|09-06-2005, 03:50 AM||#1|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Jul 2002
For the Dayne Huggers
with fresh start in Denver
By Trent Modglin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sept. 2, 2005
Second chances in the NFL can come about quite often, perhaps as often as they do in any other line of work anywhere, even Hollywood. They’re handed out like cake at an 8-year-old’s birthday party.
But when those opportunities do run out, they tend to do so quickly, like a parent’s patience at just such a birthday party. Just ask Rashaan Salaam or Cade McNown, among hundreds of others.
Ron Dayne didn’t want to see that happen. Which is why, searching for a fresh start after the Giants finally gave up on him this spring, he and his agent were busy trying to line up free-agent visits.
But then, out of the blue, Mike Shanahan called, and everything changed.
When you’re a running back, and Mike Shanahan calls, you don’t put him on hold. You drop everything — kids and dinner included — and you start using “Sir” at the end of your sentences.
Getting to run the football in Shanahan’s system in Denver is like getting a golf lesson from Tiger Woods or real-estate advice from Donald Trump. You get there early, listen intently, eyes wide as saucers.
Since Shanahan’s arrival in 1995, the Broncos have gained more yards on the ground than every other team in the NFL. He has a knack for turning late-round picks or free-agent castoffs into 1,000-yard rushers every year. It’s just what he does.
Dayne said he didn’t know that Denver was even interested in his services, but Shanahan and his coaching staff had been busy watching tape of him — not from his sparse playing time with the Giants, but collegiately at Wisconsin, where the Badgers utilized a downhill, zone-blocking scheme similar to the one the Broncos have made famous at the pro level.
When he arrived in Denver, he was ecstatic. Not only was he well aware of the track record of success there, but the coaches were all down to earth and didn’t have a real favorite at running back coming into training camp. Things were wide open in competition with Mike Anderson, Tatum Bell and company. But expectations?
“I didn’t have any,” he admitted. “They called me, and I was surprised and happy because I usually watch Denver because I know a couple of the guys on the team. And I knew the scheme, and they always had the big-time rushers and guys that ran for a lot of yards. You always watch that as a running back.”
After a record-setting career at Wisconsin, in which he surpassed Ricky Williams as the all-time leading rusher in Division I with a staggering 6,397 yards, Dayne was drafted by the Giants in the first round. After rushing for 770 yards and helping the Giants to the Super Bowl as a rookie, things hit a slippery slope and headed south. He was deactivated for all 16 games in 2003, never taking a snap, and he saw only 52 carries last year as fellow RB Tiki Barber put up career numbers.
“I think it was just hard because, if you really got to watch us and see our team, you would know that it really wasn’t me,” Dayne said. “It was more of the coaches’ thing and what they wanted to do. I didn’t get too much say in it. And then the times that I did get in, it was usually going in for a 3rd-and-1 and running the same play. It was kinda tough, but I couldn’t really do anything about it. I’d just keep my mouth shut, put in my time and enjoy my time with friends and family out there.
“I really appreciated the chance to show what you can do (in Denver). In New York, I didn’t really get the opportunity. It was always Tiki’s job. No matter what I did, I was always second or third or however they felt, rather than having a chance to fight for it.”
Scouts tend to agree. Several NFL front-office people were left puzzled when the Giants selected Dayne back in 2000 because he didn’t fit their system at all. Do you draft a Heisman winner to be a short-yardage specialist and occasional change-of-pace option? The running game was suited more to Barber’s strengths as a quick, shifty, more versatile back. A lot of flare-outs and cutbacks across the field, which was a far cry from the one-cut-and-go approach Dayne thrived in at Wisconsin or the one currently used to carve up defenses in Denver.
But there’s more to it than that, according to several sources. Part of it was Dayne. A large part, if you know what I’m getting at.
“He was fat and lazy his first couple of years,” said one NFC personnel director. “Let’s call it like it is. He knew he wasn’t going to play so he just made himself be out of shape. But his game has never been about being out of shape. Even when he has been just big, he has never been out of shape. It’s mostly about the scheme. I don’t know if (Jerome) Bettis would have success in that deal either. It’s more suited for Tiki — get in those holes quick and get out of there.
Dayne looks noticeably slimmer in his new orange and blue duds, but he insists he hasn’t done anything different with himself this summer. He claims to be at the same weight as last year, about 238 or so, and that the issues concerning his fluctuating poundage over the years have always been overblown.
Shanahan has said, on more than a few occasions during training camp, that Dayne has really helped himself in his new situation. He got in shape during the offseason conditioning program and has run hard when given the chance. He looks quick through the hole, is back to breaking tackles and has even added a little something as a receiver. With Maurice Clarett being released on Tuesday, it appears as though Dayne is a virtual lock to make his new team.
“The fun is back,” Dayne said, putting things in simple terms. “We’ve got a lot of great backs, and Denver is known for that, so I just want to find where I fit in and keep playing.”
I asked him if he could envision an ideal scenario for himself. Look forward to February, and what would you like to see?
He laughed and thought for a moment.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Probably just getting on the field and playing and helping the team win. And hopefully going to the Super Bowl. You can’t ask for too much more than that.”
Never too late to have your cake and eat it too.
|09-06-2005, 10:45 AM||#2|
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Topeka, KS
That's why Clarett will never have another opportunity in the NFL. He screwed up his best chance to be an NFL running back by blowing off his chance in Denver. This really is the place to be for RBs.
|09-06-2005, 11:05 AM||#3|
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Atlanta, GA
Was he ever picked up by another team? Someone's practice squad?
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