Preparation for the 2008 season begins in earnest this week for most NFL players as teams kick off their offseason conditioning programs. While that won't come close to rivaling the headlines devoted to free agency and the draft, the foundation of success for 2008 is being poured in the weight room, on the field and in the classroom over the next three months.
There are a number of realities regarding offseason programs that fans and members of the media alike should know. Here are five noteworthy ones:
Times have changed.
Though some players are still able to secure part-time internships or work towards a degree by taking classes at night or online (like
Though that is certainly ample free-time when compared to a typical desk job, keep in mind there are virtually no days off for an NFL player from July through January. They work on the weekends and the "off" day they are given on Tuesday usually consists of simply a shorter work day.
There are numerous other examples of the disparity between attendance and emphasis among certain organizations. One player who spent offseasons in both New England and Buffalo said, "The Patriots offseason program is just part of the deal of being on that team and every veteran is there.
Parcells, for example, favors timed squats and hang cleans, which many players feel leads to additional wear and tear on their joints and serves to shorten their career. The emphasis of Parcells and his disciples on increasing strength and explosion may reap short-term benefits but cause long-term harm.
Other strength coaches, like the Bears'
The NFL has a system in place in which players are tested during the offseason, regardless of whether or not they are working out in their respective NFL cities. The reality is the testing is much less frequent in the offseason than it is during the regular season, primarily due to logistics. Because it would require significant resources and effort to reach a player and find an adequate testing location for him while he is away from his NFL facility, this testing is not nearly as feasible as the regular testing during mandatory mini-camps, training camp and the regular season.
The logical conclusion is if players are taking HGH or anabolic steroids of any kind, they are likely doing it during the offseason, especially if they are working out somewhere other than their respective NFL city.
Throwing out false participation and attendance numbers and proclaiming a successful offseason conditioning program has become an annual rite of passage among NFL teams. Some coaches seem to indicate this on a yearly basis. They will then proceed to talk about how this supposed increase in participation from previous seasons is a harbinger of success and will serve as a springboard into training camp and the 2008 season.
Take all these proclamations with a grain of salt and save these quotes to see if the coach says the same thing next year. That is, if that coach is still around to discuss the offseason program.