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August 25, 2010

Training camp -- A football tradition that needs to die

Nfl-injuriesLast week, this post noted the growing financial implications of injury risk in the National Football League and the utter lunacy of exposing high-priced player assets to such injury risk during the NFL's grueling pre-season practices and games.

This week, William Rhoden of the NY Times notices the same thing:

The N.F.L. perpetrates two annual frauds: one against the American public, the other against players who give body and blood to make the league a multibillion-dollar enterprise.

The first fraud is preseason football, those empty, glamorized scrimmages that teams force on season-ticket holders as parts of the regular-season package.

The second, more dangerous fraud is training camp, which exposes veteran players to unnecessary risk and perpetuates the myth that football is more complicated than it really is.

Despite the fact that every NFL player engages in year-around training, the tradition of a long and largely useless training camp still survives at the highest level of American football. Thankfully, at least some in NFL management are starting to notice:

"I don't know if the body has enough time to recuperate because you're seeing so many soft-tissue injuries," Jerry Reese, the Giants' general manager, said. "There's more opportunity for injury because there's so much more time on the field. Then you have training camp and you go double during training camp. And you see all across the league there are a bunch of injuries." [.  .  .]

"It's a balancing act; I'm not sure how well we're balancing it right now." [.  .  .]

Giants linebacker Keith Bulluck said it did not make sense for players to beat one another up in camp "and then when we have to go play a team, we don't have the player that we need."

Bulluck recalled that in his rookie season, in 2000, most teams held two-a-day practices with lots of contact. "It was physical, very physical, when I came in," he said.

Over the years, many teams have evolved toward more classroom work. [.  .  .]

Referring to Giants camp, he added: "Not too many two-a-days here, either. I guess the coaches are beginning to understand that it's more about the season. Beating the guys up in August doesn't help in September, October, November and December."

This much is certain: training camp is an idea that has outlived its usefulness.

There are few athletic endeavors more boring than football practice. Hammering players for a month and a half before a brutal 4+ month season makes no sense at all.

Teams should complete their hardest workouts a couple of months before the beginning of the season and then tailor pre-season work-outs toward maximizing strength, speed and health while emphasizing scheme understanding.

As Rhoden's article notes, teams are slowly moving that way. But, then again, despite serious training camp attrition already, did you know that Texans Coach Gary Kubiak announced earlier this week that he intended to expose his starters to high injury risk for three quarters in this week's practice game against the Cowboys?

So it goes.

Posted by Tom at August 25, 2010 12:00 AM |

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