Typically, the first few days of training camp are reserved for work without pads on as the team goes through a ramp up period, taking a few days to acclimate to playing football again after some time off whilst limiting the number of collisions that occur outside of actual NFL games.
Still, when you are dealing with grown men running full speed in a collision sport, it can be hard to lay off the trigger at times. This is exactly what happened with DB Damontae Kazee yesterday at practice when he came over the middle and laid a big hit on rookie WR Calvin Austin III. Alex Kozora had this to say on the play in his training camp diary highlighting Friday’s practice:
Anthony Miller and George Pickens on the outside with Calvin Austin III in the slot. Chase Claypool’s day was done at this point. RPO with Trubisky hitting Austin over the middle at midfield. No pads, no (supposed) contact but Kazee flies in and pops Austin pretty good. I think Kazee wanted to make a play on the ball to break it up but didn’t quite get there in time and ended up hitting Austin as he secured and took a step. Ball came out at the end with Kazee grabbing it. As hard a hit as we’ve had so far, though not really something coaches want to see with them not in full pads. I’ll call it a gain of eight.
Mike Tomlin was asked about the collision between Kazee and Austin during his post-practice press conference, and mentioned that he was ok with the result, as Kazee was showing the intensity and effort he wants to see out of his players.
“I’d rather say woah than sick em, and in that instance, woah,” Tomlin said after practice on video from the team’s website.
Obviously, you don’t want players to sustain unnecessary contact in practice without pads on, but you also don’t want to temper back the intensity and competitive demeanor of players as well who must train themselves to play full speed at all times. Damontae Kazee has been that type of player thus far in his NFL career, throwing his body into the fray and seeks out big collisions despite his 5’11″, 185 lb. frame.
Kazee finds himself in a fierce competition at defensive back, competing to get into the safety rotation as well as possibly get snaps in the slot at nickel corner. While unnecessary contact on a teammate in the early stages in training camp isn’t something you want to see, Tomlin seems pleased with Kazee’s effort and fast play style, something he will have to showcase in preseason action secure a roster spot for the 2022 season.