Joint practices changing the NFL’s preseason

The sight of J.J. Watt donning a baseball cap even before the Houston Texans’ first defensive series Mark Barron Authentic Jersey was over said it all: teams are changing the way they treat the preseason.
Starters have traditionally played into the second half of the third exhibition game, a final tuneup for the regular season.

Yet, even Peyton Manning had no need for his helmet when the Denver Broncos returned to the field after halftime against the Texans on Saturday night.

Houston coach Bill O’Brien and Denver coach John Fox figured they’d given their starters plenty of work during three days of intense joint practices during the week.
So, some stars made cameo appearances – if that – and nearly every starter was a sideline spectator by the second-half kickoff.

”Any team will tell you that once you get your full squad together, that’s really what you’re looking for,” Watt said. ”But it’s the preseason and the main thing is getting to the regular season healthy.”

Dialing things back in the third preseason game might just be a blueprint for handling the preseason in the future. And joint practices are the perfect substitute for those snaps the starters are missing.

Joint practices have been a staple of the NFL for years, but they’ve become more popular since the 2011 collective bargaining agreement put an end to the old two-a-days in full gear and limited practice time and the amount of hitting that’s allowed.
Training almost year-round with nutritional programs and cutting edge technologies and techniques means players no longer have to use the preseason to build up strength and stamina.

Instead, veterans can get situational snaps at practice and then watch players on the bubble play on game day because now it’s all about getting through August without a trip to the trainer’s room or doctor’s office.

Nearly half of the league’s 32 teams practiced against another team this summer.

Some, like the Patriots and Texans, practiced against multiple opponents. The Harbaugh brothers got the 49ers and Ravens together following their preseason game.

Washington coach Jay Gruden said joint practices are a good way to get the veterans necessary work because with ”every team in the NFL, the No. 1 unit is limited” in the preseason as it is.
Ratcheting up the intensity during the dog days of August is a good way to break the monotony of training camp, indoctrinate the rookies and get a better gauge on players.

”When you’re seeing the same guys day in and day out, sometimes you get jaded. When you go against another team, I think it gives you a fresh perspective on where you are,” said Titans first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt, who took his team to Georgia for a quick workout against the Falcons.

Joint practices have inherent drawbacks, though.

”There are going to be fights,” Denver left tackle Ryan Clady said. ”It’s kind of the nature of the game.”
When the Cowboys and Raiders got together for a spirited joint session this month, Dallas coach Jason Garrett called it ”as electric an atmosphere as I have been on, on a practice field, really in my life.” Oakland coach Dennis Allen said he almost had to quiet down the crowd at times ”just so we could get some plays off.”

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn’t mind the two brawls that broke out, either.

”Seriously, that passion, that’s mostly what I’d hoped what we would get out of getting these teams together,” Jones said.

The Texans and Broncos had several skirmishes during their six hours of officiated practices.

”It’s football, there’s testosterone out here and people get excited,” Watt said. ”Practicing with each other for three days, we’re professional athletes, guys get excited, get a little antsy so that’s fine.”

The bad blood boiled over into the game when Manning was whistled for the first taunting foul of his career.
After throwing a touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders just before halftime, he rushed up to safety D.J. Swearinger, who was at the center of several scrums last week and whose hard hit one play earlier left Wes Welker with a concussion.

”The week had something to do with it,” Swearinger said. ”The hit right before that had something to do with it, so it’s all football, bro.”

Joint practices will probably become even more popular if the NFL adopts an 18-game regular season and chops the four-game preseason in half.

What made the Texans-Broncos workouts unusual was the timing.

Teams usually get together early in camp, not this late.

The Broncos figure to be hosting opponents for joint practices in the future now that their $35 million indoor practice facility is nearing completion. It has hot tubs, locker Mark Barron Youth Jersey rooms, classrooms. And Fox said he’s open to doing this again, even this late in the preseason.

”The time doesn’t concern me,” Fox said. ”We will evaluate, but my feeling right now is yes.”

One coach who won’t jump on the bandwagon is Kansas City’s Andy Reid, who doesn’t want opponents gleaning any morsel from his team.

”I’ve never been that big on it,” Reid said. ”I know a lot of teams do it, a lot of successful teams do it. I just don’t want to give anyone anything that I don’t have to give.”

Cardinals History of 13: The Luckiest Number

A look at the Cardinals players who wore the number 13

There are 13 days left until the Arizona Cardinals kick off their regular season.

For most people the number 13 is considered Lavonte David Authentic Jersey an unlucky number, however for Cardinals fans the number 13 is almost the luckiest of numbers.

When Cardinals fans think of the number 13 they (should) automatically think of Kurt Warner. In four too short seasons Warner began the transformation of the Cardinals franchise, kick starting the team into a new era for Cardinals football. Before Warner arrived, few Cardinals fans can forget the decade of inept management and ownership that consistently lead to a losing product.

