Buckeyes Point Out Benefits Of Early Finish

The Big Ten's practice of finishing its football schedule before Thanksgiving has come under heavy fire from various places for more than a year, but the Buckeye players themselves had plenty of reasons to be glad they were finished with their regular season three weeks into November.

Do not expect Ohio State football players to add to the chorus of those calling for the Big Ten to extend its football season beyond Thanksgiving.

The general consensus seems to be that a layoff of six or seven weeks makes a team susceptible to losing the sharpness built up through the course of a season, but James Laurinaitis pointed out there is more than one way to look at the extended break.

All teams that earn bowl invitations get extra practice time not allowed to those who are left home, but the Buckeye linebacker said the extra two weeks without games that Big Ten teams get can help make the break work almost like an extra offseason.

Obviously injured players have extra time to get healthy, but there is more to it than that.

"We have a chance to heal those injuries, and when they heal we have a chance to get after some workouts," he said.

The benefits are even greater for those who conclude the season in good health.

"They can just get after some workouts right now," Laurinaitis said. "They don't have to wait. While other teams are still preparing and doing their conservative in-season lifts to kind of just maintain (strength and conditioning), we can work out to get bigger and better."

A byproduct of extending the regular season would be the re-institution of bye weeks, something Ohio State has not had the past two seasons. The Buckeyes will have one next season but do not have one scheduled as of now for the 2009 or 2010 campaigns.

While affirming his love for finishing before Thanksgiving, Kirk Barton added that bye weeks are not all they are cracked up to be.

Ohio State could have used a break this season, especially with multiple tailbacks and defensive linemen nicked up by the middle of November, but there is more to a bye week than simply resting and healing.

"You're kind of jealous of (byes) but I remember when we had bye weeks and bye-week practices aren't any fun," Barton, a fifth-year senior, said. "It's kind of like training camp all over again. You do drills and there's no scout team. You really just beat the tar out of each other."

Barton, Laurinaitis and other Buckeyes admitted the extra time off before playing in a bowl game can be an obstacle to playing their best, but all said they value the timing of how things are done now.

Native Ohioans Barton, Todd Denlinger and Dionte Johnson all enjoyed being able to go home for the holiday.

Barton was glad to be able to attend an awards banquet in his hometown of Massillon and then to spend four days in a row at home. He also used the time to catch up on schoolwork.

"It was great," Barton said. "It makes me thankful that the Big Ten is committed to getting the season done before Thanksgiving."

Denlinger, a defensive tackle and self-identified "family guy", enjoyed returning to Troy for the holidays, as well, and took advantage of another benefit of the time off.

"I'm a deer hunter so it's nice for me having this whole week off," he said.

Johnson, a senior from Columbus, had a simpler agenda. He preferred not to bother tracking down his own food and did not hold back nor worry about temporarily putting on an extra pound or two when Thanksgiving dinner was served.

"I can't change what grandma's gonna cook," Johnson said. "I waited all year for that. That's one of the benefits of playing your last game beforehand. We got after it in my family."

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