Sailing the Seas of Cheese: But All the Cool Kids Are Doing It!
Well, it was only a matter of time before some talking head
criticized ripped the Packers a new one for not holding, what I like to call, ULW’s (aka Unofficial Lockout Workouts) as if these little pick up games are a necessary substitute to actual OTA’s. God forbid a team not hold an obligatory pickup game or two of football or jog down an astroturf field en masse for the cameras. Shame if they don’t! Shame, I tell you! They can’t repeat if they don’t have some token group workout together! Hide your babies and beadwork! The Packers will wind up with the first pick in the 2012 draft if Aaron Rodgers decides to be a slacker and not demand his team get together for a weekend.
Sounds like a heaping serving of obnoxious hyperbole, but that is exactly what Tedy Bruschi said yesterday when he decided to scapegoat the Packer’s quarterback and start pointing fingers for why the Packers have not worked out. Shame on the Packers for deciding to peel grapes or whatever high paid slackers do instead of working. You would think they’d want to repeat, he admonished as if some disorganized tossing of the pig skin is the secret to a trip to Indianapolis next February. Thanks for speaking for me, Tedy when you said it would be worrisome if I were a Packer fan just because this BS workout has not occurred.
So Tedy, if your friends were lining up to jump off a cliff, would you do it because all the cool kids were doing it?
Needless to say I think this line of thinking is utter crap if you haven’t figured that out a couple of paragraphs in. And it’s not just a pissy contrary opinion that I have. There are several reasons why I am not enamored with the concept of the ULW.
Don’t fool yourself like Mike Golic and think that these ULW’s are good quality workouts.
Let’s call them what they are. They are window dressing. Heck, let’s go one step further. They are Photo Ops. Might as well don a rhinestone tiarra and start carrying around a little barky dog to complete the picture.
An opportunity, either preplanned or accidental, for the press to photograph a politician, celebrity, or event.
Get your butt handed to you in a platter either in the regular season or knocked out of the playoffs? What solves the emo of mediocrity? Get your picture taken and be lead off story on Sports Center! Let’s face it, Bruschi and Golic proved the media loves the unofficial gatherings. They give them catchy names like Jets West. They laud the “elite” quarterbacks such as Brees and Manning for organizing these little sleepovers and have now officially vilified Rodgers for not issuing engraved invitations for for a Packers incarnation of the pajama party. Yet they don’t say diddly when
teacher’s pet quarterback Tom Brady has not organized anything and has been more busy being Mr. Gisele Bunchen this offseason than anything else. Someone explain to me why Rodger is a lazysack while Brady, who can do no wrong, is no different in this situation?
Then there’s the simple fact that any ULW is functioning in a void. I may not be an NFL football player, but as a musician and quasi-writer, I know that practicing in a void only reinforces mistakes and bad habits. Without tutelage, it’s easy to create a Mutual Adoration Society where no one can do any wrong. There’s a reason that Rodgers, Flynn and Harrell go to Quarterback School in the offseason when lockouts aren’t prohibiting coaches and players from communicating. Even the most elite athletes will excel more if there is a different set of eyes pointing out subtle nuances that may go unnoticed. Ever write a paper in college that you have read over and over again and you’re convinced you have found every mistake, typo and grammatical debacle? You read it so many times that it appears perfect. But what happened when you gave that paper to your trusted proofreader? Yup, it came back with a handful of spelling errors, a half-dozen run-on sentences and one paragraph that made absolute no sense. Same thing happens when you start believing your own hype as an athlete. You need someone to correct small errors that snowball into something bigger if they aren’t rectified. If the players could truly function without coaches, well, there wouldn’t be coaches in the NFL. It’s as simple as that.
Sure it makes the media all tingly at the thought of another team holding an Unofficial Lockout Workout, and, without a doubt, it makes the fans excited because it is a cheap substitute for a football fix. Let’s face it, it’s all we’ve got right now. But take a close look at this training camp photo from last season. Unofficial Workouts aren’t a substitute for any OFA or structured training camp because half of the equation illustrated in the photo is missing.
Finally, it’s funny how everyone seems to forget the enormous liability the players are taking on when they decided to have a Not!Mini Camp. During a non-lockout season team workouts are under the protection of the respective teams. Any injuries sustained are work-related and would qualify for team supervised/approved treatment and rehabilitation. It guarantees continuation of pay.
But these ULW’s? All bets are off. Players are SOL if they blow an ACL or break a wrist. These aren’t sanctioned work outs. Might as well blow out a knee while snowboarding in Vail. I have never read an NFL contract, but I’m pretty sure there are clauses in it something along these lines:
Thou shall not engage in asinine activities that would endanger one’s health including, but not limited to the following:
Skiing, snowboarding, scuba diving, hang gliding, bungee jumping, base jumping, free hand rock climbing or professional wrestling. You are an idiot if you injure yourself that way and such injuries will not be covered by the health insurance and professional disability insurance provided by the National Football League. Stop acting like Peter Pan because you signed your body over to us with this contract.
And let’s face it, any time you get a handful of athletes together there will be a risk of injury. If structured and sanctioned workouts routinely yield a list of injuries as long as my arm, why does everyone forget that the risk wasn’t erased with the lockout. Did a quick internet search from last year’s training camp, and according to ESPN Milwaukee (Thanks, Wilde!) the following players were listed as injured on August 1, which for the record, was only a handful of days after camp had started: Brad Jones (helmet to the back), Brett Swain (knee), Derek Martin (ankle), Nick Barnett (knee), Mark Tauscher (knee), Chad Clifton (rest), Ronald Tally (knee), and Will Blackmon (knee). Two weeks later Ryan Grant was out with a concussion, Matthews was sitting with a hamstring injury and Tom Crabtree was looking at a possible cast for his injured hand.
Not exactly a weensie or insignificant list. If this past year’s parade of injuries and ample use of previous unknowns taught the Packers anything is that ANY player can go down with an injury. Why create an injury magnet for the sake of a photo op if it isn’t absolutely necessary?
Sure, teams would also benefit from the warm fuzzy of a morale booster that Unofficial Workouts would provide. But I’m thinking the Pack is still riding high from the victory on February 6. Last time I checked they weren’t a team on the brink of implosion like the Minnesota Vikings that would desperately benefit from holding hands and singing Kumbaya. There is already cohesion. They were a family longer than any other team in the league this season except the Pittsburgh Steelers. They were engaging in team building dynamics when 30 other teams were watching highlights and countdowns on the NFL channel like the rest of us plebes.
If the Packers need a morale booster to bring them together, I would think that the private Super Bowl ring ceremony later in the month would be more than sufficient to meet those needs. Talk about re-experiencing the mother lode of warm fuzzies without any risk of injury! For that reason, I am glad the ceremony is private and all about the team. It’s a time to regroup and celebrate the team dynamics that took them to Dallas.
If the media wants to start pointing fingers and blaming people during this slow football news cycle they need to only look to DeMaurice Smith and Roger Goodell. The territorial pissing match between the two parties is more detrimental to the football season and success of ALL 32 teams than any 48 hours a Not!Mini Camp would ever have to offer.