The young player was on television, talking about the end of the NFL lockout and the new collective bargaining agreement that was reached with the owners. At one point, the player mentioned how part of that deal was to eliminate a training camp staple from the days when they wore leather helmets, two-a-day practices.
“Those really took a lot out of you and I don’t think people realize how hard it was to go out there twice a day, sometimes in pads, and practice,’’ he said, and the old geezer in me had to laugh.
Talk about clueless. I wish that kid could ride Mr. Peabody’s way-back machine to the late 1970s and watch one of Dick Vermeil’s training camps. They were more like boot camps and, as they used to say about Vince Lombardi, Vermeil treated all his Eagles players the same – like dogs.
Two-a-days? Sometimes Vermeil would have three-a-days, with full pads and all-out hitting. If they tried that with a modern player, he’d be in touch with his agent, his lawyer and the ACLU.
“They really don’t understand the way it used to be,’’ said Harold Carmichael, an All-Pro wide receiver on those Vermeil teams who currently works for the Eagles as director of player development.
“And I don’t try to tell them,’’ added Carmichael with a laugh, “because they’ll just look at me and shake their heads. They don’t want to listen to an old fossil like me.’’
The times have changed in many ways. It used to be that trainers would deprive players of water because that supposedly would toughen them up. Now trainers practically pour water down the players’ throats and regular water breaks are a standard part of practice.
That was also back in the day when training camp served a real purpose. Those players weren’t millionaires and most of them worked off-season jobs to make ends meet or set themselves up for their football-less future. Today’s players, who make millions (or at least hundreds of thousands) are at their teams’ facilities year-round (not counting lockout years, of course) and with all the OTAs (another new phenomena) and mini-camps, players never get out of shape, so they don’t have to get into shape. And that’s why training camp was created, so players could get ready for the season.
Now, as part of the new CBA, they’ll do even less during camp. In fact, for the first time since the Eagles entered the NFL as the Frankford Yellowjackets in 1933, they will have days off during camp. Every Tuesday – the same day they have off during the regular season – the Eagles players will have a chance to rest up from that grueling walk-through practice from the day before.
Teams haven’t done much serious hitting in camp for years now, mainly because players make so much money and are such a valuable asset to their teams that nobody wants to risk having a key player sidelined for the year because some overzealous rookie blasted him during a meaningless training camp practice. The Eagles would still hit a couple times a week during their morning session and players used to talk about how tough Andy Reid’s camps were. Of course, none of those players ever stood on the sideline at Widener or West Chester universities and watched one of Vermeil’s teams go at it. They would have been shocked and then probably called 911.
However, not all of the players are thrilled with the new, reduced training camp schedule. Eagles quarterback Michael Vick complained about it, saying that it doesn’t give players enough time to get ready for the season, especially this season, since all of the off-season sessions were wiped out by the lockout.
So, expect to see a lot of sloppy football early in the season and don’t be surprised to see a lot of players limping to the sideline with pulled hamstrings, quads, groins, etc.
The players wanted an easier training camp and they got it. But, as always, sometimes you have to be careful of what you wish for, because you just might get it.