FAB 3. Buckner Introduces Bucs To The Shiver Board
Tampa Bay’s defensive line was soft last year, and former defensive line coach Jay Hayes allowed that to happen.
That’s a big reason why he was fired in the offseason and replaced by Brentson Buckner. Bucs general manager Jason Licht, head coach Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator were tired of seeing the Bucs get pushed around upfront and they wanted to get tougher and more physical.
Buckner started that process right away upon his arrival in Tampa Bay back in the OTAs by introducing the shiver board, which is akin to a blocking sled, although the shiver board is lower to the ground and doesn’t rock back or upwards when its hit.
It’s basically a lightly padded piece of metal with one purpose.
“It creates toughness by callousing your body all the way to your jaw,” Buckner said. “As defensive linemen we don’t play. We hit offensive linemen and they don’t feel like air. They feel and they stop, and you’ve got to get used to doing that. That’s why boxers punch heavy bags and don’t just punch speed bags. They’ve got to callous their hands to fit their power and that’s what the shiver board is.
“My whole mindset in practice is individual work. We’re not going to do nothing that we can’t use in a game, and we won’t hit air in a game. As D-linemen we sign a contract that we’ll make contact every play, so you’ve got to get your body used to it because you don’t want to be shocked when you get there and have to hit. So you might as well get used to it. It’s a way to warm your body up and wake your body up and say, ‘Okay, here comes the pain.’”
When I first watched the Bucs defensive linemen engage in this exercise during practice back in the OTAs I actually winced. Buckner and assistant defensive line coach Paul Spicer use a big rubber band to keep their players’ wrists close together and then the linemen get on their knees, lunge forward, roll their hips and strike the shiver board with their open palms.
It looks like hurt. Some of the players grimaced and massage their hands and wrists after the first few reps.
My wrists and hands hurt just watching it. The shiver board is hard, immovable and unforgiving.
“We hit that shiver board, man,” Bucs defensive tackle Beau Allen told me during an interview for one of his Bucs Training Camp Diaries. “Yeah, we’re going to put some dents in that (f*#%@*$) – and you can print that. You can’t hit offensive linemen in OTAs, so we used the shiver board. That thing is hard and it doesn’t move. Coach Buckner wants us calloused and ready for the season.
“With the sled, the shiver board – there is really no way around it, man. That’s how you get better at football. You hit. You’ve got to learn the details and the techniques and you’ve got to take those things seriously, but you have to hit, too. You can see us working, man. That shiver board is an important thing. You can’t take that stuff lightly. That individual work translates into team period, which translates into games. Those are the little things that make you a better player. It might hurt to hit it, but I don’t feel pain so I wouldn’t know.”
There were some OTA practices where Buckner and Spicer would have the D-linemen take turns hitting the shiver board for 10 minutes. As someone who has vocally criticized the Bucs for not having a physical training camp last summer and believing that was the catalyst for a soft year in the trenches for both sides of the line in Tampa Bay, I was encouraged by what I saw back in May.
Having the defensive linemen hit the shiver board and the 7-man blocking sled every day would harden them and lead to a more physical training camp, which is exactly what happened.
“Well, I wouldn’t say it’s painful, but it is stiff,” said Bucs defensive end Will Clarke. “It’s something that helps us with our technique and being physical because more times than not you can’t move a shiver board, but you can move an offensive lineman. For technique, it’s good to hit the shiver board because it makes moving offensive linemen pretty easy after that. So doing drills like that, constantly using the shiver board, having straight arms and going at the sled like that will always help.”
Bucs defensive lineman DaVonte Lambert noticed a big difference between this year’s training camp and last year’s camp in part because of the work the unit did on the shiver board, which wasn’t used when Hayes was in charge.
“I must say the shiver board helps a lot, especially with shooting hands and getting extension,” Lambert said. “It helps simulate a heavy body in front of you like an offensive lineman. I think with us just working on it each and every day is going to make us a lot better. Sometimes you play against O-linemen that just want to place block and just stay there not running their feet. So it just kind of simulates that in some way. We do it practice for warm-ups. It gets our body going and it helps with muscle memory as far a extension and being strong with hands and stuff like that.”
Tampa Bay’s defensive line is far from being a finished piece of work. Camp injuries to defensive tackles Vita Vea (calf) and Mitch Unrein (concussion) slowed some of the progress the unit was making. There is still work to do from a chemistry standpoint as far as stuffing the run and collapsing the pocket and rushing the passer.
But the Bucs defensive line is more physical this year. There’s no doubt about that. And Buckner’s use of the shiver board is one big reason why.