Wow, what a scorcher of an afternoon. We arrived at the park at 3:30pm (one hour early) because of the awesome crowds this morning. It helped beat some of the crowd, but by 4:00pm it was packed again.
Words cannot express how different the 2003 and 2004 camps are. The atmosphere is so different for both the fans, and for the players. Here are some examples of the most obvious differences... players were practicing almost a full hour before practice even began... and not just hanging around doing a couple of things... conducting fully organized drills with other members of the coaching staff.
Another glaring difference is the intensity of the practices. There are no half-efforts, there's no slacking... it was 100 degrees today, and the guys were not only going all out, they were doing more. The drills run non-stop, guys are ready at all times, and the overall result is a definitive crispness to practice that has been absent for a long time.
Another real noticeable difference is some personal accountability. Without knowing what has actually been said to the players, there were some considerable efforts being put in AFTER practice. All the quarterbacks did wind sprints across the field after practice for extra work, and with two guests, Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels. They did 2 or 3 cross field runs before heading in.
... But not Chris Samuels. I'm not sure if he's embarrassed about last year's performance, or just bound and determined to not let it happen again, but Samuels worked as hard after practice as any 300 lber ever should. He was running wind sprint after wind sprint across the field, and doing sit-ups in between. He probably worked out for 20-30 minutes after everyone else was gone.
There were a lot of special teams drills today and much of it on kick return duties. Guys were sharp, very few dropped kicks. Chad Morton looked good and showed the same quick bursts that we've come to know.
Another group of DBs and WRs were split off and doing a different ST drill. The coaches were using volleyballs to lob into the end zone for the players to try and jump from the end zone line and trying to tip the ball back into play.
The offensive line were doing movement drills with Bugel.... just pairing up in groups and just working against each other.
The defense was on the field that we couldn't watch for most of the practice.
The full compliment of players all gathered together near the end of practice for some 11 on 11s. Obviously in this drill, there are lots of things to observe:
1) Mark Brunell looked much more comfortable than Patrick Ramsey, in fact, Tim Hasselbeck looked more comfortable than Patrick. Ramsey struggled slightly and seemed to be double-clutching a lot of balls.
2) Scott Cloman picked up where he left off last year.... never misses a ball, velcro hands, big, strong and once again, trying to defy odds and crack this lineup.
3) Danny Smith laced into a player about staying in their lane on a ST play... nice to see intensity at practice from the coaches as well.
4) Lennie Friedman practiced with the starters at center, not Cory Raymer.
The practice ended with a spectacular play from Clinton Portis. Portis ran a sweep right and as he came outside, the defense closed the distance and squeezed him to the sideline. I had a perfect view from where I was standing and I actually watched him go from a dead run to a sideways backwards step that beat EVERYBODY. DE Hog looked at me and said, 'Wow, that was Barry-esque'... and it was. He made a cut that perhaps only Barry Sanders could have made. And with that, they ended practice.