The last day of bye week practices is usually reserved for the young players. Typically, the Bears will hold a scrimmage where mostly the scout team players get the reps and the veterans cheer them on.
Not this year. As I had written earlier in the week, Jeff Tedford was going to use this week to continue letting the players in his regular rotation get the bulk of the reps, and that continued Thursday. There was no scrimmage. And when the team did do crossover — when the offense goes live against the defense — it was first teamers against first teamers and second teamers against second teamers.
“I felt like our (starters) needed the work,” Tedford said. “We wanted to utilize the whole week and make sure we got a lot of work for our ones and our twos. And then we got a jump on our game plan (for UCLA) so they have some of the stuff on their minds.”
That was another change Thursday. Usually the team doesn’t do any game planning at all for the upcoming opponent during the bye week. But the Bears did break into scout teams for part of practice and began to install the game plan for next Saturday’s game against the Bruins.
Now, the team will be off until a full practice on Sunday night. I asked Tedford if he’d prefer his players have football on their minds during the time off, or rather have them forget about it for a couple days to clear their minds.
“Both,” he said. “They don’t need to think about it 24 hours a day, but UCLA plays at 12:30 on ABC (against Oregon on Saturday), so everybody will be tuned into that, I’m sure. It’s important to decompress a little bit mentally and emotionally and utilize the bye for what a bye is for, but it doesn’t mean you just totally forget about it.”
Tedford had some interesting things to say when asked about the criticism he and the team have been receiving the past couple of weeks. He said he doesn’t pay attention to it, but admitted it would probably bother him if he did allow himself to be aware of everything that is said.
“I try not to read it,” Tedford said. “Would it affect me if I were to read it? I’d be lying if I said no because I think it’s only natural. Everybody has an opinion of what’s going on. That’s fine, but I try not to read it. I know what our job is and I know what we need to do. We need to continue to work and stay positive. That’s a lot of negative stuff. I’m not naive to think it’s not there. But I don’t make a habit of sitting around and getting on the Internet and find what’s being said on the blogs.”
Tedford said he talked with his players about the inevitablle criticism they will receive and encouraged them not to pay attention to it, either.
“It’s really important to try not to pay attention to the criticism,” he said. “It’s easier for me because I’m kind of in my little cocoon here. I don’t get out much. It’s harder for the players because they’re around and they can’t control what’s being said to them. They have to have trust and belief in the mission. There are a lot of naysayers and a lot of critics out there.”
A couple of injury updates: It’s looking more and more as though wide receiver Nyan Boateng will be back for next week’s game. He’s started to do some running and Tedfod said “it’s promising” that he’ll practice next week and play against UCLA. Left guard Matt Summers-Gavin, who didn’t play Saturday because of a sprained shoulder, isn’t participating in contact drills but Tedford expects him to also resume practicing fully next week and play against the Bruins. Meanwhile, backup nose tackle Kendrick Payne, who has been bothered by Plantar Fasciitis in his foot the past couple weeks, isn’t practicing and Tedford said he doesn’t know when he’ll be back. He’s simply resting in an attempt to heal. Payne only played a little against Oregon then sat out the entire game against USC.
And one last note: As I waited to conduct a couple of post-practice interviews tonight, there were a few players left on the field working out on their own. One was Kevin Riley, who was practicing his accuracy by throwing balls into a net with targets on them.