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  • The Packers explain the cat-and-mouse game of making calls at the line of scrimmage

    Aaron Rodgers

    Watching an NFL game on your 65-inch TV has never been better. And, in part thanks to that, it’s never been harder for an NFL offensive line and quarterback to make a play call.

    Because of the constantly-improving technology employed by television networks, microphones both above the field and implanted on both guards have made it clear to the viewer at home what the quarterback and his five cohorts on the line are saying at the line of scrimmage before the snap. And sometimes the viewer at home is next week’s opponent, rendering this week’s calls useless as soon as the game is over. “With the new microphones on the guards, and the nationally-televised games with the low camera and the mike, it picks up a lot of stuff,” Aaron Rodgers told CBSSports.com. “You are constantly changing what words are live and what words are dead. You know the D is watching that for words and cadence, so we have to change it all the time. That part is stupid. It’s too much access. Fans like it, so the NFL will keep doing it.”

    Here’s how the Packers’ system works: center Corey Lindsey, heading into his rookie season, makes the initial call, then veteran guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton chime in with their opinion of the best scheme for that particular play. “It can get hectic,” Linsley said. “I’ll say we should go over here, and they’ll say why not over here. But the words are brief. We use different words for different calls. I have two veteran guys who have been around a long time playing next to me, which really helps.”

    The linemen may come to a consensus, but Rodgers has the final say, no questions asked. “It has to be that way,” Rodgers said. “I need to be comfortable with the final word.”

    What, exactly, are the words coming out of their mouth? Like Lindsey said, they’re brief – “Desk” is a new one the line came up with this year – and, as head coach Mike McCarthy said, two out of every three are dummies. Only the men in green and yellow know which are real and which are not. Which is the entire point, after all. “You would think it’s a different language we are speaking,” said fullback John Kuhn. “It’s kind of like poker, too. We make a call, the defense makes a call and you have to make another call to combat that. Sometimes the first call is fake to make them make a call. Sometimes it’s real. It’s a cat-and-mouse game out there.”

    Once a call is agreed upon before the play clock expires – never forget the play clock – it’s time to run an NFL play, to move a large, angry man in a direction he does not want to go, or throw a football 40 yards downfield before one of those large, angry men brings you to the ground. And then it’s time to do it all over again.

    “It’s drilled every day. The moving target for us is always communication. That’s always changing. The words change a lot, so it’s good for players to come up with words for calls and dummy calls. You should never lose a play at pre-snap,” McCarthy said. “That’s bad coaching if you do.”

    Read the full story here.

  • How Pete Lembo created a grassroots effort to turn Muncie, Ind., into a college town

    CBSSports.com

    CBSSports.com

    Pete Lembo has been Ball State’s head coach for 1,686 days. On 50 of those days, he has coached football games. On most – not all, but most – of the remaining 1,636, he has worked not just to entertain the city of Muncie, but also to serve it.

    In a long piece for the Muncie Star Press, Ben Breiner outlines how Lembo’s emphasis on serving the community has benefited Muncie and the players themselves. “It’s about these grassroots-type efforts,” Lembo said. “That’s what we need here. I believe this can become a great college town. The staff and I have tried to be out front investing ourselves and our families getting invested in the community.”

    Lembo has seen to it that his players gain real world, real life experience in fields varying from performing yard work to making appearances at a children’s museum or animal shelter to volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club to interning at a number of local businesses.

    In fact, the athletics department elevated Lembo to an associate athletics director position in March of 2014 after recognizing his value not only in coaching football, but in forwarding the vision of the overall university.

    “Football players, when they walk through the door, they fill the entire door space,” said Micah Maxwell, who runs the Muncie chapter of the Boys and Girls Club. “You’ve got kids looking up to them and learning from them.

    “That’s a big experience for them.”

    In the end, senior center Jake Richard summed it up nicely:

    “One of the main things we want as a program is to not just be the Ball State football team, it’s to interact with the Ball State community and be a positive part of the community. We’re all in this city together and there’s no reason that everybody can’t get along.

