A Look at Player-led Workouts

This is typically the time of year when we are closely monitoring OTAs and voluntary minicamps looking for nuggets to put in our team reports. With the lockout still in effect, the best we can do is keep an eye on the player-led workouts taking place across the league. Not all the workouts are made public, so please don’t consider this the definitive list of what’s going on with every player. However, we’ve done our best to give you an update of what players are doing on their own.

Arizona Cardinals – WR Larry Fitzgerald took the lead once again, organizing workouts at Arizona State University earlier this month, which included 20 players from various teams including Cardinal QBs John Skelton, Max Hall, and Richard Bartel in addition to WRs Steve Breaston, Stephen Williams, Max Komar, and 2011 7th-round pick DeMarco Sampson. Sampson did miss some drills due to conditioning issues, but his speed and hands were noted by Skelton, who also complemented Sampson on his route running. WR Early Doucet is still rehabbing from sports hernia surgery, and did not want to risk doing too much, so he skipped the Fitzgerald-led workouts.  The workouts, which are considered low-key, also included Redskin QB Donovan McNabb, Raven TE Todd Heap, QB Tarvaris Jackson, and QB Charlie Frye. Packer WR Greg Jennings also joined the group, which added former NFL WR coach Jerry Sullivan.

Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons have worked out with Ignite Elite Athletic Training at the High Intensity Training Center in Cumming, Georgia. Team representative, LB Coy Wire has put together the program, which has already seen 30 players work together four times a week. Wire expects near 100% participation and believes that voluntarily working out together will bring the team closer together. The workouts are based on what the team does, so there is a common philosophy. Unlike some other teams, both offensive and defensive players are getting in lots of work, such as WR Harry Douglas, OLs Mike Johnson, Garrett Reynolds, Jose Valdez, and Robert Bruggeman, LB Spencer Adkins, and CB Brent Grimes. With the lockout stretching out, the team organized their own minicamp, which began earlier this week and saw QB Matt Ryan and WRs Roddy White and Michael Jenkins join the fray. 1st-round pick WR Julio Jones has met with other Falcon WRs and has been getting instruction from Ryan and backup QB John Parker Wilson, who played with Jones at Alabama and called his former teammate a fast learner. Ryan wasn’t sure how the team planned to use Jones, but complemented the rookie’s physicality and blocking in the run game. On the defensive side of the ball, LB Mike Peterson admitted to checking in on the younger players and has been running the drills during the private camp.

Baltimore Ravens – Just days before the draft took place, the Raven passing game worked out across the country in Arizona. Led by QB Joe Flacco, the contingent, which also included WRs Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, and Justin Parker, in addition to TEs Todd Heap, Ed Dickson, and Dennis Pitta went through about a week of throwing drills and workouts. Flacco was confident the rest of his teammates were working out elsewhere and staying in shape. Besides the Arizona workout, Flacco said he has thrown a baseball with his brother, Mike, a minor leaguer for the Orioles, in an effort to keep his arm in shape. I can report that Flacco was working out at his high school in Audubon, New Jersey earlier this week.

Buffalo Bills – QB Ryan Fitzpatrick organized passing-game practice in late April near his off-season home in Arizona. The workout included WRs Stevie Johnson, David Nelson, Donald Jones, Naaman Roosevelt, Marcus Easley, and RB Fred Jackson. S George Wilson said other teammates are working out on their own, but didn’t feel team-wide practices were a good idea due to the risk of injury with players paying for their own insurance.

Carolina Panthers – There’s been no reports of any organized workouts led by players, but considering they just drafted QB Cam Newton, don’t have a veteran QB, and one of their longest tenured players, WR Steve Smith, may be gone, we can’t say we’re surprised. Also, remember the new coaching staff is bringing in a new system, which we’ll say none of the current Panthers are that familiar with, making matters even more complicated.

Chicago Bears – No Bear player has organized player workouts, but backup QB Caleb Hanie said he and his teammates have discussed options to make sure any meetings would be beneficial and not just a waste of time. At this point, they would like to wait out what happens in the courts, but may start putting together something soon. Hanie hadn’t heard from QB Jay Cutler on the topic of organized workouts, but in mid-April TE Greg Olsen said the team would put workouts together as a group.

