No, Stewart Bradley and Omar Gaither didn't just get a case of whatever it was Ricky Williams had early in his career. They were just getting comfortable with their new toys.
Bantering back-and-forth with their helmets on, the linebackers discussed the NFL's new rule that allows a radio installed for one player on the defensive side of the ball, a quick, clear connection to coaches on the sidelines. Friday morning's practice was the first time the defense tried out the new technology, and it went off with few hitches.
In theory, the new headsets will allow defensive coaches to relay plays more efficiently than traditional methods, and so far they are delivering as advertised.
The signal, the linebackers said, should prove useful in a noisy stadium.
"It doesn't sound like (defensive coordinator) Jim (Johnson)," Bradley said. "Super clear and easy to hear."
"You know what," Gaither added, "he sounds like a completely different guy."
During games, Bradley will have the primary set, but should he be removed from the game, Gaither has a backup helmet at the ready on the sidelines.
On Friday, however, four players had them going, all at once – Bradley, Gaither and safeties Quintin Mikell and Sean Considine. Hearing four headsets go off at once created an echo effect, the players said.
But struggling to make sense of what Johnson says isn't anything new for this group of linebackers.
"It's harder to hear over O.G. than it is to hear over the radios," Bradley joked.
Gaither laughed. "He's right, though."
Despite everything going smoothly for the first day, Johnson said his defense will have to work on employing the system in "hairier situations," namely substitutions, personnel changes and louder game-time atmosphere.
Like a similar rule for the offense, the rule allows for only one player to be wearing the headset at any given time (specified by a green dot on the back of his helmet). If Bradley is taken off the field in a substitution package, Johnson will simply employ hand signals instead of changing Gaither's helmet. But if Bradley is injured, Johnson said Gaither and Mikell have backup sets. Still, traditional hand signals and good old-fashioned yelling aren't ready to go out of style.
And, even when Bradley's on the field, the radio signal will cut out when the play clock hits 15 seconds, the same time the quarterback's radio turns off. In order to keep the signals fresh in his players' minds, Johnson said, he won't eliminate them completely even when he has a radio on the field.
"We'll go back and forth," Johnson said. "Sometimes I'll call on the headset, and sometimes I'll just signal."
Johnson said a lot of the kinks will be worked out in preseason games, where he thinks officials will allow a second-stringer to wear a headset as well.
In the meantime, the defense will continue to practice using the radios in an attempt for the players to get used to hearing their coach in their ear at all times.
"(At first) it scared me, I'm not going to lie," Gaither said. "It's a good step, though. I like it."