For professional football men, perfection is the rule. To achieve it, they start practicing two full months before the season opens, rehearsing endlessly all day and studying movies and blackboard blueprints for hours each night. The New York Giants' training camp at St. Michael's College in Winooski, Vermont is just such a football proving ground. Everywhere, big men slam into each other or charge at weighted dummy bags, grunting and gasping with shock. Others shout and clap in cadence, crash booted toes against leather, urge leg muscles and strain eager fingers to reach spiraling passes. In my sketchbook of a day of this explosive action, I have tried to capture the color, the bone-tiring work of practicing to be perfect—to be a pro.
In the dormitory classroom each evening, plays are gone over both offensively and defensively. These will be drilled on the field the next day. Players also watch movies of their contact work taken two days before and game movies of league rivals which are run over and over for close study.
The day begins at 7 a.m. and practice at 9. In the morning the men wear no pads, only sweat suits and a haphazard array of colored jerseys and caps. After the early work of place kicking, calisthenics, cadence and punt formation, the specialized groups form at 10. In these, linemen work on conditioning drills and downfield blocking (page 30), and the backs go through skeleton drills to perfect deception, speed and timing. Then backfields and ends work on pass patterns (page 28), and finally the whole squad runs plays.
After lunch and rest period, the squad puts on the pads for heavy contact work which begins at 2:30. Slowly, as the day progresses, you can see the classroom exercises transferred to the field and the specializations integrated into a cohesive offense and defense. Late in the afternoon the day's work culminates in a scrimmage under game conditions.
September 2, 1956
Blackboard session at evening class in college dormitory basement shows Offensive Coach Vince Lombardi chalking play assignments. Each player copies his assignment in notebook, blueprints all plays, variations and changes as the season progresses. This is B-47 series.
Pass warmups are run by quarterback as the ends try various routes. Coach Kavanaugh directs patterns
Skeleton drill goes on behind row of potato sacks that simulate defensive positions, perfecting F-29, which is shown on previous page. Quarterback fakes handoff, pitches out under belly of fullback to halfback (foreground). Coach Lombardi calls plays, checks on deception, speed and timing of backs.
Place kicking is tried by burly Guard John McMullan as Quarterback Don Heinrich holds the ball.
Suiting up after lunch in basement area which serves as a locker room, players put on pads for the afternoon's contact work.
Touchdown twins of Giants are Frank Gifford, elusive left halfback, and Alex Webster, hard-driving right half.
Passing drill shows Chuck Conerly spinning away from defense men slowed down by quilted canvas aprons.
Taping ankles of all the squad members helps prevent injuries. Trainer Johnson (left) also tapes Tackle Rosey Brown's hand.
Calling cadence from heavily padded, steel-springed sled, Line Coach Ed Kolman braces his 240 pounds as two linemen strike out from four-point stance (upper left). A simultaneous strike will rock the sled straight up (left and above).
Brain trust in session includes (from left) Conerly, Head Coach Jim Lee Howell, Lombardi and Defense Coach Tom Landry.
Downfield blocking is simulated by linemen charging three 50-pound dummy bags, taking each in quick succession. In drill at left, lineman executes cut-off block. Right, Tackle Brown is caught hitting bag too high.
One-on-one drill is offensive reaction test for ball carrier. As offensive lineman strikes out on signal, ball carrier takes handoff, must decide in split second which is the clear side and get through defense without being tackled (right).
Dummy drill accouterments include apron (left), the linebacker's shield (center) worn on arm to absorb shock and the heavy bag.
Climaxing drills, Coach Howell calls, "From now on, full speed all the way—everything goes!" which signals start of scrimmage under game conditions (above). At 4:40 practice is over, a squad of rookies (below) wearily lugs gear to shelter and team calls it a day.