This time of year, every NFL city considers what is voluntary, and what is not. And what it should mean.
I was thinking about it today when I read the story about Albert Haynesworth staying away from Redskins’ work, and how his teammates reacted. I thought about it some more when I noticed Darnell Dockett — who famously had been scarce the last couple of offseasons during voluntary work — once again taking part with John Lott today. I think back to every player I’ve talked to over the years about the voluntary nature of the voluntary workouts. Technically true, but there are so many reasons why the pull is there for the players to show — at least some of the time. Said safety Kerry Rhodes back in March, “It’s voluntary, so to speak. But if you’re not here, people notice. Not even just coaches, players see when other guys aren’t here, and some guys take that a certain way.”
The players’ association always makes it clear it’s about being a volunteer and there can be no repercussions. But as the Cards come up on the beginning of organized team activities — all of which are voluntary — there is actual work being done. Things are installed. The Cards will go over it again in training camp, but like anything else, the more you do something, the better you are at it.
Now, obviously some guys will be absent for some of the OTAs (for instance, I know safety Adrian Wilson will miss a couple at the end of the sessions to return home to North Carolina). But I’d expect most to be there most of the time. In my opinion — and it’s mine, I’m certainly not speaking for the team or the coaches (not that I ever do) — it’s not that bad, not spending an hour or so on the field 14 times for some training camp prep work. Missing a couple doesn’t matter. I look at it the same way as an unsigned rookie at the beginning of camp — if a guy misses four or five days, in the grand scheme, it’s meaningless.
In the end, I’d probably show. I can think of harder ways to stay on top of your job. You get to hang with teammates, your coaches are probably happier, so it’s worth it.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Albert Haynesworth, Darnell Dockett, John Lott, Kerry Rhodes
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Thanksgiving came and went and, as usual, the holiday seemed like a blur. There is a lot to like about this job but that’s one of the downsides – the traditional holidays this time of year flash then disappear in the grind of the season.
But it does give us a chance to hear the thoughts of defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, who has continued to slide his desire for a new contract out once in a while never in a snit but instead with a little humor. The message is never lost, though. This week, Dockett said his family wasn’t coming out for Thanksgiving in part because the team leaves Saturday morning for Tennessee and he was saving their trip for the following week for Minnesota weekend. He just doesn’t have the cash to afford to fly his family out from Maryland more than once in a while.
“We don’t have no Albert Haynesworth money,” Dockett deadpanned. “If I am able to get off minimum wages I would definitely take my family out to all the home games because I know they’d be happy about that.”
Yeah, I’d guess Darnell would be happy about it too. Haynesworth, the Redskins’ defensive tackle, got some $40-plus million in guarantees from Washington last offseason. Dockett is making $3.5 million this season and is scheduled to make $3.75 M in 2010 and $4 M in 2011. I can only hope his family can handle their time apart.
Nevertheless, there’s a game against the Titans up first:
— Dockett did give big props to Tennessee’s running game and talked about what a huge boost to the confidence it would be for the defense if they could slow the Titans on the ground. And to think, Tennessee running back Chris Johnson, currently the NFL’s leading rusher, could have been a teammate. The Cardinals absolutely loved him going into the 2008 draft. They loved Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie too, and cornerback was perhaps a more crucial position at the time. I think there was hope Johnson may slide all the way to their second-round pick, or at least into the second round where the Cards could trade up (a la Alan Branch in 2007). But the Titans grabbed Johnson in the first round. It seemed a bit premature at the time. Uh, not so much. He’s clearly one of the best already.
— Speaking of running games, the Cardinals are 27th in the NFL. But over the past three weeks, this is how the NFL’s top rushing teams shake out: 1. Carolina (183 yards a game); 2. Tennessee (182.7); 3. Arizona 162.3.
— Say what you want about the guy, but Dockett is productive and playing well. He has a sack in three straight games and is making a strong Pro Bowl push.
— Perfect weather planned for Sunday: 64 degrees and only a slight chance of rain. Could the Cards have had any better weather this season? Heck, even in the postseason, it looks like it will be all domes.
— Kurt Warner is going to play, barring something crazy. Hopefully the Cards can protect him well enough to avoid a replay of his St. Louis hit, but Warner is going to get tagged a couple times. That’s just the game.
— Warner’s 89 straight passes without an interception was the longest active string in the league for starting quarterbacks before Thanksgiving. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers surpassed him Thursday and is at 125 attempts. Two other guys have longer active streaks than Warner but neither plays: Washington’s Todd Collins (222) and Kansas City’s Brodie Croyle (96).
— So that’s where the offense was … in the first seven games, the most yards the Cards generated was 383. They have surpassed 400 each of the past three games, the first time since 1969 the team has had more than 400 yards in three straight games.
— Getting LB Monty Beisel back was crucial. It didn’t hurt that Beisel wanted to come back all along, but his knowledge of the defense will allow them to drop him in right away. He can play both inside and outside and most importantly, fill Will Davis’ spot on special teams. The Davis injury hurts. He was playing well and earning more and more time on defense. The ability to get him back before the playoffs, I think, is important.
— Watching Vince Young throw, that passing game doesn’t frighten me. He can complete some passes, but he can’t beat you that way. Now, if he starts to scramble, and you defense gets out of position and then he finds a way to throw it, that can beat you. It’ll start on the early downs for the Cards. They can’t let Young or Johnson rip off too many big runs (I don’t think you can realistically say “any big runs.” That’s unfair). And the Cards have to move the ball and score points. The Titans can’t score with the Cards.
— It’s week two of the Does-Adrian-Wilson-get-his-20th-career-sack watch. Not going to be easy with Young running around. Young has only been sacked once this season.
— The Cards need to win at least one of their next two games, both for confidence’s sake and to put the 49ers out of the picture.
That’s about it. We’re off to the Music City tomorrow. Hard to believe we’re about to hit December. As well as the Titans have played, the Cards again are giving off good vibes before this one. Having Warner healthy helps. So does an undefeated road record. Can it pay off into another win? The Titans are hot, but so are the Cardinals. It’s going to be fun to watch it unfold.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Alan Branch, Albert Haynesworth, Chris Johnson, Darnell Dockett, DRC, Kurt Warner, Monty Beisel, Titans, Vince Young, Will Davis
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