New proposed CBA lightens workloads at NFL training camps


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One thing is for sure: Whenever the Steelers open training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, there should be no more references to Camp Tomlin.

From now on, it should be Club Tomlin.

If the new 10-year collective bargaining agreement that was overwhelmingly approved by owners is ratified by the players union, practicing in the NFL will become almost obsolete, especially as the season wears on.

Coaches who already have been trying to go easy on their high-priced players, hoping to keep their bodies in one piece long enough to get through a season, will have to coddle them even more, according to terms of the new agreement.

And, rest assured, the coaches don't like it.

But it was one of the concessions the owners made in an attempt to finalize an agreement that would end the four-month lockout of the players, Steelers president Art Rooney II said.

"They wanted a lot of change to the practice schedule," Rooney said of the players, who are represented by executive director DeMaurice Smith. "From our point of view, there are some very drastic cutbacks. But you have to compromise on things. You would prefer not to, but that's how you get this done."

The cutbacks will begin immediately at training camp, once the deal is ratified by the union. The players elected not to vote on the agreement Friday out of respect for the funeral of Myra Kraft, wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

According to the new CBA, teams can no longer have two-a-day practices at training camp, even though some teams already have done so in the past. The Steelers very rarely, if ever, have two practices in pads on the same day at Saint Vincent College.

Teams still are allowed to have a session in the morning and a practice in the afternoon, but those morning practices will be nothing more than a walk-through, which means players will show up in shorts and T-shirts but no equipment, not even helmets.

"You got to get in football shape, and you can't do that when you can't put the pads on," said one NFL assistant coach, who did not want to be identified.

Even though the Steelers and other NFL teams are hoping to open training camp Wednesday -- pending approval by the players -- teams cannot have more than 15 practices before the first preseason game.

Once the regular season starts, it gets even more cushy.

Rooney said the players will get more days off during the season and practice in pads only one day a week. When they get to the final five weeks of the regular season, teams can practice in pads one day a week in only three of those weeks. That means they will not practices in pads in two of those five weeks.

"It's going to hurt the younger players and it's going to hurt the development of the league," said another NFL coach who did not want to be identified because the deal has not been approved by the union. "I hope it doesn't change the football. I wouldn't have been for it, but I don't think they care what the coaches thought."

Then he added: "Sometimes we will practice in pads only one day a week anyway. There are times where we never go in pads during a week. It depends how banged up you are."

In addition to in-season reductions, the offseason practice schedule has been cut back, as well. Offseason training activities -- commonly known as OTAs -- have been reduced from 14 to 10 weeks.

All this is part of a plan to increase player safety, reduce injuries and minimize how much a player's body breaks down during the course of a season.

"I know the coaches aren't going to like it," Rooney said. "They are significant changes. Everyone will have to adjust."

Talking about practice

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @gerrydulac.


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