Aug. 13, 2010
WATCH: Bartels, Ebert, Fitz Discuss the first practice in full pads
By Skip Myslenski
NUsports.com Special Contributor
His name was Duffy Daugherty and he was a coaching legend at Michigan State and once, in the long ago, he most memorably opined, "Football is not a contact sport. It's a collision sport. Dancing is a good example of a contact sport."
Not until Friday did they get back to football, which is not to say they have been unoccupied. They conditioned themselves religiously and avidly competed in the Winning Edge, did dummy drills and devoted long hours to film study, met to plot strategies with their coaches and, during the afternoons just past, even frolicked through practices in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets.
But not until Friday, the day they dressed out in a full uniform for the first time since spring, did the 'Cats get back to football. "It feels great to be back in pads," junior safety Brian Peters would say when this afternoon was over. "We're both physical players, safeties, we've got that physical mindset. Tag off and stuff just doesn't feel right. So it feels great to be back in pads, full go."
"When we're out here in tag off, you never know," added sophomore safety Jared Carpenter, who was standing next to him. "Maybe he would have tackled him, maybe he wouldn't have. When we get to go live, we really get to see what we can do. Me and Brian even got thrown out of periods a couple times. Forgot the tempo, I guess."
"A little too physical," said Carpenter.
His name was Jim Murray and his columns graced the Los Angeles Times and once, in the long ago, he there wondered: "What about football? Is it a sport or a concussion?"
Neither concussions nor any sort of bodily harm was the object of Friday's practice, the last for the 'Cats in Evanston before they set up at Camp Kenosha. That is one reason why, through much of it, coach Pat Fitzgerald could be heard yelling, "Chud! Chud!"
"We've combined two different tempos," he would later explain. "We used to go with our live tempo. It's playing football, you could cut block and full-go tackle. We wanted to still be able to work the cut block, but we didn't want to go live tackling. We wanted to have thud tackles. So we got rid of the 'T' of thud and added the 'C' of cutting and now it's 'Chud.' A sophisticated way, a Northwestern way, of combining a few things."
"Chud's great at teaching us the fundamentals of tackling again," Peters later added. "It's harder than real tackling because you can't dive, you can't chop tackle. It's all front-up tackling, form tackling. It's actually tough. It makes us better players."
And you're supposed to keep the guy you're tackling off the ground?
"Only true athletes can stay up like that," explained Carpenter. "Coach Fitz loves to see it when we can chud and go and keep everyone up. It shows how athletic our team is."
His name was George Carlin and he was a comedic genius and, in a classic routine called "Baseball versus Football," he once noted, "Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park. The baseball park! Football is played on a GRIDIRON, in a STADIUM, sometimes called SOLDIER FIELD or WAR MEMORIAL STADIUM."
In the 15th period of Friday's practice, Demetrius Fields pulled in an offering from Dan Persa and here came Carpenter, cutting him low and sending him to the ground. That precipitated an outburst from Fitzgerald, who summarily sent the safety to the sidelines. Now, on the very next play, it was Sidney Stewart who collected Persa's pass and here came Peters, whose first move was to go after the receiver's head when Stewart juked away. He too was summarily sent off. "They went live," Fitzgerald later explained.
But it seems a hard thing to ask them to do, to pull back, we said.
"It is. It is harder for them to thud the ball carrier. It's hard," he agreed. "It's easier to go live and lay out on a guy. So it's really hard. But more importantly, I wanted them to focus when they're tired on what I described the tempo to be, on the rules of engagement. And, most importantly, for safety."
"Well, we're not in shells anymore," Carpenter would soon say when asked about his banishment. "It's full pads and me and Brian, we kind of got lost in the moment of the whole full pads, full tackling. It happens sometimes."
"It's part of the game," Peters picked up. "Sometimes you go to the ground, you pick him back up, you go at it again. You try to keep all our players healthy."
But isn't it hard to repress your instinct, we asked.
Peters chuckled and then he said: "I understand what you're saying."
His name was Heywood Hale Broun and he wrote columns before even Murray and once, in the long ago, he noted, "Football is, after all, a wonderful way to get rid of your aggressions without going to jail for it.
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