Those of you who object to a spring game between two schools because of the (perceived) increased injury risk, how do you feel about spring practice in general?
You know who spring practice isn’t particularly good for? For veteran, established upperclassmen who have already been through two or three of these things. Like they say about that other sport that’s going on this time of year, for the guys who already know the playbook, are physically and mentally fit and have proven themselves in real games that actually count, you just want them to survive and advance through spring football.
Georgia has several players who fall into that category this year. Tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel come to mind immediately. So do outside linebackers Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter and safety Dominick Sanders. These are just a few of the players who probably could do just as well lifting weights and running regularly and reviewing their playbooks and game video a couple times a week.
How to get the most out of star players such as those guys without the undue risk of injury is one of the great balancing acts coaches all over the country will be trying to manage this spring.
“I think as a coach you’re always worried about that,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said of protecting star players from injuries during the spring. “I know some coaches in college football who have the philosophy that if you’ve played 1,000 snaps in your career — which, let’s be honest, we’ve got a couple guys that have done that — is spring (practice) going to get them better.”
You may think I’m being snarky, but I’m really posing this based on statistics.
It has been a while now, but the NCAA did a study back in 2007 in which it determined that spring football had the highest injury rate of all sports – 9.6 injuries per 1,000 participants. The second-highest rate was women’s gymnastics (6.1), followed by men’s wrestling (5.7) and men’s soccer (4.3). The next was men’s football in the fall, with a 3.8 injury rate per thousand, or one-third of spring football.
That considerable drop in injury rate was thought to be because fall practices were generally less physical than in the spring. Coaches feel like they can risk it with no games to worry about every week in March and April. And, of course, players have the rest of spring and summer to recover.
Not coincidentally, spring practice durations were cut back to a maximum of 15 per year shortly after that study was published. And only a limited number of those can be of the full-pads, full-contact variety. [Emphasis added.]
That’s not a perceived injury risk, that’s a real injury risk. So, what about spring practice?
Personally, some of this reminds me of the people who opposed Todd Gurley running back kickoffs because he might get hurt, despite the fact that he was the most prolific returner on the team (and like he couldn’t get hurt as a running back — which he did).
Perhaps we should leave it up to the noted philosopher Lorenzo Carter.
But you know what else? These guys like to practice and to hit. They enjoy what they’ll be doing out on Woodruff Practice Fields the next month a lot more than the agonizing off-season, strength-and-conditioning training they’ve been put through since late January.
“I mean, I kind of want that,” Carter, the rising senior outside linebacker said of going through full-contact drills. “That’s the fun of football.”
Fun of football — is that even allowed anymore?