Time to cut back on playbooks
When Bill Belichick mentions condensing the Patriots’ playbook
because of lost workouts, people notice. If a veteran team with a
superstar quarterback might do so, what is everyone else
As the lockout approaches its 10th week, with a conclusion not
likely in sight as the owners and players haggle in court,
minicamps and offseason workouts at team facilities are being
canceled. That’s essential time gone for teams making coaching
changes or bringing in new talent at key positions.
It’s time that can’t be replaced no matter how jam-packed teams’
training schedules become once there is a labor settlement.
”Do you think Mark Sanchez could have gotten us to two straight
AFC championship games without those (meetings and practices)?”
Jets fullback Tony Richardson said. ”The one thing you can’t
replace is time, and the young guys coming into the league this
year won’t have the benefit of that time with the coaches and with
That playbook might not be so bulky or intricate when the
players do get back with their teams. Belichick, who with Tom Brady
and an experienced offense wouldn’t seem the type to need or make
cutbacks, indicated to the Boston Herald he’ll do exactly that.
”Yeah, something’s going to have to go, I would think,”
Belichick said. ”The progression’s got to stay the same and you
still have to start at one point and build forward on it, but the
width of that or the breadth of that amount of installation, I
think, could definitely be subject to being trimmed back. Maybe
drastically. I don’t know, but it’s possible, sure.”
Some players not only expect a CliffsNotes version of the
playbooks, but encourage it.
”It does need to be done soon, just for the simple fact that we
can’t pick everything back up in September and play football,”
Lions receiver Nate Burleson said. ”This isn’t flag football.
We’re not going to give a C-minus product on the field for the
fans. People paying for the tickets are paying for a product,
they’re paying for the best athletes in the world. That takes
organization and chemistry.
”If this thing continues to go on, that Week 1 and 2 is not
going to be exciting to watch. I wouldn’t want to sit at home and
watch a group of guys throw the ball around that haven’t seen each
other in weeks.”
Using a trimmed-down game plan would make execution easier and
should raise the quality of play. Some teams have dozens of passing
plays, for example, and each has variations. Other teams have
complex defensive schemes built on alternating personnel, blitzes
and interchangeable parts.
Much of that is taught in the offseason, particularly in
minicamps, when hitting basically is forbidden. Sure, weight
training, running and exercising are critical for players staying
in shape. But a majority of the mental work is done long before the
pads and helmets go on.
Then there are the workouts as a team, a key element to building
chemistry. As Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman said, ”There’s a
lot things you can’t learn by just looking at a playbook.”
Richardson has spent 16 seasons in the NFL after not even being
drafted out of Auburn. He traveled the most difficult road to earn
a roster spot, and he worries about any player coming into the
league without ”basic training.”
”For me, the playbook is not higher mathematics,” he said.
”But I’m going on 17 years in the league. I’ve seen what coaches
can come up with.
”For these young guys, I understand how much they need to be
sitting between veterans in the locker room and being a part of a
team. That’s a way for them to learn, too, and they aren’t getting
the chance now.”
AP Sports Writers Joseph White in Washington and Larry Lage in
Detroit contributed to this story.