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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    A different take on off-season workouts

    Howard Balzer
    Sports Xchange

    For a while, it seemed as if there was almost a tacit acknowledgement by players that a certain amount of contact in off-season workouts was going to happen. A wink-wink, if you will.

    After all, for several weeks, there were reports from all over the NFL landscape about the contact that was occurring. Most of the evidence came from the players themselves.
    Consider that rules regarding off-season workouts have been negotiated between the players association and league. Even though, except for one mandatory minicamp, the workouts are voluntary for veterans, there are strict guidelines. Teams can only have 14 days of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), and there are also other restrictions, including one that limits the number of hours players can be "required" to be on the field or at the team facility.

    Most contact is generally prohibited, but the rules specify that there can be no practicing of the bump-and-run or contact between offensive and defensive linemen. Players can wear only helmets and some shoulder protection, but no regular pads.

    In past years, there have often been a few violations each off-season, which result in a club losing some OTA days. For a team to be called on the carpet, usually a player is the one to blow the whistle on his team. When that happens, the NFLPA requests practice tape, after which the penalties can occur. The union could also investigate if it sees media reports of contact.

    A few years ago, then-Arizona guard Pete Kendall was released just before training camp started with the belief it happened because then-Cardinals coach Dennis Green thought it was Kendall who reported the team to the union, resulting in a loss of off-season practice time.


    This year, however, things were quiet on the violation front until last week, when suddenly the Raiders were slapped with a one-week penalty. It is not yet known if a player was the culprit. But there are also suspicions that the union acted, just to make it seem they are paying attention.

    The ban means little since the Raiders had already concluded their on-field work. In reality, that is often the case. Even though teams are permitted to have those 14 OTAs over five weeks, most teams don't use them all anyway. So, losing the final week, which is often the discipline, amounts to a slap on the wrist.

    After being notified of the decision, a statement from Raiders coach Lane Kiffin said, "I was notified that the players union believes our total commitment to improving our football team has resulted in some violations of rules regarding practice standards. The union has complained about the high level of intensity, player aggressiveness and fast pace of our practices and, as a result, has taken away the final week of our off-season program."

    One player didn't seem to mind. Said linebacker Kirk Morrison, "We just play with a fast tempo, and whatever happens with a fast tempo happens. We're running around, we're practicing, finishing our technique. It's so fast-paced, it's hard to stop. You get guys running at full speed, and guys are going to put a hand on you."

    Kiffin at one point recently said tackle Robert Gallery was participating with a "nasty demeanor" and had been successful getting "guys on the ground."

    The Raiders weren't alone.

    A recent story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer had the headline: "Seahawks Work on Bump-and-Run in Minicamp." Items from the story said, "Marcus Trufant used his right forearm to jostle D.J. Hackett as he broke off the line of scrimmage, disrupting Hackett's route and depriving quarterback Matt Hasselbeck of his primary receiver. A few plays later, Pete Hunter missed his jam on Deion Branch, allowing Branch to run past him and take a deep pass from Seneca Wallace."

    Want more?

    Giants fullback Jim Finn was placed on injured reserve recently because of a torn labrum in his shoulder. The Newark Star-Ledger reported that, "According to someone familiar with Jim Finn's shoulder injury, the seven-year veteran was injured late last month in one of the team's first OTA workouts. The person said Finn delivered a block and immediately felt a pop in his shoulder."

    In another incident involving the Giants, Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reported last week that during practice, defensive tackle Jay Alford went to the ground courtesy of center Shaun O'Hara "during a blocking drill that had grown increasingly rugged."

    Giants coach Tom Coughlin told Cole, "That's an example of when it gets a little out of control and we talked to (O'Hara) about it. You don't want players getting hurt. That's the last thing we want."

    Cole also wrote, "Coughlin's public sentiment has been echoed by many coaches and players around the league. Most Giants players said the contact was little more than a natural part of practice that got a little out of hand."

    Giants tackle Kareem McKenzie told Cole, "In our situation, we have a new offensive coordinator and a new defensive coordinator and they're installing new things to our system. As players, we're trying to be sharp and execute to the best of our ability. When you're trying to do that, your tempo is going to be faster, more intense and that's where you start to get what you're talking about.

