March 28, 2011
The Houston Texans are the latest team to organize and participate in offseason workouts that would ordinarily take place in team facilities and under the watchful eyes of team coaches and staff were there not a lockout. Quarterback Matt Schaub(notes) put together a workout on Monday at Houston's Rice Stadium that drew about two dozen teammates. The workouts were basic in nature, as many first-day minicamps would be, but it was also an opportunity for the players to get together and feel as if there was still some semblance of football somewhere.
"Today would be the official start of our offseason program," Schaub told Jose De Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle. "We decided to get together as a group. Just trying to stay up with the program, run and throw and just continue working out."
The Miami Dolphins have done the same recently, and you can expect that in the next few days, a good percentage of the NFL's current crop of players will be organizing and participating in some kind of workouts, just to keep things somewhat sharp. But since coaches can't participate, there's only so far the players can take things — even when they know the team's systems. Or, at least, what used to be the team's systems — there's no accounting for coaching changes like the one that put Wade Phillips in charge of Houston's defense and switched that defense from 4-3 to 3-4.
To a degree, that's where Travelle Gaines and Athletes Performance come in. Gaines, the Director of Elite Athlete Development for API, trains tens of NFL players and draft prospects at any given time at API's Los Angeles facility, and that facility is one of API's four. This strength in numbers gives API the ability to organize what would amount to "mock minicamps," which is what Gaines told me was being set up when I spent a few days at API last week.
"To be perfectly honest, a lot of guys haven't started training yet, because they don't yet know what they're training for," Gaines told me. "Because nobody has any idea when they're going to start practicing and playing. So, it's tough for guys to start preparing when they don't know what they're practicing for."
Through the first couple weeks of April, Gaines and API will be organizing specific minicamp-style workouts for players of different teams who are hoping for a more regimented experience as part of a deal struck between API and the NFLPA.
"We'll start organizing one-on-one drills, and 7-on-7 drills, and having football-specific coaches coming in, and that's planned for all our facilities," Gaines said. "So, [former New England Patriots linebacker] Willie McGinest(notes) will work with our outside linebackers, and we'll have other people coming in to be there and work with those guys, just like they were going to any minicamps or OTAs with their teams."
That said, and even with all his elite experience, Gaines knows that the official experience can't be replicated — just imitated. "We have no idea what coach [Jim] Harbaugh is going to do, or what coach [Leslie] Frazier is going to do. But as far as having the players ready to go and in shape, that's what we do. … All we can do is to ensure that when they show up to that camp, they will be in football-specific shape."
Still, that's far better than nothing, and any player who feels the need to get a jump on things whenever the lockout ends for any reason will most likely be involved in more organized workouts of some type. API is far ahead of the curve, but it probably won't be the last to do this.
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