Cincinnati Bengals – With his brother Carson threatening to retire unless he’s traded, Bengal backup QB Jordan Palmer led five days of workouts in Mission Viejo, CA last month, which included WRs, RBs, and TEs. Palmer mentioned WRs Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson looked “hungry” and were both in “great shape.” Other than a few random players working on conditioning, the Palmer-led workouts are the only reports of Bengal players practicing together.

Cleveland Browns – About a dozen players showed up at the University of Texas last month for what was dubbed “Camp Colt” by those who attended. QB Colt McCoy organized the workouts at his alma mater, which included participation from WR/KR Josh Cribbs, RB Peyton Hillis, TE Evan Moore, and WRs Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie. Cribbs called the workouts “extremely beneficial” and helped him start to take off the extra 10 pounds he’d been carrying around. McCoy ran things and was able to get a rhythm going with his teammates, as he was able to let them know where he wanted them on the field, something he wasn’t able to do last year as a rookie, when he wasn’t expected to play. In addition to football and training, those attending also spent time together off the field, which Cribbs said was a good great bonding experience. A second camp was expected to be held at Kent State University, Cribbs’ alma mater, but was instead held at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea Ohio. That camp focused on learning the West Coast offense, including film study and field drills. Once again, about 12 players attended, with guys like QB Jake Delhomme, TE Ben Watson, and WRs Carlton Mitchell and Jordan Norwood joining those who were at the first camp. Robiskie spoke of learning the WCO, specifically the language of it, which was aided by the presence of Delhomme who knows it so well. McCoy wouldn’t talk about what else the players had planned, but June workouts in the form of OTAs were discussed at the initial camp.

Dallas Cowboys – The Cowboys were a bit more secretive about their workouts, which were organized by QB Tony Romo, who was very pleased with the participation (40 players) that took place last week. Before the player-led workouts took place, some teammates were working out in small groups after the lockout went into effect. Romo called the workouts “crisp and fast-paced” and added that his collarbone, which was fractured almost six months ago, feels great. Second-year WR Dez Bryant, who missed the first day of practices, did take part in the second day and was “moving around good” according to Romo. While it is not clear if Bryant would have been cleared to practice under normal circumstances due to his recovery from a fractured fibula, Bryant’s rehab is apparently going well enough to take part in the workouts and even play in a charity basketball game. More sessions were to take place this week, but Romo wanted to see even better attendance, which is why he contacted the team’s draft picks and others who weren’t at last week’s workouts to show up. 1st-round pick, OT Tyron Smith said on Twitter he’d be in Dallas to participate.

Denver Broncos – With the possibility of the lockout being lifted (again), the Broncos decided to wait to go forward with plans for team workouts. The stay remained on the lockout, so S Brian Dawkins, who put together the plans, proceeded to go ahead with the team workouts. Unlike other teams, who are actually doing on-field drills and activities, the Broncos planned to focus on conditioning, mostly because they only have playbooks, but not the teaching to go along with their new offense. 15 players showed up for the first session, which took place on Tuesday, although those numbers are expected to increase as word spreads. QB Kyle Orton, who’s been working out with teammates already, was in attendance and threw to WR Eric Decker and TE Dan Gronkowski. Neither QB Tim Tebow nor Brady Quinn attended, although Dawkins made a point to say that the workouts were “not a get-here-at-all-costs type of thing.” Tebow is not in town, but is reportedly working out on his own. RB LenDale White, who missed all of last season due to an Achilles injury, was present, but only ran on his own as he’s still six weeks out from being able to participate in football drills.

Detroit Lions – The Lions haven’t practiced together as a team…yet. Veteran DE Kyle Vanden Bosch is organizing workouts to start on May 16 for both the offense and defense. QB Matthew Stafford noted on Twitter that he’d be throwing to several WRs, including Calvin Johnson and rookie Titus Young on Friday and Saturday. Stafford is also expected to attend the workouts being organized by Vanden Bosch.

Green Bay Packers – The reigning Super Bowl champs haven’t had any player-led workouts, at least none that LB A.J. Hawk has heard about, and he doesn’t think that’s a bad thing based on negative stories he’s heard from players on other teams, who’ve used the word “disaster” to describe field conditions and equipment. Hawk understood the need for offensive players to get together, but didn’t think defenses would get much out of player-organized workouts. WR Greg Jennings has been working out with the Larry Fitzgerald-led group in Arizona. TE Jermichael Finley, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, said his knee “feels brand new already.”

