Marinelli's practice change on par

For the first time in five days, Wednesday's Detroit Lions training camp was one of relative silence. There was no sound of pads colliding, players grunting, or -- as has been the case lately -- limbs twisting. Analysis on whether or not Marinelli's first surprise move was a good one.

The morning session of Wednesday's Detroit Lions training camp was one of relative silence. There was no sound of pads colliding, players grunting, or -- as has been the case lately -- limbs twisting.

Because for the first time in five days, maybe since he took the job as head coach, Rod Marinelli demonstrated compassion; allowing his players a rare "non-contact" day. The player's went through a brief walk-through in the morning before marching into the locker room.

And the question on everyone's mind was, well, why?

Was there a problem? Was it the flurry of injuries that have plagued Detroit in recent days? Was it the record-setting heat wave that continued through Wednesday? One fan on the internet message board The Den suggested that maybe Steve Mariucci served as the interim coach during the day.

We didn't ask.

But Marinelli explained afterwards that it was a decision made the night before and not for any of the reasons outlined above. It was due to the team's hard work the past five days.

"Last night, we all sat down together and we talked to the staff and we looked at the film and it was like 'Wow!'" said Marinelli. "They were sprinting with the football last night, and it was really hot. It was just like they were starting to get it. They're starting to understand that you can do anything you want, just play it one snap at a time, pound the rock and just keep going.

"But this was important this morning for them. .. it's about how to handle success. When you do something well, do you handle it right? There's a reason in football there's not back-to-back big plays a lot; because the guy is celebrating for awhile and they don't focus on the next snap. So, that's just as important to teach. We'll just go on from there and take a little time off their legs and then tomorrow we'll be in pads and crank it back up."

But the follow-up question is, was the decision the right one? Marinelli entered Detroit as a notorious disciplinarian. A coach labeled a 'drillmaster', with former players under Marinelli in Tampa Bay warning their counterparts prior to his arrival that something just short of the apocalypse was coming to Detroit.

So is he risking his reputation? Absolutely not.

Marinelli's decision to "reward" the players is more strategy than charity.

Along with the injuries that have already occurred, this was a logical decision on Marinelli's part. And if you glance around the league, you see much of the same thing.

In Tampa, where Marinelli served as the defensive line coach, the Buccaneers cancelled their Wednesday afternoon practice and instead sent the team to an advance screening of the football film "Invincible" starring Mark Wahlberg.

"The coaching staff sets a rigorous tempo on the field and likes to rewards its players when they respond with all-out effort," said the Buccaneers official web site, which called the break "something of a ritual."

The New York Giants and their own formalist, Tom Coughlin, didn't hit on Wednesday, either.

Marinelli has replicated the same demanding training camp approach, along with the occasional gift to players. It's easy to see why: both Tampa Bay and New York were playoff teams a year ago.

While Marinelli's tough-as-nails philosophy is radically different than what the bulk of Detroit's roster is used to, it is also very possible to 'overdo it' with regard to pushing the players too hard. Obviously, Marinelli is a taskmaster, but he also understands that this is a critical time for chemistry among the team and between himself and the team.

And the last thing he wants to do is jeopardize that.

Detroit's players have responded to Marinelli and have, to this point, adapted to his style. And they also now realize that while the coach will push them relentlessly, he is also on their side. They are all part of the team, himself included.

Nate Caminata has published Roar Report for 10 years and has also served as a sports reporter for newspapers in both Grand Rapids and Lapeer, Michigan.

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