A Week In The Trenches

One of the real keys to the success of the prolific Rose Bowl-bound 1999 offense was the stability and high level play of the offensive line. As 2001 is about to kick off, we look at the possibility of another experienced and talented OL that could be special. So important, yet so poorly understood, these guys get no pub. Enter <i>IrishGuru</i>, who has drawn from his own Stanford experiences to uniquely lead us through this week in the life of a Cardinal lineman.

A look into the life of a typical starting Stanford offensive lineman as he prepares for a ballgame



Not that sore today, as we're just coming out of camp this week. My legs are a bit heavy from the two-a-days, but I'm nowhere near as sore as I usually am after a typical Saturday game. During a game, you sustain two types of injuries: In-Game and Morning-After. In-Game injuries are those that you give you a noticeable conscious problem for those 3 glorious hours on Saturday. They can range from those that you just feel and affect you, something like a sprained wrist that you tape up and keep playing with to something as bad as a torn knee ligament that puts you out for the season. Morning-After injuries get caught up in the adrenaline during the game, not to be felt until Sunday as soon as you try to roll over. Stingers, sprained fingers, cleated toes and feet, hip pointers, and very, very sore necks.

By 10am, you're up and over to the training room. Ice or heat pads are awkwardly affixed to various parts of my body. Laying on the table, you hope maybe some of the female volleyball players or soccer players will show up, as they're usually cool to talk to and they're the only women on campus this time of year. The arrival of the doctor is also a highly anticipated event on Sundays. He shows up, pokes, prods and can sometimes tell you that your injury will keep you out. Other times he will give you a shot and send you on your way, but in either event, it's usually not a pleasant visit.

The rest of your afternoon is taken up by a film review, a peek at the upcoming opponent, a lift, and a conditioning session. Since we didn't play this week, there's no film to look at. Thank god, because no matter what happened the day before, films are never fun. First of all, you have to sit there and watch yourself over and over again, probably 10 times per play. You also have to listen to your coach analyze every step you took, literally for over 2 hours. The rule of thumb for films is that nothing is as you quite remember it. If you thought that you played a great game, there's probably going to be something ugly on the tape that you didn't remember. Conversely, if you thought you played horribly, there are probably some good things there that you didn't remember. While everyone in football says that the film doesn't lie, my take was always that the film was shot out of context. In other words, the film never reflects how tired you might have been on a given play, or that you couldn't exactly see straight when you whiffed on the linebacker, or that the center never made a line call and you had to guess who to block and you guessed wrong. Line coaches always want an explanation for everything that wasn't perfect, because the head coach wants explanations from them for everything that wasn't perfect. The problem is that line coaches rarely accept explanations of any kind, so veterans usually learn to just sit there and take what's coming. The exception to this is the rare blown assignment or blocking call. These instances are extremely rare at Stanford, because generally the linemen are both highly intelligent and effective communicators, despite having to speak through a plastic mouthpiece. So when a call is missed, there are two ways something can go: Pass the Buck or Fall on the Sword. Of course, the blocker who had the assignment error and falls on his sword does the honorable thing as viewed by his fellow linemates, especially if he received the wrong call. If the offender attempts to cast some doubt on the call made or as to whether or not the proper call was made, then the play in question can take on the flavor of a congressional investigation. The coach begins to hear testimony from all relevant parties, vagaries fly, memories become hazy and the truth is usually a compromise. Of course all of this is taking place in a darkened room full of extremely large, smelly and sore men.

After film review, there is a quick lift and an intense conditioning session. This conditioning session is always quite entertaining when it comes to offensive linemen. First, linemen aren't usually the most graceful creatures when it comes to running. Second, these runs are usually sprints for time around the football field, which equates to about 300+ yards. Lastly, and perhaps most comically, you will typically have 5, maybe 6 guys who are very sore from playing the day before and 10 guys who are as fresh as can be, with 2 days of virtual inactivity proceeding the run. There are also usually a few freshmen in the group who are normally quite a bit lighter than the veterans, and those frosh will take advantage of their lighter weight to run at a quicker pace than the vets. So this interesting dynamic develops during each run because the starters, who are by and large the leaders of the line, attempt to get out in front of the pack and win these long runs, while the other vets and frosh are in a much better state to do so. The end result is often a humorous race of giants that is quite entertaining to the casual spectator. Your Sunday ends with a meal and probably another session in the training room.



Off day. Early in the season, before school starts, this is a great day. It usually consists of lots of sleep, maybe a movie, perhaps a little film study and more time in the training room. Most of all it's special because you don't have a schedule to tie you down. It's the most amount of freedom you'll experience until hopefully the first week of January.



Perhaps the worst day of the week. This day will include a contact-intensive practice, game-plan installation, normal meetings, time in the training room, film review, a lift and heavy post-practice conditioning. The soreness from game day is still very much present, yet after meetings in the early afternoon you find yourself back in full pads and forced into full contact. More often than not, the line coach will preach "getting back to basics," which involves heavy bag work and lots of drive-blocking drills early in the session. Then comes the dreaded "9 on 7" drill versus the defense (also known as the headache drill), where the offense lines up without the wide receivers and the defense lines up without the secondary. This drill features mostly inside runs and it's very physical. Other highlights include 1-on-1 pass-protection, 11-on-11 and of course, running after practice. By the time you're showered and out of the training room, you're ready for bed.



Almost identical to Tuesday except the conditioning will typically lighten up a bit and you don't have as many meetings or a lift. Of course, you have the soreness from the previous day's practice stacked on top of the game soreness to contend with, so your body is really starting to rebel against any form of extended exercise. This is also the day when you'll typically pick up some "friendly fire" injuries, such as the lineman next to you "cleating" your foot (stepping on your foot with the full cleated force of his 300 pounds), a running back slamming into the back of your legs, or an adjacent lineman attem

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