Houston Texans – The Texans are one of those teams keeping their workout details close to the vest. OT Eric Winston is one of a about a dozen players who participates in workouts three days a week at Rice University. Winston believed that working out with others helped those participating get more out of it.

Indianapolis Colts – QB Peyton Manning was still unsigned when the lockout began, which might explain why the team has not had any player-led workouts in the meantime. WR Reggie Wayne typically works out at the University of Miami and DE Dwight Freeney typically does his work in Arizona, but according to PK Adam Vinatieri, about 75-80% of Colt players have resumed workouts in town.

Jacksonville Jaguars – While no specifics have come out, the Jaguars are apparently working out in small groups based on position around the Jacksonville area according to multiple players who reported to the team’s facilities when the lockout was lifted for a day at the end of April.

Kansas City Chiefs – QB Matt Cassel was able to spend four hours with new OC Bill Muir and new QB coach Jim Zorn on the one day the lockout was lifted, which he called “a good, productive day” as he learned the changes being made to the offense. With this knowledge, Cassel rounded up WRs Dwayne Bowe and Jerheme Urban and TE Brad Cottam to work on some throws at a local Kansas City high school. Cassel feels he, and the team, are on track with their normal schedule, as most of the team is going through conditioning together in town. Cassel mentioned other players, though none specifically, who’ve come in to work out in passing drills. QB Tyler Palko, RB Jamaal Charles, and WR Dexter McCluster were expected to join Cassel this week. Cassel has also been in contact with rookies WR Jonathan Baldwin and QB Ricky Stanzi.

Miami Dolphins – The only report of a player-led workout for Dolphins actually took place on Tuesday, April 26, which was the day after Judge Susan Nelson lifted the lockout. While awaiting word on how they should proceed, the players decided to continue on with their schedule of private practices. On the offensive side, QB Chad Henne, WR Davone Bess, TE Anthony Fasano, OT Jake Long, and FB Lousaka Polite participated along with S Yeremiah Bell, PK Dan Carpenter, P Brandon Fields, and other backups. Workouts have consisted of agility and passing drills.

Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings are one of the few teams with absolutely no information about player-led workouts. Like the Panthers, this is a team with a rookie QB and no veteran on the roster to lead the way. The only player we’ve even heard about working out with other NFL players is RB Adrian Peterson, who’s been seen on the field in Houston with QB Vince Young of all people.

New England Patriots – Surprise, surprise. The Patriot players aren’t revealing much about player-led workouts other than second-year TE Rob Gronkowski admitting that between 10-15 players have been working together in Massachusetts, calling the workouts “intense” and “insane.” QB Tom Brady has reportedly been on his own on the West Coast, but may be joined by teammates if the lockout stretches further into the summer. LB Jerod Mayo is apparently one of the main organizers of the player-led workouts.

New Orleans Saints – The Saints have had some of the most highly publicized player-led workouts at Tulane, thanks in large part to the checkbook of QB Drew Brees. Brees has been able to convince upwards of 40 teammates into joining him after planning the workouts for weeks. The program was put together similarly to how the Saints run their typical off-season programs. Brees arranged for facilities, a trainer, and insurance to be available to players who need it. WRs Marques Colston, who is working his way back from microfracture surgery, and Robert Meachem, who finally got surgery for a nagging ankle problem, have worked out with teammates at the Brees-led workouts and a strength and conditioning academy in the area along with WR Devery Henderson and rookie RB Mark Ingram. Colston believes he’s further ahead of his rehab schedule than he was last year when he had the same surgery on his other knee. Ingram has not participated in the workouts at Tulane, but is considering it as he remains in the New Orleans area.

New York Giants – “Camp Eli” took place at Hoboken High School in the shadows of the new Meadowlands Stadium in Northern New Jersey over the last six days. Attendance wasn’t exactly high, with about a dozen players showing up over the week, including TE Kevin Boss, QB Sage Rosenfels, and WRs Sam Giguere, Michael Clayton, and Dan DePalma, an undrafted free agent. Clayton admitted the practices were tougher to get through with the smaller group, but efficiency was the key. A smaller group may meet next week, but Boss said they may try to put together a bigger group if the lockout remains in June.

