Who let the fat guys on the field?

How quickly life distracts.  The past few weeks have been INSANELY busy for me, but I’m ready to jump back into the matter at hand.  I left you thinking about the quarterback and the center, one of which may not seem to be responsible for much.  And we found out that things aren’t always as they seem.

Today I’m going to talk a little about guards and tackles, who along with the center, complete the offensive line (minus a tight end, who we’ll discuss later).  These guys aren’t the most sculpted men on a football team.  You might look at these guys and think they are not athletically inclined.  However, it takes a big man with quick feet to protect the quarterback from pass rushers (defensive ends who seek to sack the quarterback or cause him to lose the football) or open running lanes for running backs to gain yardage.

Guards line up next to the center on the O-line.  Tackles line up outside the guards.  (I diagrammed an O-line in my last blog).  Guards are generally responsible for blocking defensive players from making contact with the ball carrier, whether it be the Quarterback or a running back.

Tackles are huge men with a huge job.  Because they line up on the ends of the offensive line, they are responsible for ensuring that defensive players do not come around the outside of the line (this is called “sealing off” the line) to sack the quarterback or another ball carrier.  You may have seen or heard the story of the movie THE BLIND SIDE.  The main character of this movie, Michael Oher, is a left tackle for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.  The left tackle is one of the best athletes on the field.  Since most quarterbacks are right-handed, they have their back turned to the left side of the field as they prepare to run a play.  It is the left tackle’s job to be sure the quarterback is not taken off guard by a pass rusher that the QB doesn’t see coming.  As long as the tackle contains defensive players, he can open up the outer edge of the field for big plays.  However, most running plays are drawn up to go inside the tackles.  Plays that are drawn to send the runner to the outside of the tackle are usually sent to the “strong side,”–the side of the field where the tight end (basically another blocker on the offensive line) lines up.

I hope you guys are enjoying this football season.  I’m always super excited when fall is in the air because football is in the air.  See ya next time!!!

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Take me to your leader!!!!

As promised, although a day late, I am going to introduce you to some of the guys who make up a football team.   I’m so excited about talking about what these guys do, because football is so much more than just a bunch of guys on the field trying to put the fear of God into each other.  Yes, I’m saying this is a game that takes some brains.  While a lot of the thoughtful work is left to the coaches and coordinators, the guys on the field have to constantly assess what is going on around them, and make adjustments to their game play accordingly. 

On that note, the first person I’m going to introduce you to is the quarterback.  This guy is usually the highest paid member of a professional team, and is the leader of every offense.  He is usually the liaison between his coach and his team while he is on the field.  He is responsible for calling plays while in the huddle.  At the line of scrimmage, he’s the guy yelling the signals.  After he gets the ball from the center, he will do one of three things:  hand the ball off to a running back, throw the ball to a receiver, or run the ball himself.  A team’s ability to score points starts with this guy.  He has to be aware of his surroundings at all times.  The opposing team’s defense comes at him like a bunch of headhunters, hoping to tackle him for a loss of yardage, or to make him fumble the football.  He has to be able to see downfield and make adjustments to the play, especially if one of his teammates misses an assignment.  Quarterbacks need to be men who command their teammate’s respect to be effective leaders.

Another important guy on the field, who doesn’t receive enough respect IMO, is the center.  He is called the center because he lines up in the middle of the offensive line; there is a guard and a tackle on either side of him.  He snaps the ball to the quarterback on a majority of the offensive plays on the field.  Pretty simple, right?  Simple in and of itself, sure.  The center snaps the ball to the quarterback on the quarterback’s signal, so he must be aware of the signal count.  He must make a clean delivery to the quarterback while worrying about the hit he will have to take from the defense.  He must also know his fellow offensive linemen’s blocking assignments.  The offense does not know how a defense will line up until they actually line up.  And the defense is allowed to move, or shift, prior to the snap (the offense is not able to move prior to the snap).  It is the center’s responsibility to communicate with his offensive line their blocking assignments as the defense changes, in a way that the defense doesn’t know what he’s communicating.  This guy has to be physically and mentally tough.  When a coach finds a good center, he wants to keep him.  The other guys on the offensive line look to him to provide leadership and stability. 

