Matt Bowen; Are NFL Camps Getting Too Soft?.............

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by soulman, Jul 31, 2014.

  1. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Inside Training Camp: Are NFL Camps Getting Too Soft?

    By Matt Bowen , NFL National Lead Writer
    Jul 31, 2014


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    AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

    The concerned look on my mom’s face said it all as I walked out of FedEx Field on one of those humid nights in August after the third preseason game in 2004.

    “Are they feeding you?”

    Like most mothers, that question meant one thing: Why do you look so skinny?

    My parents had flown in for the weekend from Chicago to watch the game and I, well, had lost quite a bit of weight off my already lean frame during Joe Gibbs’ first training camp back in Washington.

    We hit—every day—and went through weeks of double sessions with nine-on-seven inside run, physical competitive periods and scrimmages that tested our conditioning (and recovery) on a consistent basis.
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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Before camp, our defensive coordinator Gregg Williams made us all cut weight, and I showed up to report at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Virginia, at 203 pounds (my reporting weight had to be under 205).

    But after that preseason game, in a red polo that was now hanging off my shoulders, I was topping out at 194 pounds on the scale.

    I looked weak, beaten down and tired.

    Today’s camps in the NFL are a shell of what they used to be from a physical perspective, with the elimination of two-a-day sessions and built-in days off for players under the new CBA.

    However, in terms of the much-needed rest and recovery during the summer, this should be viewed as a positive for players.

    The extra time away from the field gives the players the opportunity to recover quicker, manage their body weight, use the training room and maintain their strength/flexibility in the weight room.

    Recovery in Gibbs’ camp? That was a kiddie pool filled with water and ice outside of the facility doors.
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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Guys would jump in there with their uniforms still on just to get some relief on their legs before getting back on the field for the afternoon practice session.

    The amount of stress put on our bodies in camp limited our movements in the weight room, and it was a challenge to maintain the gains we made during the offseason training program in the core lifts (squat, bench, clean, etc.).

    But with only one padded practice a day in today’s camps (plus the mandatory days off), players can now have productive lifting sessions in the summer while also managing muscle injuries and the general soreness that comes with the sudden change of direction and high-speed contact in an NFL practice.

    That’s vital for players who can now push through camp while reducing the amount of stress on their lower bodies to prep for the grind of an NFL regular-season schedule.

    However…

    Looking at the structure of today’s camps, something has to give when discussing the limited contact and reduction in total reps on the practice field.

    And tackling is at the top of the list, in my opinion.

    No different than a wide receiver running routes, a defensive back driving downhill out of his pedal or the footwork required for a quarterback to throw the deep, 15-yard dig route, tackling has to be practiced (consistently).

    However, to drill the technique required to make a solid, form tackle in the NFL (head up, wrap the arms, roll the hips, drive the feet), players need to be put into full-speed, competitive settings.

    That means more nine-on-seven and team drills, competitive goal-line periods and controlled “scrimmages” where coaches allow defenders to square up ball-carriers and take them to the ground.
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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Yes, there are still coaches in the NFL—such as Andy Reid in Kansas City—that believe in creating “live” competition during practice, but are enough clubs in the league allowing their defensive players to work on tackling in camp?

    I was down in Bourbonnais, Illinois, for a couple of Bears practice sessions earlier this week. And while Marc Trestman runs an efficient, uptempo style of practice that tests his players from a conditioning standpoint, his camp doesn’t focus on any “live” periods.

    Are NFL camps getting too soft?

    Yes, players aren't getting the work they need. No, limiting injuries is more important. Submit Vote vote to see results

    Are NFL camps getting too soft?
    • Yes, players aren't getting the work they need.

      53.5%
    • No, limiting injuries is more important.

      46.5%
    Total votes: 1,367

    Instead, players will “tag off” on ball-carriers at the second level (break down, tag the hips) to let the running backs and wide receivers continue their path up the field.

    Again, that keeps players healthy, but does it force defenders to practice their proper tackling technique?

    I don’t see it.

    In order to hit, wrap up and drill the necessary technique every pro defender has to lean on versus NFL running backs, they need constant repetition in practice.

    And with only one practice a day, I wonder if there needs to be a stronger focus on tackling in today’s camps.

    Talking with an AFC executive this week, he mentioned how the reduced number of “live” reps in today’s camps can hurt the early development of rookies.

    Yes, there is much more teaching done today with walk-through sessions and extra time to self-scout (off the practice film) with position coaches.

    However, with veteran talent getting the majority of the practice reps to install and prep for the regular season, the rookies see limited action with only one practice session a day.
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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Without those much-needed reps, rookies miss the valuable time on the field to improve their technique in order to compete (and produce).

    Plus, from an evaluation standpoint, the limited reps in practice put more emphasis on the preseason schedule in terms of grading out rookies when it is time to make cuts and set the final roster. Remember, rookies need to get beat (often) if they want to develop.

    That’s where they learn from their mistakes and begin to understand why footwork, leverage, hand placement, etc., play a major role in winning one-on-one matchups at the NFL level.

    But on veteran teams, the rookies just aren’t getting enough reps in camp. I will never call anything in the NFL “soft.” Nah. It’s too physical of a game when teams put on full gear in camp.

    And even though training camps have changed dramatically with a larger focus on recovery and the mental aspect of the game, there are still violent collisions at camp that test every player’s toughness along with their ability to compete.

    But I still think about the limited hitting/reps and how that impacts crucial aspects of the game that need to be practiced in the heat of camp.

    Is it enough?

    Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
  2. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    This issue of tackling came up in another thread and my comments about it were similar to those Matt Bowen makes here. The lack of live tackling in camps is affecting the fundamental skills of players, especially LBs and DBs who are the ones most often called upon to make solid wrap up tackles.

