Steelers players embrace reduced practice time
Steelers president Art Rooney II is pleased with the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement ... with one exception.
If Rooney had his way, two-a-day practices during training camp and padded practices during the season would still be a big part of the game. Instead, the majority of those practices were bargained out of the new labor deal by the players.
"It is something, I must say, I think I have mixed feelings about," Rooney said. "It's probably fair to say that if it were up to us, we probably would've had a little different approach to some of the practice rules."
With the owners and players agreeing Monday to a new CBA, one of the big wins for the players was the reduction of practice time in-season and during the offseason.
Offseason programs were reduced by five weeks, and the number of organized team activities was cut from 14 to 10 and cannot start before May 1. Also, there will be no two-a-days permitted during training camp, and teams are limited to 14 padded practices during the regular season -- one per week through Week 12, with three more over the final five weeks.
New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott recently said the new rules changes "makes football more soft," but he is in the minority.
Most players, especially veterans, have clamored for fewer practices, especially during the offseason. Fewer physical practices are expected to cut down on injuries, thus extending careers.
"I think about all the injuries and poundings I put my body through," said former Steelers safety Mike Logan, a 10-year veteran, "but on the other side of it, you know what you signed up for when you get to the NFL."
Upon entering the NFL with Jacksonville in 1997, Logan was quickly introduced to a Tom Coughlin-led training camp in the Florida heat.
"He puts us through some gruesome two-a-days," Logan said. "But what I got from Tom Coughlin was that I was able to know what to expect getting ready for the season. What the young guys are going to miss out on is that period of learning during training camp compiled with everything you have to go through."
Instead of two-a-days, the Steelers will hold a yet-to-be-determined number of morning walkthroughs during camp.
"A lot of guys get hurt from banging in the morning and banging in the afternoon," said free-agent tackle Willie Colon, who tore his Achilles during an offseason workout last year. "If you do that for two weeks, three weeks, there's going to be injuries."
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin learned as much during his first season in 2007. Tomlin scheduled 15 two-a-days his rookie year and admitted later that he wore his team "to a nub" when they faltered late in the season and eventually lost a home wild-card playoff game to Jacksonville.
Since then, Tomlin has cut back on two-a-days. Last year, he scheduled only five and rarely made the veterans take part in both sessions. The Steelers have never had full-contact practices during the season under Tomlin and typically practice in shells during the year.
"If you want your team to go far, a big part of it is keeping your players on the field and not having injuries," Colon said.
Logan said veterans will be the biggest winners when it comes to less practice time.
"The battle for guys over 10 years in this league, and when they get over 30, is preparing for practice," Logan said. "It took me long to warm up for that first practice, then I had to cool down, go through a rehab process and by the time I ate, it was time to get warming up the knee again. I am sure those guys are celebrating."
The Steelers will report to training camp Thursday at St. Vincent College in Latrobe.
Camp is open to the public on the following dates:
Friday 2:55 p.m.
Saturday 2:55 p.m.
Sunday 2:55 p.m.
Aug. 2 2:55 p.m.
Aug. 3 2:55 p.m.
Aug. 4 2:55 p.m.
Aug. 5 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium, Latrobe
Aug. 6 2:55 p.m.
Aug. 7 Off
Aug. 8 2:55 p.m.
Aug. 9 2:55 p.m.
Aug. 10 2:55 p.m.
Aug. 11 Closed to public
Aug. 12 7:30 p.m., preseason game at Washington
Aug, 13 Off
Aug. 14 2:55 p.m.
Aug. 15 2:55 p.m.
Aug. 16 2:55 p.m.
Aug. 17 Break camp, closed to public