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Cory's Corner: Player Safety Demands A CBA Change

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Cory's Corner: Player Safety Demands A CBA Change

With Jake Ryan tearing his ACL and ending his 2018 season before it started, it’s time the NFL Players Association and the owners went back to the drawing board.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement runs through 2020. 

Ryan’s injury made the number of players that had an ACL tear stand at seven. That’s a huge number before a single preseason game has started.

It’s time for NFL players to be able to practice more. A lot of these season-ending injuries are because of chance and randomness but there are some that are due in part because the player hasn’t been able to get on the field enough.

Workouts can’t begin before the first Monday in April for teams with a new head coach and the third Monday in April for all other teams.

When you’re away from something for a few months, the odds of you getting rusty are pretty good. If you didn’t work out for three months, I can imagine that you’d be a little doughy by the time you started working out again.

I realize that the players want an ample amount of rest, but it’s time that they respected the offseason and practice time as well.

There’s also a flip side as well. Some guys are getting too big and strong, causing problems for joints and tendons. The body frame is only expected to hold a certain amount of weight, yet Cam Newton is bigger than most offensive linemen from the 1960s. Of the 159 players that have started four games as an offensive lineman since 2014, only 23 weigh less than 300 pounds and 39 weigh at least 320.

We have talked incessantly about head injuries and concussions and those things are very serious, but I think we also need to take a closer look at body composition and also allow players a longer window to look after their bodies.

There are plenty of players that come to camp that aren’t fully in shape and get banged up before even a preseason game starts.

It’s time for NFLPA and the owners to actually look after the health of the players. Obviously, that’s going to be hard to do because the owners are still playing unnecessary Thursday night games and are also playing games in London each season.

I’ve often wondered how worried the NFL is about the future. Does Roger Goodell ever daydream about what the game will be like in 10, 15 or 20 years? If the answer is yes, then he has to start keeping his players healthy now. Take the practice shackles off and welcome players to come back to camp in shape and ready to go.

With all of the attention being paid to head trauma, knee injuries have been largely ignored and it’s time to change the philosophy in order to reverse course.

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (37) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Packer Fan's picture

Sorry, but this article is confusing. Reasons for injury are quite complex. Just confusing

dobber's picture

Yeah, I had to read this one twice. I think the crux of Cory's argument is that game-like activities result in ACL injuries, but players get hurt more because they are engaging in game-like activities less? ...and that if they could partake in game-like activities more, they would get hurt less?

There are over 2500 players looking for NFL jobs right now. So far we're talking about 7. Do we know what the ACL rate was 10 years ago? Is it really any higher now? Athletes now are as finely conditioned as they get. What was the injury rate in the 70s and 80s when off-season conditioning and workout programs were less the norm?

jeremyjjbrown's picture

These injuries are hard to hear about. Naturally folks want to do something, but it's really hard to know what is actually going to work. The NFL tried less practice but that's not working. With limited padded practices teams jump right from shell activity to hitting. I tend to follow Corey's suspicion this is bad. However they only way we could know for sure is an actual independent long term study. That's never going to happen, so they will bicker over it in the CBA and we'll just get another ineffective strategy.

Guam's picture

There is no statistical data shown that support the claims made by this article. Are there more torn ACL's now with bigger bodies and fewer practices than there were 30 years ago? I have no idea. I am all for protecting the health of players, but we need to do it in a scientific fashion with reliable data. Blanket assertions based on personal feelings don't provide much clarity.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I think this article makes a good point. With too little practice, players just aren't ready for the real thing.

I'd also argue that having so few reps makes each rep so much more important. It's almost like they can't just learn anymore, because they have to produce on every precious rep. Yeah, I'm exaggerating there. But I think if they had more practice with more live reps, players could prepare better and not try to be Superman every down.

It just seems like compressing these camps so much adds urgency at a time when we want to add preparation.

Jonathan Spader's picture

The other problem that creates ALP os if a young player does get injured they miss those few precious reps as you put it. How do you develop as a player?

On a side note everyone who has posted has a downvote except Dobber. Maybe Dobber is the phantom downvoter~~~~~~~~~

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Well, I always have my guaranteed group of downvoters...the Downvote/Outrage Coven follows me everywhere. :)

dobber's picture

That's because I pay most of the readers here to give me upvotes. You just haven't gotten your check, yet, JS.

