There are many ways that a player can go wrong on the football field. Among the most egregious is the unforced error, particularly of the inopportune variety. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool found this out the hard way when he celebrated a first down during a two-minute drill during a game last season. He got an earful not only from his coaches and teammates, but also the fans, and couldn’t help but be a bit defensive about it afterward.
There is a natural instinct, of course, to celebrate a job well done, and players celebrating key plays is commonplace—and has been for a very long time—in competitive sports. Two-minute drills, of course, are not new to anybody who has played the game competitively, so the context should not be unfamiliar. Yet it does happen. At least sometimes it only happens in practice, as Connor Heyward was reminded yesterday, after making a nice play off of a pass from Kenny Pickett in practice yesterday.
“Two-high, I saw that, I just tried to split them. Kenny put the ball in a good place, and I made a good play on the ball”, he added. “I forgot to run the ball into the quarterback, but, you know, that’s what practice is for, so when we’re in those moments in the game, I make the right [decision]”.
When every second on the clock is precious, your responsibility as a playmaker is to do what you can to enable the ball to be put back in play as quickly as possible. We have seen more savvy veteran players go to great lengths to preserve every second possible in such scenarios—because you never know how many of them you’ll need. That’s why teammates aren’t exactly thrilled when they see a player hamming it up or lollygagging when time is of the essence—even in practice. Even when you’re the one doing it, once you realize.
“Myself, and Kenny, and other guys on the offensive side of the ball”, he said, listing those who got on his case about it. On his big brother Cam, he said, “I’m sure he was over there, like, ‘What is he doing?’. He probably wasn’t yelling, he was probably like, ‘Good!’. I saw Minkah [Fitzpatrick] try to go over there and get the ball out, I went to grab it real quick, but I’ve got to be smarter than that”.
He does, certainly, and he won’t get himself on the field any quicker that way. But he has been making some nice plays on the practice field as a receiver, often working with the rookie first-round draft pick at quarterback. As long as he remembers the context, he can make up ground.
It didn’t end on the practice field, by the way. Brooke Pryor of ESPN tweeted that he was given “the team donkey shirt for celebrating a third-down conversion catch in yesterday’s 2-minute drill”. And he offered up the evidence as well, as you can see. I’m sure that’s one garment he’s eager to shed.
Best locker room moment today goes to Connor Heyward, who told me he got the team donkey shirt for celebrating a third-down conversion catch in yesterday’s 2-minute drill. He said it’s a learning moment — one he won’t soon forget.
And then he pulled out the shirt! pic.twitter.com/gg1Dlw4BFO
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) June 8, 2022