LAKE FOREST – Imagine taking a foam pad and bopping Bill Gates on the brain.
Imagine thumping the throat of Placido Domingo or crunching the toes of Lionel Messi.
That’s what I think of when I see Bears quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh use a long, narrow pad to whack his players during one of the first drills of every practice.
One by one, the Bears’ quarterbacks grab a football, line up on the near hash mark, and drop back to the sideline.
As each quarterback retreats, Cavanaugh swings his pad to try to knock the ball loose.
First goes Jay Cutler: Thud.
Next goes Josh McCown: Thud.
Then goes Jordan Palmer: Thud.
Last, but not least, Trent Edwards: Thud.
Surprisingly, the quarterbacks do not resent a coach taking a whack at their moneymaking hands. They actually appreciate the gesture.
If no Bears quarterback coughs up the ball this season, this drill could be why.
McCown: It gets you ready to keep two hands on the ball and protect the football and all of those things that you’ve got to do playing the position. Because we don’t get touched in practice, that’s a part of the game that you can let slip by if you don’t concentrate on it.
Edwards: It’s pure ball security. Because you know the defensive players over there are being coached to knock it out of the quarterback’s hands.
Palmer: I’ve always grown up hearing that a sack-fumble is worse than a pick most of the time because they’re getting the ball right there, and it’s very easy to scoop and score with no offense behind you as opposed to throwing an interception. … Anything you can do to prepare yourself for that [is helpful]. Even when you know it’s coming, it kind of builds up that extra awareness.
Edwards: Whenever there’s traffic around you as a quarterback, you always want to keep two hands on the ball. Sometimes, your tendency when you move around is to use your other arm and break and separate and try to move a little bit quicker. That drill is purely for muscle memory.
McCown: We’ve got a couple of other drills that we do where we’re getting ready to throw one, and he’ll say, ‘No!’ and we’ll reset and throw to another receiver. Stuff like that really challenges you to be ready to reset and know where you’re going with your next option.
Palmer: This is the first time I’ve done [the pad drill]. It’s just during warmups. It’s just, how do you get the most out of every rep? We’re just warming up our groins at that point, but let’s get something else out of that rep and bang on the ball a little bit.
Edwards: As a quarterback, you’re the one that’s touching the ball every play on the offense besides the center. It’s essentially your role to make sure the ball is not turned over. Sometimes, it’s out of your control, but when you can control it and you can work on drills like that to keep it under control, I think it’s pretty essential as a quarterback.
McCown: We start every day with it to show the importance of it. I tell you what, for me so far this preseason, I’ve felt really good about the times I’ve been sacked – tucking the ball away, keeping two hands on it, things like that. It’s paid dividends.