NFL Sunday Insider: Every team needs a 'get-back' coach

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 7, 2013 - 7:12 PM

Strength coaches fulfill a vital sidelines task for the Vikings.

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The Ravens’ Jacoby Jones had to avoid Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on the sidelines on a 73-yard kickoff return in the second half of a Thanksgiving Day game because he strayed onto the field. Baltimore still won 22-20.

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You won’t find it anywhere on his résumé, but Tom Kanavy has been an NFL “get-back” coach since 1995.

For six days a week during an NFL season, he’s the head strength and conditioning coach for the Vikings. But for 60 minutes — or 75 in some cases — he’s the head “get-back” coach whose sole purpose is to constantly tell players, coaches and anyone else to “get back” when they start creeping onto the white out-of-bounds sideline stripe.

“Basically, it’s not that difficult a job,” Kanavy said. “It’s a consistent duty. You do it all game, every game. But it doesn’t take much skill or talent. You just need a loud voice and a big mouth.”

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin might disagree after being fined $100,000 this week for interfering with Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones on a kickoff return during a 22-20 loss to the Ravens on Thanksgiving. Pittsburgh also is in danger of losing a draft pick “because the conduct affected a play on the field,” the NFL said. Tomlin also should have been flagged with a 15-yard penalty but wasn’t.

Tomlin said he simply lost track of where he was.

“It happens,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “You get caught up in the game and you do need someone reminding you to get back. Your get-back coach has a stressful job. And, no question, there will be more scrutiny this week and going forward.”

As the Vikings head “get-back” coach, Kanavy positions himself 10 to 30 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage. That’s where players and officials on the field run the highest risk of injury from colliding with sideline players who drift into the restricted area.

Martin Streight, one of the team’s assistant strength and conditioning coaches, is the assistant “get-back” coach. He monitors the sideline at the line of scrimmage. When an extra pair of eyes is needed, Aaron McLaurin, another assistant strength and conditioning coach, helps out.

“By far, the worst time for get-back coaches is the preseason,” Kanavy said. “The young guys at the bottom of the depth chart during the preseason, when you have anywhere from 80 to 90 guys on the sideline, are the toughest. They’re so amped up. They’re so nervy to go in.”

Another difficult time is any time there’s about to be a change of possession. Specialized personnel packages assembling to hurry onto the field also adds to the challenge.

“If it’s a second down that results in third-and-short, you have different personnel groups that have to take the field,” Kanavy said. “So they tend to start crowding the field. And then the coach has to step in front of the players to see, and they start getting into the referee’s area, which is your most problematic situation. That’s when you have to physically get in there yourself and just remind them that they all need to get back.”

Three observations …

• Anyone old enough to remember Bud Grant coaching pre-1985 still finds it difficult to believe that the Vikings are at a disadvantage when they play outside in the cold.

Bud Grant

According to ESPN, the Vikings are 1-6-1 since 2006 when the temperature is below 40. The Ravens, meanwhile, are 14-2 at home, including 2-0 this year, when the temperature is below 40. Sunday’s game-time forecast: 32 degrees.

• We all knew a theft took place when Trent Richardson was traded in Week 3. We just didn’t realize Cleveland was the thief, not the victim.

• What Ed Reed wants — to play two more years — and what he’ll get — a 2014 retirement and entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame five years later — are two different things.

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