Before this past weekend’s minicamp had even kicked off, I had already heard a lot about how impressive new wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell had been.
Malcolm Kelly, for example, told me that “He showed me stuff, man, the first day I talked to him. Just stuff where I was messing up during the season and if I would’ve just tweaked it just a little bit, it would’ve made it that much easier on me. “
And Santana Moss was similarly enthused. “He’s already drilling us now telling us what we need to do better,” Moss said, “what he wants to see from us, and that’s great. I like when a coach can tell me to put everything to the side, who you are, what you do, how you’ve done in this league, and say, ‘I’m your coach, I’m going to tell you when you’re right, I’m going to tell you when you’re wrong, and that’s how it is.’ I respect people like that.”
This weekend, though, was my first chance to see McCardell actually on the field working, and I came away impressed. He’s more fiery and demonstrative than his predecessor, Stan Hixon, and he used that fire to his advantage.
“I’m gonna give you some love when you need it,” McCardell said as minicamp wrapped up, before quickly adding, “I’m gonna give you some hard love when you need it, too. I mean, I think those guys are adjusting to the way I am; they understand that I’m a competitor, and I want them to have that competitive drive like I have.”
The obvious concern with recently-retired players becoming coaches — especially with their former position groups — is that they won’t be able to take command of guys who were very recently their peers. That didn’t seem to be a problem for McCardell.
“I think they can relate to me, and I can relate to them,” McCardell said. “They understand that when I tell ’em something, I’m not tellin’ ’em something that I haven’t done. I feel the aches and pains. I’ve been there, and you’ve gotta push through it. My big thing with all those guys [is], you gotta WORK. You gotta work first to get all the success that you want. If you don’t work hard at it, it won’t come to you.”
And he had the guys working hard — and, perhaps more important, developing some faith in themselves as individuals and as a unit. “I wanted to give those guys confidence,” he explained. “Everybody that was there, confidence. Let’s play. You’re out here. You’re a professional, you’re not at home. Somebody else would like to have this job. But now that you’re here, let’s do our jobs.“
McCardell was pleased with what he saw from the younger receivers — Kelly, Devin Thomas, Marko Mitchell — and said he tried to impart a very specific message to them:
“You just don’t walk out on the field and you’re automatically a great receiver,” he said. “Great receivers come out day in and day out and work on their skill, on their craft. In the offseason they run routes, they run hills, they’re workin’ on hands. And those guys are starting to understand that’s how I like it, that’s how I want it. You work on your weakness. Everybody can come out and — if you’re a fast guy, you can always run fast. But if you can’t run routes, you gotta work on your routes. So you gotta work on your weaknesses and I think they understand that.”
If they didn’t before the weekend, I’m pretty sure they’re getting it now.
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