More than a few people have commented on player-organized workouts with, “just wait until a player blows out a knee.”
Are player-organized workouts worth the risk of potential injury?
At best the workouts are half-speed scrimmages with no contact. The players mostly go through position drills and weightlifting. There is no film review or coaching critique. The players could easily be practicing bad habits.
The problem with this criticism is that the players are expected to do position drills and weightlifting in the offseason to make sure they are in shape for the season. Many even do it at athletic facilities much like the one which hosted the Raiders players recent workouts.
Absent coach-organized outlets the players from just about every team are organizing their own activities. Have we heard about even one injury? Has it added much injury risk that didn’t already exist since most of the activies they would or should be doing on their own anyway? The answer is no.
At half-speed there are limited tangible things that a player-organized workout can accomplish.
Coaches use OTAs to install the playbook. For existing staffs with a returning quarterback and middle linebacker, player organized activities can help the rookies get a taste for the NFL and allow them to absorb some of the basic elements of the team playbook, but the tangible impact stops here.
It’s not as vital for veterans to show up to the workouts. As we have learned, many have skipped on them. Especially veterans with statuses in question in 2011.
So…is there a case for having player-organized workouts? Outsiders seem to criticize them, but most of the players are still getting together.
Two of the most important reasons are chemistry and leadership.
Rapport between a quarterback and his receivers, between offensive lineman, or between defensive backs can be critical to team execution. The chemistry built during the offseason can make a difference when a lineman has to make a split second decision about who to block or a quarterback decides to throw to a covered receiver. Chemistry is an important theme of these workouts and ones outsiders should not ignore.
It’s not tangible, but there is something to it.
These workouts are also a real test of team leadership. What players are organizing the workouts and do the players respond to them? Did 30 or 50 player take part? How many players participated that are under contract?
Just how organized are the workouts? Was it all designed by a pro-bowl quarterback? Thrown together like a pickup game or designed by an athletic facility? The amount of thought and planning put into the player workouts reflects the leadership and expectations for planning and preparedness during the season.
Richard Seymour and Jason Campbell have presented themselves as the team leaders. In the case of Seymour as a leader, he’s unquestioned. In the case of Campbell as the leader, he’s making a statement to the team about his role.
Both are great signs for a Raiders team looking to make the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
There are a host of reasons to not have the players organizing their own workouts, but most of what is being done is what the players are doing individually. There is little additional risk to doing it with their teammates and the team chemistry and rapport can be important. In the case of the 2011 Raiders, leadership is also an important aspect/
Offseason training is important for injury prevention during the season. This means the limited injury risk of player-organized workouts could actually prevent injuries during the season. If you want to look at it from an injury stand-point.
Are these workouts overhyped? Without a doubt, but no more than mini-camp or OTA’s are overhyped. This is the NFL, a perpetual hype-fest without end. Even the labor dispute is hyped.
Player-organized workouts are well worth the risk and the teams working hardest during the lockout are going to be playoff teams in 2011.