That would be a cool villain name, though.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I usually upvote Dobber, so I expect a bonus at the next company meetings.

dobber's picture

Most checks reflect a portion of our profits. I think you know where this is going... ;)

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Ha! Never mind...

Cory Jennerjohn's picture

Exactly. You can’t expect to come to camp and immediately hit the ground running — especially with a new defensive coordinator.

Nobody wants to admit it, but practice does matter.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I agree, Cory. The world's greatest athletes playing an incredibly intense and physical game...are practicing less than ever.

It just seems too compressed, too inadequate for preparation. The old days were too much, but I think they overcompensated.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I am confused why someone down voted this comment. Unless there are a lot of people who come here to rub thier grudges instead of discuss football.

Jonathan Spader's picture

See above jj it's the phantom downvoter. The dreaded Viking fan that trolls CHTV. He can't rest until his team wins a Super Bowl which we all know will never happen.

Tundraboy's picture

Yup.

Cory Jennerjohn's picture

There's a phantom Vikings fan that downgrades everything on here? Just when the Vikings cannot stoop any further...

Bedrock's picture

I wore my commemorative Vikings Super Bowl victory t shirt yesterday. It’s also known as a white undershirt.

Demon's picture

There are some on here that come here to do nothing but spew venom.

Johnblood27's picture

Heres my take FWIW...

I see a point here and that is that the CBA limits team football activities.

I think maybe that doing football activities at a practice speed and moderate intensity may strengthen the body in a more overall and comprehensive manner than weight training and specific targeted exercise does.

Hence the term "country strong" which is what one gets with lots of physical "work" activity.

Maybe this type of activity could help players develop the proper strength in the proper areas of their body to take on the stresses of full speed football activities. Maybe more football activities would develop the sense of motion and leverage that might help players keep their bodies out of injury causing positions.

Sometimes things just happen, but sometimes certain things can be prevented by experience and knowledge and proper technique, especially in an inherently dangerous activity such as tackling another human being.

I would think that with all the exercise physiology and kineisiology etc that goes along with nutrition knowledge that issues like this could be properly addressed.

Maybe we just dont hear enough about the behind the scenes details of these activities around professional athletes.

Maybe there is simply more to learn and know about how much the human body can endure and the stresses that can lead to system failure, ie injuries.

Lare's picture

I guess I'm just amazed that with all the technology we have we can't develop a brace that can protect a football players knee without restricting playing ability and a helmet that can prevent concussions.

It would also be interesting to know the numbers of knee injuries in other sports such as baseball, soccer and rugby. Is this a major problem just related to football?

Since '61's picture

Over the years while posting here at CHTV and Jersey Al's all GBP before that I have advocated for more practice and fewer preseason games. If the NFL took that approach that would in effect make TC longer and give the players more time to get in football shape rather than going almost directly to the "precious reps" that ALP correctly refers to.

Those of us old enough to remember know how strongly Lombardi stressed conditioning for his players. "Fatigue makes cowards of us all". The NFL training camp was once famous for its "two a day" workouts. They are long gone now.

I don't know if more practice and/or conditioning would have helped Jake Ryan and other ACL victims. But the opportunity for more player conditioning couldn't hurt. More practice should also lead to a better level of play once the season begins.

Someone posted if there were more ACLs 30 -40 years ago. I don't know the answer but I do know that back in the 50s and 60s MRIs didn't even exist so we have no idea how many players played with ACLs. It is now believed that Mickey Mantle played his entire professional baseball career with a torn ACL from an injury suffered during the 1951 World Series.

As for the owners and if they care, to me they have clearly demonstrated that they don't care. They don't make any money from additional practice. They do however make money from meaningless exhibition games, Thursday night games and games in London.

The CBA needs to allow more practice during the preseason. Maybe not during the regular season but at least during the preseason. They should also try to eliminate the Thursday night games and the trips to London. They add nothing to the league and just expose the players to more injuries.

As for Goodell I doubt that he has the capacity to think beyond his paycheck, never mind 5, 10 or 20 years from now. The quality of play has decreased every season for at least the last 10 seasons. Lack of practice and injuries to the league's better players are big factors in that decline. Regretably I think that it is going to get worse before it gets better. Thanks, Since '61

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I'd drop the last preseason game and add more practices. Thursday night games, IMO, give too little recovery time from the previous weekend.

