Pat Shurmur had a very friendly chat with the media Monday about the opening of the team’s offseason program. This program is significant because Shurmur did not have one last season. He literally had to build the team on the fly after the lockout ended a few days before training camp. This offseason he’ll be able to bring his players in, go over his offense and (theoretically at least) have them more prepared for the start of training camp.
Of course every other team will be better, too, because they also will offseason programs, but that’s beside the point.
Some personal highlights from Shurmur’s chat via conference call:
—The new CBA mandatest that the program is 10 weeks, with a mandatory week off. Shurmur is running his nine weeks in a row, with the week off at the end.
—He will have a rookie minicamp on Mother’s Day weekend. Though it’s not known what time the Mother’s Day practice will be, it kind of makes you wonder why it had to be Mother’s Day weekend. Alas, we digress.
—The new CBA strictly limits what can and cannot happen. The first two weeks, players are not allowed on the field, only in the weight room. They can meet with position coaches, but hours are limited to four per day. Coaches will grumble about this, but as a group it’s their actions that brought on these changes. If modern-day coaches had their way, players would spend 365 days a year watching film 14 hours per day. Chuch Noll won a bunch of Super Bowls, but was home for dinner every night with his family. How in the world did he do it?
—Shurmur said he did not talk to Colt McCoy about the team’s attempt to improve the quarterback position in the offseason. Nor should he have. If McCoy didn’t like that the Browns tried to improve, he can go out and perform better so they don’t try to improve the position next offseason.
—Shurmur was asked what this program would give him he didn’t have last year. “An offseason program,” he said. Check.
—He elaborated: “I understand and realize how important these can be so you can get your systems in place or refined. The players have a chance to work together and it starts to develop a winning chemistry. When you get through this body of work, then they have a couple of weeks off then you try to repeat the football part of it in training camp as you prepare for the season.”
—As everyone now knows, Scott Fujita was in New York on Monday with other members of the NFLPA Executive Committee meeting with the league about the New Orleans Saints despicable bounty program. Fujita was with the Saints during some of those years. Shurmur said he heard the tape of Gregg Williams telling the Saints prior to the NFC Championship Game to hurt some of the 49ers, but declined to comment.
—There were quite a few questions about Marcus Benard. Which was interesting.
—Shurmur said the turnout was good. McCoy was there. So was Benard (interesting!). But Shurmur did not specify who was not there (if anyone) other than Fujita. Coaches always think the turnout is good, until word leaks that a key player is missing because he’s mad about something or because he’s on vacation in the Bahamas. Then the questions are asked about who is missing. It’s like in Miami, when I covered the Dolphins. Every Thursday Don Shula would religiously go over the starting lineup (there was a rule back then they had to be announced on Thursday, so Shula, a man of integrity, announced them). He’d start with a “grr,” then go to the quarterback. “Marino,” he said one day. Then he paused. “Go ask Scott Mitchell if he’s mad he’s not starting.”
—Shurmur also said the program is voluntary and that he was excited by the turnout. Which reminds me what Ty Detmer once said when I asked what the word “voluntary” meant in the NFL. “You better be there,” Detmer said.
—Asked about his running backs, Shurmur channeled his inner Romeo Crennel and said: “The guys that are here are healthy and they are going to compete.” Check.
That was about it.