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An inside look at the NFL conditioning tests

Why coaches are looking for accountability as camp opens. Matt Bowen

Print This July 30, 2010, 06:01 AM EST

There’s been a lot of talk this week about the conditioning tests conducted around the league on the first day of camp. And, when a big name player happens to fail one of these running tests, it becomes news. I will be the first to admit that these "tests" have nothing to do with a player's ability from a football standpoint. But, coaches aren't looking for that on these days.

On most teams, they are a requirement. Fail the test and you sit. Just like we saw from Baltimore rookie Terrence Cody, RB Joe McKnight of the Jets and the Redskins’ Albert Haynesworth (under odd circumstances). Do it again until you can find a way to pass the test and get on the practice field. They are timed, and as a player, you know they are coming.

Albert Haynesworth ICONHaynesworth failed Mike Shanahan's test in Washington--twice.

They haven’t changed much. When I played it was a 300-yard shuttle. In different combinations (some require six 50-yard sprints and others require twelve 25-yard sprints), they add up to 300 total yards.  Think of old-school gassers. Run, touch the line, and come back — over and over until you have run a total of 300 yards. Rest in between sets and get back on the line. The times are broken down into three position groups: skill (WR, DB, RB), semi-skill (LB, TE, QB) and linemen (OL, DL). Each group has a time they have to complete each set in.

In Green Bay under Mike Sherman, you ran three of them — with about a two minute rest in between. They are nasty. For the skill guys, the time limit was under 48 seconds. We ran the 300-yard shuttle — made up of six 50-yard sprints — took that small rest and got ready to do it again. By the end, your legs feel like Jell-O.

Not every team does it. In Buffalo with Dick Jauron, if you went through the offseason program, you didn't have to run a test. This was the case with Haynesworth in Washington. Didn't show this spring and had to prove to head coach Mike Shanahan that he was in football shape. And, according to reports this morning, the DT has failed the test for the second straight day. Not good.

If you play defense for Gregg Williams, his test is on the day of the first practice — in pads. Forty up-downs in full gear right after the team stretch (which are filmed and watched in meetings). Not fun in the Virginia heat and I can’t even imagine what it is like to do 40-up downs in pads down in New Orleans right now. And, don’t forget that you have a full two-hour practice to get through after you pass his test. By the time you get to 7-on-7 drills, your body is spent.

But, the real point here is that you know they are coming. Therefore, there is no excuse to fail one of these tests. It is more about accountability than anything else. If you have been in the offseason program and used the month of July to stay in top shape and take care of your body, you should have no problem finishing this test. Take care of it, and show the coaching staff that you are ready to practice. It is part of your job as a player in the NFL.

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