    “In years past, people might have had the mentality of Ball State University and then Muncie. The goal has been to really bridge that so Ball State University is Muncie.”

    Read the full story here.

  • Cincinnati has unveiled their new Under Armour uniforms

    UnderArmourBanner

    Cincinnati’s recent switch from Adidas to Under Armour meant new uniforms, and today the program’s Twitter account provided a first look at the new threads.

    Black, red and white is a pretty nice color palette to work off from, and it looks like Cinci put some unique touches on their new look, starting with the helmet stripe, and tribal (almost Hawaii-like) stripe on the pants.

    CinciUAunisnapchat

    CinciUAunissnapchatpants

  • Jim Mora downplays P. Diddy kettle bell incident: “You know, those things happen.”

    JimMora2

    If it wasn’t the wacky college football story of the off-season, it was at least on the medal stand. On June 22, hip hop mogul and UCLA football dad P. Diddy came at Bruins strength coach Sal Alosi and his staff with a kettle bell after Alosi kicked Justin Combs out of a workout for poor effort.

    Mora released a statement the day of the incident, and on July 3 it was revealed the Bruins were not pressing charges. And that was that. Nothing had been said in the month since, until Mora appeared on Dan Patrick’s show Monday.

    “Everything’s fine,” Mora said. “It was an unfortunate situation, but Justin’s a good kid, Sean’s a passionate dad, and my strength coach is an amazing guy. You know, those things happen.”

    Patrick, one of the great interviewers of our time, especially on the rare occasion when he gets a guest in person, can not formulate a follow-up question. “But you have…’cause,” is all he manages to say.

    “There’s going to be distractions in LA. There’s gonna be stuff that happens in LA,” Mora interjected. He then launched into a sentence he couldn’t have imagined uttering when he got into coaching at Washington more than 30 years ago. “I’ve got P. Diddy’s son, I’ve got Snoop’s son. On campus there’s always celebrities all over. There’s cameras, sometimes you walk out of our practice, TMZ’s there. It’s just the way that it is when you’re at UCLA.”

    He then turned it into a coaching point – and recruiting pitch – about the resiliency that UCLA players must have in order to focus on football.

    “I think it’s good for our kids because it teaches them to deal with distractions. We’re playing at the Rose Bowl in front of 85,000 people against a great team like USC, you better be able to assume focus,” he said. “So I think all these things teach them how to eliminate the noise and focus in on what they have to focus in on.”

    Mora declined to say definitively whether Justin Combs or Cordell Broadus would play more this fall. He did say Snoop asked great questions during Mora’s in-home visit with the Broadus clan, though he said he would not partake if Snoop passed him some of the devil’s lettuce during a game.

  • Go inside Bruce DeHaven’s decision to return to the field as he battles cancer

    DeHavenBanner

    Carolina special teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven, a man with three decades of coaching experience in the NFL, sat in a doctor’s office this past May and heard the words that no one ever wants to hear.

    As Peter King points out in his MMQB article, at 66 years old and seemingly healthy, DeHaven was told that he had prostate cancer and likely had three to five years left to live. With that in mind as training camp approached, and with a son getting ready to head to off to his first year of college and a daughter still in high school, DeHaven had to decide whether to go back to coaching, or go home to spend time with loved ones in case his days are even more numbered than expected.

    DeHaven’s logic for how he came to the decision to return to the sidelines is nothing short of inspirational.

    “I just figured that I am determined to beat this,” DeHaven told MMQB. “And I hope I can beat it. I hope I can outlast it.”

    “I’m so busy that I don’t even think of it unless someone brings it up. But I think I figured that, if I quit, 20 years from now I’d ask myself, ‘Why’d you walk away from a job you love doing so much?’”

    The sad realization of that quote is that DeHaven may not have the opportunity to look back on that decision in a year, must less in 20, yet his love for coaching is what fuels him.

    King has plenty more about DeHaven, and what drove his decision, in the full article, so head over to it for a longer look.