Pressure, pushing down on me.
Pressing down on you no man ask for.
Under pressure – that burns a building down.
Splits a family in two.
Puts people on streets.
Okay. Maybe the late Freddie Mercury’s lyrics over dramatize the scenario at Rattlers training camp on Saturday, but as Arizona held its first live intra-squad scrimmage of the spring, the coaching staff certainly wanted to place a little bit of pressure on the players to see who would shine under the spotlight.
“We’ve got a saying in football; ‘You’ve got some practice All-Americans sometimes,’” Head Coach Kevin Guy said. “Just seeing them in those live situations, where they’re under fire and they’ve got to think under pressure and they’re on the clock and the tempo gets a lot faster; you just want to see how they react.”
Scrimmage play reflected a competitive camp in its infancy as a trio of scores by the offense and a few stops and solid line play from the defense were balanced by penalties, mental mistakes and conditioning concerns. However, with no immediate roster cuts planned by the coaching staff, errors weren’t a green light for sending a player home, but rather a signal for areas that need to be addressed.
“When you’re in practice, we’re playing situations and things like that,” Guy said. “But when you start driving down the field and players start getting a feel for the game, all of that stuff will work itself out. Our pass rushers, that first series, our best group, let (the offense) drive right down the field and score and then they came back the second series and got a stop. There were some penalties that we’ve got to address, some mental mistakes and jumping offsides. They’re all things that are to be expected in camp but we have to address that now.”
Any corrections will have to wait until Monday as the team is taking Sunday off – the first break for the players since camp began a week ago. With a number of guys playing competitive football for the first time in more than a year, due to the Arena Football League’s one-year hiatus, Guy is a strong supporter of a brief reprieve from the two-a-day camp schedule.
“I want them to get away…fresh bodies, fresh minds,” Guy said. “I believe in that. Then Monday when we get back, we’ve got to lock back in. We’ve been in two-a-days and it’s good to get a day and a half away from here, get our minds clear and get ready to go.”
Of course, that means the players will once again find themselves under pressure, especially for a young secondary about to play a sport with high-octane offensive players and rules that encourage scoring. Understanding such scenarios, Guy had his secondary play man-to-man defense throughout most of Saturday’s scrimmage.
“We put them in pretty much man situations, so we could see how they were going to react,” Guy said. “We didn’t throw any zones at those guys. We wanted to see how they would react to just playing man coverage. We wanted to find out who could cover. Our philosophy is that they’ve got to be able to play man first. We’ll evaluate them that way first and we can always teach them how to play zone.”
Evaluation of all players will continue on Monday at Gene Autry Park in Mesa as the team returns to a two-a-day schedule, with the morning session set for 10 a.m. – noon and the afternoon action taking place from 5 – 7 p.m. As always, sessions are open to the public.