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Todd Marinovich opens practice with new team, his first organized football in 16 years

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Todd Marinovich opens practice with new team, his first organized football in 16 years,

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Former USC and Oakland Raiders quarterback Todd Marinovich, 48, returns to football with the SoCal Coyotes. We tagged along for the teams first practice on Saturday held at Shadow Hills High School in Indio. (August 12, 2017) Richard Lui/The Desert Sun

The last time Todd Marinovich played organized football, he was not in a good place. He was a member of the Arena League’s L.A. Avengers in 2001 and he was, by his own admission, deep into his drug addiction and in no way a useful teammate. 

On Saturday, more than 16 years later and at age 48, Marinovich is officially back on the football field, a place he calls home, this time with a clear mind and positive spirit. 

Marinovich, who announced in July that he was returning to football, took snaps in full uniform as a member of the SoCal Coyotes, a developmental pro team in the California desert. It was the team’s first practice as Marinovich and his teammates worked on mastering the run-and-shoot offense in preparation for their season-opener Sept. 2.

Wearing No. 12, just as he did with the Raiders, Marinovich and his teammates went through an early-morning practice at an auxiliary field at Shadow Hills High School.  The team is doing two-a-days with one practice from 6 to 8 a.m. and one from 6 to 8 p.m.. The timing is designed to avoid the 110-degree mid-day desert heat. 

“It felt alright. It’s been a long time so I didn’t have very high expectations at first,” Marinovich said after completing the morning practice. “So I just want to come back this afternoon and improve on what I did this morning. For not doing it in awhile. It was a, I don’t know, maybe a C-plus. It was passing. But we’ll try to work on improving it.”

Marinovich and the offensive unit worked on the intricacies of the signal-calling of the run-and-shot offense. Offensive coach Brett Davis shadowed Marinovich working with him on the nomenclature of the system. 

Marinovich would stand in shotgun formation, bark out something like “Dallas 32, S-Arrow! Go!” and as his teammates ran their routes, Marinovich picked from the multiple receivers and running backs all available to receive his passes. 

Davis would say, “That was good, but you don’t need to say ‘S-Arrow’ in that case just ‘Arrow.'” And they’d line up and do it again. 

The outing had other typical Day One problems like some ground-level shotgun snaps that the lanky lefty Marinovich couldn’t bend down to grab before they whistled past him, and a few errant passes or dropped balls.

It was all under the watchful eye of coach J. David Miller who was for the most part happy with what he saw.

“The last time Todd threw a ball, Madonna was on the cover of Vogue Magazine,” Miller joked. “He’s got some rust and that’s OK, and it’s the first time in our 10 seasons that we’ve had to bring a quarterback along sort of starting from zero so that’s a new experience for us. And the run and shoot is a high-rep offense so that will come, and his football IQ is through the roof. The great thing is when he starts throwing the ball you forget about his age. It’s just gorgeous.”

Marinovich, who has been sober and rehabilitating from drug addiction for the last 11 months, did look good throwing the ball. Short quick passes and mid-range slants were on target with touch or zip, whichever was called for. Long balls sometimes sailed long, and there was an occasional wonky spiral, but for him it was mostly about getting comfortable with the new system.

“I’m comfortable out there. I’m just going to get more and more comfortable,” Marinovich said. “And I’m still a work in progress on giving up perfectionism, because there’s really no such thing. So when it comes to throwing I try to be perfect but that’s not happening. It’s gonna take a few weeks, but I’m not trippin’ I just need to go ice.”

 

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