One of the trends that has developed over the course of the past decade in the NFL has been for players, particularly young ones, to seek outside coaching assistance, hiring position trainers during the offseason to work on their craft with them.
This practice has, in fact, become pretty much ubiquitous at this point. Not only has the increase in rookie salaries helped contribute to this, but so has the dearth of contact that teams can have with their players during the offseason, so if they do want to work on something, they have to seek help on their own.
A number of Pittsburgh Steelers pass rushers, for example, work with Chuck Smith. Rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool, their second-round pick, has…former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
During his teleconference with the local media soon after he was drafted, the Notre Dame product was asked about his feelings regarding the peculiar circumstances of this offseason and how that might limit his development early on.
“I don’t think it’s gonna be too bad. There’ll be more time for me to get in one-on-one work with T.J. Houshmandzadeh in California there”, he said. “I’ll be working with him for a while, and then I’ll try to get to the facility as soon as I can, just to get some work in with Ben and JuJu and other receivers there and get familiar with the offense. I don’t think it’ll limit me too much because there’ll be more one-on-one work that’ll be put in”.
That may be a bit optimistic, in terms of timescale. Right now, Claypool is in Canada, or at least he was last week, and I assume he still is. It’s not clear at what point he will be able to get back out to the west coast and train. But he did bring it up again speaking with Missi Matthews.
“Up until I came back [to Canada for the draft], I was working with T.J. Houshmandzadeh, which is kind of my receivers coach, and he’s been doing a really good job”, he said. “So I’m working with him in California. Whether I go there for a couple weeks and then up to the facilities or just go straight to the facilities, I’m not sure, but that’s kind of what I was doing for receiver work”.
There’s really no telling as to when NFL facilities will open up again. The only thing we know for sure is that the league has consistently said no facilities will be open to players and other personnel until all of them are able to open, in order to retain a competitive balance.
Houshmandzadeh was a seventh-round pick by the Bengals in 2001 and would play for them for eight seasons during an 11-year career. He caught 627 passes for 7237 yards and 44 touchdowns. He had a bit 2007 season, leading the league with 112 catches, gaining 1143 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns. Steelers fans, of course, will forever know him best for cleaning his cleats with the Terrible Towel.