Vipers Training Camp: Day 4
HOUSTON -- Vipers kickers Andrew Franks and Matthew Wright know they have a tall task ahead of them.
When the XFL revealed its unique rules modifications on Tuesday, it was clear that the league intends to revolutionize every area of special teams.
"I think the margin of error is a lot higher," Franks said Wednesday after practice. "We can't have a bad kick."
"The repercussions are much larger than they were before," Wright said.
Those repercussions are a literal game-changer.
On kickoffs, if the ball goes out of bounds, into the end zone, or falls short of the 20-yard line, the opposing team gets possession at the kicking team's 45-yard line.
That's not the only major change.
Players can't move until the returner touches the ball or until three seconds have elapsed after the ball touches the ground.
"Hang time doesn't really matter anymore," Wright said. "We're going to just try and drive the ball to the spot we can drive it to and keep it in bounds."
Keeping the ball in bounds will also be a priority for punter Jake Schum.
If a punt goes out of bounds or into the end zone, it is deemed a "major" touchback and the opposing team gets the ball at the kicking team's 35-yard line.
"You're so used to dropping the ball inside the 20 and even if it rolls out inside the 5 or something, it ends up being a great punt," Schum said. "But things are a little different now. It's definitely going to be more challenging."
Schum said it's already changing his approach.
"It's less directional work," he said. "It's more about getting hang time versus distance."
"Pressure's your best friend. Welcome it."
While the players seem eager to embrace the change, special teams coordinator Frank Gansz Jr. seems very eager.
"This game is forward-thinking... it's advancing," he said. "I think everybody's going to be excited to watch it."
When asked if the new rules are putting added pressure on his kickers and punters, Gansz Jr. laughed off the suggestion.
"I tell my players pressure's your best friend," he said. "Welcome it."
It wasn't all about the new rules at Wednesday's practice.
Defensive line coach Bert Hill had the team getting back to one important fundamental: tackling.
"The emphasis for the day was to tackle the big bag," Hill said, pointing to the large red inflatable dummy in the corner of the end zone. "We have our guys accelerate into that bag and tackle it. So we may have one guy tackle it, two guys tackle it, three guys tackle it. There's always room for one more."
Hill has set one clear goal for the team and it's not a small one.
"We want to be the best tackling team in football," he said.
Tomorrow the Vipers will continue to chase that goal and several others.
We will have full coverage from Day 5 of training camp.
Until then, we leave you with this light-hearted moment from today's practice.