I like the Thursday games for marketing purposes, but how about this solution:

1. Add 1 week to the regular season--not for more games, but for an added bye week (meaning 2 per team).

2. Keep Thursday games for marketing and $, but all Thursday teams have to be coming off a bye.

How's that sound?

Since '61's picture

ALP - I would support your suggestion for the Thursday night games. The second bye week has come up before but the owners have only wanted to do it with an 18 game season which the players have rejected flat out. Maybe something will change with the next CBA.

I would prefer only 2 preseason games with more scrimmages and more practice time but I would accept 3 as a compromise and a move in the right direction.

Who knows what other issues may develop between now and 2021. We’ll see. Thanks, Since ‘61

dobber's picture

Remember that the NFL experimented with two bye weeks in the early 90s (16 games, 18 weeks). It died a quick and merciful death.

Oppy's picture

As a publicly owned, non profit organization, The Green Bay Packers are the only team in the league financially situated in such a manner that they can honestly approach the game of football with the best interests of the player's health in mind, IMO. There's no owner tempted to bypass player health for the sake of making more money. The Packers certainly have a stake in the financial well-being of the league as a whole, no doubt. They don't exist if the league doesn't exist, and they definitely require the league revenue sharing to maintain and field a competitive team year in and year out.. but then, that's why they are aggressively building and investing in things like the TitleTown district I believe- it's independent revenue streams that will go towards protecting the Packers should the league's Revenue sharing model ever change.

At any rate, when you don't have an owner who has to make a choice between player health, the quality of the product on the field, and playing extra games because it'll put more scratch in his pockets, it's a good thing for the players and the game.

Coach JV's picture

I think this article is referring to 'football shape".

An athlete can be finely tuned, eat healthy, workout like mad, etc.... but if you aren't out there getting hit, hitting people, feeling impacts, making cuts, jumping, dip, dodge, dive, duck... and dodging, then you aren't in football shape.

The more practice the body gets in doing these activities, the less likely it is to suffer injury because it acclimates to the punishment. It gets tougher...

I agree that practice schedules should return to pre-CBA rules.

dobber's picture

At some point, there's going to be a "getting back into game shape" period, though. Whether they practice more or practice earlier, there's always going to be an extended break for players and a time when they are no longer in game shape.

DraftHobbyist's picture

Absolutely.

Bure9620's picture

Is anyone out of the area going to stream family night? Is WTMJ going to like last year?

jaxpackfan's picture

Great article! Lack of preparation counts. Also, the players can build a lot of muscle, but ligaments cannot be developed like that. Genetics count also.

Point Packer's picture

"Does Roger Goodell ever daydream about what the game will be like in 10, 15 or 20 years?"

Doesn't have to, game won't exist in 15 or 20 years. The NFL is a few additional academic CTE studies and an on-field death away from going bye bye.

Enjoy it while you can!

Lare's picture

I don't buy it. They were saying the same thing about boxing 15-years ago. But boxing, MMA and UCF seem to be doing OK.

Bert's picture

I can't say for sure if there is a direct correlation between less practice time and injuries. I think there is a correlation between less practice time and the quality of the product on the field though. I believe that less practice = lower quality. Just my opinion.

4thand10's picture

I agree with many of the posters here. I like the ideas of more full padded practices, starting training camp 2 weeks or a month earlier. Cut a pre season game and expand reserve and practice squads. Get rid of some Thursday games. Europe is Soccer country, the NFL needs to quit force feeding football there.

Guam's picture

I like the suggestions of ALP and Since '61 (and think about that pairing for a moment.....) concerning more practice, fewer pre-season games, and Thursdays only after a bye. All would certainly improve the quality of play and may lead to fewer injuries.

Unfortunately I don't think the NFLPA will support more practices because more practices also opens the door to more rookies making a team and more veterans getting cut, something the membership of the NFLPA would be opposed to.

LayingTheLawe's picture

It was the players reps that bargained for the reduced practices and hitting. And I doubt you will find anyone on that side of the negotiations arguing they need to go back to more hitting and padded practices.

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