Posted on: June 30, 2011 5:31 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 6:04 pm
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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Posted on: June 22, 2010 11:50 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2010 12:03 am
CINCINNATI – The Bengals on Tuesday released WR Chris Davis, and though the team had signed him to a free agent deal in March, the transaction was not surprising. Not surprising in the least.
Cincinnati’s receiving room, after all, is awfully crowded and awfully loaded with talent. Some deserving players will not make the 53-man roster, and after the final offseason workout of the year, Bengals receivers coach Mike Sheppard glowed with the anticipation of who he’ll work with when the season begins.
“They’ve been challenged,” Sheppard said. “It’s always fun to see how a group responds to a challenge.”
Without Davis around, 10 receivers will vie for what should be six spots when the team breaks camp for the regular season – it’s not impossible the Bengals would take seven receivers, but it’s highly unlikely. Of those 10, four are most likely locks – Chad Ochocinco, free agent signee Antonio Bryant, third-round draft pick Jordan Shipley (perhaps the most impressive player during last week’s mini-camp) and Andre Caldwell – who Sheppard pointed out was faster than anybody else at the position and who was invaluable at times last season.
Jones: He’s tall, and he seems to have good hands. Plus, he’s a former college QB, so when you want to pull out a trick play or two, he’d be a good candidate. But his feet have been slow, and he’s been out of the NFL for a year. He’s been solid, but not spectacular.
Cosby: His biggest strength – at least, last year – is his punt returning ability, as evidenced by his 11.9 yard return average and the fact he led the league in return yards (he also led the league, it should be noted, in punts returned). He began to have an impact in the passing game late in the season, but his height (5-foot-9) doesn’t help. Plus, he’ll have competition at punt return with Adam Jones and Shipley on the squad.
Simpson: The second-round pick from 2008 has been a big disappointment for the Bengals – he’s been active for only eight of his 32 career games while making one measly catch for two yards. Simpson, knowing he’ll have a tough time making the squad this year, had a fantastic offseason, but there are still questions about how well he knows the playbook.
Briscoe: Until he missed much of the offseason with a groin injury, the coaching staff was really high on the sixth-round pick. His former receiver coach at Kansas called him the best receiver he’d ever mentored, and his leaping ability is tops on the Bengals squad. He’s got some ridiculous highlights from college, but he’s missed out by being absent for so many practices.
Purify: We don’t know much about Purify, because he’s only played five games in his two NFL seasons (he’s spent most of his time on the Bengals practice squad). But he’s a special teams stalwart, and last season, he provided the highlight of training camp by dominating SS Roy Williams – quite a hard hitter himself – in the Oklahoma drill.
Brown: If we don’t know much about Purify, we know even less about Brown, except that the local scribes enjoy calling him Downtown Freddie Brown. I’d be shocked if Brown made the roster.
So, my prediction for who makes the squad? Well, it’s tough to say before training camp, but the Facts & Rumors blog aims to please. I’m thinking Briscoe and Cosby will make it. I could see Simpson making a run at a spot, but he’d have to have an outstanding camp to have a shot. I don't think he'll play well enough to manage it.
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