Steelers and Willie Wonka

Share Button

One of the benefits of playing in today’s NFL is the understanding of the recovery processes that each player goes through and how recovery is not the same for all guys. Back in the day Chuck Noll, and all coaches in general believed their team’s needed to bang three days a week. It wasn’t until the late Bill Walsh, coach of the 49’ers, brought the concept forward to taking the pads off and letting the players heal up during the week that the recovery part of football became as important as the preparation part of football.

Years ago, Chiropractors were thought of as “witch doctors” and massage therapists as some sort of alternative lifestyle practitioners. Nutrition was more voodoo than common sense, and if you didn’t have railroad tracks somewhere on your body from scapel work from a surgeon before the the advent of arthroscopic surgery you obviously hadn’t been in the league very long.

With the Steelers on their bye week, Coach Mike came along like Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory handing out “Golden Tickets” that permitted the bearer of said ticket a pretty sweet deal by giving them time off from practice.

Hines Ward, James Farrior, Aaron Smith, Flozell Adams, and Charlie Batch all cashed in their golden tickets for a little R&R. This not only helps the older guys, who have a great many “car crashes” in their carfax histories, body-wise, but also is good for morale. How so you say?

When young bucks first come to a veteran heavy team like the Steelers, they quickly learn to respect their elders. A veteran commands respect because they have earned the right. No one is allowed an “Honorary degree” in this school of hard knocks. The veteran is the veteran because he has stood the test of time. Pro Bowl or not, he has been there, done that and survived the ever revolving scythe that removes players from the league each year. That in and of itself demands respect. And by doing so presents the younger men with an example that they hope to attain.

By giving time off to players like a Charlie Batch, or a Flozell Adams, Mike Tomlin is also subtley tipping his cap in appreciation of what it means to be a survivor of the collective sixty-plus years these men have performed in the NFL.

For the rookies and other young vets, it’s the “I wanna be that guy” mentality that special acknowledgment brings.Veterans in turn, teach the youngsters in the “Steeler Way” and bonds are formed.

It’s all part of the history and present day story of how a locker room stays healthy generation after generation imparting wisdom and understanding of how a young man goes about “earning his spurs” and place on the team and in the society of the pack. Veteran leadership provides stability in the locker room and performance on the field the way a stethoscope and thermometer give information to a doctor.

With it a coach always has a finger on the pulse of his team and a gauge on the temperament of his players.