Posted by Josh Katzowitz
Call it the Nutcracker or call it Oklahoma, but the reality of the preseason drill that showcases a defensive player going head to head with an offensive player in an effort to move the other backward is that it’s a thrilling -- yet dangerous -- proposition.
The highlight of the 2009 Bengals preseason camp for me occurred when WR Maurice Purify dominated S Roy Williams, known as one of the hardest hitters in the league, and knocked him backward in an embarrassing display for Williams. To watch it live and up close was awesome -- the speed, the power, the car crash intensity.
But it can be terrifying, especially when we hear the news that 49ers C Eric Heitmann’s neck injury that kept him out of last season occurred during a Nutcracker drill in San Francisco’s training camp.
That’s what 49ers T Joe Staley told SFGate.com (via CSN Bay Area), and it’s the disturbing result of a drill that perhaps should be taken out of practice altogether (like not giving water breaks on excruciatingly hot days).
CSN Bay Area reached former coach Mike Singletary by phone Thursday, and he said, “I have no response to that. I don't really know what Eric's prior situation was, so I'm not going to respond to that.”
According to CSN, a number of players were injured during the drill in Singletary’s first full season as head coach, and afterward team trainer Jeff Ferguson expressed concern to Singletary about the practice.
"When I sat down and explained to him why we did the Nutcracker, then he saw it as a very positive thing," Singletary said in the spring of 2010.
Hmm, that’s an interesting approach.
But Singletary also apparently tweaked the drill before last training camp to make it safer.
"I really had the coaches get together and look at the Nutcracker," he said. "Instead of just one guy getting on one side and the other guy getting on the other side and just knocking the crap out of each other, we're trying to get more out of it."
Unfortunately for Heitmann, it sounds like the tweaking didn’t go far enough.
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