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Four Words a Coach Never Wants to Hear: “Out for the Season” The NFL Needs to Strongly Consider Changes to Offseason Workouts


JetNation
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With all 32 teams in full swing at training camp, it seems the injury bug has plagued just about every team.  These injuries aren’t all small, temporary day-to-day injuries but season ending injuries.  This year more than any other I could think of, the amount of ACL tears, and leg injuries in general has skyrocketed to a disturbing level.

Players with torn ACLs already from training camp include: Bryan Bulaga(Packers), Aurelius Benn(Eagles), Jeremy Maclin(Eagles), Denario Alexander(Chargers), Vidal Hazelton(Jets), Aaron Berry(Jets) Chris Culliver(49ers), Joe Morgan(Saints), Victor Butler(Cowboys), Dan Koppen (Broncos). 

I may have forgotten a few but in the two weeks since most training camps started that is TEN players with torn ACL’s prior to the first preseason game for most teams.  Other injuries include Baltimore TE Dennis Pitta(Hip Disclocation), Chicago CB Kelvin Hayden(Torn Hamstring), Saints DE Kenyon Coleman(torn pectoral muscle) and Buccaneers PK Connor Barth(Torn Achille’s Tendon).  It is alarming to say the least that these devastating injuries are occurring.  The average professional career of most NFL players is only three years and injuries like these can cause some of these players their livelihood for their career.

The NFL has moved the NFL Draft back about a month starting next year, but that doesn’t mean that OTAs(Organized Team Activities) and mandatory mini-camp will be pushed back as well.  I have a proposal for the NFL and NFLPA to potentially help cut down on these horrific, career-changing injuries during the offseason:

1.  Push OTA’s back from early June to late June.

2.  Push mandatory mini-camp back to mid July and have it for an entire week (2 days with helmets only, 3 days with shoulder pads and helmets).  Football is a violent, collision sport and some collision is necessary in mini-camp, even if it’s light thud and tackling form drills.  This will allow the players to get a bit of contact in, and gradually get them used to live blocking, and hitting.

3.  Start training camp August 1st and eliminate one preseason game(from 4 games to 3).  Maybe add in a controlled practice scrimmage for teams in locations somewhat near each other.  Training camp should start the same way mini-camp did;  2 days of helmets, 3 days shoulder pads and helmets, and then full pads after that.  It is an elementary philosophy, but with the effort NFL players put into practice, it should be a consideration.  After every third day of full equipment coaches should have the choice of upper body pads or lower body pads ONLY for the fourth day.  In the regular season, NFL CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) only allows for FOURTEEN padded practices per 17-week season.  Eleven of these practices must be held once a week for the first eleven weeks of the season, and then three more in the next six weeks.  Padded practices are defined in the CBA as “a practice in which players are required to wear helmets and shoulder pads, in addition to any other equipment required by the Club, subject to the exceptions set forth in Article 23, Section 6(B). (pg. 143).” 

The padded practices while using only lower body pads (knee pads, thigh pads, hip pads) should be utilized more often to prevent bumping knees, and unnatural bending and collapsing of the legs.  Most coaches will use their one day a week padded practice to wear upper body pads, which is fine, but would it really be a hassle to make players wear their lowers? I don’t think so.  In addition, players will be mandated by the NFL to wear lower body pads in games starting this season, so why not wear them in practice as well, even if they’re not wearing shoulder pads.    Will wearing pads stop injuries from occurring? No.  Will it help in keeping the players from getting caught in a compromised position? More often than not.

Obviously, this proposal wouldn’t be able to be negotiated until the next CBA, but it’s something to think about.  It decreases the off time the players have in the offseason, but after this offseason of Aaron Hernandez, and others, would it be such a bad thing?

This proposal would also help coaches keep track of their players more closely in the offseason to make sure that they are keeping up with their own training.  Another question raised would be: Are the lack of two-a-days what is causing players to put a little more effort into their one practice per day and thus maybe being overaggressive?  That may be the case for some but most players will tell you that when they’re out of the practice field, they’re going to give 110% of their effort.  However, if two-a-days were still allowed, would players hold back a bit of that excess built up energy knowing they have another practice?  All questions that wouldn’t be easy to answer.

