and get ready.
Rookies take this to heart. It’s their first taste of NFL action and they hit field at 100 miles per hour. Keyshawn Martin told me it’s different this year. He knows the difference between honing your game in practice and laying out in a regular season game setting.
Yet we see Andre Johnson flying around the field. JJ Watt taking nothing for granted as he does what he can to make plays in a practice setting. Matt Schaub, directing his teammates to execute with precision so game situations are second nature.
But it’s only May!
If you pay attention to Houston sports, you’ve either heard the stories or actually experienced it as a spectator. In days of yore, training camp was six weeks long, in places like San Angelo. These days, such stories sound as out of date as The Junction Boys. But the ramp-up time to the season was much needed.
In the ‘Luv Ya Blue’ era of Houston professional football, off-season programs were not nearly what they are today. Players needed the extra time to get into game shape. But OTAs (Organized Team Activities) are part of the modern version of those visits to San Angelo.
Yes, they are at the team facility, so there is no traveling. And they also come after five weeks of a supervised conditioning program that includes plenty of drills to make sure players hit the ground running for the first practice. But these five weeks of preparation, including mini camp, will almost be all the players need to be ready for the preseason.
By July 26, when ‘real’ training camp begins, most of the players will be in optimal physical condition and ready to go. They will have two weeks before the first preseason game and might know 80% of what they need to know to begin the regular season.
So these weeks in May are crucial to installing offensive and defensive wrinkles and trying players out in different spots and situations so the coaches have a feel for what works best.
You want to see Brooks Reed at Inside Linebacker? Let’s try it. How would Brian Braman look as a starter? Let’s see. The team has an opportunity to flesh out what they’ve been discussing in their off season meetings.
The thing all players need, particularly rookies, is repetition. Watching the Texans operate in practice is like watching musicians go through their scales or watching a pro golfer hit shot after shot on the practice tee. The only way to get better is through multiple tries at the same thing. Execution must become familiar so raw athletic ability is optimized.
Texans Recievers Coach Larry Kirksey has coached players like Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, Herman Moore and Andre Johnson. Of the thread that connects the great ones, he says, “They all work extremely hard.”
What made Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson so good? Sure, they were all blessed with outstanding athletic ability but anyone around their teams will tell you that no one worked harder. They all loved to practice and get better.
Why do pro golfers continue to work with swing coaches and basically ‘get lessons?’ Because that’s the only way they will stay sharp and improve.
These days are crucial to the success of the Texans campaign. Teams that hit training camp with major questions are unlikely to do well. Many of the games on your 2013 schedule are being played and won right now.
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