I was in the process of writing a story about the insignificance of player-organized workouts when A.J. Hawk took the words right out of my mouth (or, to be more accurate, right off my computer screen). While the Cowboys, Saints and Giants (among others) are getting together in large groups, the Super Bowl champs don’t seem to be in any hurry to reunite. A cynic would say the Packers are already showing signs of complacency. A realist would say the Packers played a lot more football than 30 other teams and are simply letting their bodies heal. I’d say the Packers are simply being smart by avoiding player-organized workouts. Other than putting on a show for the fans, I don’t see what’s being accomplished by gathering together to stretch, run sprints and toss a few passes. Of course, what the heck do I know? That’s why it was so reassuring to read what Hawk had to say on the subject.
“The most the defense can do when we get together is seven-on-seven,” said the former Ohio State star. “I can understand quarterbacks throwing to receivers and stuff like that. I think it’s more of a camaraderie thing.” He’s right, it is more of a camaraderie thing. In fact, that’s pretty much all it is. And while camaraderie is definitely a good thing, do you really think the Packers are missing out by not getting together in early May? Something tells me that camaraderie won’t be a problem for the reigning world champions even if they don’t see each other again until August (or later). After all, nothing brings and then keeps 53 men together like fighting through adversity en route to winning the Lombardi Trophy.
Hawk also opined about the potential dangers of player-organized workouts. ”I’ve heard that different guys’ workouts from different teams have just been a disaster,” he said. “They’re working out at bad high school fields and equipment and all that kind of stuff.” He’s right again. Highly paid athletes running around haphazardly on a choppy field without proper medical supervision around is never a great idea. In fact, it’s probably only a matter of time before we read about someone getting hurt during one of these get-togethers.
Hawk went on to say that every one of his teammates is working out individually, every day, so he’s not concerned if they don’t have any player-organized workouts. ”We’re all ready to come back,” he said. “We never got out of shape.” I’m sure all the players are ready to come back, but I’m not nearly as confident in the staying in shape part. Ever get a look at defensive lineman Ryan Pickett at the start of training camp? If you didn’t know better, you’d think he’s in his third trimester. And if I’m a betting man, I’d take the over, the way over, when it comes to big men and their weight in an unsupervised offseason. That said, it’s difficult to imagine player-organized workouts making all that much of a difference. Some players let themselves go even with multiple minicamps and weeks of organized team activities (OTAs). The only difference is now they’ll just let themselves go a little more.
There you have it. Player-organized workouts are good for camaraderie, but not much else. And does anybody really think the Saints will have an advantage over the Packers in the opener because 40 Saints messed around at a local high school for a few days, or even for a few weeks, in the spring? I seriously doubt it. And more importantly, so does Mr. A.J. Hawk.