UPDATE: Chris Mortensen of ESPN has reported owners have agreed to elimination of two-a-day practices during training camp, although allowances will be made for a second session without helmets.
Training camp isn’t what it used to be, and that’s probably a good thing with regard to the long-term health of the players.
It’s a big deal when there are any real blows struck during training camp. The Raiders had a couple of “live” sessions when players were actually brought to the ground. Much was made of Mike Singletary’s difficult camp and “nutcracker” drills, but from the few times I was out at Niners’ practice, at least a couple of people who saw the team regularly thought that the intensity of those drills and the amount of contact was overblown.
Teams take care of their players, and although it’d be nice to say it was for health-related reasons, much of it is economic. It makes no sense to lose multi-million dollar investments on the practice field.
According to Chris Mortensen, speaking on ESPN and picked up in an item on Profootballtalk.com, one of the items on the the table pushed by the players is for reduced contact during camp and to “basically eliminate” two-a-days.
Seems a bit extreme from what I’ve observed over the last several years, with the Raiders in particular.
I can’t remember the last time the Raiders had two practices in a day and actually put on the pads for both of them. It’s usually one padded practice, a couple of hours or 2:15 in length, followed by another in shorts, shells and helmets. In the padded practices, players are aren’t actually brought to the ground except in rare instances. Sometimes, the second practice is merely a walkthrough.
The isolated blocking drills, man-to-man, have become more infrequent every year. From a selfish perspective, that’s unfortunate. It happens to be one of the more entertaining parts of training camp. In many cases, there’s a bit of explosive contact, then players back off. The value comes from film sessions which can determine whether proper angles were taken, etc.
Whatever restrictions are put upon camp and contact, it shouldn’t affect the Raiders much. Teams that could be affected include the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets, whose sessions are much more brutal than most of what we see in in Napa. I’ve seen NFL Network footage of the Ravens in practice and it looks almost like a game. Nnamdi Asomugha said former teammate Chris Carr has talked with him about the intensity of Ravens’ practices.
Likewise, the amount of full-speed contact I saw from the Jets on the “Hard Knocks” series last year seemed much more “live” than most of what happens with the Raiders.
Coincidence or not, the Raiders have had some tackling issues for the last several years. The dilemma is in shoring up that area without actually tackling. When the Raiders went from the NFL’s 30th ranked defense (out of 30 teamas) in 1997 to No. 5 in 1998, coordinator Willie Shaw explained improvement didn’t come through better tackling. It came because the Raiders got more players to the ball so that when a tackle was broken or missed, another player was there to follow up.
That problem will belong to Chuck Bresnahan in whatever form training camp takes, and he may have to solve it with less contact than ever.