More teams should consider ditching rookie minicamp

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Chargers receiver Mike Williams may miss all of the season due to a back injury suffered at rookie minicamp. Which should get more teams to take a hard look at whether rookie minicamp is something that should continue.

Consider how it currently plays out. Roughly a week or two after the draft, the new players convene, along with sometimes dozens of tryout players, for a weekend of football practice. Though non-contact, the OTA-style sessions thrust first-year players who haven’t practiced or played football in months directly into a competitive environment, absent the two-phase phase-in that happens for veterans every offseason.

Not surprisingly, some players get injured. Whether it’s Jaguars pass-rusher Dante Fowler tearing an ACL two years ago or Williams injuring his back or Browns defensive back Howard Wilson fracturing his knee this year, players will get injured when they’re dropped into this setting without the kind of foundation that they need.

And what’s the benefit? Yes, they get early and immediate exposure to the offense and defense, but how much will they actually retain during the whirlwind that occurs in a weekend that includes draft picks trying to get comfortable, undrafted free agents trying to prove they should have been drafted, and tryout players desperately trying to show they belong on the 90-man roster.

But don’t take my word for it, as if you ever would. At least one team has ditched the traditional rookie minicamp. And others should consider doing things the way the Dolphins currently do them.

In Miami, it has become an orientation weekend, a time for players to get their sea legs in lieu of being forced to walk the plank.

“For us, it’s really get them acclimated to what we’re doing, what we expect of them between lifting, meetings,” coach Adam Gase said after this year’s opening weekend, via the team’s official website. “We try to educate them on all the things that can help them. Our sports science group speaks to them, player engagement does. We usually have a couple of ex-players come in here to talk to them about what they’ve experienced. We’re trying to get ahead of it. That was the one reason why we did this, we always just felt like when we had these rookie minicamps and you’re practicing, you’re coming back in, you’re installing more, you’re watching practice, by the time they leave here, they don’t remember anything.”

If the goal is to help young players prepare to blend with the older ones, having the young players spin their wheels (and dent their fenders) on the practice field may not be the best way to go.

“Our biggest goal was, how do we get these guys to where we can get them to leave here, come back and have an idea what they’re going to go through in the next phase but also retain some information and really try to catch up to the vets as much as possible?” Gase said at the time. “We felt like last year it did matter for us because when we hit OTAs our guys knew what to do, they knew what they were supposed to be, they were able to actually contribute in practice. They weren’t just staying in the background just watching.”

They also were healthy, because they didn’t go from months of no football to all football, all the time in a compressed time frame that periodically results in a new player contributing nothing at all in his first year with the team because he emerged from the rookie minicamp with a major injury.

29 responses to “More teams should consider ditching rookie minicamp

  1. Wow, another ridiculous article. How about NEVER having camp or bother playing games because someone always get injured??

    Why would these rookies be in better shape when full camp rolls around weeks later?!? Or maybe these athletes are actually smarter than you and try to stay in shape all year round?

  2. Oh yeah, one injury and you ditch mini camp. What about learning the offense, developing team cohesion, refining skills, picking up tips from the veterans, getting pointers from your coaches, getting into playing condition, etc. Whats next – cancel any TC contact? Eliminate preseason games?

    None of those benefits will happen sitting at home. If he was predispositioned for the injury it would have have happened when he finally got on the field – perhaps in game one of the regular season.

  3. It’s a fair point. Conversation fodder, food for thought, whatever. Consider also that this approach may prevent more knucklehead behavior in the long run. Ultimately if it results in fewer missed games then I’m all for it.

  4. Abolish rookie minicamp, don’t play this guy during pre-season, why was this guy still on the field in the fourth quarter, don’t play anybody on the last game if you are in the playoff etc.
    They are football players.
    Belichick said it best, “players gotta play”.

  5. ….If the players want to avoid getting hurt, perhaps they should play a non contact sport like golf….

    hmmmm…. Tiger Woods career is about over because of back injuries… just saying. Golf actually has a lot of injuries and some are very serious. Shoulders, knees, wrists, elbows and such.

    Every sport has their share of injuries regardless of the type of sport. That’s not the point. The point of the article is that those 3 days, just after the draft, do nothing for the player. They can still have meetings, film sessions and walk-through for the purpose of getting to know the routine of the NFL vs college.

  6. The rookie minicamp within 1 week after the draft is terrible. These kids have spent months preparing for the draft, then get drafted and then the minicamp. If they waited a couple weeks after the draft it would be better. The rookies need to get used to their new city, team and other things, then concentrate on football.

  7. Practice is watered down enough as it is with the new labor agreement. How can any improve their craft without practice!!!

  8. maybe it’s time to go year round…live in the city you play in no going home for the offseason…(you are a professional college is over), lift weights, run, stay in shape, non contact drills, walk throughs and film study

  9. Guys get hurt walking through the mall. Ban malls. Guys get hurt at home. Ban home. Guys get hurt working out. Ban working out. Guys get hurt playing football. Ban football. Guys get unhealthy by sitting around doing nothing, because everything is banned. Ban bans.

  10. Sure use Miami as a shinning example how to do things. nice move. Don’t copy a winning organisation. Who wants to do that.

  11. “The mini-camp does nothing for the players” Hundreds of coaches, whom have vastly more knowledge on the subject matter, would disagree. Trying to tell professional football coaches how to do their jobs is like thinking you can teach Einstein about relativity.
    As a great man once said, “know your damn role, and shut your mouth!”

  12. Should they be wrapped in bubblewrap too when not on the field?

    No teams should absolutely not give up vital teaching time for the rookies


  13. Adam Gase ahead of the game -I wish my Bears had kept him as the new head coach and ditched geriatric old John Fox, kinda like what the Bucs did when they dumped Lovie Smith and promoted Dirk Koetter from OC to HC.

  14. Hey Florio why don’t they just go back to letting the players get fat and lazy for 4 months then have a 6 week training camp like they used to do . Or maybe yet we can just show computer animated football games with fake players

  15. So… hundreds of rookies shouldn’t get a head start because every year a couple of rookies get hurt? Got it.

    Hey… why practice at all. These guys are all ready to go.
    Stupid article.

    If guys get injured in training camp, should we skip that too? Preseason….

    Regular season?

  16. I will take the opposite stance and I think every team should make sure they keep doing rookie mini camps.

    Why? It gives the new players a chance to get some extra work before the real camp starts, it gives them an introduction to the coaching staff, and it might just help ease them in to things before it starts for real.

    As for the injuries yes that is a terrible thing and hate to see any player get hurt but we see it happen all of the time and it is a very unfortunate part of the game.

  17. Can we see the stats on injuries during minicamp versus the rest of the offseason? If there’s a spike then ok, but there won’t be. You mention ligaments and we all know you can do that in any exercising, and as to vertebrae – I did mine badly in yard work, out of action for over a year.

  18. This injury to the Chargers 1st Round draft pick just goes to show that the Chargers might leave San Diego, but they’re still the same old snake-bit Chargers.

    This guy had injuries while in college, which should have raised a question or two….but Chargers and due diligence don’t go together.

    There is hope Ryan Leaf! Perhaps you will no longer be considered the biggest bust in Chargers and NFL History!

  19. Holograms. no more players is on it’s way. Then owners can do away with all this stupid talk about players getting injured, too much practice and need more money to play. Heck they won’t even need to pay for stadiums any longer as the entire game will be streamed to a VR headset.

    It will be great when the game no longer actually needs to be played by real people..

    I know sounds stupid but it may not in 10 years and if so I bet all these guys would be willing to come to as many pre-season workouts as needed to keep getting a paycheck. and even risk getting hurt.

  20. I think it’s good to have these rookie camps just for the simple fact you can try to instill into them the pitfalls of pro life. You have to educate them hard, some get it some never will.

  21. These rookies finished getting ready for the NFL Combine that ran through early March. They should have been in the best shape of their lives. If they are going to turn into a potato between then and rookie mini camp, then that speaks for itself.

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