You can't win football games in March but apparently, under Dick Jauron, that's when the Buffalo Bills began losing them.
From what the players are saying, offseason workouts under Jauron were akin to pulling up a stool in a sports bar. Twelve televisions adorned the walls in the fieldhouse training facility. Individuals were entrusted to perform their lifting and stretching but there was no real sense of accountability, no singleness of purpose. Some of the injuries that ravaged the Bills last season might be blamed on bad luck, but the extent of the decimation suggests a deficiency in offseason preparation.
New coach Chan Gailey drew the same conclusion. That's why he's brought in not one but two strength and conditioning coaches with whom he's familiar -- John Gamble from the Miami Dolphins and Eric Ciano from Georgia Tech. Gamble oversees the brutes, Ciano the water bugs. And why not? Do Olympic sprinters approach their workouts the same way as the wrestlers?
"We get so specific everywhere else except for in the weight room," guard Eric Wood said Tuesday. "If this works out and we win a bunch of ballgames this year everyone will do it. If not, they'll be calling us idiots. [But] the players like it and it gives you more specific workouts."
"There are different philosophies out there," Gailey said. "The biggest thing is for everybody to be on the same page. That's where we are. We're all on the same page. We understand exactly what we're trying to accomplish and having both those guys being able to specialize in an area, I think has been a real plus for us."
Gailey has wasted no time changing the team's culture of physical preparation. Players returned this week to find the weight room overhauled. Gone are the creature comforts that promoted distraction and undermined focus.
"No TVs, and that was one of the things he said to us yesterday. He kind of felt like it was a spa in there," said running back Fred Jackson. "He wants us to go in there and work out . . . and I think that a lot of guys are buying into that."
"We've got a pretty advanced weight room in there now," Wood said. "A lot more free weights. There's different stuff that works and this is the approach they're taking and hopefully we'll run into a string of better luck as far as injuries goes. I don't see how we can't."
Speaking of dead weight, has anyone seen Marshawn Lynch? (OK, anyone excluding law enforcement types). Granted, these workouts are voluntary, so to speak. Aaron Schobel's not here either as he continues to ponder whether his heart's still in the game (Tell him, Marv. If you're pondering retirement you're already retired). But Lynch? Is he resting on the laurels of last year's 450-yard campaign? Finishing up degree work at Cal? Throwing darts at Jackson's image? Nobody seems to know.
"You want everybody in the boat," Gailey said. "That's the bottom line in this business. If you get everybody together and headed in the same direction you give yourself a much better chance to win."
Hmmm. So do you think they'll trade Lynch or just release him? The revamped weight room is a nice touch. But if the new coach wants to send a message, get everybody into the boat, does he have to cut ties with the stragglers?
"I think what we've tried to do is create a work atmosphere," Gailey said. "We want to make sure that we understand that when we walk into this facility it's all work. We've got something to accomplish. We have not been where we've needed to be in the last few years and we've got to get back there. And I only know one way to accomplish that and that's through hard work."
Showing up helps, too.