Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

A Former NFLer Goes Behind The Sideline Wall

Illustration for article titled A Former NFLer Goes Behind The Sideline Wall

Yesterday, Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi was suspended indefinitely for ordering a sideline wall and tripping up Miami's Nolan Carroll. We asked ex-NFL player and occasional Deadspin contributor Nate Jackson for his thoughts.

Your article yesterday pretty much got it right, but it's a practice that's even less organized than you implied. Head coaches surely aren't telling players or staffers during a game, or even during practice, when to form a wall on the sideline. And likely neither are the special teams coaches — they have too much other shit going on, like play calls and personnel issues. It could come from a special teams assistant coach who is chummy with the strength coach, and they agree that it will be done inconspicuously at points during the game when it might be effective, when considering placement between the hash marks or field position. Both teams know this, and plan for it. For example, some teams like to do "directional punts" or punt to the wide side of the field, so the gunner would release inside of the hold-up men if the ball was on his near hash, rendering a wall pointless.

But the strategic alignment of those Jets in sweats, toes on the line, at attention, definitely suggests a hint of choreography. No one stands like that to watch the game. Once the off-season conditioning program is finished, and actual practice begins, the strength coach's relevance on the team is diminished. No one lifts very hard during the season, and no one pays too much attention to the strength coaches who run the show during the off-season. They get bored, become wracked with feelings of worthlessness, and generally mope around. They also watch every single practice, and the more social ones bullshit with the players, leaving plenty of time to come up with and orchestrate a little bit of field squeezing on an opposing gunner who is too much of a pussy to stay in bounds.