First, Bradford had to sing during dinner, but the biggest shock came during the team meeting when the following day’s schedule was revealed. Special teams coach Tom McMahon had the players on the different units put on a screen, and Bradford was listed as the No. 1 punt returner.
During practice Sunday morning, Bradford actually took his place as the returner, but never tried to catch the ball. Players on the coverage team had some fun with it, running down the field, and yelling, “Kill him!”
After practice, Spagnuolo joked, “He’s the lead returner right now (laughs). Our guys had fun with that. He had a rough night last night, just so you all know. Just the razzing, but he survived.”
Spagnuolo then acknowledged that Bradford’s say as a returner are over. He said, He’s fired by the way, because he didn’t catch either one of them.”
THE “RAM DRILL”
Spagnuolo also invoked Bradford’s name when he was asked about “Oklahoma Drill” that took place in the morning practice when players were in full pads. In the drill, a blocker takes on a defender, with a runner trying to get by without being tackled.
Usually known as the “Oklahoma Drill,” Spagnuolo said, “We were real creative. We call it the ‘Ram drill.’”
Asked about it normally being called the “Oklahoma drill,” he said, “It is, yeah. That’s what I would have referred it to. But we’re not ‘O’ we got Bradford. We don’t need to be calling drills ‘Oklahoma’ drills. We don’t want to do that.”
Some teams don’t do that drill anymore because of the fear of injury, but Spagnuolo isn’t convinced there’s any more chance of an injury there than in any contact work.
Noting that the players “kind of get into that,” Spagnuolo added, “We’ll do it two more times this training camp. The theory there is it kind of replaced nine-on-seven, so you’re getting kind of some live blocking and live tackling but you don’t have a lot of bodies falling all over each other. You know, you’re on stage in front of your peers so it’s a good thing.”
A DIFFERENT BUCKEYE
Much had been made of the team’s four linebackers from Ohio State, but Larry Grant often was considered an after-thought. Most expected the three starters to be James Laurinaitis in the middle, Na’il Diggs on the strong side and Bobby Carpenter on the weak side.
But when camp opened with the entire roster on hand, Grant was with the first unit and not Carpenter. Sunday morning, he got in some jolting hits, one especially on fullback Mike Karney, who lost his helmet after a reception.
Asked about Grant, Spagnuolo said, “He’s built like a linebacker, he hits like a linebacker, he’s got all that. Larry went through the same learning curve everybody else did last year, learning a new system. Second one for him. It just goes back to what we’ve already said before. When you’re not letting your mind tangle up your feet, you usually look a little bit better.”
Spagnuolo remains non-committal on when tackle Jason Smith will begin participating in team drills. Through the first three full-squad practices, rookie Rodger Saffold remained at left tackle. Sunday evening he had two false starts within a few plays of each, but he shows a lot of promise. As for Smith, Spagnuolo said, “(We) just don’t want to go backwards with it. It is a toe. It sounds like a small thing, but that’s a big guy. If you ever run around and some toe doesn’t feel right, you just can’t — it’s all push off. We’ll keep it at day-to-day and see what happens.”
Defensive tackle Darell Scott has missed three practices after injuring his right hamstring in the conditioning run Saturday morning ... Safety Darian Stewart missed Sunday’s practices because of a shoulder injury ... After Sunday morning’s practice, Spagnuolo said guard Mark Lewis “dinged” his left ankle. Sunday evening, Lewis did not practice and was wearing a boot. ... Defensive lineman C.J. Ah You injured his left hamstring during the Sunday evening practice.
Spagnuolo on veteran defensive lineman James Hall, who practiced at a high intensity level and had no thoughts of pacing himself: “That’s not James. It says a lot about him. He’s the guy who — (I) was walking through the building this morning at 6:30 a.m. and he’s coming through the door. That’s James. That’s the way he was all during the regular season. He’s up early. He knows how to take care of his body, and he’s a great example for these young guys.”
Howard Balzer is the Editor/writer for GridIronGateway Magazine. For subscription information visit GridIronGateway.com (reduced online rate of $39.95) or call 888-501-5752. You can also follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/HBalzer721