Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Almost There...

You’ve given us all you have…Now just give us a little bit more…You’re almost home young man, what awaits you on the other side of that door is a lifetime of memories.  FINISH.


Training camp is far different now that the first exhibition game is out of the way and the initial round of cuts have been made.  During the final week of camp heading into the last exhibition game, players begin to get a sense of where they stand, not only with their last pre-season opponent, but also for the first team they’ll see in Week 1.


During the final exhibition week coaching staffs generally start working more with the guys who are going to figure into their plans moving forward, and it’s culminated by rep distribution during the last regular season tune-up.  Players just have to beattentive enough to read into the clues, and continue to put solid reps on film.


All three phases of the game become very specific during the final week of camp, and the depth charts and packages are a huge precursor for what is to come if a player continues to perform at a high level.  

An example of what we’re getting at here can be looked at from a short yardage perspective on both offense and defence.  A teams short yardage personnel groups, on both sides of the ball,normally includes an additional linemansome form of substitution at the skill spots, or a change at the LB and FB positions.  If a player is fighting for a roster spot, their confidence is given a huge boost if they are included in the first substitution package, because it signifies an idea of how the team might travel this season.  Ratio’s become more of a focal point now that the season is right around the corner, and these substitution packages are made with the coaches having a good idea of who they’ll have access to, and who they won’t be able to lean on.


Another confidence booster can be found on the Special Teams depth charts, and the frequency at which a player is listed.  Offensive and defensive reps can be limited for certain guys, as camp winds down, however one may realize that there’s a role for him on the squad through his participation in the kicking game. 


If a CFL hopeful is listed on the 1st unit of two or more Special Teams charts (Kick-off Return, Kick-off Cover, Punt, Punt Return) they are definitely in the running to round out the 42-46 man roster.  Seeing one’s name being listed frequently during Special Teams install meetings gives a guy a great feeling in his chest.  It automatically builds up an excitement to continue to attack practice. 


In the case of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, much has been made of the receiving depth, and what type of choices that Coach Chamblin and Brenden Taman will have to make.  If some of the younger receivers find their names on the Special Teams boards they’ll have a huge opportunity to win a spot with solid reps at whatever part of the kicking game they’re asked to produce in. 

If one is a lineman; look no further than the Field Goal team to give one an idea of where they stand.  In preparing for the 2ndExhibition game (and essentially week 1) the 1st Field Goal unit is always comprised of the players that will most likely be travelling.  As many as 7 back-ups are usually on the field goal unit, and the depth lineman feature prominently in the middle and edges of these formations.  


Now obviously, none of these hints matter if a player goes out and disappoints.  None of the above change the fact that this is the toughest job interview of one’s life.  The focus is still on talent and the Alignment, Assignment, and Execution pillars that we’ve spoken of frequently here at ProPerspective.  These signals are the motivational boost that help the players finish camp on a high note.  If one realizes that they have a chance to secure some type of role on a CFL team it’s like seeing a light at the end of a long tunnel and all of a sudden camp isn’t such a grind.  Everything about their attitude changes, the feeling that one belongs isn’t all there, but it’s creeping in now.  One just has to seal the deal with solid play.


On the flip side of all of this, is the fact that some guys begin to see that they may not be in the plans for the 2015 season.  If one isn’t being included on any substitution packages, or is only being used as a scout or 3rd stringer on Special Teams; that feeling is debilitating.  


Eventually position coaches will give their groups an idea of how much guys will be playing to round out the pre-season(usually during walk-through on the day before) and if someone is only given a series in the 4th qtr, they’re obviously in tough.  Players in this situation have to understand that they still can’t fold.  Every rep they get, even if it’s only 1 during the day in practice; that rep is literally a bar of gold.  They must focus on making that play count and having it be the best play of their camp to that point.  If a player is only going to get one series, then they can either pout about it or they can take advantage of the fact that they still have a shot to put film down.  Somebody is always watching, and one’s attitude will always show on tape.


This is the most exciting part of the year.  Day 1 of Week 1 is finally on the horizon.  The last pre-season game will feature a long look at the starters on both side of the ball, but it will also give observers a good idea of how the rest of the roster may round out. 

Nobody is going to be more excited than the guys who are beginning to realize that they may be a part a Championship drive when the season starts.  It’s been a long camp.  Players and coaches have pushed themselves to their mental and physical limits.  All that’s left now is the one demand that’s required of all teams and players that wish to hoist the Grey Cup in Winnipeg…

All that’s left to do is FINISH.





Keep all your great questions about the upcoming season coming.  As usual you can leave them in the comment section, or fire them to me via Twitter (@lucmull95).  The next mailbag will be posted tomorrow, and we’ve already got some good things to discuss.  


See ya’ll tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. This is an awesome perspective, Luke. No amount of interviews or talk shows goes into what the real experiences of these players are. This time of year, it's always hard to see the cuts. I mean, we have all been disappointed when pursuing a job but for these guys their experience happens in the public eye. It's so competitive. I read that 10,000 players graduate us college football programs every year. That is 10,000 football players who were so good that they were offered scholarships to play at an elite level. In the CIS and junior football, it's probably another 800.

    11,000 elite level football players who would love to play pro football compete for probably 350 to 400 openings each year. The odds of becoming a professional football player are minuscule. It takes guts to go for it. Look at Eltoro Freeman. He spent years out of the game, never giving up, waiting for an opportunity. That takes courage, belief and a level persistence that is pretty rare. How about Tino? He lived and breathed football his entire life. It all comes down to a few moments. You can't help but feel for these guys when it doesn't happen.

    I remember something Jeff Garcia always said about his career. He talked about how his entire career came down to 1 quarter of preseason football he played for the Stampeders 20 years ago. Garcia would talk about how if he hadn't played well, a Grey Cup winning, Pro Bowl career would have never happened. Pro sports, there's nothing else like it.

    Thanks Luke, for giving us the behind the scenes, human perspective of the experiences these men go through as they fight for their dream.