THE FINAL 49: Get to Work
Sept. 29, 2012
by Tom Whitestone
The horn had sounded at 4:12 p.m. to officially start the 49ers first full practice in pads after the requisite 15 minutes of stretching.
At 4:13, Defensive Coordinator Bruce Tall could be heard from a field away.
"Nobody walks around here. Got me!"
Setting the tone early has been head coach Brad Lambert's mantra through the first few weeks of workouts and now into the first week of full practices.
"We wanted to condition the guys and teach them a little bit about what practice is going to look like. You've got to teach them everything. You've got to start at square one."
Square one, apparently, is a not-so-subtle reminder that even though opening day is 48 weeks away, the only way to see Game One is to work hard in Week One.
"Sprint!" yells Offensive Line Coach Phil Ratliff.
Players who may been caught up in the hype of being the first class on the first team at the first practice were quickly brought back to earth.
"That's a different level," said receiver Austin Duke. "A whole different level."
"The practice field's a whole lot faster than what I expected," defensive back Tank Norman added.
Welcome to college football - 49ers style.
While the coaches are reinforcing the tone at every turn, the players are responding.
Witness cornerback Terrance Winchester crashing running back Alan Barnwell into the fence five yards off the sideline during scrimmage activities. Witness Jamel Ross and Desmond Cooper going at it one v. one in a drill to drive the opposing player back. Witness the players' post-practice chant: "1, 2, 3 - WORK!"
The players are just now getting into full game-day shape. The practices include dropped balls, missed assignments and brain cramps. But the players are working.
"It's a fight!" assistant secondary coach John Russell calls out.
And so, the 49ers battle.
Just one week in, Charlotte understands their finish line is months away. So they try to balance time, knowing full well that they have time to run through repeated reps. They have time to fine tune. They have time to get better. But they also know that the best way to make use of that time is with a sense of urgency. Pushing the players to work like they have a game this weekend - from the opening horn to the final whistle. Making sure the players don't use the time they have as an excuse to take their time.
"Fast! Make 'em work," Lambert urges.
So, work they do. And when practice is over - as trainers are pulling together the water stations, as team videographers are breaking down their tripods, as managers pack up the equipment, Offensive Coordinator Jeff Mullen calls his offense together. For that interception they threw, for the block they missed, for the route run wrong, they, as a unit, do a series of up/downs: running in place, hitting the ground and bouncing back up. Again and again.
Practice may be over, but the work continues.