Between the unusually large media horde today — apparently a new second/third/fourth string running back and new punter draw more interest than I realized — and the muggy, hot conditions out on the practice fields, it felt like training camp all over again. (Just without the thirty extra players, the second open practice, and the thousands of screaming fans. Other than that, same thing.)
- The first thing you notice about new punter Ryan Plackemeier is that he’s a much bigger dude than Durant Brooks was. “He looks like he should be playing tuba,” someone said as he walked out of the locker room. (And his new teammates have noticed as well; looking at his 1 jersey, guys were suggesting that maybe it should be 11, or 100, and so on.) The next thing you notice, at least at practice, is that he appears to be a pretty good punter. He boomed a couple, and kicked a couple “Australian” — that is, dropping the nose of the ball to get an end over end effect, “more like a kickoff” than a traditional spiralling punt and useful for pinning guys to the side on closer-in punts. the few comments I overheard seemed generally favorable and impressed with the new guy, so that’s reassuring.
(Edit to add: Apparently, I was right about Plackemeier’s size being the first thing you notice; Dan Steinberg has a very similar series of observations — and more player quotes — which I hadn’t seen when I posted mine.)
- The rookie wide receivers got some good activity in. Devin Thomas hasn’t shown much in games besides a startling ability to draw offensive pass interference penalties, and he occasionally comes off in interviews as if he has a bad attitude, but he consistently impresses me with his effort in practice. He lays out for overthrown passes, he runs hard, he blocks and practices hard as a gunner on special teams … I feel like I’ve written this twenty times before about him, but hopefully all of that will start to show up on the field.
- And Malcolm Kelly made a couple of nice catches in drills, earning some rare praise from Zorn on the practice field. Afterward, Zorn seemed a bit more cautious. “I’m pushing Malcolm Kelly now. We’re gonna find out” if his knee injury will get better or not.
- Rock Cartwright runs really hard, and I think he’s determined to prove something if he gets the chance on Sunday — which is possible, as Coach noted, “Rock Cartwright could be the first guy in, so let’s not count out Rock.” Marcus Washington agreed, noting after practice, “Rock runs hard, he practices hard, he works out hard … he does everything hard. Even his name is hard. ROCK. He’s a guy you want on your side.”
- Washington also looked good in practice, on the heels of a good game on Sunday. “I felt pretty good today in practice. I was just glad to get back out there and get involved in practice. There’s only so much you can learn from watching and listening. It’s necessary to get out there and just do these things.”
- Shaun Alexander looks good. After the negative press he’s gotten over the years, I half expected him to practice wrapped in bubble wrap at a slow walk and to go out of bounds on every play, but he looked quick and engaged. “He’ll be ready to play on Sunday,” said Coach Zorn after practice. He also did acknowledge Alexander’s less violent running style (although, surprisingly, that wasn’t the term he used). “Shaun has an interesting style of running,” he said, explaining that he didn’t always hit the hole with a second effort like Portis and Betts do. “Those are things we’re hoping will grow on him here.” Asked if it was too late to learn such things, Zorn explained that being released and not finding a team tend to make a guy think, and then he shrugged. “The proof will be in the pudding,” he said.