Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
I realize NFL owners had to compromise in order to get a 17th regular season game added to the new CBA, but reducing padded training camp practices from 28 to 16? That just seems like a bad idea.
To paraphrase Meatloaf, I would do just about anything for an extra regular season game, but would I really do that?
Turns out, the owners are willing to do that. What is that, you ask? Reduce padded practices in training camp from 28 to 16.
Of all the things that were included in the NFL’s proposed new CBA that is currently up for a vote by the players, a reduction in padded practices is what popped the most for me.
I guess I shouldn’t care about it, but wouldn’t a reduction in hitting cause ineffective tackling when the bullets are live? Besides, haven’t the already reduced padded practices greatly eroded tackling in recent years? Wouldn’t less padded practices limit the development in chemistry between quarterback and receiver, running back and offensive linemen (plural) and offensive lineman and offensive lineman (singular)?
I get it, the owners really want that extra television and in-stadium revenue. The players really don’t want to work more for less (at least not the highly-paid superstars). The word has been out for a long time: Football can be detrimental to a person’s health. The NFL knows this. The players know this. The public knows this. Asking an employee to put his body and brain through even more than he already does? That just seems wrong.
Therefore, what better way to compromise than to ask your employees to put their bodies through less when the cameras aren’t rolling and the sponsors aren’t paying?
But a total of about 24 hours less? That seems like a bit much. Listen, I’m more pro players than I am pro owners, but above all else, I am pro quality.
This new proposal already suggests taking away one preseason game. I understand that, but that’s one less session in-which to evaluate your players to see where they’re at. In my opinion, that wouldn’t matter at all if the amount of padded practices remained roughly the same. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has said more than once that what he and his assistant coaches see from a player in training camp is just as important as what they see in a preseason game.
Now you’re going to ask them to make conclusions based on 16 padded practices instead of 28?
I realize there will still be practices in shells and practices in helmets and shorts during training camp, but how many game-like situations can you simulate under those conditions?
How much time will a youngster now get to prove himself to his coaches? Are coaches going to make future evaluations based on their gut? Is a rookie’s draft pedigree now going to weigh more heavily into deciding if he stays or goes?
For that matter, how crowded will training camp be on days when the practices are padded? Will fans have to fight to find a parking spot or a good vantage point on the hillside?
This proposal of a drastic reduction in hard-hitting training camp sessions might seem like a good idea to the owners. But to me, it feels like they’re selling out the integrity of their game just to gain an extra week of revenue.
Finally, remember the scene in Rocky II when Mickey tells Rocky that a boxer must train hard for 45,000 minutes in-order to prepare for a 45-minute fight? Let’s just hope this drastic reduction in padded training camp practices doesn’t have most NFL players looking like bums at the start of the regular season.