How Training Camps Have Changed

NFL training camps are now in session around the league. By the end of next week, most of the major college football programs will have started practice as well.  Historically when training camps opened in late summer both NFL and college teams were having double sessions. This is no longer the case for several reasons. One of the main reasons for the decline in double sessions is year-round conditioning. When I was playing football and when I started working in the NFL in the early 1980’s there was no such thing as OTA’s and off-season programs. In the past, players had to be motivated to train on their own. I started working for the New York Giants in January of 1985, just after the Giants had built there first cutting-edge weight room at the old Giants Stadium. In the early 1980’s clubs were beginning to hire full time strength and conditioning coaches. Double sessions began because football was only played in the fall and the money being paid to professional football players was minimal compared to today. Many players had off-season jobs. Once training camps opened there needed to be double sessions just so the players could get in shape and prepare for the long, grueling season. As for colleges, players weren’t around all summer preparing for the season. They were home during the summer months and many participated in other sports. As the game evolved double sessions stayed more because of the tradition than anything else. Not only were double sessions prevalent when I started working in the NFL but they were also much more physical. I remember very vividly my first training camp with the Giants at Pace University in Pleasantville, New York. The players reported on a Sunday and double sessions began the very next day. At the opening practice just after the players finished stretching the first period of practice was 20 minutes of the old “nutcracker” or “Oklahoma” drill. Head Coach Bill Parcells said at the time…”I just wanted to see who was ready to play”. There was “live hitting” for a good part of both practice sessions seven days a week. You never see that anymore. One of the reasons is the players are being paid too much money and teams can’t afford any injuries. Another reason is that the players are physically ready to start the season the day camps opens. In the past, the vast majority of a team’s offense and defense wasn’t installed until the team got to training camp. Now clubs get a good portion of their offense and defense installed during the off season program and OTA’s. Once camp opens, after a short review, clubs just pick up where they left off in late June. While there is always some “hitting” going on, it is not nearly as aggressive as it used to be. Training camps are now focused on mental preparation, whereas in the past the pre-season games focused on physical preparation. The one exception is when a new coaching staff comes on board. They are unfamiliar the players and use part of training camp to find out who their players are. Training camps are now country clubs compared to the way they used to be run. In all honesty, I miss the old days, camps were fun and you could see your team come together. We don't witness that anymore, and in my opinion it is not as exciting. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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