Andreas Pröller, wide receiver for the Austrian Football League's SWARCO Raiders, participated at The Oakland Raiders' 2008 Training Camp, presented by Under Armour, as part of the International Guest Coach Program. Pröller also serves as a coach for the SWARCO Raiders 13- to 14-year-old players. You can read about his experiences right here on Raiders.com in English and German.
Special to Raiders.com
On Friday, the big day had finally come. Game day! The game we were anxiously waiting for since our arrival a week before. The Oakland Raiders hosted the San Francisco 49ers at McAfee Coliseum. The crowd was absolutely amazing. I never thought the fans could make that much noise at a preseason game. I wonder what this will be like when the games actually count.
I saw the game from the sidelines. It was even faster and harder than during practices. Especially the tackling was really good. I had a great view of how sure the guys tackled. And some tackles were really loud. Bang. The precision with which the guys are playing out there amazed me. The quarterback has such a small window to find an open receiver. And the blocks have to be timed so well to give the running back a gap to run through. At that speed this is not a simple task for those big offensive linemen. It's great to see this on TV, but experiencing it live is just out of this world. It was an unforgettable day.
What blew me away was the noise level in the stadium. It was brutally loud on the sidelines. I could barely hear my own words. No wonder guys were actually screaming to each other rather than talking. It was just too loud. It was interesting to see (and hear) how the Raiders' fans welcomed the San Francisco 49ers. Though welcoming might not be the right way to describe it. On the other hand the fans cheered frenetically for their Raiders. Every player, every pass, every touchdown: awesome!
Like I said it was loud on the sidelines. Still there was a lot of communication going on. The coaches talked to their players all the time and everyone was really attentive. One moment they all sit on the bench, the next instant they're out on the field for a punt return. Seconds after the players came off the field, the coaches held pictures in their hands, which showed the last plays. Cameras on top of the stadium took the pictures. This really helps coaches to explain to their players what went right or wrong. Plus it gives them an idea of how the 49ers executed plays. Now that's high-tech!
Before I finish this blog I want to thank everyone, who made this once-in-a-lifetime experience possible. I have learned so much and words can't describe just how much we will profit from the things we're taking home for our days in Napa and Oakland. I had a great time and hope my little diary brought you a little closer to the NFL life.
During the last few days I basically ran a marathon of interviews. Almost every day the ORF – Austria's number one TV channel – wanted to talk to me. They cover the NFL season, but show no commercials during the game breaks. So they are going to use the footage we shot during camp to fill these holes. I also sat down with Jeanette Thompson the other day. She hosts all TV formats The Oakland Raiders are producing for local and supra-regional coverage as well as their web site. Of course the other coaches from overseas had to stand in front of the camera, too.
I heard many questions over and over again. But it makes sense as people don't know who I am and what I'm doing over here. We talked about the experiences I made here, what we have done and learned. I also showed the ORF the training complex including the practice field, the lockers, the weight and fitness area and the nearby hotel. I'm telling you, I would not want to be in Lane Kiffin's shoes. To answer all those questions every day is not my thing. Plus it's not that easy standing in front of a camera. In addition for me as a Tyrolean, I have a hard time speaking clear German. So more often than not some strange sentences come out of my mouth.
But I get along with the media coverage way better than with the air conditioning. I know this is part of the American way. My roommate Nick can't live without an AC. You have no idea how cold it is in here. Fridge in California. I admit I got used to it a bit, but it is still strange to me. The AC even runs at night when it's actually pretty cold outside. Coming to my room after evening practice is a shocking experience. It's so cold.
Let me talk about the players for a second. They are all machines. But there are a few guys that impressed me especially. Wide receiver Todd Watkins made some nice plays during camp. Running back Darren McFadden is so unbelievably fast. But the guy on top of my list is tight end Tony Stewart. He's tall, fast, has good hands, he's strong and he blocks well. Imposing figure. In my eyes he's a prime example of an offensive player. I don't even mind that he was born in Germany. His German though is not the best. But we can communicate a little bit in our native language.
Now on the coaches' side I'm really impressed by James Lofton. He coaches the wide receivers and is an icon at that position himself. He's been inducted into the Hall of Fame. I have learned so much from him and he is a great teacher. I even had the chance to run with him. He's a great guy, totally down-to-earth.
Today it is finally there – gameday! We play against the San Francisco 49ers. We being The Oakland Raiders. It's the first preseason game of the year and I think everyone just wants to hit the field, compete and know where they stand. They will raise the tempo once again and will execute on an even higher level than what I've seen during practices.
Part 2: First in, later against San Francisco
On Sunday we had a day off – our first and only off-day during our time here at the Oakland Raiders training complex in Napa, California. Our Tyrolean defensive guru Santos Carrillo, who grew up on the California coast, took us down to San Francisco. Actually he's been a pretty good guide. We did some sightseeing and shopping. Just being tourists. We walked down the piers and went to a vantage point to take some pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge.
|International Guest Coach Andreas Pröller watches an Oakland Raiders Training Camp practice at the Silver and Black's Napa Valley Training Complex. -Tony Gonzales|
In between all that we had lunch at Bubba Gump's. You know this is the place that was named after Forrest Gump's best friend in the famous movie. Man, they had some monster doses there. Santos didn't even finish his meal. Later we went to Chinatown and experienced the hills of San Francisco first hand. I bought some stuff for friends and my girlfriend. I spent a few hundred dollars. But with the current exchange rate you are pretty much forced to do it. It was a crazy and awesome day.