    It's like any other skill required in any other sport. Use it or lose it which is why NBA player still shoot hundreds of free throws in practice and MLB players take batting practice before every game. The two major fundamentals of football are blocking and tackling yet both are being watered down in NFL camps because of the rules in this last CBA.

    I can understand the injury issues and even more so the owners and GMs concerns with it because of the salary cap but they're the ones who make those rules. I've long though that when a player is placed on a permanent IR list for the year it's no different to the team than if he'd been released. However, if you release a player it frees up cap space but with a player placed on the IR it doesn't.

    I believe that should be changed and at least some of that players salary should be credited back to the cap so that teams can afford to hire NFL caliber replacements instead of the Street FA garbage the Bears were forced to play with last year. NFL fans pay huge bucks to watch pro football and yet last year the defense the Bears were forced to field resembled what they'd play with in preseason.

    Change those rules and get some concessions from the NFLPA that allow team to go back to "live practices" again. Either that or put flags around their waists and call it what it is.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2014
  3. MikeGolf97

    MikeGolf97 Rookie

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    I wonder what is the possibility of hiring training camp people like college players that didn't make it to the NFL to come in to be live Tackling dummies? I am sure they would need a strong legal contract to keep from getting sued after they are hurt, but if you payed me enough i show up to get smacked around.(probably better option than myself though). Someone give he Emery's phone number i am gonna pitch him my idea.
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  4. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    This stood out to me in particular due to the young people we've brought in on defense. I think we have some excellent younger players who have the potential to be solid players for us - but not day one of the regular season. It's going to take awhile. And even some key veterans are new to the team. I'm bracing myself to see a D that is a bit rough when the season begins.

    And one other thing I think about is that on top of the new players, we also will have a new defensive scheme too. Mel won't be tied to the Lovie Smith D this year, and it sure seems like there may be some significant changes there. It all seems to add up to a D that needs game reps to get it all together. Hopefully it gets better every game throughout the season and the young people in particular make great progress. We may need the offense to hit the ground running - from game one of the regular season - to make up for any rough start by our defense. It will certainly be interesting to watch this all unfold.
  5. B-ell-y-iot

    B-ell-y-iot Veteran SuperFan

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    In terms of injury, I think practicing tackling would have a long-term positive impact on injury prevention. Part of the problem currently is that players don't have an opportunity to refine their tackling skills in camp and so in games their technique is less than ideal. This poor form tackling causes injuries. If players were coached up on proper tackling and how to avoid improper tackling, had 1000s of repetitions and tape on their tackling technique, we would see less injury and less blown open field tackles. There was an article posted on ProFootballtalk.com about Pete Carroll's tackling instruction. I see this being used more frequently in the coming years AND I sincerely hope it is implemented in training camp where players can get a high volume of repetitions of this proper tackling form.

    The other issue I see with tackling being excluded from camp is the body doesn't have an opportunity to adjust to impact. Just like the linebackers and safeties need practice making open field tackles the running backs and wide receivers need to condition their bodies to handle the impact of collision. I feel like this is incredibly important for rookies playing in the NFL attempting to adjust their game from a collegiate standpoint to a professional standpoint. The tackles are going to be harder and the body is going to need to learn how to absorb those blows.

    Big picture I think the NFL, in the next 10 years, will need to move toward stricter rules on tackling and the only way that is going to be accomplished is through the correct coaching of tackling technique and the repetitive practicing of that proper tackling technique.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2014
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  6. a_miljan

    a_miljan Veteran

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    safety sure, health concern - of course, but dont u think this is a part of a plan to get NfL more 'attractive' to masses, bigger scores, weaker D's?
  7. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Bring back J'Marcus Webb and make a tackling dummy out of him. He already has the dummy part down pat.
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  8. Ski-Whiz

    Ski-Whiz George Halas Staff Member

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    Yeah, I'm not sure it's the same type of sessions they have in high school.

    From what I see, players are left to do most of their conditioning and technique on their own.

    Yeah coaches yell and they do some drills, but I just don't see the pressure I had when I played some years ago. After all I bet these players are like, "I've made it this far..."
  9. B-ell-y-iot

    B-ell-y-iot Veteran SuperFan

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    I think the NFL's plan is to ensure the health and well being of their top players. To do that, you need to ensure players are supremely coached up on the mechanics of tackling so they aren't tearing ACLs and doling out concussions like a massive Thrilla in Manilla.

    In terms of growth, proper tackling is essential. Parents are starting to pull their kids from football for safety concerns. Those kids pledge their allegiance to other sports and become players and fans of those sports. That will erode the generational support of the game. The NFL is aware of this issue with America's next generation AND they are aware of the safety concerns of European countries where they are hoping to expand the sport.

    Tackling is the injury x-factor in football. Poor tackling = injury. To ensure proper tackling it needs to be taught and repetitively practiced at all levels.
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  10. dachuckster

    dachuckster Veteran SuperFan

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    This ^^^^^^^
  11. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    That instructional video B- posted by Pete Carroll is precisely how tackling needs to be taught. I'm not sure exactly where and when it happened but the idea of using the crown of the helmet to spear a ball carrier or a receiver was just asking for trouble. It's as punishing or more punishing to a tackler than it is to the ball carrier.

    Equipment manufacturers need to keep working at developing safer helmets and other protective gear but the real solution is at the grass roots level where HS age kids are being taught to develop proper blocking and tackling skills by qualified coaches. You watch many of these pros today and it's like they don't know any other way to tackles except by leading with their helmet.

    The game can be made safer without turning it into two hand touch provided teaching takes place at the level it should and that well before a player reaches the NFL.

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