The morning is pleasant. It is a sunny and clear day, ideal for a football fan to watch his favorite team. "You want it all but you can't have it" by Faith No More is playing over the PA system as I station myself once more at the 45 yard line. Matt Prater is the first player to appear and he is adorned in "Shorts and Shells." Riar Geer and Nathan Overbay appear and Social Distortion plays "Time of My Life." I see Spencer Larsen joined by Ben Garland and...Yes Chris Kuper is back. Brady Quinn comes out and begins to loosen up his arm with some soft toss. The JUGG's machine is placed to my right at the 25 yard line. Wesley Woodyard does the "the Dogcatcher" to George Clinton's "Atomic Dog" as the Kick Return Unit lines up on the field. HORN.
The clock sets at 10 minutes. Cassius Vaughn, Wesley Woodyard, David Bruton, Joe Mays, Marcus Thomas, D'Anthony Batiste, Tyler Polumbus, Spencer Larsen, Matthew Willis line up and Perrish Cox takes his position as Kick Returner. Coach Priefer instructs the Unit on individual blocking assignments for each play call (and there are at least a dozen). They take 4 or 5 reps and then the second Unit consisting of Alphonso Smith, Tony Carter, Kevin Alexander, Kyle McCarthy, Johnny Williams, Eric Olsen, Stanley Daniels, Seth Olsen, Bruce Hall change places with the first Team. Matthew Willis and Cassius Vaughn both take reps as the Return man. There isn't much of a crowd today at all, maybe 250 people tops. HORN.
10 minutes on the segment clock. The Offense gathers to my right at the 20 yard line for running drills. the Offense welcomes Chris Kuper back with cheers as he resumes his starting position at Right Guard. He is joined by line-mates D'Anthony Batiste, Zane Beadles, J.D.Walton and Ryan Harris. They perform running plays against other Offensive players "Scouts" at half-speed. Bruce Hall and Justin Fargas carry the ball. Fargas still looks like he has a hitch in his gait, but I will get to that later. Brandon Stokely, Richard Quinn and Daniel Graham are not out practicing. Marquez Branson is getting the 1st Team reps at Tight End. Nathan Overbay also has a rep. Tim Tebow takes the reps after Kyle Orton and runs off right tackle. HORN.
14 minutes are put on the clock and the team lines up at the goal line for jogging warm ups. This is followed by the Hop, Skip, and Jump routine and the stretching session with Strength and Conditioning Coach Tuten. I see that Brian Dawkins, Andre' Goodman, Darcel McBath and Champ Bailey are missing today's practice. D.J. Williams is wearing his normal Blue jersey instead of the "No Contact" orange one so he must be healthy again. It is nice to have some welcome news for a change regarding the injury epidemic. It is starting to heat up now so I apply the SPF 30. Ron Fields is getting some additional tape for both ankles and Ryan McBean comes over and tells him a joke. With 3 minutes left in the segment, the Offense and Defensive players move over to their respective practice fields. The O-Line take their usual position down at the left end of the field again begin their "Shuffle" drill. The ballcarriers run through the hurdle pylons before dispersing to their own positional warm ups. HORN.
5 minutes on the clock. The Tight Ends are hitting the stationary blocking sled, while the Running Backs run the Lanes, the Wide Receivers their slalom drills, and the Quarterbacks throw warm up passes to a ball boy. HORN.
Another 5 minutes go on the clock. The Quarterbacks are now joined by the Wide Receiver for passing drills and the Running Backs are thrown short passes to them by an assistant. Across at the other field, I can see the Linebackers practice a pass rushing drill. They go against one another one on one, and while engaged, an assistant rolls a large workout ball into the rushers path for him to maneuver around (I like this drill). HORN.
