NFL players organizing their own workouts is sign of boredom

New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez held workouts with his teammates in California featuring catered meals.
New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez held workouts with his teammates in California featuring catered meals. (RONALD MARTINEZ / Getty Images)
Posted: May 17, 2011

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick told reporters last week that he is planning to have an organized workout or two with his wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs, possibly as soon as this week.

"This time, we can do it our way," Vick said.

Well, there is a way to organize a workout, and then there is Mark Sanchez's way, and Vick would be wise to follow Sanchez's blueprint. It is, after all, the gold standard, and as we all know the Eagles are the NFL's gold standard, so nothing less should do.

Sanchez recently held a five-day passing camp with 14 of his New York Jets teammates in Southern California, where the quarterback lives in the offseason. Sanchez rented plush villas on the Pacific Ocean to house the players. He catered lunch every day from a local restaurant - including fish tacos - and had a truck on site from the famed West Coast hamburger joint In-N-Out Burger.

Every day, there was an optional morning workout with Sanchez's personal trainer, followed by a film session when the QB reviewed cut-ups from last season, and then an hourlong practice. Sanchez made up playbooks, provided Gatorade, had ice baths set up on site, and even had a postpractice "skills" competition that included a water-balloon toss. He gave away prizes, including a 65-inch 3D television, Meister watches and iPads. Everyone in attendance received sandals and gear.

Sanchez recruited sponsors and trainers. One night, he took the guys to see a Lakers playoff game. The camp even had a catchy name: Jets West.

Not surprisingly, most of the Jets' key offensive players attended, even free agent-to-be wide receiver Braylon Edwards, 40-year-old quarterback Mark Brunell, and veteran running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

"The teams that are doing it - it will get them a win or two next year," Tomlinson told the Newark Star-Ledger.

If there is a next year.

As the NFL lockout continues to drag on, player-organized practices are cropping up across the country. They really are sort of silly. Players typically eschew the post-draft minicamps that would normally be going on right now. The veterans don't want to be there, don't think they are all that helpful or necessary, and generally feel that there is more to be lost by way of injury than there is to be gained.

So to see players voluntarily getting together now without any coaching supervision or input either means they are totally bored - which many are - or looking for positive publicity as the work stoppage continues, or succumbing to peer pressure. Or all three.

Some of the workouts seem more productive than others, and it all comes down to how organized the player in charge is. Saints QB Drew Brees has a plan to simulate minicamps throughout May, with as many as three workouts a week at Tulane University in New Orleans. Brees is footing much of the bill, so there will be trainers on site, supplements and drinks. He is even providing lodging for some of the younger players. Consequently, more than 40 of the Saints showed up for the first session.

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning held a no-frills, six-day camp at a high school in Hoboken, N.J., earlier this month. He provided water, but nothing else. No food. No trainer. The first day, 11 players ran passing drills. By the sixth day, there were only three healthy wide receivers in attendance, and one was from the Giants' practice squad.

Players are not obligated to do anything right now, but if Vick is going to have what amounts to a passing camp in Philadelphia, he would be wise to follow Sanchez's lead. He could have the workouts at the old Navy Yard and cater lunch from the chic Urban Outfitters cafeteria nearby. He could hire Steve Saunders, who trains a dozen or so Eagles at his gym in Cherry Hill, on site to oversee pre-practice workouts.

Imagine the prizes Vick could offer. A Mitchell & Ness throwback Eagles jersey. A case of Tastykakes. Passes to Cheerleaders gentleman's club.

The Phillies start a nine-game homestand on Wednesday, so there are options there, too. Watching one of the Big Four pitch would be more entertaining than the product the Lakers put on the court in the NBA playoffs.

"I'm holding myself responsible for making sure [a camp] happens as being the captain of this team," Vick said of organizing a camp.

As of Monday, one player I texted said nothing had been finalized yet. But it sounds like Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, LeSean McCoy and Brent Celek are in. Kevin Kolb, probably not so much.

It is also unlikely DeSean Jackson would attend. It will take a lot more than door prizes and Phillies tickets to get him out of Southern California, and, really, with In-N-Out Burger right there, can you blame him?

Come to think of it, maybe Jackson should host.


Contact columnist Ashley Fox at 215-854-5064 or afox@phillynews.com.

Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AshleyMFox.

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