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What's with the counting?


In all the years I covered Terry Bradshaw, I can't remember once ever having reported that he threw an interception in practice. I can't remember having written about Terry Hanratty, Joe Gilliam, Mike Kruczek, Cliff Stoudt, Mark Malone, Bubby Brister or Neil O'Donnell having thrown an interception in practice, or that any of them threw a touchdown pass in practice, either.

At some point in my time covering the Jaguars – I think it started in the Byron Leftwich years – I actually began counting practice interceptions and touchdown passes and, for the life of me, I can't imagine why. Interceptions and touchdown passes in practice? You gotta be kidding me.

David Garrard threw some picks in Tuesday's OTA. The media collectively gasped as they counted to three. All of a sudden, the Jaguars' 2010 season was in danger, and Memorial Day was still two weeks away.

On my way home from the stadium Tuesday afternoon, the sports talk show to which I was listening offered an aggressive, though credible, blow-by-blow account of the practice. All of the information was correct, it's just that the interceptions were presented with a degree of alarm that was unnecessary.

Hey! It was a practice. Does anybody care what Tiger Woods does on the range? Do basketball writers report field goal percentages from a shoot-around? Do baseball writers cover batting practice? Does anybody care how Sidney Crosby looked in the morning skate?

The more I thought about this ridiculous trend of reporting the play-by-play action of practices, especially those practices that are the spring "Underwear League," the more embarrassed I became that I actually participated in this insanity. So, I decided to talk to some other reporters from other cities to get their take on the subject.

What I found was that most of the guys, especially the older reporters, were in complete agreement with my view. One guy even said, "You do that down there?" Oh, yeah, we do that down here. We even grade practices, if I'm not mistaken.

How do you grade a quarterback in OTAs, really? It's a passing camp. The defensive backs and linebackers completely ignore the threat of run. Play-action fakes freeze no one. There are no five-yard chuck-rule violations or, for that matter, pass-interference penalties, and I gotta tell you that I saw a half dozen or so plays in Tuesday's practice that would've resulted in a yellow flag.

Yeah, the defense can't sack the quarterback, but the offensive line isn't encouraged to aggressively pass-block, either, which results in the quarterback having to throw with a lot of tall guys standing in front of him with their hands in the air, as opposed to being pushed to the ground.

At one point in the session, Garrard tossed a two-yard pass to a running back that shot through a hole in the defensive line. The offense burst into a triumphant cheer. It was the highlight play of the drill because Garrard had caught the defense in some kind of a blitz tactic, yet, it caused none of us to flip through the pages of our notebooks, even though it was an example of exactly what an offensive coordinator wants his quarterback to accomplish in practice. He wants him to achieve awareness.

How do you grade anything in OTAs, much less wide receivers who glide across the middle without fear of reprisal? Do you want me to go back through the list of "Underwear League" MVPs who didn't attain the same level of esteem in the real season?

It's practice, folks; that's all it is, practice.

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