The writer’s nephew, a star linebacker in college, struggles for a shot at the pros:
“Mike Nolan, a former defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, Jets and five other N.F.L. teams before being hired by Atlanta last winter, had just signaled for the ‘Threes,’ with Pat at middle linebacker or ‘Mike,’ to execute a ‘Dallas freeze,’ a package featuring two blitzing linebackers. As one of the scheme’s designated blitzers, Pat shot toward the quarterback then deftly swerved inside a blocking fullback to get at his target. Another head-turning display, although in this instance for entirely the wrong reasons. Coaches love speed. They love schemes even more, and in that one Pat was designated to be the ‘contain man.’ His responsibility was to go outside the blocking back to prevent the play from developing wide.
“‘Give me two good reasons,’ Nolan’s voice boomed, ‘why you went inside.’
“Pat went slack beneath a bowed helmet, then shrugged.
“‘That’s right!’ Nolan replied. ‘Because there aren’t any!’