The Rams aren’t the only NFL team with a ‘get-back’ coach

Yes, the Patriots have one, too.

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay walks on the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay walks on the sideline during a game in October. The team "get-back" coach Ted Rath can be seen in the background (left). –Tony Avelar / AP

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Ted Rath’s official job title is the “director of strength training and performance” for the Los Angeles Rams. In 2017, Rath’s first season with the team, the 35-year-old was voted the strength coach of the year by his NFL peers. According to the Rams’ website, Rath was “integral” in helping Los Angeles finish that season as the healthiest team in the league.

The team, however, makes no mention of the responsibilities for which, at least recently, he has become most well known.

Following the Rams’ NFC Championship win nearly two weeks ago, a roughly 40-second montage of Rath performing his side duties as the team’s “get back” coach went viral.

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As he explained to NFL Films, Rath spends his time during games policing the Rams sidelines to make sure players and coaches — especially head coach Sean McVay — don’t intrude on the field of play, especially when the offense is on the field.

“I literally have to spend most of my time when the offense is on the field standing right behind Sean and ripping him out of the way when the official’s about to run into him just so we don’t get a penalty,” Rath told NFL Films.

“It is kind of like a dance,” he said. “Maybe tango? Like a side step into the path of the official and then remove back.”

The video of Rath shadowing McVay as the 33-year-old head coach paced the painted striping on the edge of the field and physically pulling him back generated tens of thousands of retweets and likes on Twitter, countless blog posts over the last two weeks, and even some Super Bowl prop bets.

But the truth is that Rath’s job is hardly unique.

A number of college football teams have gotten attention for their own respective get-back coaches. Clemson strength coach Adam Smotherman was designated the team’s de-facto get-back coach by head coach Dabo Sweeney in 2014, after officials warned the team during a game in which defensive coordinator Brent Venables had repeatedly intruded onto the field.

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The Athletic reported in 2017 that the get-back coach had become a “must-have” in the college game. And so too in the professional ranks.

In 2010, after New York Jets strength coach Sal Alosi tripped a Dolphins player running down the sidelines, the NFL issued a reminder to teams on bench-area restrictions, which said “each coaching staff should designate a ‘get-back’ coach.”

“This individual must be aware of all sideline restrictions and will be responsible for insuring that your team and staff are in compliance,” league officials said.

The policy has apparently been in place since the early 1990s. While the NFL has a marked area where coaches and players are allowed to stand on the sidelines, those rules are routinely violated.

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“I don’t think the guys that are being asked to get back appreciate it,” Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who was once fined for interfering with an opposing player, told NFL Films.

In the full 5-minute segment from which the viral Rath-McVay footage was clipped, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the get-back coach is typically the team’s strength and conditioning coach “because he’s got some muscle.”

For the Patriots, it’s not different. According to a team spokesman, their get-back coach is Moses Cabrera, the Patriots’ head strength and conditioning coach.

Unfortunately, Cabrera wasn’t made available for interviews during Super Bowl week, so the degree to which he has to corral head coach Bill Belichick and other members of the Patriots remains relatively unknown.

That said, it appears Belichick, ever the rulebook obsessive, can handle himself on the sidelines. The NFL Films segment included brief footage of Belichick hoarsely screaming at another coach, “Get back! Just get off the field, will you!” as he ushered him back to the Patriots bench area.

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While the Belichick-versus-McVay matchup in Super Bowl LIII has been framed as the NFL’s ultimate battle of football minds, this may be the one area (besides, of course, age) in which there’s a clear mismatch. McVay himself has admitted that he had been “probably the most difficult one” when it comes to staying off the field.

“He is good at pretty much everything else in life,” Rath told NFL Films. “But the one thing that I would say Sean McVay is not good at is situational awareness of the actual sideline.”

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