For those of you who played football in high-school, college, or on any level that wasn’t played in someones back yard, then you know the one thing that would bring more groans and pain than anything else. Even today, the mention of it brings back horrid memories and at least part of your body twitches at the thought. Unlike the quote from Varsity Blues that proclaimed, “They are having the times of their lives out there”, two-a-days was anything but.
Unfortunately, it was a necessary evil that we all endured for the sake of conditioning. The bad food, the stench that emanated from some dudes locker who simply refused to wash anything out of fear from some stupid superstition. Hell maybe you were that guy. Either way, our bodies though full of ache and pain dredged on until the end of that hellish two weeks were over. But we survived and for the most part, most of us made it through the seasons without major injuries because of it.
The NFL players however, well, they see it different. Engulfed in all the language bouncing around about the rookie wage scale, revenue sharing, and the money that is paid to veterans and retired players, is the fact that the players are also seeking a significant reduction in off-season training that may very well completely wipe out two-a-day training all together.
UPDATE: Coaches will be allowed to conduct two practices a day but only one can be full contact with the other being helmet only. It changes the scope of this article in regards to the conditioning that players will still go through for the purpose of training.
Perhaps it’s just me but it seems that injury is more likely to occur when the body isn’t conditioned. Now I’m not talking about major ACL tears or dislocations, I’m talking about the year long nagging injuries like hamstring tweaks, muscle pulls, and the like. Those things that get torn because the body simply wasn’t ready for the wear. In a sport that is full of contact that can rival auto collisions, is it not a better idea to work on reducing how the two-a-days are structured rather than eliminate them?
In addition to the wipe out of off-season training that the players are seeking, there is word floating just under that bubble that has the players wanting to wipe out most of the actual contact that occurs in practices. To which my response is, “How the hell are you going to learn to tackle?”
NFL players have been doing this since the 60’s. It’s a contact sport and to play in a contact sport your body needs to be contact conditioned. It’s not about taking some dudes head off in practice but you need to feel that crush. You need to be able to bounce up from it. You need to know that when you feel that blow from an opposing LB or DE that your body isn’t going to simply crumble and shatter into a million pieces like Chad Pennington’s shoulder.
I’m not saying that practices should be carte blanche but there needs to be contact. Not in mini-camps where it’s already been eliminated but during those last few two-a-day practices where the gauntlets are run. When the body is worn down from running, sprinting, pushing, and pulling. When the heat is at it’s highest. It’s what made teams in August Super Bowl Champions in February.
I find it funny that the NFL and specifically the ire of players these days Commissioner Roger Goodell or insert your favorite James Harrison slur instead, works diligently to reduce the unnecessary hits that occur during the course of games so that a major reduction in injury will occur and yet the players say the NFL isn’t doing anything to protect the players. I’m not so sure that reducing the amount of contact and conditioning time closer to nil is the way to go.
I would have given anything to find out that my two weeks of hell were going to be reduced to one or that lining up as the dummy back in drills was no longer necessary so that some third string LB could learn to hit, but that’s football. And when I lined up on a Friday night looking across the line at the running back I wanted to kill, I knew my body was used to it and was ready to take on the collision.
I knew his was too.