When the 2011 collective bargaining agreement was signed, the number of practices teams got with their players was greatly reduced. No more two-a-days in training camp, for example. Remember those? Forrest Gregg loved him some two-a-days.
That made the players happy, but it didn’t make many coaches happy. Not only were there fewer practices, but also less contact was allowed. Coaches have long since complained that they don’t get enough time with their players. Meaning, they don’t get enough time to develop their players.
That ultimately comes down to younger players. Obviously, at this point in their careers guys like Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews could probably play football blindfolded. This is partially about contracts, too. A small group of veterans will typically suck up a large portion of a team’s salary cap. Thus, everyone has to rely on cheap labor to fill out the rest of their roster and lineup. That means guys who are still on their rookie deals.
A lot of times, those guys aren’t quite ready for primetime, at least not right away. Yet, teams have no other choice but to throw them out there.
For one, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy believes that has caused the product to decrease in quality, specifically through the first four games of each season.
“I think it’s obvious to everybody,” McCarthy said. “If you watch at the beginning of the season, games one through four, one through five, you look at the quality of play, it’s different from before. This is my opinion—it really is noticeable once you have injuries. And unfortunately, we’ve had injuries. When you start battling the injury component, and every team goes through it, now you’re playing younger players a little earlier than you’d like to.
“Very obvious things like that pop out at you and you take time to step away and think about how do address it. How do you improve?”
How does McCarthy think he can improve? It goes back to the reason he excuses veterans with six or more years experience from minicamp, as he did again this year. They don’t need those reps. Those reps won’t be available to many of the younger guys when training camp comes.
It’s designed to develop new leaders, see what players look like who otherwise might not get a chance and hopefully, improve the Packers’ product in those first four games.
Has it worked?
Here is how the Packers started the past four years.
- 2-1 (the bye was in week 4)