Michigan players: Don't feel bad for us for practicing during spring break
BRADENTON, Fla. — Jim Harbaugh has been likened to the Grinch.
Ok, so nobody is saying that the Michigan coach stole Christmas. But those who have opposed his Florida practice idea — SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson and Nebraska coach Mike Riley to name a few — claimed that Harbaugh was stealing players’ spring break.
Michigan players noticed. And they want the opposers to know that Harbaugh didn’t have to pull any teeth to get them down to Florida.
“I definitely pay attention to it,” said Michigan tight end Jake Butt. “I sent out a tweet a while back about how I really supported this because I saw guys ripping on (Harbaugh) about how this is our free time. But no one asked us. No one asked us how we feel about it.
“If you would’ve asked me, I would’ve backed him right away. I really would encourage it for a lot of other people.”
This was the tweet Butt was referencing:
As a student athlete, I like the idea of knocking out some of my spring practices when I don't have to worry about class.. #perspective
— jake butt (@JBooty_88) February 10, 2016
Not by surprise, it was Sankey who emphasized the demands spring break practices could put on student athletes. His complaint didn’t result in an NCAA ruling on the issue before Michigan headed south.
If the NCAA does allow the relocated spring break practices to continue, Butt believes others should join the fun.
“It’s a great thing for everybody. I think more teams should do this,” Butt said. “It’s a brilliant idea. I hope they don’t because then we’ve got more competition but I think more teams should look at doing it.”
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio did come out and say that he was interested in copying the “creative” idea and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher applauded Harbaugh’s revolutionary way around the rules.
As long as Harbaugh doesn’t go beyond the four-hour per day practice limit or endorse IMG Academy, he isn’t breaking any rules. And to those who say Harbaugh violated an unwritten rule of giving his team some well-deserved time off, Michigan players didn’t resist the Florida trip.
“It was no big deal for me,” said Michigan running back De’Veon Smith. “It’s football. It’s what we love. Plus, I’m on my last year. There’s no time for me to be joking around going on spring break trips.”
Michigan players insisted that the trip has been critical in bonding with some unfamiliar faces. Players were assigned to room guys they don’t interact with as much. That meant seniors and freshmen, offensive linemen and defensive backs shared living quarters. That, Smith said, has been a bonding experience.
They’ve already had team outings like a beach day, a mini-golf trip, a spring training game and more. They’ve been eating well and living in villas.
It could be worse.
“I wouldn’t mind living like this while I’m in college,” Smith said.
Unlike during the season, Michigan’s spring break practices have been pad-less. They aren’t being worked like they will be come August. Harbaugh preached assignment, alignment and technique as the three most important takeaways from their spring break practices.
One defensive back accidentally lowered his shoulder on a pass-catcher by the sideline during seven-on-sevens. That resulted in a scolding from defensive coordinator Don Brown, who said how it would be a shame if somebody got hurt without pads.
The last thing Michigan wants to do is risk injury in the first week of March. The Wolverines will have plenty of time to ramp things up in fall camp before their highly anticipated 2016 season kicks off.
For now, they just want to enjoy their spring break.
“That first week of spring ball is tough for the younger guys. You’re learning new plays, you’re building that callus where you’re really sore, you’re doing these four-hour practices,” Butt said. “We don’t have to worry about that with classes now. All we can focus on is football and we’re out on the beach relaxing. It’s unbelievable because not everybody on our team is gonna get to take a spring break to get away or anything like that.
“We’re away, we’re down here in Florida, beautiful territory, sun shining, not too hot, nice breeze, eating great food with our brothers…I don’t have anything negative to say about it.”