While it’s hard to condone three players going to the hospital, it should help to add context to the recent Oregon football controversy.
Earlier this week, three Oregon Ducks football players were hospitalized after recent workouts. NFL players like All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas have tweeted criticism about the program for the actions.
CBS Sports called the culture “dangerous for players” in a recent article.
Oregon football head coach Willie Taggart and athletic director Rob Mullens have both released statements responding to the incident. Taggart said that he holds himself responsible and that the “safety of our students” comes first.
In a new report today, Taggart elaborated with clarification about what happened in workouts (via Aaron Fentress):
“We knew our guys weren’t in shape so we didn’t put them in the weight room or run them, or anything. We’re going to build up to that. It all started with pushups and sit-ups.”
One recruit tweeted that the workout described sounded nearly identical to what his high school team does.
A former player added that it sounded like the players were out of shape after missing a month of workouts because the team missed a bowl game.
The explanation from Taggart is in line with what players have said about the Ducks last season when the team finished 4-8 and bowl ineligible for the first time since 2004.
When Oregon fired former head coach Mark Helfrich, it was expected that the team would have an entire culture change and revamp. Taggart was hired for a reason.
In an earlier report from The Oregonian, “a large number of players” didn’t complete workouts and often worked at “half effort” last season.
“One current Duck — who like all players interviewed requested anonymity in exchange for their candor — recalled teammates who finished workouts to the letter, but with much lighter weights. Another said it was common for some to mark down that they had completed all the repetitions — even though they had not done so. At the height of summer, players left the weight room barely sweating.”
The new Oregon football strength and conditioning coach, Irele Oderinde, was punished with a month-long suspension without pay.
His team bio says that he has “10 years of experience in collegiate strength and conditioning” where he ran similar workouts.
In the report from CSNNW, Taggart explained that players were given breaks, water and told to resume workouts only when they were ready. Taggart added that some players did not finish the workouts.
“No one expected everyone to make it and do them all. Coach O doesn’t even work that way. He’s not even that kind of guy. He doesn’t yell, he doesn’t do any of that stuff.”
Players did not pass out on the field, according to Taggart, and the three who went to the hospital reportedly also went to classes and later had team dinner at the football facility.
None of them were rushed to the hospital for Rhabdomyolysis, which is more common for players with more muscle mass to breakdown. Two of the three players who were hospitalized weigh over 300 pounds.
Taggart clarified that these players were not “soft” as they worked hard to impress their new coaches.
“Those guys finished the workout. Others did not. The fact that those guys finished like that, it says lot about them. I hate that they had to go to the hospital, but it says a lot about them.”
While the opinions of folks in the media are loud and clear, it’s important to hear what the players — who actually participated in the workouts — had to say about the experience.
Here’s what Brady Aiello said about the experience in a since-deleted tweet (via 247 Sports):
“The workouts are just fine. Don’t be so quick to assume the media is correct and believe the players, Coach O is getting us right.”
Many other players on the team have continued their support for their coaches on Twitter: