If you want to get the Smilin’ Assassin agitated, start talking about special teams breaking contain.
The guy coached Little Leaguers to keep contain; he’s damn sure some elite athletes in the NFL can figure it out.
For one thing, bubble players fighting to get on a team understand that special teams is their ticket. So if a depth roster guy doesn’t feel like putting in much effort, Atwater has news for him - there are hundreds of others who will gladly run down the field to tackle on a kickoff or stay back to block for the punter.
But mostly, Atwater just doesn’t have time for guys who can’t learn how to contain.
“The thing that is most frustrating is not keeping contain,” he said, offering some simple advice. “Man, just watch film, see how guys contain and contain. It’s simple.”
Atwater especially doesn’t like to see players breaking contain again and again.
“You see time and time again where a cutback is made and they break contain. And that’s inexcusable, especially for the outside guys and the safeties,” said the Hall-of-Fame safety. “I don’t know how many drills you gotta do, but I used to coach Little League football and we could keep guys inside, so I KNOW you can do it at the NFL level.”
Vic Fangio, who was famous for wanting to prevent losing games via “death by inches,” certainly understands this frustration Atwater has. He said as much following the win over the Rams in the Broncos’ third preseason game.
“We’ve got to make it better. We’ve got to find the players that we keep to cover kicks better, and if not, we need to find players who will be,” he said. “Obviously, we need to do a good job of coaching it.”
And while the coaches should be showing these guys how to do it, Atwater still believes it’s not rocket science and a coach showing it isn’t crucial. A player watching film, however, is.
“You gotta be able to look at film and say ‘how do I get better, how can I not break contain?’” he said. “Coaches can tell you but if they don’t show you, guess what? You can figure it out on your own or you’re going to be at home watching someone else keep contain.”