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The MVP's of Training Camp

National Football Post

Bill Parcells hated and I mean hated to see any of his players consistently in the training room. When Bill would walk in, which he did frequently, guys would exit as fast as they could. He believed that mental toughness was the best medicine to force your body to heal.

There is more to the NFL training room than meets the eye.

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Trainer
The trainer's job never stops.

Last season, I had a client tell me he got a stinger, his second one, but didn’t want to tell his trainers in fear of missing time and then getting cut. We arranged treatment outside of the team and he grinded his way through camp and on to the roster. It’s typical for players to have their own team of stealth body mechanics on call for daily or weekly servicing. Even though the NFL (with years of prodding from the NFLPA) has changed many of its protocols for improved medical and training needs, some teams still operate in an archaic manner where players are intimidated to reveal their ailments in fear of being released. Non-starters get minimal care and cold shoulders are given when a player asks for an outside second opinion.

I hate to say this publicly but some teams don’t always tell the players the true extent of their injuries, thus positioning themselves to cut ties with the potential liability. A team’s practice of getting an injured guy on the field, on tape practicing, (proof for the team that said player is healthy in case of an injury grievance) and then cutting him was commonplace in the past and still happens some today. If a team has evidence of a player performing it can save them money on injury settlements, medical care and even workman’s compensation costs.

In 2000 I had a rookie draft pick suffer 3 concussions in less then ten days during camp. The team’s GM called me and said they are cutting him because he thought, “he was faking it”. Knowing how badly my client wanted to play and listening to him on the phone, not remembering he just called me an hour earlier, I sensed his condition was serious. The trainers wanted to keep him out of practice for several days but the GM who wanted to purge the player overrode them. Trainers are sometimes put in conflicting situations by their bosses. The truth of the matter is, some trainers are intimidated by their head coaches and don’t always act in the best interests of the player. They may be pressured to act in the best interests of their owner’s wallets and the GMs wishes to wash the team’s hands of any damaged players.

The Packers have about 19 players injured thus far and their trainers are under fire to get guys healed and predict their return so the coaches can plan practices and/or find temporary or long-term replacements. The Packers’ trainers, like all teams, will have a huge impact on the outcome on their season, depending on their ability to get guys healthy and back on the field. In my experience with clients OT Earl Dotson, CB Al Harris, and three other clients I had there over the years, their medical and training staff does a top notch job in communicating to the players, giving them first class treatment and supporting them when using outside physicians and being honest with them about the details and/or seriousness of their injuries.

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Another scenario that I believe needs improvement is how and where a player rehabs. Some GMs and head coaches won’t let a player rehab an injury away from the team’s facility during the season. The conflict/issue I witnessed is that a guy may be rehabbing an ACL tear (out for the year) and the trainers are focusing on getting guys healthy for each week’s game and reacting to the steady flow of injuries each week they have to manage. There is no doubt that when a player goes away to a dedicated rehab facility to focus on getting maximum care, he will most likely have a faster and more successful return to being one hundred percent. In defense of the NFL trainer, he or she just can’t do it all during the season.

If I were an NFL owner my training, rehab, and strength and conditioning people would be the best in the business. I would employ extra trainers to care for older vets and have another group dedicated strictly to the Injured Reserved players and PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) players. I would have a team of massage therapists who specialize in stretching and ART. My training and conditioning department would focus on the prevention of injuries, constantly educating players on their bodies and providing the best and latest nutritional and supplement products. I would even go so far as to have a room for outside specialists that have been hired directly by the players.

My training room would be more like a NASCAR team than a MASH unit. It may cost three times more than what an NFL team currently spends, but my players would be the healthiest and best treated in the league. For as much as owners invest into players’ salaries it makes sense to spend to protect their investments.

The good news is that I do see things improving and my players are getting more positive support and quality care from their trainers and team docs. Most recently, I was impressed by how the staff of the Colts proactively helped manage the surgeries and rehab plans for clients Pat Angerer and AJ Edds. However, many other teams still need to come out of the dark ages and improve their standard of care.

In this month of August when guys are dropping like flies, the trainers can help determine who can be the most competitive team come January.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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