New York Jets – Last year, the Mark Sanchez-led “Jets West” was a way for the QB to get some extra time to work with his teammates. This year, the West Coast workouts are the only way for the Jets to work out together and Sanchez isn’t messing around. He’s ran meetings with film and has made every effort to get in touch with as many players as possible to make sure they were extended an invitation. Morning meetings run by Sanchez were followed by field work based on plans Sanchez laid out, similar to what OC Brian Schottenheimer does in training camp. Among the 14 players in attendance over the five-day camp were RBs LaDainian Tomlinson and Joe McKnight, TE Dustin Keller, WRs Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith, FB John Conner, and QB Mark Brunell.

Oakland Raiders – Earlier this week on SXM Radio, QB Jason Campbell revealed that he and DT Richard Seymour are organizing a week-long workout, noting they’d found a complex to use, although he wouldn’t reveal specifics about a date or location. He did reveal RB Darren McFadden, WRs Jacoby Ford, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Louis Murphy, DT Tommy Kelly, and LB Quentin Groves were all expected to attend. Campbell also said he’s thrown with Murphy and Heyward-Bey already and hopes to get more players in the mix, especially since he has his new playbook and can run plays from it.

Philadelphia EaglesMichael Vick said during an appearance in early April that he planned to gather his receivers and RBs for workouts in South Jersey. Those were to take place over a month ago, but no reports ever emerged from workouts, so they were either kept private or didn’t happen.

Pittsburgh Steelers – If the Steelers are having player-led workouts, they haven’t made any of them known to the public outside WR Emmanuel Sanders noting on his Facebook page that he began working out with QB Ben Roethlisberger and others in the last week.

San Diego Chargers – Charger players began working out together as early as late-March and have continued to do so up to four times a week. Early on, about 10 players were participating, but Philip Rivers, who organized the workouts, hoped that number would get over 20. Those who aren’t working out with the Rivers-led group are working out in smaller groups on their own.

San Francisco 49ers – While not considered anything formal, 49er players have begun doing conditioning, weight lifting, and position drills. QB Alex Smith, who originally wasn’t expected to return to the team, received a playbook and has been throwing to WRs such as Josh Morgan and Ted Ginn, who are running patterns based on the new playbook. Rookie QB Colin Kaepernick plans to join the workouts after completing his move out west. With so few players in the Bay Area, the regulars at these workouts also include LBs Patrick Willis and Parys Haralson, along with DLs Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, and Justin Smith.

Seattle Seahawks – While no reports have come out of any player-led workouts, rookie CB Richard Sherman put out a Tweet to his teammates asking if anything was being planned and got a response from free agent QB Matt Hasselbeck to privately message him. Since then (May 9), Sherman has posted Tweets about workouts and sitting in a “homemade cold tub.” That’s the extent of what we know about any player-led workouts.

St. Louis Rams – Ram CB Ronald Bartell has been exchanging messages with teammates to organize workouts with offensive and defensive players to take place in Phoenix during the first week of June. Other Ram players have worked out in Missouri at a local fitness center for about two months and QB Sam Bradford threw to a group of receivers, among whom were WR Donnie Avery and TE Fendi Onobun.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – QB Josh Freeman talked about running workouts as early as February and ended up getting 100% participating at the skill-position minicamp he ran at University of South Florida in late April. Freeman also said he’s doing additional workouts with RB Cadillac Williams.

Tennessee Titans – While not considered anything formal, Titan players, including CB Cortland Finnegan, SS Chris Hope, and TE Craig Stevens started working out on their own at a local high school with the hope that more teammates would join them. Unfortunately, that’s the extent of our knowledge about player-led workouts for the Titans. Much like the Panthers and Vikings, the Titans have a rookie QB and no veteran on the roster to organize at least passing drills, plus the new coaching staff will be implanting changes on offense.

Washington Redskins – In mid-April, about 25 players met in Northern Virginia for a player-only minicamp, which included agility and position drills along with some 7-on-7 action. Among those in attendance were QB Rex Grossman, WR Anthony Armstrong, NT Ma’ake Kemoeatu, and LB London Fletcher, who organized everything. QB John Beck has reached out to rookie RB Evan Royster with some playbook install information. Beck, who is also involved in planning workouts, said there are plans for another group to meet for workouts. Redskin QB Donovan McNabb, who hosted his own workouts in Arizona last year, has been out at the Larry Fitzgerald-led workouts, which also take place in Arizona.

Category: Matt Camp

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