Kurt was considered a player gone over the hill before coming to the Cardinals, he came into the league as an older player and after three fantastic seasons his play had plummeted so far he was replaced by Marc Bulger. Despite poor play for both the Rams and Giants, Warner was given the starting job by former… coach/draftnik, Dennis Green. Though his starting job didn’t last long as three games in Warner was injured. Fans began to throw around the injury prone label at the 34 year old quarterback. After a broken hand in New York and now a pulled groin, it wasn’t looking good for our man Kurt.

However Warner’s backup, Josh McCown was unable to take advantage of the situation and was benched for Warner who ended the season on a high note and a three year contract from the Cardinals.

The following year the Cardinals drafted Matt Leinart. Many fans were excited for Leinart after experiencing his incredible college career. Warner was given the starting job but was shown the bench after having two up games and then two down games. Leinart played well, at first, but had some shaky games (and one 400 yard game against Minnesota). For a moment, Leinart was exciting and brought hope to the fan base but was derailed (permanently it seems) by a broken collar bone in week 16.
And, I feel like I have said this before, Warner was thrust back into starting action and finished the season with a bang.

2007 season rolls around and Warner finds himself on the bench, again, but this time by a new head coach. (If I told you this story without you knowing what happened to Warner, you would assume I made it all up.)

Regrettably for Leinart, it appeared his broken collar bone had done something to his game. He became Captain Check-Down and old Ken Whisenhunt wasn’t having none of that. Warner was (again) placed into the starting roll week three and the rest is history. Kind of. Warner wasn’t great in 2007 but for a 36 year old he looked damn good.

Now the rest of the story you remember well and it’s too bad Warner wasn’t able to bring home a trophy. What he did bring was change to an organization and a fan base. Fans started to expect to see a good product and had blood in their mouths after a trip the Super Bowl. Look at us now, a good HC and GM and finally the right kind of ownership.

However, if you noticed above, I said 13 is almost the luckiest number for Cardinals fans. It brought us a lot, but not everything. That could change Lavonte David Elite Jersey though. While this new 13, Jaron Brown, will likely never have the impact the old one did, this new 13 is starting to make me believe. UDFA to all-time-great? Us Cardinal’s fans can only hope…

Other historic Cardinals players who wore 13:

Don Maynard 1973

Jim Gallery 1987

Chris Jacke 1998-1999

Aaron Nichols 2011

New Bears

New Bears defensive end Jared Allen started every game the past six years for Minnesota. Chicago coach Marc Trestman praised his durability and dependability.

“Certainly, those are big to consistently playing at a high level,” Trestman told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He has all the trademarks. And of course, his love of the game. When you watch him play, you’re saying to yourself, ‘This man loves playing football,’ and he’s been doing it for a very long time at a high level. Our personnel people and our coaches all feel that’s he’s got a lot left, and we believe we’re getting him at a great time.”

Allen turns 32 next week. He has 128.5 sacks in his 10-year career.

The hardest thing for rookie safety Brock Vereen to overcome when he stepped into the huddle with the Bears’ No. 1 defense wasn’t the awe of being in a huddle with Jared Allen, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and others. It wasn’t even mastering the assignments.

It was telling people about it.

“If there’s anything the coaches are hardest on me about, it’s communication,” Vereen said. “That’s a key.” And what exactly do they want to hear from Vereen, particularly since rookies generally should be seen and not heard?

“Anything,” Vereen said, laughing. “The biggest thing they’re drilling into my head is that even if you don’t know what to say, just say something. It’s definitely a difference but if it makes the defense better, that’s what I’ve got to do.

Vereen must be saying mostly correct things, judging from his current billet. To put Vereen in just a bit of context:

Highly regarded safeties Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor were still undrafted when the Bears opted instead for cornerback Kyle Fuller with the No. 14 pick of the first round last May. Right now – which is utterly meaningless, of course – everybody is looking good.

The Packers were right on Clinton-Dix, the Jets on Pryor and the Bears on Fuller: All three are starting exactly where their teams projected them at this point, the safeties starting and Fuller the Bears’ nickel corner and playing well enough to allow the Bears to slide Tim Jennings inside on nickel and match Fuller up opposite Charles Tillman on the outside receivers.

Those successes could reasonably be expected. What has been perhaps the most pleasant surprise through the offseason was what the Bears did to address safety, trading up 35 spots from the fifth round into Denver’s in the fourth round and selecting Vereen from Minnesota.

Vereen has virtually established himself as the player to beat out for the No. 1 free safety position, situated alongside veteran free agent Ryan Mundy. Vereen is in the starting slot that had appeared finally secure in the person of Chris Conte the past two-plus years. Now Conte has perhaps his toughest competition since coming into the NFL via the third round of the 2011 draft, coming back from offseason surgery and needing to overtake an ascending Vereen.