For those of you who are visual learners, here’s how an offensive line lines up across from the defense:

                                              LT   LG   C   RG   RT 

LT = left tackle; LG = left guard; C = center;  RG = right guard; RT = right tackle

So now you’ve met two of the guys who make up the offense.  Next, we’ll tackle (pun intended) the rest of the offensive line.

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Marching down the field

I always thought a football field was pretty straight forward stuff.  I mean 100 yards, two end zones, boundaries also known as sidelines and endlines….that’s not really complicated stuff.  But there are some basic facts surrounding the field of play that can help you better understand the game.  I’m going to dissect a few of those today.

The field is 100 yards (360 feet) long and 53 1/2 (160) feet wide.  Endlines and sidelines mark the boundaries that define the playing field.  Goal lines run parallel to endlines and are 10 yards inside the endlines.  If a player crosses his opponents goal line with the football, he scores a touchdown.  If a player crosses the endline with the football, he has gone out of bounds.  One distinction concerning whether a play is marked in bounds or judged to be out of bounds should be discussed here.  In the NFL (National Football League), a player who catches the ball near the sideline or endline must come down with both feet inside the boundary of the field of play and have possession of the football in order for the catch to be considered “fair.”  In college and high school play, a player can have a fair catch as long as one foot comes down completely within the field of play. 

There are two rows of short lines near the center of the field.  These are called hash marks, each representing one yard.  Every fifth yard has a line that runs across the full field, and every tenth yard is marked by a number painted on the field near the sideline.  If the ball carrier is pushed out of bounds or tackled, or a punt goes out of bounds, the ball is placed on the closest hash mark.  The hash marks are a good tool in ensuring that more of the field is available for most offensive plays.  If balls were placed near the sideline after an out-of-bounds play, the offense might be restricted the that side of the field on the subsequent offensive play. 

There is a six foot border behind the sidelines where only the chain crew (the people who measure plays to determine the correct number of downs) and officials are allowed.  Behind that area is another six foot area defined by dotted lines.  This area is reserved for coaches and substitute players.  Behind this area is the bench area, which stretches between 32 yard lines in the NFL and between 25 yard lines in college and high school play.  In the NFL, the bench area is at least 30 feet deep.

I realize that not everyone is interested in some of these little factoids like I am, so with my next blog, we will start to meet the cast and learn a little about what roles they play on the field.

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You play like a girl

When I was about 10 years old, if you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I would have told you I wanted to be the first girl to play major league baseball.  I was going to follow in Ryne Sandberg’s footsteps and challenge his status as the best second baseman EVAR (I am just a little biased, but you have to admit, he was good).  I dreamed of spending my glory days at Wrigley Field and baseball stadiums around the country, hitting walk-off homeruns and tagging everyone out at second base in the most spectacular fashion imaginable.  At that time, if you had told me I played like a girl, I my have introduced you to my right hook and asked you if I hit like a girl too.  Or I might have given you some information about your momma that you may or may not have known.  At least until my stubborn little brain realized my momma didn’t spank like a girl.  Soon, I realized that good sportsmanship meant letting my time on the field (or the court) speak for itself.  I was never a stellar athlete, but I could at least play with the boys and hold my own.

My love and passion for sports has remained quite evident as I have grown up.  The evenings I spent practicing layups with Rhett Phelps and practicing free-throws or pitching a baseball with my Dad laid the foundation for the technical knowledge that I might not have otherwise gotten.  I was full of questions as Dad and I would watch football together.  What’s a nickelback?  What’s the difference between a free safety and a strong safety?  If he ever wanted to watch a ballgame in peace, I’m sure that I didn’t let him.  Every time a commentator said something I didn’t know about or understand, I was asking my Dad about it. 

You may or may not play sports “like a girl.”  And I hope that at some point in time, that statement will carry with it the most positive of connotations.  Or be nonexistent in a hateful way.  I may not be able to teach to how to play a sport.  However, I want to share my knowledge and love of sports with women and other athletically-challenged folks.  Since football season has just begun, it will be the first sport  I blog about.  Feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, topics you’d like to know more about, etc.

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