Bye week not a week off for team

A bye week for most collegiate football programs is normally reserved for rest and relaxation. However, for the Florida A&M University football team it is all about preparation.

The Rattlers had somewhat of a struggle during their first couple of games this season. After dropping two games to Delaware State University and the University of Miami, the Rattlers jumped back on track with three straight wins.

After defeating Howard University, mounting a breathtaking comeback against Winston-Salem State University, and taking a win away against Tennessee State University at the Atlanta Football Classic, the Rattlers’ record is now 3-2. With the week off, coaches have scaled back practice.

“We played two teams our first game, Delaware State and ourselves,” said head coach Rubin Carter. “We need to heal some bumps and bruises and begin to work on the player’s mental game and not so much physical.”

Coach Carter continued to comment on the season’s second game against the University of Miami by saying that it brought out the Rattlers’ true spirit of “playing hard and competing well.”

Redshirt junior wide receiver Derek Williams said although a bye week is supposed to be the team’s time off, they have no time to lounge.

“It’s still the middle of the season, so if we take the week off we’ll be in trouble,” Williams said.

All the Rattlers’ wins this season have come in the form of second-half comebacks, and it has started to take a toll on the team. Carter said that the team must play every second of the game as a unit.

“We need to work on execution on both sides of the ball, and we have to focus on us as a team instead of focusing on just competing,” Carter said.

Outside linebacker Dannel Shepard said the Rattlers need to start faster and finish stronger, instead of starting slow and constantly coming from behind.

Outside of practice, the team has spent part of its time in meetings.

“We’re basically doing our reads, installing and becoming more aware of our assignments for our new opponents,” Shepard said.

Off the field, the remainder of the staff is in the process of fall evaluations. Staff has used its bye week time in search of prospective players who can “compete on field and academically,” Carter said.

With recruiting being the lifeblood of the program, Carter said his staff is working overtime to secure success for the future.

The major difference between this week and normal practices is that players are granted the weekend off. This has brought a smile to some of the players.

“Thank the Lord,” Williams said. “I have homework to get caught up on.”

Shepard said in addition to studying he would also use this time to spend with his family.

A successful season is a central focus for Carter, but he enforces education as his first priority for the student athletes.

“A player has to be able to compete academically and physically. They should be doing all the things academically to succeed,” Carter said.