A 15 minute session of 11 on 11's is next. Justin Bannan, Jamal Williams and Ryan McBean are the D-Linemen. Mario Haggan, Wesley Woodyard, D.J.Williams and Robert Ayers are the Linebackers and Perrish Cox, David Bruton, Renaldo Hill and Alphonso Smith are the Defensive Backs. Before practice begins to get sloppy, coach McDaniels threatens a full pad workout if he doesn't get the effort he wants. More running plays are performed with Kyle Orton at the helm. Tim Tebow comes in and runs the ball. On the next play, he hands the ball off and i don't catch who is carrying the ball because I see that J.D.Walton is on the ground, courtesy of Jamal Williams. He is replaced by Eric Olsen at Center. Orton hands the ball off to Justin Fargas twice. Then Brady Quinn hands off to Bruce Hall. Tebow runs to the left twice. Orton comes back in and Lance Ball and Bruce Hall each get a carry. The 1st Defense 4-3 Unit is called to enter the field. Ronald Fields adds his body to the line. I didn't pay attention to which LB he replaced, but I think it would have been Wesley Woodyard. Josh McDaniels gets excited about a well blocked play. Orton hands off to Lance Ball and Justin Fargas. J.D.Walton and Zane Beadles somehow end up tangled on the ground looking like a game of "Twister" is being played. Wrong game guys. Brady Quinn comes in for a rep and hands the ball to Bruce Hall who is running behind a Spencer Larsen block. HORN.
3 minutes go up on the clock. the players switch sides and the regular Defense returns to the field. Orton hands off to Lance Ball and then Brady Quinn hands off to Bruce Hall who is strung out wide. He then hands the ball off to Toney Baker, who gets a couple of carries. HORN.
The clock resets to 6 minutes and coaches are telling the players to hustle up. The heat is rising and the tempo is too. It's time for more Kickoff Return practice. This time Matt Prater is kicking instead of the JUGG's machine. Alphonso Smith is back as the return man. A surprise Onside kick is enacted that doesn't catch Matthew Willis off guard. He promptly pounces on the ball for the Receiving Team. Perrish Cox takes three reps and then Matthew Willis and Cassius Vaughn each get a rep as the return man. HORN.
5 minutes on the segment clock. The Quarterbacks, Running Backs and Wide Receivers engage in more passing drills. The Tight Ends are catching passes from an assistant and then being hit by another assistant with a blocking pad. Josh McDaniels grabs a blocking pad as well and I think that I'm not going to miss this. However, he doesn't get up there and hit the Tight End, he throws the pad at the poor guy. I yell out, "you gotta square up your shoulders Josh." That gets a few laughs. HORN.
5 more minutes go on the clock. The Offense switches directions and the Tight Ends join the Running backs, Wide Receivers and Quarterbacks. The Chain Gang sets up on the sideline. HORN.
An 8 minute segment of 6's on 7's with the 1st Nickel unit is now going on. Kyle Orton throws a pass too high for Jabar Gaffney to handle. Alphonso Smith nearly picks off an Orton pass intended for Eddie Royal. The 2nd Team Base Defense rotates on to the field. Tim Tebow swings a pass to Spencer Larsen. Orton connects with Eddie Royal on a deep pass just past Wesley Woodyard. Cassius Vaughn misses an assignment in zone and Orton finds Brandon Lloyd wide open for a completion. Brady Quinn throws a pass that Matthew Willis "stone hands." I begin to wonder if Brady even throws a catchable ball. Orton hits Royal, who fumbles after the catch, then recovers the ball before any defenders can get after it. Orton passes to Brandon Lloyd on a slant pattern. Tebow makes a swift throw to Patrick Carter. HORN.
The clock is set at 15 minutes and it's time for 11 on 11's vs. the 1st Nickel Defense. Kyle Orton hits Marquez Branson on a intermediate seam route, then throws low incomplete to Eddie Royal. Kyle then connects with Jabar Gaffney for 20 yards, and then a wide open Brandon Lloyd. Tebow time. Tim throws a too high sideline pass toward Alric Arnett. He hits Bruce Hall in the flat on the next play. Tebow showed faster decisions and got rid of the ball quicker on those two plays. Kyle Orton comes back in and completes a pass to Lloyd. Then Kyle hits Matthew Willis on a post pattern. He then comes back to Willis with a quick pass. Brady Quinn runs a play action pass to Willis on another post. I am liking these post plays as it will get the fleet footed receivers the ball with space to run. Brady completes a pass to Marquez Branson. HORN.
"Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" yell the coaches. The two Units switch sides and 5 minutes are placed on the clock. Lance Ball is stuffed running to the left and then running to the right (I hope the other Running Back's heal up real soon). Orton swings a pass to Toney Baker. Then Brady Quinn hands off to Baker who takes it up the middle. They re-run the play for a better result the second time. Bruce Hall carries up the middle. Tebow gets sacked.Then he passes incomplete to Alric Arnett who is well covered by Alphonso Smith. They run the play over again and it is complete. Tebow completes passes to Patrick Carter and Britt Davis. HORN.
"Let's Go, Let's Go" go the coaches again. 8 minutes go on the clock. Coach McDaniel's runs the Gunners vs. Punt Returner drills personally. Since there were mistakes in tackling and containment issues during the Bengal game, it's no wonder this is getting some attention. There are pylons at the numbers to simulate the smaller containment area for the Gunners. Josh McDaniels comes away satisfied with the results after further explaining what he expects from them. The Punting Unit comes onto the field to practice against the "Shell" (Red socks on their helmets) Return Team. Alphonso Smith is back for the return team. This is "Live" punting action and Britton Colquitt is booming kicks again today (I think we're going to need faster Gunners). The Teams switch sides and take a few more reps. HORN.
9 minutes on the clock. Red Zone 11 on 11 drills. Lance Ball gets a carry. Renaldo Hill has an interception lined up and Alric Arnett knocks the Orton pass from his hands. The Cornerbacks blitz and Kyle passes too low for Brandon Lloyd across the middle. Orton passes complete to Riar Geer. A lady comes by asking anyone if they want to go to the game on Saturday because she will be out of town. So I say, sure I will take them. That's when she starts talking about cost and I just laugh at her. Like I'm going to pay for a pre-season game. Right. Brady Quinn hooks up with Britt Davis on a crossing route and Kyle Orton hands off to Justin Fargas. Tebow finds Lance Ball on a checkdown, and then gets sacked on the next play. Tim then runs the ball off tackle. Kyle Orton hands off to Bruce Hall, then finds Eddie Royal in the end zone for a touchdown. The Unit then runs some 4th and goal from the 5 yard line situations. The entire Defensive Unit starts yelling "De-Fense, De-Fense." Orton takes too much time and gets sacked to the delight of the Defense. Orton then threads the needle to Gaffney for a touchdown. HORN.
The narrow goalposts are brought on to the field and Matt Prater lines up and kicks Field Goals of 35, 40, three at 45 and one at 55 yards. The whistle sounds and the Team lines up for sideline sprints. The coaches tell the players to run hard, because they want the players to still have their legs in the 4th quarter this year. After that, the team huddles at midfield for debriefing. When they break huddle, there is a 10 minute cool down session before the autographs start. There are quite a few players signing today, and since the crowd is small, I am able to pick up 9 autographs from the Linebackers and Running backs that are signing. Toney Baker, Lance Ball, Bruce Hall, Spencer Larsen and Justin Fargas. I ask Fargas how is knee is doing and he replies, "very well thank you." Also signing are Devin Bishop, Akin Ayodele, Jammie Kirlew, Johnny Williams, D.J.Williams, Robert Ayers, Baraka Atkins Kevin Alexander and Mario Haggan.
If you didn't notice, Tim Tebow got a lot of reps today at the expense of Brady Quinn. Kyle took most of the reps overall, but Tebow got a bigger share of the workload than he normally gets. It also looks more and more like he will be running the ball this year. There is another practice this evening and I won't be there. In fact, it's going on now. I will be back tomorrow for practice though, so stay tuned.