My proposal is based on what I feel should be done by the NFL to get guys hitting in mini-camp and decreasing the off time of the players in order to ensure that they are staying active and getting football-related work in for 10 months of the year.  Players can weight lift three times a day, run sprints twice a day, or run hills all they want, but if they’re not doing football relevant activities, the chances of a football injury can occur when they get to training camp.

I hope that we don’t have to see any more of these season ending injuries in the NFL and I hope the NFL and the player’s association have realized the issues and are currently working on a plan of some sort to ensure player’s safety.  The NFL is doing more than enough of that in game situations, and they should continue to look at this for practices as well.

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Accidents can happen at any time.  Granted, the more time there is the more chance for an accident.  But the flip-side to that is players will enter the season (particularly pre-season games) before they're at 100% if the off-season is cut short by almost another month. It's short as it is.  Keep in mind dozens of players have to learn new playbooks on top of the physical conditioning on top of practicing the playbook after the conditioning is up to speed.

 

IMO more injuries would occur if the season began with an off-season that was weeks shorter.

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The problem is that you have guys who should weigh between 180 to 190 lbs trying to bulk up to 210/220 to become Calvin Johnson. The joints can't handle that. All of these new injuries are occurring after deep cuts to practice time, and the short sample is telling you that less practice time doesn't equate to fewer injuries.

Edited by T0mShane
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Accidents can happen at any time.  Granted, the more time there is the more chance for an accident.  But the flip-side to that is players will enter the season (particularly pre-season games) before they're at 100% if the off-season is cut short by almost another month. It's short as it is.  Keep in mind dozens of players have to learn new playbooks on top of the physical conditioning on top of practicing the playbook after the conditioning is up to speed.

 

IMO more injuries would occur if the season began with an off-season that was weeks shorter.

 

 

The problem is that you have guys who should weigh between 180 to 190 lbs trying to bulk up to 210/220 to become Calvin Johnson. The joints can't handle that. All of these new injuries are occurring after deep cuts to practice time, and the short sample is telling you that less practice time doesn't equate to fewer injuries.

 

Agreed with both of you.

 

You wouldn't be changing the frequency of the injuries through these types of changes, you'd simply be changing when they are most likely to occur.  It's impossible to avoid injuries when it comes to football, and the increasing physical demands of the sport are only making that worse, as guys are not only expected to be bigger, but at the same time faster, than ever before.  Just consider the injuries that plague plenty of other sports that don't have the kind of demands that football does.

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werent they talking about getting more practice?

 

they said new cba screwed everyone up because the coaches had to make practices more intense because of less time and have players coming in not in football shape=injuries

 

espn insiders were saying how every other sport throughout the world builds up their players over the year and in the nfl they just throw them in and expect them to be in football shape (which cant happen because you dont just play football by yourself in offseason)

Edited by jetsjetsjetss
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I completely understand trying to eliminate the excess contact during offseason, and training camp, BUT these guys shouldn't get the optional offseason work out crap, this is their profession they are paid a YEARLY salary they should all have to be around the team facilities for conditioning, and programs to keep every player in shape, and properly prepared for the rigors of the NFL season. Having guys disappear for months at a time with no conditioning put themselves in danger, and if a team pays millions for your services you should be doing everything they ask 12 months a year while under contract, and I am not saying no time off, but leaving 1st week of January, and then really only around the team for about 6 weeks until July is kind of ridiculous IMO.

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I completely understand trying to eliminate the excess contact during offseason, and training camp, BUT these guys shouldn't get the optional offseason work out crap, this is their profession they are paid a YEARLY salary they should all have to be around the team facilities for conditioning, and programs to keep every player in shape, and properly prepared for the rigors of the NFL season. Having guys disappear for months at a time with no conditioning put themselves in danger, and if a team pays millions for your services you should be doing everything they ask 12 months a year while under contract, and I am not saying no time off, but leaving 1st week of January, and then really only around the team for about 6 weeks until July is kind of ridiculous IMO.

