BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Players appear to be more winded than usual walking off the practice fields here at Olivet Nazarene University.
Perhaps it’s the lockout-induced layoff which kept players out of team-supervised workouts at Halas Hall, and shut down the organized team activities and minicamps that keep players in top physical shape year round. Maybe it’s a combination of that and longer times on the practice fields.
Rules in the new collective bargaining agreement basically outlawed two-a-day workouts (teams can hold a full practice and a walkthrough later, but aren’t allowed two full sessions in the same day). So instead of the normal two-hour sessions the Bears typically hold during training camp, the club has extended the one full practice it's allowed by an hour to adhere to the league’s three-hour limit.
“It’s tough. It’s a grind. But we have work that we need to get in,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “In an ideal world, we would normally go about two hours. But of course we need to see a couple of the players get a few more reps in. So we’re adjusting.
"It’s no issue really with us. Once they start making us start going by different rules than everybody else, then we’ll start complaining. But we have the schedule. We’re adjusting to it. We’re getting good work in, and it won’t affect us from being a good football team by the time Atlanta rolls around [in Week 1].”
Smith said he hasn’t noticed a change in the players’ focus with the practice time extended an hour, but the unavoidable fatigue even creeps in for him and the coaching staff during workouts.
“Fatigue will set in a little bit, but it’s supposed to be like that in training camp, you know?" he said. "We’re not ready. I’m getting in shape. We’re all adjusting; the players will [too]. They haven’t complained about anything at all.”
But realistically, they shouldn’t, right? This is the deal they asked for.