Reduced Practice Schedule Makes Sense

Doug TifftContributor IJuly 30, 2009

CINCINNATI - OCTOBER 21: Head coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals gives instructions to his team against the New York Jets during the NFL game on October 21, 2007 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Is less really more?

Marvin Lewis has changed his 2009 training camp regiment, scaling back the practice schedule to reduce strain on his players’ body. The change comes after seven Bengals starters finished the season on the injured reserve list in 2008.

The plan that Lewis has devised — with help from strength and conditioning coach Chip Morton — is inherently plausible in the current era of professional football.

Two-a-day practices were implemented in the infancy of football to hastily get athletes into shape for the impending season. Of course, at that time the athletes were also working 9-5 jobs for the other seven months of the year, not putting in a handful of hours per day in a gym under the watchful eye of a trained strength coach.

In 2009 a coach like Lewis should be able to comfortably give his players some leash in training camp, knowing that they have the professional responsibility in the offseason to prepare themselves physically for the season.

Training camp in the current era is essentially a playbook and technique refresher course for the veterans, and introduction for the newcomers. Such actions require concentration, something that often drips away along with pools of sweat during sweltering two-a-day practices.

With the intensive training regiments that Morton and his contemporaries put players through during the season, along with the elongation of games due to extended television timeouts, fourth quarter preparedness — the usual rallying cry during the grueling summer sessions — is not as important to NFL coaches such as Lewis. Player preservation, and (sadly) locker room atmosphere take precedent over increasing the amount of practice time for any game preparedness purposes.

Practice makes perfect? Maybe not.