The Washington Post

Expect a different type of NFL preseason this summer

I just finished watching a DVD out of my collection; it’s a Week 4 preseason battle between the Bucs and Dolphins at Tampa Stadium.

The game was interesting in that it was the first extensive work for second-year NFL quarterback Dan Marino. Don Shula held him back most of the preseason. Both teams in fact played their starters into the 3rd quarter. This is in stark contrast to the NFL’s modus operandi where teams sit all of their presumed starters in the fourth game and treat it like a bye week for them. That probably won’t be the case in 2011 as NFL teams are going to need every single game to get ready for Week 1.

Word is the NFL is going to have language in the new CBA that restricts two-a-day practices for this year. With coaches not having any needed time to work with new players, or older players not having time to work with their new coaches, something is going to have to give, and could result in a far greater emphasis being placed on the preseason.

In the past, NFL players did not spend the off-season working out feverishly to stay in shape, so that they can be ready for all the OTAs (Organized Team Activities) that now occur from May to July all over the league. Back then, the offseason was exactly that, off for the players. They came to training camp to get into football shape, train and learn the new offensive/defensive playbook and preseason was there to help them and help coaches determine who were the best players.

Somewhere along the line, more and more players stayed in shape during the summer months and the fierce competition embodied by the National Football League took over, and we have the system as it is today.

This lockout is now going to force teams to go a little old-school and utilize all four of their preseason games instead of just the first three. For that reason, expect the following schedule for most coaching staffs:

— Week 1: Starters play no more than one possession, two for established teams with little to no turnover, and some teams will not even play starters at all, especially those players who are not ready.

— Weeks 2-3 will appear the most normal.

— Week 4: Starters will definitely play in these games; they will go right up until half time, and in some cases into the third quarter.

While there is no guarantee every team will see it like this, the ones that do are probably the ones that will reap the greatest benefits during the year.


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