Friedgen Gives Players Day Off on Christmas

By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said yesterday his team will not practice on Christmas day in preparation for the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando on Dec. 29.

Since announcing that the team would leave for Orlando on Friday to start preparations for the game against Purdue, Friedgen had stayed open to the idea of practicing on Christmas, saying it would depend on the sharpness of the players during previous practices.

"A lot of guys are heavy-hearted being that they're used to being home," senior left tackle Stephon Heyer said. "It's very admirable of him to help us out by giving us that day off."

Because some players won't be able to be with family, several Terrapins from near the Orlando area plan to invite teammates to their homes for the holiday.

"We want to enjoy Christmas," linebacker Erin Henderson said. "A lot of us are not going to have the opportunity to be with our families. But we'll be around each other, be with our teammates, and that's always fun."

Friedgen said a team dinner is planned for Christmas Eve.

Back to Work

The Terrapins return to the practice field today and tomorrow before traveling to Orlando. The team practiced on Sunday but had two days off for final exams, which started last week.

"I've been concerned with where they're at mentally," Friedgen said. "But for the most part we've come out and practiced very well and very hard. They're very enthusiastic. It looks like they're enjoying themselves out there."

Friedgen said his biggest concern was with the offense.

"I thought our defense practiced pretty good on Sunday," he said. "But our offense was very ragged and we had been very sharp just before we went into exams."

Before the exam break, Friedgen held one of the team's longest practices since fall camp, during which scout-team players and others who haven't played much received more attention from the coaching staff. The practice was also used to finish installing the game plan for the bowl game.

Friedgen to Make the Call

Friedgen said he hasn't decided if he will keep his dual role as head coach and offensive coordinator next season. Friedgen took on play-calling duties when former Terrapins offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe stepped down after last season.

"I'm just kind of focused on Purdue," Friedgen said. "I'm going to try to get away after the game and probably spend a little more time thinking about that."

Meanwhile, Taaffe agreed last week to take the head coaching position for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. Taaffe signed a three-year deal to coach the Tiger-Cats, who are coming off a league-worst 4-14 season. Taaffe spent the season on Dave Wannstedt's staff at Pittsburgh as an interim offensive assistant, stepping in for Panthers assistant head coach Bob Junko, who took a leave of absence to recover from offseason heart surgery.

It will be Taaffe's second stint in the CFL, where he served as head coach of the Montreal Alouettes from 1999 to 2000. He spent two years before that as the Alouettes' offensive coordinator.

Graduation Day

Maryland players participating in graduation ceremonies tonight include Heyer, Josh Wilson, Josh Allen, Adam Podlesh, J.P. Humber, David Holloway and T.D. Callahan. Friedgen said all Maryland players who are eligible to travel under NCAA rules will go to Orlando for the bowl game.

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