Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen wants his unit to outwork every other one in the NFL.
|[Times photo: James Borchuck]
Running back Mike Alstott and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen talk. Said Keyshawn Johnson: "The biggest thing is the coaches are coaching."
By RICK STROUD
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 28, 2001
TAMPA -- They may work in the same building, but at times there has been a difference in the way they approach their jobs.
If the Bucs defense is steel-toed boots and hard hats, the offense has been more wingtips and briefcases.
So before minicamp Friday, offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen told his players to expect fewer off days and longer hours.
"I think without regard to what's happened in the past, the goal is to be the hardest-working unit in the league," Christensen said. "That's my goal. That's the No. 1 thing we want to get accomplished in this minicamp. It's to fly around the football field with 11 guys. And if we're the hardest-working unit in the league, we're going to be hard to handle. We have talent. We have some big-play guys. Whatever happens, if we outwork everybody, we're in great shape."
Christensen officially assumed his role as the third offensive coordinator in as many seasons. And if you're looking for symmetry, Tampa Bay had its third starting quarterback in ex-Redskins free agent Brad Johnson.
In many ways, the workaholic Johnson is the perfect player to help Christensen squeeze more sweat from the offense -- particularly providing an example for quarterbacks Shaun King and Ryan Leaf. The former Chargers quarterback looked like he was wearing a flak jacket. He weighed 260 pounds, -- 25 over his listed weight in the media guide.
"I think Johnson is going to be big in the locker room, I think it's going to be big with the young quarterbacks," Christensen said. "You've got a great role model, you've got a guy who is steady as a dollar bill. I think the competition helps. All of a sudden, there's no drill where you can throw four incompletes because you're going to look bad. It's a duel of arms, so to speak."
The more demanding approach is not lost on players, such as receiver Keyshawn Johnson.
A year ago, he said, offensive coaches were so unfamiliar with the new system under coordinator Les Steckel that they didn't offer enough instruction.
"You know what? The biggest thing is the coaches are coaching," Keyshawn Johnson said. "Last year, in practice and even during training camp, they weren't really coaching. They were like almost intimidated to say anything. Now, everybody is involved and coaching. I think last year one guy ran the show and everybody else was standing around.
"I think it has a lot to do with Clyde's impact. His personality is different."
Coach Tony Dungy said he was pleased with the first day of workouts and agreed with Christensen's approach.
"I think that's definitely what he talked about. Watching them the last couple years, he obviously has a feel what he wants to do and what he wants to improve," Dungy said. "Some of what happened to a great extent can involve changing an offense. It's not as easy to go 100 mile per hour until you understand what you're doing."
That's why Christensen has slowed down his implementation of the new offense to increase efficiency. Unlike Steckel, who implemented his entire playbook the first minicamp, Christensen is spoon-feeding his offense.
"I think we're going to go very slow and do it right and do it hard, really stress the technique, the effort, and not do as much," Christensen said. "We've done very little motion, very little shifting. Just line up and learn how to play football."
Brad Johnson, who is playing for his third team in four seasons, said he felt comfortable in the new surroundings.
"I feel great with the concepts and the feel for the game," he said. "I think the biggest thing is the terminology and trying to relearn some things. The biggest thing is calling the play in the huddle. I think the football will take care of itself. My arm feels fresh.
"It's going back to ground zero. You have expectations here. They spend a lot of time, they're very particular in what they teach, they're very precise. I think that's what is good for me right now."
But when it comes to effort, Christensen won't settle for anything less than great.
"I think we've been good. I think we've got to be great," Christensen said. "I think we've been a solid effort team. We certainly haven't been dogged and we've certainly played hard and played physical. But there's another notch that we can go."
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