Casey Rabach was the first active player to take the field for yesterday’s afternoon practice — the first practice of the first training camp of the Mike Shanahan era. Seemed pretty significant, like maybe it was a conscious decision that was supposed to, you know, MEAN something. And it did, just not what I thought.
“I got dressed and I saw Chris Samuels walking out,” Rabach said, “and I wanted to see how the fans would receive Chris as a coach now.”
And that reception, he said, was “Awesome.” That is, he joked, “Until Trent starts playing. Then they’ll probably say Chris who?!?”
(That process may start with today’s practice, as first-round pick Trent Williams has signed his deal and should be on the field and in front of the fans this morning.)
The practice itself was an at-times sloppy affair, all first-day jitters on a muddy field, and Rabach acknowledged as much. “Y’know, it was a little ragged,” he said. “It’s that kinda first day thing. Timing’s a little off between the quarterbacks and wide receivers. I think the offensive line showed up pretty well today, though. I really do, I think we did pretty decent. Obviously we were in there wham-bam real quick, but it was good.
A whole bunch of guys lingered back signing autographs, but the absolute last one to come up as far as I could tell was H.B. Blades. And he most definitely stuck around for a reason.
“These fans come out here,” he said, “they stand in the rain, stand in the sun, the least you can do is take a little bit to show ‘em some respect, sign some stuff for ‘em.”
Blades also acknowledged that the practice was far from perfect — “Everybody was a little rusty,” he said, “but to get out there and start playing football again, it’s exciting,” — but he’s pleased with the switch to a 3-4 defensive front, despite his 5-foot-10-inch stature.
“A lot of people downplay my size,” Blades told me, “say I’m not the prototypical size to play the 3-4, but I think it’s perfect for me. I have the weight; I may not have the height, but I can still see just fine. And I think I’m able to take on blockers and still make plays with the best of ‘em.”
So … why is everyone so worried about his height — and by extension London Fletcher‘s — playing inside in the 3-4?
“I have no clue,” Blades said, shrugging. “More than anything it’s about the weight, being able not to get moved out of there, and being able to maintain your gap, press linemen, take on lineman without giving any ground.”
The only way to prove that, of course, is on the field, in training camp and in preseason games. And Blades is completely confident in his ability to do that.
“It’s gonna be a physical defensive, an aggressive defense, and we’re gonna keep the players that are gonna play physical, aggressive football — no matter the height, size, speed,” he said. “3-4 defense, it’s designed to work; we’re gonna put the people in there to make it work. Since I’ve been here, we’ve always had a top ten defense, and we don’t plan on that changing. We plan to be number one.”
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