NFL training camps used to be tests of wills, an examination of one's manhood.
Compared to the old days, the current training camps are like walks in the park. Not that they haven't been moving in that direction the past half-decade or so, anyway, but the new collective bargaining agreement has softened the players' load even more than it was going into 2011.
Take Tuesday, for instance. The Giants were off after starting camp on Saturday. Three whole days of single workouts, now that any meaningful two-a-day session has gone the way of the DoDo Bird. And under the new workout rules both players and management agreed upon, that means no practice, no meetings. Just treatment.
Basically, gone fishing.
That kind of schedule means the Giants have only 11 practices before they open the preseason Aug. 13 in Carolina.
Aside from the potential injuries the players might suffer from the simple lack of physical preparadness, the flavor of training camp is gone forever. And the old-timers who suffered through blistering two-a-days and crazed coaches are getting just a bit nostalgic for the good old days.
No less than Deacon Jones, the great pass-rusher of the Rams whose double head slap dazed many an offensive lineman, once bemoaned the league's evolution to lighter summer practices.
In my new book, Lombardi and Landry: How Two of Pro Football's Greatest Coaches Launched Their Legends and Changed the Game Forever (Skyhorse Publishing, due out Sept. 1), the old Giants defensive tackle Dick Modzelewski recounted how refreshing it was to be traded to the Giants in 1956 after dealing with a summer madman like Steelers coach Walt Kiesling.
"I was happy because the situation at the Steelers was terrible," Modzelewski said. "We had a coach, Walt Kiesling —- we scrimmaged how many days? Unbelievable. The guy killed us. He beat the hell out of us."
Kiesling used to put oats in the players' water bucket (no Gatorade in those days) to dissuade them from drinking during practice. That was before all the medical research came out about the dangers of dehydration.
Nobody wants the NFL to revert to those days. But there is little doubt that the new CBA has made it much easier on today's players than ever before.
Whether that's a good thing will become immediately apparent once they start flying around the field for real.