Dave made mention today in his training camp post that "we may fully appreciate" the emphasis on fundamentals when the regular season gets here.
Dave. What are you thinking? This part of the training is crucial! We dang well better appreciate it. Those that don't think so . . . well, read on. Maybe I can convince you.
A lot of the posters and commentators here have military backgrounds, and I am one of them. I would be very surprised if any of those who have served would have the slightest doubt about what I mean. Fundamentals are practiced, drilled, revisited, and practiced again. It's a simple theory: Some things, you don't want to think about. You can't afford to hesitate. When the time comes, you need to have these things so deeply ingrained that you do them before you think about them. Muscle memory and reflexes take over.
This is the same thing that you need on the football field. Things are happening at a furious pace. Small errors can lead to big losses. Bad technique cannot be tolerated.
The following is a block quote I borrowed from Keg's article on Tyron Smith, which I guess makes it a block quote quote:
On this day, Houck was working on a simple but important correction that involves the way that Smith kicks away from the line in pass protection and the placement of his feet -- mainly his left foot and the positioning of it when he gets into the engaging area of the defender. The correction that Houck was making is that Smith tends to slide his left toe out and roll on his heel, which throws his positioning off. Houck wants him to keep his foot straight as he slides back so he is better able to adjust on the rusher, thus putting him in a better position to engage and complete the block.
That is the essence of teaching fundamentals. Correcting an error that Smith probably had no idea he was making. This is a case that illustrates the step up college players have to make to play in the NFL. A small technique flaw that likely had not noticeable effect on Tyron's play in college, but to be able to compete in the pros, he has to have a more sound approach to everything.
This is not something that he can overcome by just thinking about it. He has to practice it over and over, so that when the ball is snapped his foot stays straight. It has to become the way his body reacts, so he can focus on handling the rusher and keeping Tony Romo's collarbone intact.
Repeated drill on these kinds of things is boring, both to watch and to participate in. But that is part of getting to where you want to be. I know.
My first job in the Air Force was as a missile launch officer. If you have ever seen the movie "War Games", you may remember the opening sequence in the missile command center. One odd thing about that movie was that the first part where they go into a house that is a disguised entrance was a load of crap, but when they got down into the launch capsule, it was very, very accurate. Some former Air Force officer earned his money as a technical consultant on that. The key point for the plot was that an order came to launch the missiles, and the commander balked. It was all a drill (something that for various reasons would never actually be done that way), but the concern that one of the officers would fail to follow through was an actual thing that the Air Force worried about. The answer: We drilled that over and over and over. You had to practice the launch scenario at least once a month to stay on the job. And you learned to go though the steps correctly, without deviation, even when problems and malfunctions were thrown at you in the simulator. Later, when I had a job that put me on an aircrew, we had the same kinds of things we learned for handling in flight emergencies. And it paid off. On one flight, we lost pressurization. Not the sudden kind that would happen from a window getting blown out, but a quick loss of pressure over a few seconds. We just grabbed our oxygen masks and kept on going without even thinking about it, because we were drilled, we knew we had at least 30 or 45 seconds before the lack of oxygen would affect our ability to function, and we knew that was plenty of time to get to our masks or a portable bottle.
We knew the fundamentals. They were drilled in.
That is the kind of automatic function football players have to have. A defensive back needs to know how to position himself to cover a receiver depending on what route is being run and what kind of coverage is called. A running back has to know how to position himself in picking up a rusher shooting a gap. And on and on. These are not things they can think through and figure out. They have to move, and their body has to already know how to react.
Fundamental drills are boring. They are also absolutely crucial. When I hear about Jason Garrett working on wide receivers making the right kind of cut in their pass routes, I get a warm feeling inside. When I hear about drills on how to protect the ball, I figure that there are going to be fewer turnovers.
This kind of attention to detail is vital. The coaches have limited time, and they have a lot of other things to work on. They have to figure out how to allocate the time, and it makes the apparent efficiency of the practices we have heard about all that much more significant.
I know that all NFL fans are optimistic, so some worry we are having too much Kool Aid. No games have been played, so everyone is undefeated. I don't have time to study what is going on in other training camps, just the Cowboys'.
I'm liking it so far.