During training camp all NFL coaches must balance the need to do some hitting to properly prepare for the season and the need to keep the team healthy enough to compete during the season.
When Mike Shanahan was coach of the Redskins the emphasis was on staying healthy. They very rarely practiced in full pads (including football pants) and live sessions where players were tackled to the ground were never seen. Shanahan emphasized a quick pace during practice and saved the hitting for the preseason games.
It sounds like Jay Gruden will go in the direction of being more physical although perhaps only slightly. When asked about how physical his first training camp would be he first said that there would not be any live tackling periods but then corrected himself to say that there might be one “occasionally, here and there.”
But we still should hear pads popping at the Bon Secours Training Center in Richmond. “When you have the shoulder pads on, it’s got to be physical, that’s the way the game is played,” said Gruden.
How much contact the Redskins will have in camp is not necessarily predetermined. “It’s a matter of what periods do you go physical, how long do you do it,” said Gruden. “That’s something we’ll decide while we’re out here.”
The overall health of the team will be one factor in determining just how hard Gruden will push the team. “If they’re dinged up a little bit they need their rest so I am all for making sure out players are healthy but I think it’s also imperative for us to get the work necessary,” he said. “It’s a fine line that we’ll have to determine on a daily basis.”
It may do the Redskins some good to have a head coach with something to prove. Some believed that Shanahan had lost his edge.
Terrell Davis, who enjoyed a great career with Shanahan in Denver as the team won two Super Bowls, worked as a coaching intern with Shanahan early in his tenure in Washington. Davis was stunned by what he saw in camp.
“I was at practice one day and I remember looking at practice like, wow, if we practiced like this we would start practice over,” said Davis. “I was like, this is not the man I’m used to seeing. That’s probably a small piece of what happened there.”
During the search for a head coach, Bruce Allen said that he was looking for someone with “fire in his belly”. Although Gruden isn’t the old-school rant and rave type he can let his players have it when the situation warrants. It will be interesting to see how his style of camp compares with that of his more accomplished but perhaps satisfied predecessor.