NFL rosters have traditionally allowed for 1,696 players during the regular season and 2,560 the rest of the time. That figure would spike to 2,880 if the new labor agreement sets 90-man roster limits, as reports have suggested could be the case.
Hundreds more players have filled practice squads and stood by as free agents, ready to sign when an opportunity presents itself.
Not all those thousands of players think alike. Not all agree with Bart Scott's contention that eliminating twice-daily padded practices from training camps will make football "more soft" in the name of extending careers (Tim Cowlishaw and Mike Wilbon take up the matter in the accompanying video). I happened to discuss the matter with Seattle Seahawks running back Justin Forsett on Tuesday. He supported the players' push to secure concessions from owners on this issue.
"I think they’ve done a great job trying to protect the players and increase longevity," Forsett said. "Most of the guys have been playing football for a while. Banging takes its toll. When the lights are on, guys will step up and perform. If anything, guys will be more fresh."
Softer or fresher? A little of both? Neither? It's tough to say.
NFL teams were already cutting back on full-contact camp practices.
The Arizona Cardinals listed seven days of two-a-day practices on their 2010 camp schedule, but they weren't hitting in both practices. The St. Louis Rams listed eight days of two-a-days last year. Again, there wasn't always hitting in those sessions. The San Francisco 49ers listed 14 days of two-a-days over a slightly longer period, with some of those sessions marked for lighter special-teams work featuring only some players.
Two years ago, the Rams and 49ers held particularly intense hitting sessions under defensive-minded head coaches seeking to establish tougher identities through hitting. Both teams' coaches backed off some last summer. The Rams' Steven Jackson lauded the changes. There was nothing "more soft" about him.
"They are not taking out every padded practice," said Forsett, speaking before Scott's comments came to light. "We're not going to be there in shorts and a hat every day. When we're out there and it's time to bang, we are going to do it right."
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll gave players a full day off between padded practices last summer.
"I’ve been blessed with coaches who understand that you have to take care of the players’ bodies, especially Coach Carroll," Forsett said. "We have a great coach who understands player safety."