Parcells: Team leaders vital during lockout

Bill Parcells thinks player-led workouts can be beneficial, depending on who's organizing them. Al Bello/Getty Images

With the New England Patriots gathering this week for informal practices, all four AFC East teams now have banked lockout sessions sans coaches.

The Buffalo Bills got together last week. The Miami Dolphins have been working out semi-regularly because so many players live in South Florida. New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez summoned some mates to California a month ago for his second annual "Jets West" camp.

Will any of this matter when we return to our regularly scheduled offseason programming? That question has been debated among analysts and observers.

I decided to call somebody whose opinion everybody can respect on the subject of preparation and sports psychology.

Bill Parcells has gone through a few work stoppages over the decades. He predicted the informal workouts will have mixed results based on the players organizing them. Maybe the sessions are overrated, but Parcells stated if he still were in charge of the Dolphins he would prefer his players work out together.

"Anything that is well-run is beneficial," Parcells said while driving around upstate New York, where he has a summer home. "It also helps conditioning to have guys working collectively. That's always a stronger motivator than individual stuff. Some guys are very capable of working out as individuals, but the more ... I don't want to say peer pressure, but guys don't want to look bad when they're around each other. They work a little harder to keep up or to be seen as leaders."

Even so, the results will be exponential.

The greater the team's guidance is, the more significant its player-organized workouts will be. While congregating merely for the sake of getting together won't help.

"Anybody that's got good leadership on a team," Parcells said. "In some teams' cases, it would be well-run because the team leaders and the quarterback are organizing these things. That could be a pretty good situation.

"But it doesn't have to be a really good team. It could be a young and up-and-coming team like St. Louis, you know? They've got a good chance to improve. They look like they're getting better."

Teams with genuine infrastructures -- like the Patriots -- will gain substantially more than those with less direction. Players don't have access to coaches, training guidance, facilities or film. But veterans such as Tom Brady who can communicate team doctrine will be at a premium.

"They know what the coaches want," Parcells said.

Parcells noted the players who will get the most out of these kinds of workouts are those who participate in seven-on-seven drills: quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and tight ends on offense, linebackers and defensive backs on defense. They can stay sharp on terminology and work on their calls. Offensive and defensive linemen have much less to gain.

Two of the biggest preparation concerns about the lockout are how rookies will be developmentally damaged and how the compressed offseason schedule will lead to sloppiness.

Parcells doesn't necessarily agree with either theory, even when it comes to rookie quarterbacks.

"They're not getting the benefit of the best chance," Parcells conceded. "I'm sure some of them are working out the vets, and that's good. But it's nothing like a rookie camp or having an OTA.

"But listen: They can catch up quickly. It's not that big a deal."

Some might be surprised to hear Parcells doesn't support fully loaded offseason schedules. Parcells is known as a hardcore football man who demands his players eat, breathe and sleep the game at all times.

Not true, apparently.

"I've never been one to think more is better," Parcells said. "It goes back to when I first got into the league. We didn't have everything back then that we have now. Do I think an offseason program that's well-run and focused on conditioning is good? Yeah, I do. But football practice all year round? I don't think that's good.

"I don't think it's more helpful than anything else. It's just something that has become important in football. Conditioning is necessary to prevent injuries, but the year-round pounding on the body without giving it some rest could also be a deterrent."

Parcells echoed statements from a St. Louis radio interview he did earlier this week. He stressed less offseason time could force teams to be more efficient when they do eventually get back to work. The problem with some bad teams is that they tinker too much. Less time eliminates that problem.

"All these little ideas that they're experimenting with that may or may not come into play and takes time to practice, they're not quite as important all of a sudden," Parcells said. "When you have more time, you're more casual. You're experimenting with other things and maybe not always working on what the important things are."