Speaking of San Francisco. On Monday we were lucky enough to watch two NFL teams practice at the same time as the San Francisco 49ers were on hand in Napa. It was another great chapter in our adventure. When the teams warmed up, we already could see the little differences between the Raiders and the 49ers. We were standing right between the two practice fields and an awesome view of each drill the teams were performing. Great!
We also got an idea of the different philosophies both sides are pursuing. During practice the teams went against each other on three different occasions. For most of the time both sides looked pretty even, but during the last session, the Raiders were clearly better in my opinion. The main reason for that was the offense, which came up pretty good. Until that point both defensive units dominated the practice. In the evening session, both teams showed more intensity. Every now and then we saw some real tough hits and both teams were not in a giving mood.
A thing that impressed me once again was the speed and the discipline throughout the practice. Both teams didn't take a break and went blow on blow. I also recognized how much more these practices meant for the coaches. The season is just around the corner and therefore the number of mistakes has to decrease. The timing has to be right. The players need to internalize every play. The pressure is on them. The time is running out. So the coaches put the pedal to the metal and wanted to see more intensity and less mistakes. It got a little louder than usual.
Right after the first of Monday's two practices I had my big moment on TV. The ORF – Austria's number one channel – is in town to shadow every one of our steps. This time Santos, Nick Johansen and I gave a long interview, talking about the cooperation between The Oakland Raiders and the SWARCO Raiders, how it got started and what we have experienced so far in camp. I'm not a great TV guy. I rather let performances speak for me. After the interviews I showed the ORF the training complex including the weightlifting facility and the locker room. Compared to the locker rooms the NFL teams have in their stadiums, these are not much bigger than the ones we are using back at home. The only differences are the huge amount of equipment, the shoes, gloves, helmets and pads.
This is really a great experience for me. But to be honest, I have a secret wish I'd like to share with you. I would love to catch a pass from JaMarcus Russell or go 1-on-1 with one of their cornerbacks. Just to know how it feels to play against an NFL star and if I can compete on that level. Who knows? Maybe it works out. And if not, I still will never forget these days in Napa.
Finally here and pushed right into the mix. After almost 30 hours on the road and several stops I arrived at the Oakland Raiders' training camp. Thursday night at 2:30 a.m., I fell onto my bed at the hotel. After getting some sleep and jumping into the way-too-hot pool the real adventure began with a short trip to the nearby Oakland Raiders headquarters in Alameda, California. There I had the chance to meet the other coaches who, like me, and my SWARCO Raiders buddies Santos Carrillo and Nick Johansen, are taking part in the International Guest Coach Program. I also got the chance to see face to face to some of the Raiders' people I've been in contact via email over the past weeks.
|Andreas Pröller, wide receiver for the Austrian Football League's SWARCO Raiders, is participating at The Oakland Raiders' 2008 Training Camp, presented by Under Armour, as part of the International Guest Coach Program. -Schellhorn|
After a tasty lunch and some small talk we went to the Oakland Raiders training complex in Napa Valley, California. It is located about an hour car ride away from the office and right in the middle of California's famous wineries. After we checked in, we were thrown right into the ongoing team practice. It was amazing and it took me some time to realize just what I have witnessed there and how big and strong these guys are. Standing on the field, I thought to myself, "Man, they're not as big as I thought." But seeing them at dinner, I was blown away; all these giants and massive men who are part of every NFL team - I have a lot of respect for them.
It is a great thing to have Santos around here. He's been here since the start of camp and will stay here until the end. He feels really comfortable here and introduced us to most of the coaches. They are all very friendly and open to all our questions.
On Saturday, the first practice was held right after breakfast. The team came out in full gear. The sun was shining and it was another hot day. It was very interesting to see how many different drills they have, how many assistant coaches are working here and how many runners and helpers are around. I like the fact that practice is very well organized. There are no long breaks. One drill is followed by the next. It's a lot of movement and not much time to take a breath in between. It really goes bang, bang. I was impressed by the way everything is set up here. There's tons of food and you basically can eat at any time. Trainers and conditioning coaches are around for the players all day long. And then there's this huge area for weight lifting and conditioning. But this is how it's supposed to be when you are supposed to perform on the highest level.
I already have countless ideas and drills in my mind that I want to take to Innsbruck with me. We probably will get some DVDs, too. We won't be able to do every drill they do over here in Innsbruck. For us being here is about finding things we can copy and drills that make sense for us. With the limited opportunities we have to find out what is the best way to bring as many drills and information home as possible. We have to concentrate on our responsibilities on the field. While I am looking mostly at the receivers and the offensive backfield and what they are doing during practice, Santos and Nick are looking closely at the lines. Another big thing for me is conditioning. I try to take in as much as possible from the work they're doing here. I study sports science and this is exactly my specialty. But to tell you a little more about that I take some extra time in one of my next blogs. Just one thing: I have left an impression already.
Now I guess you want to know how it is to be around so many famous coaches and players. We haven't been here for very long, so I haven't been able to get to know everyone. But we had a little chat with Mark Davis - a really nice guy. And some of the coaches here are Hall of Famers; real icons of this sport. We have tons of respect for all of them. But we are here as guests and have a job to do. We're not here as fans. But I will try to get some autographs anyway. Most of them for friends of mine. Me personally, I don't like all this buzz about stars. I've never been into how big a guy was or how big his name is. When I stand on the field, I do my job. It's all about business. I cannot care about the guy on the other side. It's the same way here. It is a huge honor for me, but I try to take it as easy and be as humble as possible. And honestly, nobody here is a nobody! They all have a success story to tell.
That's it for now. In my next diary I will tell you how I spent my only off-day during my time here and let you know about the special guest we welcomed here at camp.
Servus, Yours Andy.