July 27, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan (center) and head coach Greg Schiano (right) watch practice during training camp at One Buc Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Conditioning Test Trips Up Penn


With the Buccaneers reporting to training camp and a load of roster moves being made early on in Tampa it’s easy to miss a few things, one of which was Donald Penn failing his opening physical and landing on the PUP list before camp even really got kicked off.

July 27, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackle Donald Penn (70) during training camp at One Buc Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Now the way that this news has been portrayed is that Penn strained a calf in California that prevented him from passing his conditioning test, he’s “hurt.”

Roy Cummings tells a different story, one of a coach who demands his athletes be in shape, and of a team that wasn’t where it needs to be at the start of the season.

“It was a rough test, but it was a necessary one,” said Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph, who reported with the rest of Tampa Bay’s veteran players for Schiano’s first training camp and was immediately thrust into a grueling fitness drill for which some were clearly not prepared.

Though he refused to provide names or details of the punishment that will be meted out, Schiano made it clear some of the 90 players on the roster failed the test, which called for 16 110-yard sprints. Players were put into three groups — skill, combo and line — with minimal rest between sprints.

“It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible, either,” Schiano said. “What it does is allow us to get a clear measure of cardiovascular conditioning, and you have to train for it or you are not going to pass it.”

Remember last year all the fuss about Albert Haynesworth in Washington failing his conditioning test? Conditioning tests are not new, players failing them aren’t either, but this is not something that bodes well for Donald Penn.

I’ve said many times Donald Penn is overrated. He’s not a bad left tackle, no, but he’s considered upper-tier (one of the NFL top 100 for instance) and that reputation is still a mystery to me. Donald Penn is serviceable, but wholly unremarkable as a run-blocker and he is ill-suited to defend the edge against top speed rushers…

To me, he’s an above average right tackle in over his head at left. But a lot of people think he’s elite…

Right there, before it even gets to on-field merits, stop the argument because you can’t name another elite left tackle who failed a conditioning test. We’re not talking about injuries, we’re talking about conditioning and while I’ve been stalling for you, a name is still yet to come into your mind.

That’s because elite left tackles don’t fail conditioning tests.

The bit about protecting the edge, struggling with speed rushers, that’s tied into the conditioning and despite some linemen’s ability to look fat and play athletic, some just play fat when they look that way…

Donald Penn may be one of those players.

The team will circle the wagons, call the injury something Penn needs to work back from, but if you read between the lines even battery-mate Davin Joseph admitted Penn needed to get into shape.

But, this may be the best thing that ever happened to Penn, this may be the kick in the butt he needs to really reach that top tier of offensive linemen. If Penn could get his body into peak condition, nobody has ever denied his massive potential. At times in his career he has flashed it, putting together several series, halves or even games at an elite level. But consistently, Penn has never put it together.

It’s well known Raheem Morris ran a loose ship, let plenty of things slide.

Not so for Schiano. Maybe that discipline and what Schiano will demand of his athletes will get Penn to consistently fulfill that Pro Bowl potential.

Or maybe he’ll eat himself out of the league.

Either way, Greg Schiano’s offensive line will not wear down at the end of drives. I will always be in favor of that.

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