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columbiaskinny
07-31-2007, 06:16 AM
Intensity goes up after Broncos were out of postseason

By Jeff Legwold, Rocky Mountain News
July 31, 2007

ENGLEWOOD - Pay now or pay later.
There it is for the Broncos. And as they work through the beginnings of training camp awash in the optimism of the coming new season, they already know a couple things.

They know they shoved themselves out of the playoffs in 2006, with a fade from a 7-2 start to a 9-7 finish that included a 4-4 record at home. And they know the offseason wasn't much fun in the wake of that.

So, pay now, or pay later.

"This was, by far, the most intense offseason I've been through," defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban said. "More so this year, I think, because we didn't make the playoffs last year, so this year was pretty bad. We had a lot of disappointment with that.

"So after disappointment came intensity. And what we did was definitely intense. Definitely not easy, pushing the sleds, all the wind sprints, especially in this altitude, definitely difficult."

So while the two-a-days of training camp have just begun, the Broncos already have pounded through weeks of conditioning work that many on the team have called the most grueling they have encountered during their time in the league.

"It was serious. Serious," running back Travis Henry said. "Put what we did with being up in this altitude and it was different than anything I've done, I know that. Hard work and now we want to make it pay off."

"I've always prided myself on always making it grueling," safety John Lynch said. "But one thing I've learned since I've been here is the offseason here is grueling and that's why people stay around. People will stay around and participate if they're challenged. But I think we cranked it up a notch this year, not only with (strength and conditioning) coach (Rich) Tuten, but with our team workouts, things of that nature."

By league rules, teams can have 16 weeks worth of work in the offseason. Included in those weeks are teams' offseason conditioning program, their 14 allowed full team workouts and a three-day mandatory minicamp.

That's a far cry from what former players consider the distant past of the pre-free agency NFL - the first year of the salary cap and full free agency was 1994 - when most years teams convened a three-day minicamp as the only gathering of the offseason, then put players through a preseason that was more boot camp than training camp.

"When I first came into the league as assistant coach that was it," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said. "Three days, we usually did it two weeks after the draft because we tried it one week after the draft and we got snowed out a couple times. But that was a different time and you had your team back intact every year."

Free agency has brought turnover - Shanahan estimates that routinely one-third of the roster is new each year - and as a result, the teams have made the offseason program part of the collective-bargaining agreement with the players.

Virtually all of the workouts - all but the three-day minicamp, which is designated by the coach - are considered voluntary for players. But through peer pressure, the desire to play or the simple nervousness that comes with trying to earn an NFL job, most wouldn't skip the workouts.

"As a rookie, you think time off is what's going to happen in the offseason, that you're a football player, that you're going to have your feet up or whatever for a couple months," said Ekuban, entering his ninth season. "But as you get older, you learn you can't take that much time off. You definitely wise up as you get older and understand if you don't work you won't be around."

The Broncos conditioning program, which includes pushing weighted sleds as well as plenty of sprints, began April 2. By rule, conditioning workouts can't include 11-on-11 football situations.

The Broncos also had full team camps in parts of May and June to go with their two-day mandatory minicamp in early July.

"If you want to be a great player, you have to work hard in the offseason; if you want to be a great team, you've got to work hard in the offseason," Shanahan said. "But really, if you work two hours a day, four days a week I really don't consider that a whole lot.

"I'd love to work two hours a day four days a week for the offseason and call it 100 percent. If you want to get to the promised land, that's the minimum you should do, that's what I believe. It's not easy, but being an NFL player is not easy. There are plenty of professions without any offseason."

Most coaches believe it would be difficult - Shanahan called it "impossible" Monday - to get a roster with so many new players each year ready to play without some kind of offseason program.

But it's also why most teams don't have nearly as many full contact practices in training camp as they once did or don't practice as long.

Many coaches have said in recent years they foresee a near future, because of the offseason work, when two-a-day practices are a memory - the Broncos have 12 days of two-a-day practices this year at their facility, one against the Cowboys in Texas.

"We're going to do our offseason program every year I'm here," Shanahan said. "You cannot have a good season if you didn't have a good offseason. If all your guys aren't in good shape, you have too many injuries. I've got about 20 years dealing with guys who didn't come in in great shape, if they get injured they can't come back. Guys who are in great shape, if they get injured, they come back very quickly or they aren't injured."

"I feel like I took more reps in our team workouts this year than I ever have before," Lynch said. "But I like the reps. And early in my career I learned. Other guys would tell you 'take a break, take a break, go rest.' But I would ask (former Buccaneers linebacker) Hardy (Nickerson) what he was going to do at the end of the season and he'd say 'I'm going home to start working out next week'.

"So I know we're in great shape right now. Now it's just a matter of putting the pads on and getting that mental toughness."

Offseason work

Sixteen weeks total of offseason program. By rule, there can be no more than four workouts a week and no workouts scheduled on weekends.

The 16 weeks include

Team's strength and conditioning program, often referred to as "running and lifting."

14 days of organized team activities (OTAs), which can include 11-on-11 on-field drills. Workouts are labeled as voluntary by NFL Players Association.

Three-day mandatory minicamp. Only part of offseason players can be fined for missing.

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/nfl/article/0,2777,DRMN_23918_5652358,00.html

lex
07-31-2007, 08:45 AM
I guess that means Jay Cutler's head is doing a lot of sweating.

Zealander
07-31-2007, 12:39 PM
Yep... I reckon Jay Cutlers head may be sweating right now.:paper: