Obvious and well-intentioned actions were taken when it came to limiting hitting in NFL practice in the collective bargaining agreement with its players.
I truly believe that.
The study of concussions and the affect of collisions led the NFL to make changes or face incredible liability regarding current and former players moving forward.
The fact remains, however, that the NFL dismissed the idea of concussions initially. We’re all familiar with that. So, naturally the changes became exponentially more necessary.
It is still early in the 2020 football season. We have already seen some of the NFL’s best and brightest future stars succumb to injury. Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Michael Thomas, just to name a few. There is an extra element this year, granted. Coronavirus. Yet, this almost illustrates the point I’m going to make even further.
By continuing to limit contact, what the NFL and its players have essentially done is make themselves more susceptible to injury on game-day.
Think about it.
Gone are the days of conditioning the body to be prepared for what’s actually about to happen when the ball is snapped on Sunday (or Thursday or Monday). In the past, men worked industrial jobs. Translation: hard, manual labor. In the off-season of yesteryear, men went back to work. Have you ever heard the term “grown man strength?” Today’s athlete is more gifted physically and trains to be more explosive, but they are not able to prepare for the hits they will inevitably be exposed to when the pads get strapped on for game-day.
Practice makes perfect. We have heard the cliche a million times over, and if it is as true as we believe it to be, then we have to consider the practice of receiving the physical punishment of an NFL defender as just as necessary to be as close to a perfect player as possible.
Twitter will blame the NFL and Roger Goodell. The common fan will shame the league for continuing a season that the players were not physically prepared for due to coronavirus. In my opinion, the players have been headed down this path for the last few years. This is not strictly reserved for the 2020 football season. This will be a trend moving forward.
I do not have the solution. All I know is that injuries were not always this widespread. So, what has happened? We have taken our knowledge around player safety and tried to “hedge our bet” to the point that we are actually crippling (pun intended) the players’ ability to really play at their best.
I am not saying legalize and reinstate the bonsai drill. But, if you are going to play football, you should be practicing football. In its entirety. Otherwise, this is the result we will continuously see for seasons to come. Fantasy owners: you have been warned.
Jon Strait is a contributor for FOX Sports Central Alabama and RadioAlabama Sports covering the NFL.