Less is more?

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on August 27, 2010 – 8:05 am

With the talk of an 18-game schedule heightening this week, here’s how we see the lockout ending next year:

The owners and players reach a deal on or about Aug. 1. Scrape together a 10-11 day training camp. Jam in two preseason games. Be ready to go for real Sept. 10. Not only does it keep the league calendar purring despite the NFL being dark since March, it proves that the game can still be played at a high level without weeks of on-field practice.

Which is a good thing because it is looking more and more like the only way the players are going to accept an 18-game schedule is if the May and June voluntaries are drastically cut, if not eliminated, and if training camp is shortened.

“The thing with the 18-game schedule is not so much guys can’t get through it, but if you’re going to be here three months in the offseason, bodies are going to wear down,” said left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the Bengals rep to the NFL Players Association. “You’re going to have to find a way to get some of the offseason cut down. You would have more players go for it because it does generate more revenue. It does help the game as far as quality. I am for that. The problem is what it does to your body …. you’ve got to eliminate the OTAs.”

The only people who would probably gripe about that are the coaches. But remember the decade before OTAs became in vogue in the late ‘90s? You basically only one had one mandatory minicamp and the level of play didn’t seem to be impacted. Guys like Jerry Rice and Walter Payton and Anthony Munoz did OK.

And what is the spring but just six more weeks of crossing fingers that no one gets hurt in ridiculous fashion, like blowing out an ACL on the next to last play of some red-zone drill in helmets and shorts just before Memorial Day?

“Every year you have a DB tear a foot up, or hurt an ankle, or a receiver diving for a ball mess a shoulder up,” Whitworth said.  “I think most players when they first hear it, wouldn’t want to play 18 games. But now you present it to a player, ‘You’re only going to be here for a month in the offseason. You’re going to have training camp for a shorter period. You’re not going to play a bunch of preseason games.’ Now it’s a totally different scenario. There’s no way to look at the players’ experience right now and add two more games to our season.”

There is some thinking that if the OTAs are cut out, there must be an expanded training camp like teams had before the spring camps.

Safety Chris Crocker doesn’t see the league giving up the offseason workouts. It’s not the ‘80s anymore, he says. It is a multi-billion dollar enterprise and that means year-round.

“I just don’t see us giving up the offseason. I can’t see it coming,” Crocker said. “This is a full-time sport. We’re still here. We still do things on the field that’s not counted as organized activities. Having OTAs is not the point. It’s being here and I don’t think guys want to be here as long. I just don’t see us winning that battle. And if we do win, who wants a longer training camp? … We’re moving backwards.”

Right now, teams can report to training camp 15 days before the first preseason game. What if most, if not all, of the OTAs were cut out, and they occurred 21 days before the first game? There would certainly be more healthy players available and they might be crisper and fresher.

That will be the interesting thing about 2011. Both Crocker and Whitworth don’t think anything will happen until it has to happen, which means late July. As Whitworth says, look at the rookie negotiations. A deadline always spurs action.

“They have to do it. If I were them, I’d probably do it, too,” said Crocker of the owners’ lockout. “They have to see if we’re going to move.”

But when?  The first move comes in March when the NFL shuts down. The only thing that happens is an April draft. The second move is in late July to lock out the camps. That is what is interesting. What level  of game is going to be played if there is no spring ball and a short camp? Here is a guess that by the first bye week, who is going to remember?

Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer says he’s not for the 18-game schedule because it’s going to cut down on the significance of the games. But as long as only 12 teams make the playoffs (please, no NBA or NHL) and the parity is still at a premium, teams are going to be fighting for division titles and Wild Cards at 10-8 and 9-9 instead of 9-7 and 8-8.

What the owners have to do is be sensitive to the players’ physical needs. This is a much more punishing game than even 10 years ago and certainly there is much more research.

Less is more just may be the operative term here.

Posted in Hobson's Choice | 7 Comments »

7 Responses to “Less is more?”

  1. By looking4sb1 on Aug 27, 2010 | Reply

    This may be a harsh opinion on my part, but it seems to me that the players are just making a case for laziness. If adding two more games a season is going to hurt players so much, then why do we consistently see teams like the Colts and Patriots at the top? They are consitently in the playoffs playing one, two, or three more games a year, yet their players seem to be doing just fine year in and out. They aren’t suffering anymore injuries than the teams that don’t make the playoffs.

    They say that players like Jerry Rice and Walter Payton didn’t have the same OTAs that we have today, yet they were still great. However, what made them great is that they new what it took to be great. They had some of the most gruelling offseason workout regimines of any players I have seen. But they took it upon themselves to do this, which separated them from the rest of the pack. Not every player has that motivation. If offseason workouts and camps are cut, we’re only going to see more players come into camp overwieght and out of shape. Yes, we might have some superstars, but that will only be because the rest of the competition has dropped off.

