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Will Cowboys Show Up In Shape For Training Camp?

"<em>Stretch those hamstrings!</em>"
"Stretch those hamstrings!"

Training camp kicks off for rookies, injured players players and quarterbacks at Valley Ranch tomorrow, July 25, while the remaining players report to camp in Oxnard on July 29.

The first day of training camp usually starts with physicals and conditioning tests. Players get weighed and measured, and teams get a good first look at what shape their players are in since they last saw them at minicamp in mid June. Over the weekend, our own Tom Ryle published a list of 14 players who have been dealing with injuries this offseason, so it'll be interesting to see how far along those players are in their rehab.

And while these tests are routine, players also routinely flunk them. We heard over the weekend that five Patriots rookies failed their physicals, and we know that last year in San Antonio, three Cowboys players failed their physicals as well: Wide receiver Troy Bergeron, safety Justin Taplin-Ross and defensive end Matangi Tonga did not pass their physicals and were promptly released.

The importance of showing up in camp in shape was highlighted last year when players showed up in camp after the 4½-month lockout in various degrees of readiness, and paid the price for that with injuries later in the season, as we'll see after the break.

Because of the long lockout, Brian Martin, CEO of TEST Football Academies where many NFL players train during the offseason, said last year that he believed there would be an increase in injuries across the NFL due to lack of offseason conditioning:

"The most common injuries will be pulled muscles, hamstrings and groins primarily, due to lack of preparation. Players need to lengthen and strengthen muscles in the offseason to be ready for the rigors of the NFL."

Armed to the teeth with the benefit of hindsight, it is now clear that the Cowboys did indeed suffer significantly more hamstring and groin injuries than in the previous year, when they had a proper offseason to prepare. The table below summarizes the situation in 2010 versus 2011.

2010 2011
Player Injury Weeks on
injury report
Games missed Player Injury Weeks on
injury report
Games missed
Sean Lee Hamstring 2,3 2 Miles Austin Hamstring 1,3,4,10,11,12,13,14 6
Chris Gronkowski Groin 5,6 1 Marcus Spears Groin 1 0
Jason Hatcher Groin 8,9,10,11 3 Laurent Robinson Hamstring 1 2
Montrae Holland Groin 8,9,10 2 Terence Newman Groin 1,2 2
Roy Williams Groin 15,16,17 1 David Buehler Groin 3,4,6,7,8, IR 11
Tony Fiammetta Hamstring 4,6,7 3
Mike Jenkins Hamstring 9,10,11,12,13 4
Phillip Tanner Hamstring 13, 14, IR 5
Andre Holmes Hamstring 15,16,17 3
Felix Jones Hamstring 16,17 0
Total 2010 14 9 Total 2011 35 36

"Weeks on injury report" denotes the weeks during which a player was listed on the injury report, either as probable, questionable or out. "Games missed" are the number of games missed by the player due to the injury.

From 2010 to 2011, the weeks on injury report more than doubled, while the number of games missed quadrupled. Even if we were to exclude David Buehler from the 2011 totals, there would still be a significant rise in these soft tissue injuries, both in terms of players affected and in terms of games missed.

A lot of things contributed to these injuries, but the lack of a proper offseason was surely one of them, as Miles Austin noted earlier this year:

"Right now I’m working with the trainers at our facility," Austin said during a promotional appearance at a Neiman Marcus store in San Antonio. "I feel like last year I wasn’t prepared for the season the way I should’ve been condition-wise, even though I looked and felt it at the time. That’s one thing that I have to keep an eye on. To make sure I’m in the best physical shape I can be."

With a proper offseason this year, the Cowboys should see a reduction in these types of injuries. But that still leaves the question of passing physicals to start camp. And already there is good news on that front as well:

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