Tony Dungy learned a long time ago that practicing hard is not necessarily practicing smart. It’s a lesson that Bill Walsh first imparted on Dungy during a brief stint as a 49ers’ defensive back in 1979, but one that stuck with Dungy throughout his career as a Hall of Fame coach.
It’s a lesson Dungy shared three years ago with Adam Gase, right before Gase began his first training camp as the Dolphins coach.
“I had a chance to visit with him for about 45 minutes, and we talked about how to practice in a tropical area,” Gase told Newsday of his conversation with Dungy, who coached Tampa Bay from 1996-2001. “It’s about short, efficient practices. You stay out there for three hours, and you’re gonna fry. You’re gonna get drained. The way he looked at it was efficiency, fast, great tempo and do a good job of executing your plays.”
The summer weather isn’t as draining here as it is in south Florida, but Gase hasn’t deviated much from that philosophy. Walsh was ahead of his time when he adopted a less physical and more intellectual approach during his time with the 49ers, and those who worked under him have used a similar method to prepare their own teams.
“We’re going to be moving all the time, we’re not going to be standing around,” Gase said. “There’s not going to be a lot of explaining.”
That comes in the classroom and the film room, where the Jets players and coaches spend hours each day studying the intricacies of Gase’s offensive system and Gregg Williams’ defensive system.
Gase’s most recent practice – the Green and White practice Sunday night at MetLife Stadium – gave fans a chance to see his approach firsthand. Players wore helmets and pads, but this was no full contact practice. Gase has had some full-contact practices this summer, but for the most part, it’s been more about executing plays and getting in position to make tackles, but not using full force. Rarely do players hit the ground in these sessions; Sunday’s workout lasted around an hour and a half.
“You won’t be out there long,” Gase said. “We’ll spend more time in the meeting room.”
One area that has changed from his time in Miami: conditioning at practice. The Jets will frequently run “gassers” near the end of practice. That didn’t happen with the Dolphins.
“The one thing we’ve changed up here is we do a lot more conditioning than in Miami,” he said. “I never did it because of the heat. [The heat] never breaks [in south Florida] until December. We just felt like that was the smart way to do it. We were in shape. We knew if we practiced hard, we were going to be in shape. So that’s why we do [sprints here] at the end of practice.”
The players have embraced the style, which comes after the more traditional practice regimen of Todd Bowles, more of an old-school coach who preferred a heavier dose of hitting.
“It’s physical now [but] we’re getting our work in and we’re getting off the field quick,” safety Jamal Adams said. “Obviously, as a team, we respect that, because we get our work done. Everything is mentally sharp. Everybody’s focused. Once we get on the field, we’re hitting on all cylinders. We’re going hard, we’re flying around the ball, competing, and we’re getting off the field and recovering our bodies.
“He does a great job as far as letting us recover our body, and not only that, but getting to the classroom, studying the plays, study film and get better."
Adams prefers this approach, although he cited his former LSU coach, Les Miles, and not Bowles, for running a tougher training camp.
“Most definitely, it’s a lot better,” Adams said. “We’re on the field maybe an hour and a half and we’re getting off, recovering our body. That’s the most important thing. A lot of sleep, a lot of focus in the classroom. You can’t ask for more.”