Wednesday marked the first day of the 2014 CBA playoffs.
The 2014 Collective Bargaining Agreement playoffs, that is.
Remember back when the NFL and the players association were loading up on supplies in 2011 for a longer and bitter standoff? Millionaires hunkered down to take on billionaires. It wasn't exactly a Hormel/P-9 standoff. Nobody was going to eat government cheese if an agreement wasn't reached immediately.
To those who have attended what passes for two-a-day practices at training camp since the new CBA was approved, they can attest to the extent things have changed since the days when the likes of Denny Green, Mike Tice and Brad Childress were finding out who could and couldn't handle the heat. Les Steckel is an NFLPA hostile witness as to why the rules have changed.
As we enter the second day of Vikings OTAs, the extent to which things have changed is no better exemplified than the current post-CBA structure of the NFL. Where teams used to be able to "get away" with running offseason programs that were intense and got players into shape the old-school way, under the new CBA rules some of that is no longer permissible.
As part of the "new rules" negotiated by the league and players association, we're in Phase Three of the offseason. Players are involved in offseason activities, but the language is spelled out specifically as to what can and can't be done – with the emphasis being on the "can't" portion of that equation.
There is no live contact allowed, despite what Sean Lee fans might think. There can be 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, but only with helmets and shorts – not in full uniform.
There can't be more than three OTA sessions in a week through the first two weeks of the third phase of the offseason program.
In this phase of the offseason, all coaches can be on the field, but there can be no live contact and no one-on-one drills allowed.
Adhering to the rules, the Vikings have a pair of three-day camps – the first that ends Friday and another June 3-5 – and a four-day workout session June 9-12 in preparation for the June 17-19 mandatory minicamp.
Aside from the OTAs, players can't be at the team facility for more than four hours a day and can't be on site under those conditions for more than four days a week. No matter how a player's time is divvied up, he can't be at Winter Park (in the case of the Vikings) on weekends.
Outside of the OTA practices, players can't be on the field more than 90 minutes a day.
Whether one agrees with the rules or not, the days of the gut-busting practicing and whip-cracking head coaches are over. That portion was legislated, negotiated and collectively bargained out of the game. The result is that players will have less wear and tear on their bodies when the live hitting begins.
Is that a good thing? That depends who you ask. Some contend the lightened physical workload is an advantage to players. Others will argue that a sport as violent as the NFL requires players to prepare their bodies for the type of abuse they will take by "toughening them up" with live hitting before the bullets start flying and the lack of contact practices actually result in more injuries.
Enjoy the OTA period, football fans. There won't be much learned from what transpires over the next three weeks because, for the most part, the players won't be making a big impression on the coaching staff with what they show on the field that will translate into game action. Why? Because there won't be much physical action allowed – as collectively bargained to make it so.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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