Final Vlog from Chargers minicamp. I talk about the depth on the defensive line, what the offense is looking like and more.
Plus, my beautiful drawings.
I talk about the Antonio Gates/Manti Te’o matchup (which came to fruition today during practice), plus I give you the lowdown on the secondary and what practice is like.
I thought I’d bring the Vlog back. Why not?
(Are they even called “Vlogs” these days? Is that so 2005?)
I plan to draw a lot in my Vlogs now. You’re really going to see my artistic ability shine through in these things.
In this Vlog, I talk about the first day of Chargers minicamp, Manti Te’o and the media hoard, a little Pagano, and some Padres. Check it out. What do you think?
Last week, I had the opportunity to co-host a sports talk show with Ben Higgins since his usual partner-in-crime, Chris Ello, was on vacation.
Although I love the pressure and rush of being on TV, I really enjoyed the “slightly-more-casual” rush that comes with doing radio. Yes, you don’t have to worry about what you’re doing with your hands or your face or whether your hair is sticking up or your lipstick is smudged on your teeth BUT you do have to keep an audience engaged through JUST … YOUR … VOICE. For THREE hours. That’s tough. I think about all the times I’m in the car and I turn the knob because I’m bored … so hopefully I didn’t bore too many people.
A big thank you to Ben for the opportunity!
So, I had a goal to run a half-marathon.
And I achieved it.
I’m proud to say that I ran the Rock-N-Roll Half Marathon on June 2. I trained hard for it. I followed a program that had me running 3-4 times a week, including long runs on the weekend (which I never missed, even while on the road). I had only one goal during the actual marathon: To NOT stop. I didn’t want to walk. So I didn’t. I jogged — sometimes really, really slow — until I crossed that damn finish line.
Notice the hair. The hair is a WRECK.
All of this came about last year, when I did a video on Bill Johnston (Chargers PR Director) and his daughter, Hayley, who run the marathon each year to help raise money for Huntington’s disease, a degenerative brain disease that affects their family. Last year, I told them I’d be back the following year to run with them … and I kept my promise.
Not only did Hayley and Bill run this year, but they ran while pushing Ramona. I can barely write that without tearing up. I mean, 26.2 miles is tough enough for anyone … but imagine doing it while pushing a stroller that weighs about 150 pounds. It’s unbelievable.
Watch this video … but grab a box of tissues first.
I’m so proud to have been part of Team HD. It was an amazing experience and as cliche as it sounds, it taught me a lot about myself. I had never run more than five miles before this little adventure — (and I only did THAT once) — so it was grueling for me and definitely a challenge. But I did it … and now will be cheating on running with a little elliptical for a while, which makes my knees very, very happy.
A HUGE THANK YOU to all the people who supported me in this quest and donated money to help find a cure for HD. You guys are AWESOME!!!
Whenever I chat with Padres outfielder Kyle Blanks, I always walk away from the conversation feeling a little bit smarter about life. The guy has mad perspective. It could be the multiple injuries he’s had, or the tough road he’s faced since his major league debut in 2009, or the fact that his middle name is Nathaniel. People named Nathaniel always have pretty good perspective, don’t you think?
No? Just me? Okay.
A few weeks ago, I was talking with Cameron Maybin about his wrist injury, and when I asked Cam if he was frustrated about not playing, he told me to go ask Kyle about a thing called “Happy Time” in baseball. … So I did.
Happy Time is, in essence, looking for the positive in a situation. Baseball is a game of failure, a game where even when you’re succeeding, you’re still failing in so many ways. It’s probably the only sport that exposes that failure on a daily basis. Now, add that to the frustration of going through multiple season-ending surgeries like Kyle did, and it can make for one bitter, negative ball player.
Kyle refused to be that guy.
Instead, he started to look for the good in the bad. Instead of beating himself up about going 0-4, for example, he focused on something he did well … and then he let the bad stuff go. He didn’t dwell, he didn’t commiserate … he let go of the last at-bat, the last surgery, the last setback, the last WHATEVER … and he moved on and focused on the positive.
Sports draws so many parallels to life. As Kyle was talking to me about his approach, I thought of several areas in my own life where I’m guilty of pushing too hard or wanting to beat myself up about something I could have done better. And when has that ever helped? It hasn’t. If anything, it just paralyzes me more.
I think about how tough it is, especially in baseball, to make it as a professional athlete. Kyle’s story is so incredible … Not just because he overcame his physical injuries, but because he overcame his mental ones. He’s had some bad luck since making it to the majors at age 22, and he could have stayed bitter or resentful in a lot of ways. But he just worked and persisted and matured with every resistance.
Most players, if they have overcome a slump, credit the comeback to relaxing a little bit. “Not living and dying by every pitch, at-bat, etc” is what I hear a lot. But there is a HUGE difference between saying that and really being about it when adversity hits. And I love that a 6-foot-6, 260-pound slugger like Kyle Blanks isn’t afraid to embrace what he calls the “Happy System.”
Here he is talking about it:
Oh, the blog.
It hates me. I’ve so neglected it.
Here’s the thing … Every day, I’m like, “Oh my gosh! Such and such happened today! What a great post for the blog!”
And then something comes up … like hosting a nightly show, editing or shooting a package, a presser at Chargers or Padres, or a flat tire.
Spent the weekend in Tuscon chatting with Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal, who is gearing up to join the team on May 28th after serving a 50-game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs. His return sparks a number of questions: Will he be the same player as he was last year, now that he’s not on PEDs? What kind of response will he get in the clubhouse? Is he the starting catcher and Nick Hundley the backup? What of John Baker? Will fans still wear “YasMania” t-shirts????
You see what I mean.
Yasmani was respectful, classy and seemingly honest. He said the suspension has been tough on him, that he felt helpless at times, especially when the team was losing. He said he and Nick Hundley have chatted since Hundley called him an “unproven guy who had a couple good months on steroids” and added that the two are professionals and they’ve worked through the issue. But Yaz still acknowledges that he doesn’t expect teammates to welcome him back with open arms, at least not immediately.
It’s also easy to see that he is really, really sick of talking about the whole situation.
Here’s a few pics from the trip:
Cameron Maybin and Yasmani Grandal both doing work in Triple-A Tuscon.
The view on the way to Tuscon. Just miles and miles of desert and shacks and boarded up houses and sad looking horses.
Because I’m an idiot.
Spent the week in New Orleans covering Super Bowl 47. It was a pretty amazing experience. This was my first Super Bowl, and I’m happy it was in NOLA. The Crescent City already has the history, the tradition, the culture, the arts, the music, the food, the personality. Nothing needs to be added, sans some Super Bowl signs and a good street washing every night. That’s what makes NOLA a fantastic Super Bowl city, and helps alleviate the pain of its one flaw: Space.
Can’t say the same for, say, Arizona, which will host Super Bowl 49 … Now THAT place will need to import some serious excitement.
Here’s a few pics from the trip.
All my stinkin’ stuff. Half clothes, half camera equipment.
When we arrived, it was the first week of Mardi Gras … then NOLA took a break for the Super Bowl and started Week Two of Mardi Gras after the big game. Anyways, the day we got there, plenty of parades were happening. I’m talking major parades. They close down all the streets and it takes FOREVER to get anywhere by car or by foot. But, it’s cool to see and obviously, the parades generate a ton of excitement. Here’s a bag of beads that was literally thrown off of a float. Apparently, the people on the float have so many extra beads, that they just start chucking bags of ‘em when the parade starts winding down. Good times.
A picture from Media Day. I loved Media Day … It was exhausting, but fun. I think the first team gets it best. The 49ers were the first team, and all the reporters were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. By the time the Ravens arrived, and lunch was over, it felt like everyone needed a nap. Here’s my video feature from Media Day:
Talking to Bills Linebacker and SDSU Alum Kirk Morrison at Radio Row. Of everything at the Super Bowl, I think Radio Row was my favorite place to be … I just liked being able to watch all the TV networks and radio stations do their thing, and I liked that you never knew who you were going to see while you were there. There’s a lot of energy in the room. Here’s my Radio Row feature:
Here I am at the NFL Experience — 850,000 square-feet of games, interactive exhibits, NFL history, shopping and more. Here’s my video feature from that:
I did a bunch of interviews with athletes all week … Loved catching up with Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes on what his future holds:
Hope you enjoyed all the coverage from New Orleans!
The Chargers fired their strength and conditioning staff today. After an influx of muscle injuries the last few years, this firing seemed inevitable, although it was reported that Mike McCoy simply “had his guy” that he wanted to bring in, and the firing of the old staff was the result of McCoy pulling rank (as he should … I mean, he’s the head coach).
Soooo … that prompted a lot of Twitter fire (with many rejoicing that the change had finally been made) … and I said this:
Let me elaborate.
I hear a lot that NFL players should just KNOW how to keep their bodies in the best shape possible because they are “elite players, at a professional level” … Yes. They are. But keep this in mind: These are the guys who were the top dogs in college. They were the business. Most of them just had this raw talent, and they were the best of their class growing up — the most athletic, the most versatile, the most productive. They didn’t “train” … they didn’t need to train. They were the kings.
Enter the NFL … where everyone is a king.
Now you have these players, who were always top-notch at their respective school because of their God-given talent (again — MOST. Not ALL.) … And they don’t know what to do, now that they’re surrounded by all kinds of players who are just as good — (if not better) than them.
They are getting older. They are training harder. Now, this is a job. If they aren’t good enough, they lose the job. If they get hurt, they may lose the career. They’re trying to one-up the guy next to them. Each player is looking for the best way to beat the other player … Some go the method of hard work, some go the method of quick fix, some look to veterans, and some are paralyzed with indecision, or, sometimes, lack of motivation. It just depends.
My point is, now they have to figure out how to train. How to eat. How to have longevity in this league. How to sustain injuries and come back fiercer. They didn’t have to do this before.
So when someone says “they should just know how” … Why? Why should they just know how? This is new territory.
Plus, each player is different. What works for one player isn’t necessarily going to work for another. Some players choose to get a personal trainer … others just work out at the facility … others team up and create a plan … and some just go at it solo.
Most players that have found the *right* trainer make leaps and bounds from one year to the next.
Okay — that was my tangent. Now consider the strength and conditioning staff of the team:
The team has just made an investment of millions of dollars into their roster. They BETTER get the best strength and conditioning staff around to maximize that investment. Whoever is tasked with being a strength and conditioning coach at the highest level in football better be damn good.
Being a strength and conditioning coach in the NFL is tough. Not only do you have 10 position groups to worry about, you have a variety of bodies, plenty of baggage as far as injuries go, different pain thresholds and different needs. Also, under the new CBA, coaches can only work with players for a certain number of hours each season.
Here’s my last point:
The game has changed. Football has become less about brute strength and more about technique, athleticism and finesse. Players need to condition themselves to handle the wear-and-tear of the game, while continuing to improve and one-up their skill level. Every year, a new crop of athletes is drafted that are faster, stronger, more agile. If a player (or a coach) isn’t continually trying new techniques to GET THE MOST OUT OF HIS PERFORMANCE, a player is already regressing.
Doing the same thing, over and over, will only get you so far.
That’s not to say that someone should be trying yoga one week, boxing the next, walking on fire the third. That’s simply to say the best program (that players tell me, anyways) is one that is based in a good foundation (strength training that keeps them fast, agile, fluid and flexible) as well as a combination of exercises to challenge their body and supplement their performance. It’s not about how heavy you can lift. Every single thing a player does when he trains should show itself on the field. There should be a method to the madness.
More and more teams are bringing in coaches (either temporarily or long-term) that specialize in something — like yoga or martial arts — to help certain guys get an advantage.
I’ve had several players tell me they aren’t sure what to do when it comes to training, or that they simply train themselves, or that former strength and conditioning coaches aren’t hip to the changing game, so they focus on old techniques that may end up causing muscle strains.
Make no mistake — players are paid professionals. If they don’t know something, it’s on them to figure it out or to get their bodies to peak performance. But sometimes, the tools a team provides are sub-par. We’ll see how how the new staff shapes up.
So, it finally happened.
The Chargers hired a new general manager — Tom Telesco — and a new head coach, Mike McCoy.
Both are 40. Both are assuming their respective positions for the first time.
It’s definitely a new direction for the Chargers, a deviation from AJ Smith and Norv Turner. It’s a “youth movement” — a lot of emphasis being placed on energy and enthusiasm … two words that wouldn’t necessarily come to mind when talking about the old regime.
Still, there are similarities. Smith wanted to draft and develop … and did, until he seemed to lose the magic touch. Like Turner, McCoy is mostly even-keeled on the field and keeps his emotions in check. If you’re looking for histrionics, you won’t find them in the new Chargers coach.
That’s kinda where the similarities end.
Telesco and McCoy are very engaging, friendly and likable. They welcome questions and they patiently chat with media. Sure, the honeymoon will end soon and both will pull back. But even when they do, there will still be a change in culture.
I like both hires. I’m not a prophet. I can’t see into a crystal ball and tell you all it will work out. But, both Telesco and McCoy seem ambitious, motivated, intelligent … and perhaps most importantly, on the same page as to how the organization will run.
Here are some takeaways from yours truly:
- McCoy commands a room. He isn’t dramatic or loud, but he definitely has a presence. He draws you in. He also seems very no-nonsense. Friendly, but succinct. He knows what he wants.
- There is a big push for cohesiveness. Spanos, Telesco and McCoy all talk about it … Getting the WHOLE organization to work together for the greater good. Seems simple, but it was missing.
- I can’t overemphasize how much “family” has been used by both Telesco and McCoy. Both cite the “family feel” as reasons they chose the Chargers organization.
McCoy, especially, said this:
Family is huge to me. I wanted to go somewhere that you can welcome your family with open arms. Come in here and understand that we all work our tails off. We work a lot of hours as football coaches. Players work extremely hard but understand that there are certain family values also.
And Dean Spanos said this:
We want to create a family feeling around here and maybe that’s been gone the last few years. So you lose it every once in a while and you forget what it was all about and it’s sort of refreshing to think that we’re going to get back to that.
- McCoy was the final candidate the Chargers interviewed for the head coach position. He was lucky number 5. He said he knew within minutes that the “right fit” was with the Chargers; so much so, that everything was fast-tracked and the Chargers cancelled an interview they had with Bruce Arians (Colts offensive coordinator) the following day. Here’s the kicker: Had the Broncos not LOST the playoff game to the Ravens, the Chargers may not have waited for McCoy. They wanted to hire someone this week. Soooo … it’s kinda funny to think that the future of the organization could have been DRASTICALLY different had the Broncos won. Time will tell whether fans will celebrate that loss or not …
- McCoy, who re-tooled the Broncos offense for Orton, Tebow and Manning and who coached Carolina QB Jake Delhomme to a Pro-Bowl and Orton to his best year — (not to mention Tebow to success) — seems to have a knack for figuring out how to get the most out of his players by focusing on what they do best. Building a style around the PLAYERS instead of trying to mold the players to a certain style. He says it right here:
You have to do what your players do best. I’m a firm believer in that. Every play on paper is a touchdown. Every run is a 10-yard gain, if not more. We are going to analyze our football team from this point on and figure out through OTAs, mini camps, training camp, what do our players do best and let them play. I’ve got no problem calling the same play 10 times in a game. If they can’t stop it and Philip can pick them apart running that play, we will run that play time and time again. I think that is our job as a football coach, is to find out what our players do best. The players are going to give us a lot of input. We don’t have all the answers as coaches.
- Telesco said McCoy came to the Chargers “prepared for the job” … The conversation sorta turned into a dialogue on what they would do to improve the team, instead of a formal question-and-answer interview. Says Telesco:
He was one of the most polished first-time head coaching candidates I’ve ever seen … Some people come into an interview prepared for the interview. But he was prepared for the job … He’s a leader of men. He was a quarterback in college. You could kind of see the toughness in his eyes when he talked to us. He’s a teacher who can communicate with all different backgrounds of players and all different levels of experience. He’s a motivator as a coach who can get guys to play their best at critical times. Those are the kinds of things that we were looking for and it just started to come out naturally.
One of the things I liked about McCoy (and I’ll be curious to see how he executes this) is his attention to detail. He said he and Telesco will devise a plan — everything from the training camp schedule, to when they will leave for a road trip, to what the players will eat. I like that. I know it seems like every player should be able to make the decision of what to eat, or how to train, or when to sleep, but, uh … that’s not the case. Some guys can … But some guys can’t. They have never had to. They leave college (where they were the best on their team and got away with bad habits) and they get into the NFL and they just don’t know how to take their LIFESTYLE to the next level. So, I’m hoping McCoy focuses on that. I think details make all the difference.
Time will tell.