Last year, incoming players had no offseason program. That’s because no one had an offseason program, thanks to the lockout.
Though some first-year players, like Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, had an immediate and significant impact, plenty of players struggled when the regular season began after a truncated training camp.
That’s why Lions coach Jim Schwartz believes the 2012 offseason program will be critical for second-year players who’ll be exposed to the offseason for the first time.
“Last year we didn’t get a chance to really do a whole lot,” Schwartz said, per Anwar Richardson of MLive.com. “They came into training camp . . . it was incredibly difficult for rookies last year. You just look at a guy like Titus Young. Titus had zero catches in the first game last year and then when it came time at the end of the year he was a big playmaker for us. That was a work that developed through 16 games and then the playoff game.
“Mainly because we didn’t have a chance to. First of all, he didn’t have any offseason. Second of all, he didn’t have any training camp. His training camp was week three and week four and week five, things like that.”
Schwartz also suggested that the sudden start to training camp may have contributed to injuries suffered by his top two draft picks in 2011. “[Nick] Fairley got hurt the second day of training camp,” Schwartz said. “[Mikel] Leshoure got hurt first week of training camp. They didn’t really get a chance. And even a guy like Doug Hogue, we were busy training a couple new linebackers last year. Not really training them, but getting them indoctrinated, Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch. You don’t have time to do every single one.”
It mirrors a sentiment that Schwartz supposedly expressed to 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh in March 2011, as Harbaugh was seeing his effort to prepare for his rookie season as a head coach delayed by the work stoppage.
“We were having dinner the other night and Jim Schwartz told [Jim Harbaugh] basically there’s no way you’re going to be able to get it done [if the lockout lasts into the summer],” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “[Schwartz] told him there’s no way you’re going to be able to accomplish what you need to accomplish in two weeks if this thing lasts a while. Jim [Harbaugh] just kind of bit his tongue, which is what you’ve got to do in this situation. Because there’s nothing you can do about it.”
All three teams made the playoffs, with both Harbaughs getting to the final four. Though Schwartz’s comments don’t come off as an excuse for not getting farther than the wild-card round, the point is that he’s expecting a lot from his second-year players, which means that Lions fans now will, too.
Either way, the offseason program can’t start soon enough. Left to their own devices, Fairley and Leshoure have had off-field incidents during the offseason program. Once they’re back in Detroit and back at work, Schwartz will likely sleep a little more soundly.