    "It's not what any of us want at this time of the year. But this is football. It's a physical sport. This is what we're trained to do."

    Finally, during a recent Browns practice, rookie tackle Joe Thomas was involved in a fight with rookie defensive end Chase Pittman. When Thomas was told by a reporter that contact is not supposed to happen, he said, "I think we hit more probably now than we did with pads at Wisconsin during the season."


    There are those who say the union should be more vigilant in enforcing the rules, while there are others who believe the bans on contact are unrealistic. As McKenzie said, "This is football." It's also the dawn of a new day in the NFL.

    Teams spend more time in meeting rooms than on the field. The days of training camp two-a-days in full pads have gone the way of the dinosaur. Many teams have an alternating schedule of two practices one day and just one the next, with one or at most two in full pads. Players seem to accept that their training camp days will be a lot more bearable because of the amount of work accomplished in the off-season.

    That's why the solution is a relaxing of the restrictions on contact as opposed to stricter enforcement of rules that few seem to care about.

    Howard Balzer is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange.


  2. #2
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    Re: A different take on off-season workouts

    It is a world in which each generation seems to be more and more coddled and where people seem to think they are entitled to things instead of having to work for them.

    People don't want to be held accountable for their actions and the court system wants to reinforce that sentiment by rewarding people for their lack of common sense and slaps on the wrist for the serious offenders.
    RnD

    GO RAMS!!

  3. #3
    general counsel's Avatar
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    Re: A different take on off-season workouts

    I agree 100% with rams and dodgers in general. However, the collective bargaining agreement is what it is-an agreement between the players and the owners. If the owners want more aggressive OTA's, they shouldnt have agreed to the rules set forth in the collective bargaining agreement. When looking at an entire labor contract (or any other contract for that matter), its not realistic to focus on any one provision, as the entire agreement has provisions that look fair or unfair to either side. Every provision isnt perfect for both sides, which is why a contractual agreement is a function of compromise.

    I dont think its in anyones interest for players on the same team to spend a lot of time beating up on each other. I am sure we will soon have the annual highly spirited debate on the value of training camp scrimmages and pre season games.

    Personally, i want my team healthy when the season starts (as we all do) and its a very fine line between aggressive team practices and injury risks.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel


  4. #4
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    Re: A different take on off-season workouts

    Quote Originally Posted by general counsel View Post

    I dont think its in anyones interest for players on the same team to spend a lot of time beating up on each other. I am sure we will soon have the annual highly spirited debate on the value of training camp scrimmages and pre season games.

    Personally, i want my team healthy when the season starts (as we all do) and its a very fine line between aggressive team practices and injury risks.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel
    Agreed GC,

    There has to be a fine line somewhere between working prospects and players enough that a team can get a fair to good idea of who can help the team, who has the heart the talent or the heart AND talent to be a Professional Football Player but at the same time make sure that the personnel is healthy to begin the season and can hopefully survive the season with a minimum of injury(ies).

    It is also generally understood that in every system there will be people (coaches) who will push things to the limit and into the extreme if they think they can get away with it.

    It is sad the rules (and laws) have to be created to save people from themselves as much as from others and that in turn engenders type of player which seem to be more prevalent today. The type of player who thinks they are bigger than their TEAM, and even some who think they transcend the game itself.
    RnD

    GO RAMS!!

  5. #5
    RAM29JACKSON Guest

    Re: A different take on off-season workouts

    these players do things during the season that the human body cant tolerate for too long no matter how in shape they are. Jan. thru June should remain- just a bunch of guys running around in shorts. Thats a quote I borrowed from the ex Falcon who is now an author and commentater ( I forget his name )

  6. #6
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    Re: A different take on off-season workouts

    I can see that point also, S29J.

    This is the time for teaching plays and understanding schemes. There will be plenty of time for hitting and tackling in a few weeks.

    It is also a time to see which players are serious about a football career and come to camp in some sort of shape and conditioning drills should not be out of the question.

    No doubt some of the players may be overly aggressive whether they think they are trying to retain a job or protecting the job of a pal by making it hard on the new guys.
    RnD

    GO RAMS!!

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