Every year at this time the casualty reports from NFL training camps are filled with carnage.
So far, Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta, Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, Jets defensive back Aaron Berry, Dolphins wide receiver Armon Binns and Broncos center Dan Koppen were done for the year before a preseason snap was taken. Wide receivers Arrelious Benn (Eagles), Joe Morgan (Saints) and Danario Alexander (Chargers), as well as Falcons right tackle Mike Johnson were also recently lost for the year due to injuries
Playoff chances are dramatically altered as one player after another suffers a season-ending or hampering injury in early practices.
What is occurring in the first weeks of training camp that seems to precipitate such serious injuries? There is a dramatic difference between coming into camp "in shape" and being "in football shape" and the first sustained contact puts extra stress on player's bodies.
Not so long ago training camps were used to whip out-of-shape players into playing form in the sweltering heat of college campuses across the country. In the long off-season, players would stop training, revert to old eating patterns, lose stamina and gain weight. That is no longer the case.
The competitive pressure and off-season conditioning programs that teams hold, force players to a standard of fitness year round. They work with private trainers on nutrition and weight training. Teams are allowed to have "voluntary" four-day-a-week off-season workout programs for nine weeks. They may be voluntary in the Collective Bargaining Agreement but woe to the player who defies his coach's wishes that he participated.
For the safety of payers, new rules were negotiated in the 2011 NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement that eliminated almost all off-season contact drills. There are new limitations on the amount of padded contact during training camp and the season. This is so players do not leave their best play on the practice field and unnecessarily incur injury risk. The effect is to send players into training camp who have not been hit in seven months.
When a group of incredibly fast, unbelievably large and strong athletes come together and have had none of the jarring impact that takes a toll on every joint in the human body for months and then dramatically does contact practices with fresh bodies — it puts shock and trauma on the body it is not prepared for. Inevitably, serious injuries occur.
Perhaps the NFL teams can design a better transition period to ramp up more slowly. Until then, the casualties will continue to pile up.
LEIGH STEINBERG is a renowned sports agent, author, advocate, speaker and humanitarian. His column appears weekly. Follow Leigh on Twitter @steinbergsports.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun