Oakland Raiders Off-Season: Voluntary Veteran Workouts Begin in Alameda
John Doublin – Apr 19, 2012
The 2012 NFL Schedule has been released, the 2012 NFL Draft is just a week away and the free agency signing has almost completely stopped. The Oakland Raiders' scouting department is hard at work setting their draft board, but what is going on between now and the draft?
Voluntary veteran workouts. Teams were allowed to open their facilities on Monday and players were allowed to show up and begin their training for the up-coming season. However, there are some strict rules applied to these "workouts."
Teams are not allowed to install any offensive or defensive plays or schemes, shoulder pads may not be worn, contact is not allowed and film study is prohibitted.
So, what exactly goes on at these "workouts?" Well, to be truthful, not much! A more accurate description of these activities might be, "Coaches/Players Meet and Greet!"
With that said, these voluntary team activities should prove very useful for the Raiders and the new coaching staff. Teams with rookie head coaches are allowed to do a little bit more than teams with head men that have coached before, although it's not exactly clear how much more.
"Teams across the NFL opened their doors for the start of offseason workouts Monday, but thanks to the collective bargaining agreement, these "voluntary" workouts will be much different than in the past. The first of three phases of the offseason program consists essentially of lifting weights and working out. No coaches. No pads. No drills. Not yet.
Teams will slowly ramp up to a mandatory minicamp -- phase three of the offseason -- that will have no live hitting. Players will wear helmets, but no pads. There will be no first-team offense versus first-team defense.
Commissioner Roger Goodell consistently gets hammered for legislating the hard hits out of football and tilting the rules toward quarterbacks and receivers, all in the name of player safety. But the players deserve a little bit of that ire today. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the offseason work has been toned down to essentially become glorified walk-throughs in shorts and shells. Safety is in. Hitting is out. But will the product suffer?
We are five months from the start of the season, but the assumption is yes. It is hard for coaches to teach and players to learn when they aren't practicing at full speed. This is how the players wanted it, to preserve their bodies and limit practice-related injuries. It is understandable. But while the rules will benefit veteran players with secure spots on the rosters, the younger fringe players will have a harder time making an impression, and a team, when they can't perform at full speed."
Teams with rookie head coaches will be allowed to run limited position drills. This is good for the Raiders as it will acclamate the players to the way the new staff will run practices and it will allow the coaches to see which players need what kind of motivation and interaction to get the most out of them.
Another plus will be the ability to get the first look at the new faces in Silver and Black. Guard Mike Brisiel, linebacker Philip Wheeler, running backs Rashawn Jackson and Mike Goodson as well as defensive backs Ron Bartell, Shawntae Spencer, Pat Lee and Brandon Underwood will have a chance to meet their new teammates and develop friendships and chemistry.
Combining the "team-building" and conditioning work with the ability to become familiar with the new coaching staff and players could very well make or break the Raiders' 2012 season. There is no substitute for chemistry, and these "workouts," (such as they are) will go a long way to helping the Raiders operate as a real team—rather than simply a collection of talented players.
Finally, learning the new routines and expectations of the new staff is only part of the job. Players and coaches need to get in sync with new terminology—a new language if you will. What former head coach Hue Jackson meant when he said, "let's hustle" may be something totally different than what new head coach Dennis Allen means.
By the same token, when a player tries to explain to Jackson why he failed on a play, or what he saw when he made his read may have to be worded entirely different for the new staff. Both players and coaches need to learn the "Vocabulary" of the other and learn to communicate.
These voluntary sessions will go a long way to facilitating this adjustment.
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