Ohio State football: Meyer OK with rules that lessen contact

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Ohio State opened preseason camp on Sunday and started practice yesterday.

Well, sort of.

It’s not really football until there’s hitting and tackling, and compared with that, yesterday’s afternoon practice was more like patty-cake in terms of contact. NCAA rules greatly restrict the amount of full contact allowed during preseason camp, and they mandate five days before such contact can begin.

“I think they are great rules,” coach Urban Meyer said yesterday. But, he admitted, “When (those rules) first came out, you start panicking.”

Meyer, 50, was brought up through the game in the 1970s and ’80s, when practices were grueling almost from the start.

Back then, two-a-days — and sometimes three-a-days — were a two-week, every-day grind that seemed more about survival than improvement. And that was after the players had gone through 30 days of spring practice.

Meyer has evolved with the times and has seen the benefits that reduced exposure brings for players in staying fresh as camp and the season progress.

“Now, I can’t imagine having 30 practices in the spring and then every-day two-a-days (in preseason camp),” Meyer said. “When we were back in college, it was every day.”

Gradually, restrictions came, aimed at taking away much of the incessant grind, such as reducing spring practice to 15 days and restricting the sessions in which full contact is allowed. For the past several years, major colleges also have followed preseason practice rules that stress rest-and-recovery periods, such as restricting two-a-day practices to no more than every other day.

Before that comes the acclimation period, which started yesterday for the Buckeyes, in which various articles of football equipment are introduced each day, starting with helmets and escalating to full pads by week’s end. Full contact can’t commence until then.

Contrary to old-school thought, Meyer said his teams usually have been ready to play when the season starts.

“You always measure your training camp over your first four games — that’s what I do,” Meyer said. “But also now there is the concussion issue and player safety (emphasis). So we’ve adapted our practices. It’s all good, though.

“I don’t see a panic about all the new conversations — not legislation yet, but conversations about two contact practices during the week (when there are games). I think those are all good.”

He referred to the recommendations from the “safety in college football summit” earlier this year.

The guidelines, aimed at further lessening the chances of collisions that can cause concussions, urged major colleges to restrict full-contact periods to just four sessions per week during the preseason for a maximum of 12 during the 29 practices. On two-practice days, they recommended full contact in just one. It also urged teams to have just two practices of full contact each week during the season.

“Most teams don’t (do more than that now),” Meyer said. “I have not seen anything come across my desk that’s like (if implemented) you can’t get a team ready.

“I haven’t seen anything come across my desk that we don’t do already.”

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports

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