The final week of OTAs are in the books, and they were some of the hardest practices so far. The intensity, expectations, and even the heat continued to rise this week. It started out Monday with the practice moved to the afternoon. This was the hottest time of the day and definitely the hottest practice so far. We installed punt return and kickoff return this week. Still running with the 2's I will get a chance at "shark" for punt return and a front line blocker for kickoff return. Basically a "shark" is the 2nd guy from the outside and is a great position that does it all from rushing the punt to doubling the gunners. We had a chance to compete a little this week in special teams instead of just drills and walk through, as the punt team went against the punt return. I got to rush a punt of the edge for the first rep, and I had timed it just right to come unblocked. I didn't go for the block because it is practice and I don't want to punch my plane ticket out of here lol, but it would have been close! I am excited about these and all of my special teams positions as I think I have the skills and technique to produce and make an impact on this side of the ball. We ended the week of practice with a little fun change up drills, which I hear is a Coach Fisher tradition. We started out the practice with switching individual drills with a completely different position group. For example, the defensive backs went to do offensive lineman drills and the O line went to do DB drills. This was funny and interesting at the same time to see what the other players do on a daily basis. Then after a normal practice we ended the day with a little competition of punt catching, D line versus the O line to see what side of the ball had conditioning. Instead of a normal punt they used the "jugs", a machine that shoots the ball, to launch the ball into the air as high as I have ever seen. I'm happy to say the defensive line won, with some actually impressive catches including a one handed catch. It was a great first experience of OTAs and I look forward to improving with my experience and production as we head into training camp.
The pressure to perform continues to rise as two people have already gotten cut in the last week in order to bring in more players. As a rookie you always hear of the stories of players getting cut, but watching it first hand makes it more real. He went through meetings, got ready for practice, and right before he went out someone came and told him the news. Just like that he was out of the building and looking for a new job and home. This makes you feel the pressure and you wonder where you are in the coach's eyes. The only indicator they give you is the tentative depth chart, but other than that the coaches don't give you much feedback on where you fit in or their expectations for you. Maybe they don't want to make false promises or get our hopes up. Whatever the case, as a player I try not to focus on that and just focus on what I can control, which is working and playing to the best of my ability. That being said, when your job and livelihood are on the line... you can't help but notice. I will just continue to work hard, play to the best of my ability, and keep the faith. I love the opportunity I have here in St Louis and look forward to earning my role on the team.
On a lighter note, Emory Blake and I teamed up to take on the specialist's doubles Ping Pong Tournament. I have always been pretty good at ping pong since I had a table growing up and also there was one in our player's lounge at Texas Tech. Well there is one here also, so naturally us athletes like to kill any down time with... that's right, even more competition! The specialists seem to always have the most free time and therefore end up the best ping pong players. They had a tournament drawn up for this past week in a double elimination doubles tournament. Emory and I took on Austin Davis and Chris Williams in the first round and came out with a resounding victory. But trying to get the players there at the same time proved too difficult as the rookie and veteran schedules were slightly different. The verdict is still out on who are the best ping pong players. Next up, rookie week!
-Student of the Game