Allen Park — In the NFL's continued effort to reduce concussions, the league has requested teams stop running specific drills during practices, including the Oklahoma drill.
Known by several other names, a traditional Oklahoma drill pits a blocker against a defender in a confined space. Teammates often surround the individual matchups, simulating a battle-like atmosphere. The league has found this drill, along with several others, as primary culprits for a spike in offseason concussions.
Matt Patricia, who has run variations of the Oklahoma drill since becoming the Detroit Lions coach last season, said he hasn't familiarized himself with the league's request, but he's happy to comply with any suggestions that improve player safety.
"I think the whole point is the NFL is trying to keep the players safe, which is our No. 1 priority and put them in positions where we’re trying to decrease the risk of injury," Patricia said. "And I think no matter what drill we do, tackling, turnover, team, any of that stuff, we’re always trying to coach and teach in a proper manner where guys aren’t going to get hurt. Whatever the NFL decides and go through, whatever the rules are, we’ll abide by that. But certainly, we’re just trying to get guys in good positions to learn how to react and how to be safe in all of those."
That message is consistent with Patricia's explanation from last year. When asked about the Oklahoma variants the team utilized in training camp, he put an emphasis on safety through coaching proper technique.
"Really, what it was, was trying to put everybody in a close proximity, kind of a one-step situation that was a little bit more than a setup where we could concentrate on keeping the head up, keeping the top of the helmet out of where the contact points should be, trying to make sure that the face mask, we’re seeing what we hit, and doing that in more of a reactionary sort of method as opposed to a staged method,” Patricia said.
NFL practices are non-contact at this stage of the offseason. Teams won't need to adjust their usage of these drills until the pads come on the first week of training camp.