Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Way of Strategy (8): Preparation Precedes Performance

This best practice of "preparation precedes performance" process was successfully used by Paul Brown and Bill Walsh. The objective of this exercise is to mentally prepare the players for practice.

Beside emphasizing the fundamentals, the players understand their role and responsibilities for each play. This training practice also establishes discipline and makes the players accountable.

If the players can't learn in the climate controlled setting of a classroom, what makes people think that they can learn under the hot sun of Napa, California?


Raiders two-a-days: Hitting books, not each other

Saturday, August 1, 2009

(07-31) 21:55 PDT -- Take the old school of two-a-day practices, add the new school of football teaching, and that explains all this standing around at Raiders training camp.

Raiders coach Tom Cable's first NFL training camp is like no other experienced by anyone on the 80-man roster, from rookie Darrius Heyward-Bey to 17-year veteran Lorenzo Neal.

Instead of doing what normal NFL teams do at training camp - strap up and hit somebody - the Raiders are spending the first four days of camp in an outdoor classroom.

No pads. No hitting. No plays run. No sweat broken. Just lots of teaching and, Cable hopes, lots of learning.

"It seemed like it was weird at first," linebacker Isaiah Ekejiuba said Friday. "But you go through it and it's a great concept."

This is Cable's big idea: Teach the players what they are supposed to do, down to the last detail, before cutting them loose to do it on the field. Injuries are limited, if only because it is near impossible to get hurt practicing at the speed of jog.

"It's a chance to really sort it out and work through it before all of a sudden you put the combative part into it," said Cable, who went through this before as a college coach. "Remember, the NFL season starts now and it hopefully ends sometime in February for you.

"The human body can only take so many car crashes."

A sampling of what is going on between water breaks behind the Napa Valley Marriott:

Beat the can: The defensive line goes against upturned garbage cans. Everyone gets in their assigned spot, then some of them go into motion to a different point of attack before the imagined snap.

Change that call: The quarterbacks line up in a corner to work on audibles. Quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett gives a defensive situation. The quarterbacks don't just call out an audible, but they bark it out side to side and make hand signals as if they were actually communicating to teammates.

# A deceptive protocol emphasized by Bill Walsh

Air ball: The passing offense faces the passing defense in seven on sevens. The receivers, tight ends and running backs run full routes in coverage, but the quarterback doesn't throw the ball. At one point, defensive coordinator John Marshall - as if out of habit - calls out, "It's time for a pick!"

Short run-through: The run game is choreographed in team noncontact drills. The ball is snapped and handed off to a running back, followed by an instant whistle. Coaches make sure everyone lined up right and went to the right spot. Offsides and false starts were an unusual occurrence, given the slo-mo circumstances.

Cable hopes this format allows them to get those mistakes out of their system before the physical stuff begins.

"This is unique because we don't have the stress, we don't get beat up, we're really learning and relearning," Cable said. "Right on pace."

E-mail David White at

This article appeared on page B - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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