Last year, the defensive backs had a bit of a rough time holding on to interceptions and, well, it certainly seemed like everyone noticed. Carlos Rogers definitely got the worst of it (see here, here and here for examples), but when DeAngelo Hall signed midseason and immediately picked off Tony Romo, it was definitely a change from what we’d been seeing.
The old joke is that if they could catch, they’d be playing at wide receiver, but … the defense only had 13 picks last year, and that’s exactly the sort of big play they’re hoping to see more of in 2009. So every time a cornerback drops a ball in drills, he has to drop and give ten push-ups.
“You drop a ball, you do push-ups,” Fred Smoot said. “Point-blank, that’s where we going out there.” But this wasn’t just one of those things where Smoot was joking around about it after the fact — it’s also his idea. “I’m the oldest guy in the secondary,” he explained. “I just feel like we dropped too many chances last year — if we just pick off the ball we had chances to pick off, we’d've been top in the NFL. So now we gonna keep it going, and hopefully we’ll hold on to all these balls.”
Byron Westbrook was walking with safety Kareem Moore, so I asked if the safeties had to do this as well. Westbrook shook his head. “Nah, we’re different,” he said. “We gotta make sure we catch the ball, and they can’t catch anyway.”
Moore made a dismissive snorting noise. “Man, my hands are probably better than some of them cornerbacks,” he said, walking off.
Westbrook didn’t have to do any push-ups, though. “I got the best hands of the DBs,” he told me. “I’ve got some great hands. But everybody should be able to catch the ball.”
Doug Dutch — whose father was in the crowd with everyone else and asked me why I hadn’t talked about his son yet — had to do ten, but didn’t have a problem with it. “It gets you to focus on the ball more, and it gets you nice and strong,” he said, before claiming that he too had the best hands of the DBs.
Rogers — before you ask — does not suddenly have arms like guns from all the push-ups. He did not pass out from all the push-ups. In fact, he only had to do ten, and even disputed his one drop. “It was a bad ball in one hand, but they still made me do ten.”
“It’s just concentration when it gets there,” he continue. He was asked what would be different this season, and he paused. “What’s gonna be different? Concentration.” Everyone laughed, but he was serious. “Make sure I got it instead of thinking about running and everything else.”
(I also asked about Westbrook and Dutch’s claims that they had the best hands. “Brook’s up there, but you gotta do it in the game. The people that’ve gotten it done in the game … that’s been D Hall.”)
Kevin Barnes was one of the big losers for the day’s competition, with 30 push-ups. “It wasn’t just me,” he was quick to point out, “I think me and [Justin] Tryon had the same amount.”
“It’s a good idea — it’s all about being accountable,” he said.
The most surprising person doing push-ups was defensive backs coach Jerry Gray. I asked Smoot what that was all about, and he shrugged. “That’s because he threw a bad ball. When you throw a bad ball, you gotta do push-ups too.”
Photo by Ned Dishman
Tags: Byron Westbrook, ByronWestbrook, Doug Dutch, DougDutch, Fred Smoot, FredSmoot, Kareem Moore, KareemMoore, Kevin Barnes, KevinBarnes, Training Camp, TrainingCamp
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