Why youth, inexperience may be big disadvantages this NFL season
Contrary to what you probably believe, as of a few days ago there was still no "complete formal agreement" between the owners and players as to all that will take place in "training camps" this year.
While there is much work still to be done, a few decisions have been reached there is most likely no turning back from. After pushing first for two, and then eventually at least one exhibition game per team, the owners finally told the NFL Players Association they would agree to cancel all exhibition games and the players were informed as such by their union.
The owners continue to push to have all team training camps open by Tuesday, and that seems possible -- and even likely -- because of another concession the owners have made.
At least the first two weeks of camp and possibly longer -- the players are pushing for at least three weeks -- will be spent on nothing but conditioning to attempt to make up at least in part for the loss of offseason team workout programs, and to be sure all players are physically ready to return to football activities.
So, while camps will open next week there will be nothing to see or report on for several weeks as players spend all their time in weight rooms, conditioning pools and running or doing isometrics or other similar activities. Actual football, even as it relates to individual technique and team practice drills are still weeks away.
What are the biggest hurdles teams and players will have to overcome this season to make it look and feel like real NFL football?
• As we look for this year's versions of worst to first and sudden turnarounds that have become so much a part of the NFL, it is impossible to imagine the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys or Washington showing much improvement at least over the first half of the season and quite possibly all year. In Cleveland, Carolina and New York, Kevin Stefanski, Joe Judge and Matt Rhule are all rookie head coaches. While Washington's Ron Rivera and Dallas' Mike McCarthy are former NFL Coach of the Year winners, all five are with new teams that will have significantly limited practice time and no game experience to absorb their new systems. These five clubs will be at a significant disadvantage.
• For the same reasons we expect Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater, Nick Foles (should he win the Bears job) and even Tom Brady and Philip Rivers to start very slowly as they run new schemes with new coaches and no game speed reps and limited practice time with new teammates to prepare.
• This is not the year to be a late round draft choice or undrafted rookie free agent hoping to make a team and earn significant playing time. Thanks to lack of practice reps and zero game tape, how are rookies expected to learn and or show enough to claim roster spots and playing time from experienced vets? This year looks certain to be a very difficult campaign for rookies.
• It wouldn't be surprising if the officials struggle early and well into the season as the current format calls for their first regular season games to be their first football reps in seven months. Look for a number of players and particularly veterans to lose game time early to what might under normal circumstances be nagging injuries they would play through, but with which the lack of normal offseason preparation will make the risk too great this season.
Let's make this a glass half-full day and assume we will have a season. There is no reason it can't be highly entertaining and compelling, but there is also no doubting it will be different from anything we've seen before, and will almost certainly struggle to measure up against what we've come to expect.
• Twitter: @Hub_Arkush