The Pro Bowl is a week removed, but the lessons for a young player can and should linger.
That is the main benefit for the Cleveland Browns, that a young player can mingle and learn from the best in the game -- provided the entire group doesn’t treat it as a Hawaiian vacation, which admittedly is a tough challenge. In this year’s Pro Bowl, the six Browns Pro Bowlers had the extra advantage of having Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders as their team leaders.
The gimmicked-up game saw the NFL bring in the Hall of Famers to pick players, and evidently at practice they were both present. The Browns' official website has videos of Rice spending time with Josh Gordon and Sanders coaching up Joe Haden.
It’s not high-stress stuff, but in these brief videos, both Hall of Famers teach a few of the nuances to two Browns. It might be a short time, but it also might be an important few minutes. It's definitely interesting stuff.
With Gordon, Rice talks about getting into a route, and running a route. He tells Gordon “a lot of stuff is about the sell.” Then he talks to Gordon about keeping his base the same, which means he keeps his hips in the same position no matter where he is in the route. The idea: If a player adjusts, stands up or turns a certain way, it tells the defensive back he’s getting ready for the ball or tips the route. In the every-second-makes-a-difference world of NFL coverages, that second can matter.
When Rice runs a “sluggo” (slant and go), his hips stay locked in the same spot, something the average fan might not notice, but shows the amount of practice and work it takes to perfect the skills. It definitely earns Gordon’s admiration.
“You look good right there,” Gordon said.
Sanders’ conversation with Haden contained some of the typical Prime Time stuff, but also was instructive.
After a brief discussion of footwork on press coverage, Sanders tells Haden that after studying him he noticed one thing he needs to improve. He summed it up as “every play,” meaning Haden has to play every play like it’s his last.
“Sometimes you’ll take a nap for a play and then you’ll say, ‘Damn, they caught one,'” Sanders said. “Now you’re mad for the rest of the game over a little out.”
The difference between being good and great, Sanders said, is playing every play like it’s third-and-5, like “it’s on the line.”
He pointed out Haden plays that way against guys like A.J. Green, but in other games he lets somebody makes a catch “that we don’t even know the name on the back of the jersey.”
Haden listens -- why wouldn’t he?
“You gave me exactly what I needed to hear,” Haden said. “You’re watching the film."
And when Sanders invites Haden to Dallas to work with him this summer, Haden promises he’ll be there.
As Gordon said: “I’m just trying to learn from the best.”