We’re reading a lot about how player organized practices are not worth their while, and that it’s just a lot of hype for the players to point out to fans “Look we’re trying to work, the owners won’t let us”.
Well that may be so, but before you discredit these pseudo-OTAs, you may want to look back at history — strike history, specifically — which shows that the teams that showed unity and practiced reaped the benefits at the end of the season.
Most of the gripe with these activities is a lack of coaches; and as we well know it’s the coaches who would be teaching the new playbooks if these activities were official. Cheating franchises withheld, no coaches have any contact with players to inform them of any new material to begin with. So pundits have come to the conclusion these get-togethers are merely for show and tell; show the fans the players want to play, and tell the owners the players are unified.
Fortunately, we have some prime examples that these antagonists are not only off base, but dead wrong. Right here in Washington, D.C., the Redskins have two Lombardi trophies sitting in a case celebrating the strike season championships of 1982 and 1987.
What do the Redskins have in common from those years? Solidarity and camraderie. In 1982 the Redskins, unable to be led by head coach Joe Gibbs, were instead taken by the collar via quarterback Joe Theismann. While other teams had players who were sitting around getting out of shape, the Redskins got together and practiced with their passing leader.
They didn’t have coaches showing them what to do, nor did they have any learning or teaching of new material. What they did have was a group of guys who stuck together and worked pass patterns for familiarity, and a strong group of men who bonded when others were imploding from within their own organizations.
In 1987 when striking players were replaced with ‘scab’ players or substitutes, the Redskins became the only team that had 100 percent participation in the program, and not one player who crossed the picket lines. The shocking result was felt almost immediately when on Monday Night Football the Redskins defeated the Dallas Cowboys, who had no less than nine starters (some of them future hall of famers) start for the ‘Boys replacement team that night. The result was so stellar, it inspired a movie ( The Replacements ) and the real Redskins, fueled by their allegiance and practicing amongst themselves, went all the way as MVP Doug Williams led them in a Super Bowl rout of the Broncos.
It should be pointed out both of these occurrences happened in the 1980s during actual midseason strikes. But the differences could be inconsequential if teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — who are gathering this weekend 50-strong behind QB Josh Freeman to practice and show cohesiveness unseen since the Reagan years — end up repeating history.