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WP: Zorn Tries To Whip Rookies Into Shape


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http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/05/AR2008080503035_pf.html

Coach Scolds WRs For Poor Fitness

By Jason La Canfora

Washington Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, August 6, 2008; E01

Washington Redskins Coach Jim Zorn chided Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas yesterday for their lack of conditioning and said he anticipates the injured rookie wide receivers will have a hard time having an impact on the offense early this season.

Kelly, who has hamstring and knee injuries, and Thomas, who has a hamstring injury, were hurt early in training camp and are likely weeks from a full return. Both were selected in the second round of the NFL draft in April with hopes of immediately diversifying Washington's attack.

Kelly, 21, underwent arthroscopic surgery Monday to remove floating particles from his left knee, and Zorn said the early prognosis of a return in two weeks was "ambitious." Thomas, 21, was able to take part in limited drills in practice yesterday but is unlikely to be able to practice fully until next week at the earliest.

Neither, Zorn said, was able at the start of training camp to pass the team's conditioning test requiring players to complete a series of sprints within a certain time frame. That lack of preparation could lead to their muscles breaking down so quickly, he said. Players are required to run 12 25-yard dashes within a certain time (less than a minute for wide receivers), then rest for 60 seconds before repeating the 12 dashes.

"If you can't pass that physical test that we give, then something's not right," Zorn said. "So I've been kind of jabbing at them with that. . . . I wish I could take the test just to show everybody that I was in good shape. It's sort of a pride issue."

Zorn hinted that the satisfaction of being high draft picks may have contributed to the players' lack of conditioning, but said he did not know for sure.

"He wasn't necessarily in condition to go through a training camp like this," Zorn said of Kelly. "He really wasn't. They'll have to reevaluate their offseason program as young rookies."

Given their prolonged absences and the problems many young wide receivers have adapting to the West Coast offense and the NFL in general, Zorn said they may not be able to do much in the basic offense at the start of the season. They are falling behind other wide receivers; veteran James Thrash is putting a stranglehold on the No. 3 spot behind starters Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El.

"I've had this happen in other places I've coached, and it's very difficult," Zorn said of young wide receivers missing training camp time. "When you interview them, 'It's going to be easy.' They're going to walk around and go: 'This is nothing. I'll get this right away.'

"But once they get out there and they really see what they have to do and how exact they have to be and the speed at which they have to play and the intensity -- then I think they'll see. Now, can we get them in and work them in? Yes. Will they get up to speed? Yes. But this is valuable time."

Thomas, as Zorn predicted, minimized the impact of missing this much time. "As far as making an impact from the get-go, I don't look at that as a difficult thing to do," Thomas said.

Scouts from other NFL teams said they had concerns about both players being "brittle" or susceptible to injury. They said they believe that was part of the reason Kelly and Thomas slipped into the second round.

Thomas had one highly productive season at Michigan State before leaving as a junior, while Kelly battled injuries all offseason and had slow 40-yard dash times at Oklahoma. He too slid in the draft after coming out as a junior.

Zorn has been blunt from the onset about the challenge both faced trying to adapt to his offense from college, although both have talents that mesh with West Coast system.

Kelly injured his hamstring July 25 and also began experiencing soreness in his knee. He had surgery on his knee Monday and was not available to comment. Zorn said orthopedist James Andrews probably will evaluate him again in a few weeks before Kelly is cleared for full practice drills.

"The two-a-day practices, they were getting to him," Zorn said...

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This is a huge departure from 4 years of Gibbs. It's been a while since I remember a Redskins coach publicly calling out players that weren't already on the **** list.

Also, it always seems like JLC's sources get in some annoying jab. Saying that a player could be brittle is weak. Not even a doctor could tell you who is more likely to have injuries throughout their career.

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Like I said in the other thread, as a fan I love hearing Zorn convey different issues dealing with the team. It's nice knowing he's taking command and "laying down the law" with the players. However, he could lay down the law behind the scenes, and not necessarily in the media. When he said these things during the press conference it seemed to me to be more off the cuff remarks than a preplanned motivational tool.

We'll have to wait and see if this approach works for him or not. It didn't always work for Parcells, believe it or not lol...

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i smell a merge coming....

This is technically a different article than the one posted in the previous thread, even if it contains the same information. I wouldn't mind if they left this one as is, because it's worth noting the differences between Gibbs and Zorn, and the previous thread contains the phrase "testicle faces". I'm not going back in there!

I'm interested in leaving out any discussion on weather or not Thomas and Kelly were good draft picks and focus on weather or not this type of public call-out is good coaching.

I tend to think that it is. Not that public call-outs are always good - in fact they can really backfire under the wrong circumstances - but Zorn seems, so far, to have a curious knack for playing it smart with his word choices. His delivery of the facts is simultaneously sharp and soft. He's been pretty deft IMO.

The way he makes the rookies earn the logo, the way he makes them accountable without belittling them, the way he handled the insubordination...I like what I see so far. I really do.

Zorn seems to have been ready for the job. I'll be interested to see how he handles in-season adversity.

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Big cardinal sin. Rookies cannont report out of shape.:doh:

Well, I doubt they were "out of shape".

They were probably just not in the proper shape.

We had read that Kelly was at Redskin Park in the offseason working out.

However, he probably didn't do enough of the cardio-vascular exercises needed to be a WR in the pros.

Zorn, at least for now, seems to be walking the tightrope well. It is a fine line between chiding your young players openly to do better and publically humiliating them by berating them in the press.

Let's hope it works for him.

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I'm out of breath just reading about the conditioning test.

No worries. Live and learn. Thinking the young guys now have a pretty good idea of what's expected of them and will now concentrate on meeting those expectations.

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I think Zorn could have been a bit less specific and still got his point across about the rookies.

I'd prefer Gibbs' approach...not call any player out in the press, but chew their asses off behind closed doors.

I think Zorn needs to realize that position coaches criticizing players in meetings is one thing...being head coach and doing it in the press is entirely another. Look at the bad will it's garnered against these still-learning kids.

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I think Zorn could have been a bit less specific and still got his point across about the rookies.

I'd prefer Gibbs' approach...not call any player out in the press, but chew their asses off behind closed doors.

I think Zorn needs to realize that position coaches criticizing players in meetings is one thing...being head coach and doing it in the press is entirely another. Look at the bad will it's garnered against these still-learning kids.

Well said tr1. That is probably the most eloquent thing I have seen you post in years.

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This probably happens more often than not with most teams chosing to keep it in house and just work the rooks in shape. Calling out a player can be either a good or bad thing (depending on the player sensitivity level), I do believe it was good that Zorn mentioned it to the public. Its showing that although hes a rookie HC, he does have the reins on this team.

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So far Zorn has handled his players in a professional manner. So far I have no issues with what he has said. Unlike other coaches, he was not demeaning, sarcastic or calling a player out.

He was simply advising the media that he is not satisfied with rookies showing up to training camp out of shape and then getting injured as a result. He is letting everyone know he expects a certain standard.

I think Zorn has to learn to balance how much he talks to the media. As head coach he has to obviously spend some time talking to and providing info to the media, but sometimes I think he talks to much. But, that is nothing he can't learn to balance.

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Fred Davis is looking better and better.

And they must set different time limits for different positions. There is no way the linemen are running twelve 25 yard dashes in under a minute.

Its different by position. It was shown on Redskins Nation before and looked ridiculously tough.

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I think before you criticize Zorn to much for this(some people like it, some dont), you should actually go back and read what Coach Z said, and not what JLC inferred and made it SOUND like he said. As with any article, there is a difference.

:applause: Agreed.

I think it was taken out of context by the media and fans. I can see this thing spiraling a little out of control. I think Zorn should talk to Thomas and Kelly directly, being rookies, so he know where he was coming from. I really don't think it was as bad as many people are making it out to be.

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I have no problem with Zorn taking jabs at the rookies. I seriously doubt he does the same thing with vets. There were no jabs at Schweigert, he simply got cut. There may be no hazing for the rookies but there's no hiding either.

As has been mentioned, it IS a bit Parcells-esque, but directed properly I think it can work. By saying he doubts they'll be able to contribute early, he's issuing a challenge. Let's see how the rooks respond.

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