 

 I understand your point, but there are too many layers to address it with a blanket statement.

 

First, what you propose does not eliminate injury.  Injuries happen.  What you propose is what the military does and you have knee, back, joint and other injuries when you have a controlled physical training program.

 

Second, it is not like players can sit on their a$$ and do nothing during the off season.   Even the lines need to have endurance.  Doing nothing would minimize their impact, their career and ultimately the money they could earn.

 

I would guess 90% of the players and I think that is low have a personal trainer they hire and/or utilize their team's strength and conditioning coach/team to develop a program to improve them.

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It used to be broken bones--but you played through it. 

 

Then it was the concussions--until recently, you played through it. 

 

Now it's ACL/MCL tears, broken hips...wtf

 

Have we reached the pinnacle of human performance...are we genetically maxed out? Maybe Goodell should rethink his whole stance on HGH and antler powder.  

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I actually read a very, very interesting article in a sports medicine journal a few months back during the dead-time of the off-season, wish I could find it. Essentially it was saying that all the new elliptical and elliptical-style running machines that elite athletes are using instead of treadmills and outside running in order to save wear and tear on their joints could be the major factor in these non-contact ACL injuries.  The guy, who was a beyond esteemed ortho, said that non-trauma ACL tears happen because of a brief period of lack of muscle memory, to put it crudely, and that by "cheating" their knees out of this by running on the aforementioned machines, they are actually setting themselves up for these types of injuries.  ACLs should not be torn that easily and I'm gonna put good money you're going to see a lot of these types of studies come out in the next 5 years or so to the point where they pinpoint the types of exercise routines that are predisposing individuals to these injuries.  It was a very fascinating article and I would not be at all surprised if he was right on the money.  Now of course traumas are traumas and there's nothing anybody can do to prevent lattimore or mcgahee's injury, but these non-contact ones shouldn't be happening as frequently.

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I actually read a very, very interesting article in a sports medicine journal a few months back during the dead-time of the off-season, wish I could find it. Essentially it was saying that all the new elliptical and elliptical-style running machines that elite athletes are using instead of treadmills and outside running in order to save wear and tear on their joints could be the major factor in these non-contact ACL injuries.  The guy, who was a beyond esteemed ortho, said that non-trauma ACL tears happen because of a brief period of lack of muscle memory, to put it crudely, and that by "cheating" their knees out of this by running on the aforementioned machines, they are actually setting themselves up for these types of injuries.  ACLs should not be torn that easily and I'm gonna put good money you're going to see a lot of these types of studies come out in the next 5 years or so to the point where they pinpoint the types of exercise routines that are predisposing individuals to these injuries.  It was a very fascinating article and I would not be at all surprised if he was right on the money.  Now of course traumas are traumas and there's nothing anybody can do to prevent lattimore or mcgahee's injury, but these non-contact ones shouldn't be happening as frequently.

 

Wow. That is a great theory to think about. 

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Most torn ACL's/tendon's/muscles occur in non-contact situations believe it or not.   Revis tore up his knee last year trying to plant to defend a wr,  Hazelton tore his ACL running a route with no contact.  Cumberland tore his achilles trying to position himself for a catch in the endzone.  When Shaun Livingston(NBA) tour his ACL and MCL on the same play, he was going up for a dunk in a fast break. 

 

I do not think reducing these types of injuries is an exact science.  Tearing an ACL or MCL has almost nothing to do with what kind of shape your in etc.   

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The problem is that you have guys who should weigh between 180 to 190 lbs trying to bulk up to 210/220 to become Calvin Johnson. The joints can't handle that. All of these new injuries are occurring after deep cuts to practice time, and the short sample is telling you that less practice time doesn't equate to fewer injuries.

Lol I didn't even consider that, which is the most obvious point & one which the author inadvertently makes.

If a shorter off-season program would be beneficial in preventing injuries then you'd see few by now & a whole slew of them accumulate, starting in the next week or so.

But pointing out all the EARLY injuries is showing injuries that would have happened anyway (theoretically) if camp was 3 weeks shorter and today was final cutdowns.

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