Are new rules designed to protect players from injuries actually doing more literal harm than good? There's been a significant rash of injuries this summer, and two prominent NFL people are speculating that the lighter offseason schedule mandated in the new collective bargaining agreement could be a factor.
Bill Polian on ESPN, via Pro Football Talk:
First, Polian said, “We don’t do one-on-ones anymore in OTAs. And as a result when you come into camp and put pads on, you’re not used to doing the movements. And that can hurt to some degree.” Second, Polian mentioned that one of the two daily training-camp practices is merely a walk-through. “You don’t develop conditioning by walking through,” Polian said. “You don’t need to go full blast, but jogging would be better.” Third, Polian explained that, because there are fewer practices with live hitting, there’s greater intensity when it’s time to hit. Polian said these various factors could be adding to player injuries, making it an “unintended consequence” of the new practice rules. “Every other sport develops players, we’re not developing players,” Polian said.
And John Clayton at ESPN.com:
The new collective bargaining agreement creates too much time for the players to rest their bodies. As one front office exec told me, long rest helps joints, but long rest isn't great for tendons. The new work rules give players 14 weeks off from the end of the season, seven weeks to train with their teammates and then six to eight weeks off before training camp. If the players aren't doing enough running or training to keep the tendons constantly working, they are vulnerable to the ACL tears, Achilles pulls and other injuries that have hit teams. Many of these injuries have come in non-contact activities. The league and the union need to devote time to figuring out a better offseason strategy to help players stay away from these bad injuries.
Small sample size, but still intriguing. It's completely possible that both Polian and Clayton are right about this.
However, allow me to state for the second consecutive day that these are grown freakin' men. They know their bodies, and it's their responsibility to maintain their muscles, bones, joints and tendons. The schedule is even less intense in college and in high school. It's up to players to adapt to changes like these. Just because teams aren't formally practicing as much doesn't mean these guys can't continue to train at the same rate they did when the last CBA was in place.
I feel sorry for the players who took more time off and allowed the NFL offseason schedule to impact their own personal training schedule greatly enough to come down with injuries, but it's really hard to place the blame on the NFL here. The league can overwork players, but it really doesn't have the ability to under-work them.