    Adding more games is only going to hurt the appeal of the game to the fans. Yes, owners will make a little more money, but there only going to be left with system similar to the NBA that seems to drag on forever, and most sprts fans don’t really care about watching every game anymore. What makes the NFL great is that the current format places so much importance on each regular-season game — it’s almost like your are watching a playoff atmosphere during the regular season. That is what makes it so apealing.

    With an extended season, the fans will lose.

  2. By 303bengalguy on Aug 27, 2010 | Reply

    Legit point by looking4sb1 in that the only teams that SHOULD be complaining are the perennial playoff teams, such as the Colts and Pats.

    That said, the concerns of the players are legit, especially since they have very limited shelf lives in the NFL already. I’m confident that a structure can be found that makes the pre-season games more relevant in one form or another. If that means increasing alliance with the UFL to help farm the 2nd and 3rd string guys, so be it… that’d be great in my opinion.

    Presently, I only watch preseason games just to see what the backups look like, in case my guys get hurt, be it my Bengals 1st teamers, or if I’m scouting from a fantasy perspective on other teams. The reps that 1st teamers get in every game except week 3 of the preseason are a joke. That makes basically 3/4ths of the preseason today basically boil down to advance scouting of teams depth charts, which ultimately is kinda boring after a while.

  3. By oshi76 on Aug 27, 2010 | Reply

    I am on the fence on this one. As a fan I wish football was a year round affair, but at the same time I agree that what makes football exciting is that each game is significant. I like the the idea of less OTA’s, maybe one more regular season game and one less pre-season game. I would also like to see an expanded roster for both the team and practice squad. Finally on my list of demands would be getting a developmental/minor league running through the off season with teams able to retain first rights to players on their “farm” team. At no point are any of these ideas rooted in reality, just random thoughts running through my mind.

  4. By tepidfan31 on Aug 28, 2010 | Reply

    Geoff, not about this subject. But why, why, why, isn’t the Bengals/Bills game on TV. I understand the black out in Cincinnati, but not when they’re away. If the Bengals are trying to stir up more paying fans, this is not the way to do it. Please enlighten me.

  5. By orangenblack on Aug 29, 2010 | Reply

    Here’s an idea. Dump the preseason games, all of them. They’re half-baked vanilla strategy games that even the biggest fans will skip anyway. I’m an out of town fan who loves the bengals but I don’t watch much preseason. Really a lot of us just keep our fingers crossed and hope the injury bug doesn’t hit us. The idea here is to create a “real preseason” where the wins count but don’t carry as *much* weight. Simple solution: put all the interconference games (less importance for determining playoff tiebreakers) at the beginning of the season as a “preseason” of sorts. Follow those 4 games (mini preseason that counts and we’ll watch!) with 6 games that are out of your division but in your conferrence (Bengals-Pats, Bengals-Colts, etc-). Make the last 6 games all division rivalries, intense games with teams fighting tooth & nail to lock up a playoff spot. Essentially those rivalries would amount to a pre playoffs showdown with multiple chances for teams that are behind to catch up to division leaders, creating a playoff atmosphere. This kind of schedule would constantly ramp up the excitement as the season went on, building up to the Super Bowl. We all get that the preseason can be useful for coaches to evaluate talent, but in a sport as physically violent as football can you afford to play games that don’t count? Every year athletes are lost in the preseason and as a fan we all know that it is one of the worst feelings- losing a player in a game that doesn’t matter. Again, I say dump the preseason and let the owners, coaches and players agree on a summer schedule after that.

  6. By 4sinc4life on Aug 29, 2010 | Reply

    The one thing I think is overlooked is how much money these guys make to do what they do. A surgeon who saves lives, will make around 250-400k working 60-80 hrs a week. I get bored with hearing anyone associated with the NFL complain about something like adding games to the schedule. They make enough money in one year that if invested properly, could retire them! I say stop complaining, and just play football!

  7. By hobsonschoice1 on Aug 31, 2010 | Reply

    GUYS: I hesitate to blow off the player concerns about safety. I think those are very legit. Look at how violent the game is. The surgeon doesn’t walk into the operating room thinking he may never walk out again.

    Of course, police and firefighters have that fear as well and they make nothing near these numbers we throw around like they’re pollen. But that’s another debate for another day.

    Something has to be done with the preseason. It is miserable for fans. I think the only group that likes the OTAs are the coaches and maybe they could keep some semblance of them by making them them glorified walk-throughs without helmets.

    You hate to always keep saying the old days were better, but two three-day camps with helmets ought to be enough with a 20-day training camp, right?

    And the 18 games are OK, but start them in August so the Super Bowl is played at about the same time it is now. The league is worried about starting the regular season before Labor Day, but the fans are going to be there no matter the date. Going deep into February provides too many distractions with college basketball and the start of spring training.

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