The AFC and NFC squads hit the field at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in South Florida on Wednesday for their first practices of the 2010 Pro Bowl. The Cowboys and Chargers coaching staffs ran the drills for their respective conferences.
The NFC’s practice was a little longer than what I expected for a Pro Bowl session. Players don’t go full speed during the drills, focusing more on mental reps and learning the offensive and defensive schemes. The schemes are usually pretty basic so all of the players can pick things up during the week. (Click here to view a 49ers.com photo gallery of Wednesday’s practice).
Donovan McNabb was easily the most vocal player on the field, laughing and joking with teammates. Every time McNabb would throw a pass to Cowboys receiver Miles Austin, Austin would bat it down, refusing to catch anything from McNabb. The two kept laughing at each other for most of the morning.
He also joked with Vernon Davis. McNabb seemed shocked to see Davis’ short hair.
“He told me he was glad I shaved of my six dreads,” Davis told reporters after practice.
Justin Smith was the only 49ers Pro Bowler not present at practice. He learned that he would replace the Vikings’ Kevin Williams yesterday so he should be arriving by tomorrow.
It’s an especially meaningful week for running back Frank Gore, who hasn’t played in his hometown of Miami since his days at “The U.”
“It’s a great opportunity to play in front of my family,” Gore said. “That’s the best part about this. My family hasn’t been able to see me play since I’ve been in the NFL so that makes this week really special. I wasn’t able to play last year when we came out to play the Dolphins so this is great!”
One of the family members Gore is most excited to play in front of is his son, Frank Jr., who is becoming quite a good football player himself.
“He’s really excited to see me play,” Gore said. “He’s taking after his dad so far. I’m proud of him because he’s continued working really hard.”
Gore grew up in Coral Gables and attended Coral Gables High School so it seemed weird to him to be practicing on the field of his former rival school, St. Thomas Aquinas.
Some of the high school students were allowed to take some time away from class to come out and watch the practice. It also made the practices more lively the students would cheer after good plays and yell encouragement for their favorite players.
“It’s a good opportunity for them to see a lot of NFL guys, especially players who made the Pro Bowl who are supposed to be the best at their position,” Gore said.
Gore said he’s really looking forward to see how his teammate and good friend Vernon Davis plays with the best players in the business.
“I want to see how Vernon does. I think he’s going to play fast like he always does and turn some heads.”
Gore admitted he probably wasn’t playing as fast as he normally does during the first session of the practice. During special teams drills, Gore lined up on kickoff coverage and proceeded to sprint down the field and get into tackling position on the return man.
“That was crazy,” Gore said with a grin. “I had no idea what I was doing.”
I caught up with some of our guys after the NFC practice. Watch the video below:
The AFC players had some interesting things to say following their practice as well. Here’s my report following their practice:
Tags: ", Andy Lee, Frank Gore, Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Pro Bowl, Vernon Davis
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