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Boot Camp No More

In his last major press conference just after the draft Bill Parcells mentioned that he is not a fan of the current NFL calendar, which has mini camps and workouts nearly year round. Parcells said he liked the offseason to be just that, a time when players escaped the game and recharged and later a time for conditioning. He prefers the old system of long training camps because they gave a staff time to teach. Today, coaches use the mini camps for installing systems and the camp is just a way to refine those sets.

Parcells biggest complaint is that there are at most two weeks to work with a team before games start. This, he claims, changed the emphasis from teaching technique and recognition skills to game planning. As a result, fundamentals are poorer.

Parcells has apparently made the challenge of modern camps harder for himself. A look at this year's camp schedule shows a significant change in preparation from 2003 and 2004. In those years Parcells would put the Cowboys through ten uninterrupted days of two a days before slowing down for the first preseason game. This year Dallas will begin with just eight days of uninterrupted work. What's more, they will not be consistent days of two-a-days. Instead, the team will alternate two practice days with single practice days. That's a 40% decrease in practices, from 20 in the old system to just twelve this year.

I'm not sure why the number of practices has been decreased. It could be a safety issue. The NFL has been much more careful to monitor practice conditions since Vikings OT Korey Stringer died of heat stroke in 2001. But Oxnard, California, where the Cowboys train, was chosen for its cooler weather. It should allow Dallas to practice in any manner Parcells sees fit.

I'm guessing that Parcells feels his team is using his camp more for teaching than conditioning. In the old days, players would leave the game, and use the weeks of practices to regain their fitness. In these days of offseason workout programs, there is no reason for players to report fat and out of shape. The emphasis will likely be on installing sets and preparing players for their assignments. With the changeover to the 3-4 defense and a new QB to prepare the Dallas coaching staff had better be on its game. The deadlines will that much tighter this preseason.

Update: Blog reader Cash points out a relevant Sports Illustrated article on Dolphins' camp. According to Peter King, Miami HC Nick Saban is also following the two-a-day/one-a-day formula, noting,

Saban decided to run his summer practice schedule this way. On one day, he will practice at 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. The next day, heâ€â"¢ll practice at 3 p.m. He said experts on intense physical activity told him the way to keep his players freshest the longest was having two meals between every practice and two significant drinking periods between every practice.