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BillyCarpenter1 08-04-2003 10:51 AM

Turley on Saints Camp
Players feel break was a smart idea
By JIM THOMAS Post-Dispatch
updated: 08/03/2003 11:07 PM

Rams rookie wide receiver Shaun McDonald attepts to balance five football during catching drills at the team's summer training camp in Macomb, Ill., last week.
(James Finley/AP)

MACOMB, Ill. - These are the dog days of training camp, when bodies ache, the trainer works overtime, and September seems a long way off.

"We're deep in the grind," Rams defensive captain Tyoka Jackson said. "This is the part of training camp where you've got to push through the wall. Your legs are tired. The bumps and the bruises. Everybody's going through it, throughout the entire National Football League.

"When you get a little time off, you try to enjoy yourself, have fun. But it's all business on the field. And the teams that excel in October, November, December, are the teams that mentally push through this wall, and continue to practice the proper way."

Not all of the bumps and bruises will be better today. But at least the Rams should be somewhat refreshed by the 1 1/2-day weekend pass granted by coach Mike Martz. After 10 straight days of practice in Macomb, Martz canceled Saturday afternoon's workout and both Sunday sessions. It's back to work today in preparation for Friday's preseason opener in Oakland.

Despite the image of Martz holding country club camps in Macomb, some of the new Rams don't see it that way. Offensive tackle Kyle Turley said Camp Martz is on the "borderline" of being a tough camp by NFL standards. The difference, as Turley and other newcomers have learned, is that Martz seems to know when to back off.

"Exactly," center Dave Wohlabaugh said. "And I think guys respect that. Because you see that he's just not trying to beat you down."

After eight seasons with New England and Cleveland, Wohlabaugh is participating in his first Rams camp.

"In this camp, we seem to have a little more time off here and there," Wohlabaugh said. "But when we practice, we really get after it pretty good. Some guys, they grind you into the ground. Whether you're dragging or not, you're out there.

"At least with Coach Martz, we're getting after it, but he's giving us a chance to recover. And I think that's pretty smart. That way, you get effective practices. You're just not out there kind of flailing around getting guys hurt."

Turley has witnessed the latter firsthand.

"I saw it in New Orleans," Turley said. "You break down a talented football team. Which is not what I think this coaching staff wants to do. Coach Martz is a guy who's expressed that with us. That he doesn't want to make this drudgery on us. He doesn't want this to get overextended, where guys are getting injured, things like that. It's just a feel for your team at first, I think."

Turley, who was the Saints' representative to the NFL Players Association, is among a growing group of players who think the concept of two-a-day practices in training camp has outlived its time.

"It really has," Turley said. "I don't personally see the necessity of it. It's almost redundant. I guess in the beginning of camp, it's good maybe for a week to get the kinks worked out. Kind of feel out your team. See what the character is of it, and then move on.

"But after about a week, it's kind of anti-climatic because you're just not getting anything done. Bodies are sore. Guys are starting to go down with little injuries here and there."

Spurred on by player reps like Turley and former Rams tight end Ernie Conwell, the NFLPA is trying to take an active role in evaluating training camps, offseason conditioning programs, and even in-season training regimens.

Turley said season-long performance would be enhanced if training camps were less severe.

"Because in December, your legs are going to be there," Turley said. "Being in New Orleans, I can definitely see the benefit to that. When we were in the hot sun down there, and we're out there for like 2 1/2 hours, two times a day, it just broke down a very talented football team. At the end of the season, it was just unfortunate."

Turley says the NFLPA wants to study the best way to train.

"You've got to have science behind it," he said. "And, there's been input from military sources and different people that train similar to what we do."

For his part, Martz feels a certain amount of two-a-day practices are needed in training camp.

"There's too much to do," Martz said. "There's so much to get done."

But not every day.

"Two full practices a day, you just don't do that," Martz said. "Not throughout camp. Our morning practice is never in (full) pads, and it's reduced in time. It's more technique-oriented and timing stuff."

Every third day, the team holds a light special-teams session in the morning instead of a regular practice. Martz sprinkles in the occasional day or evening off. Sometimes he'll cancel a period at the end of practice if the squad looks leg weary.

"All the Olympic athletes, when they train, they go on a three- or four-day cycle where the third or fourth day, you've got to back way off, and allow your body to recover," Martz said. "And that's kind of how I look at it.

"Work 'em hard, let 'em recover. Work 'em hard, let 'em recover. If you're constantly pounding on them, and you never get a chance to recover, you get to the season and they're dead tired."

And that's never a recipe for success.

Reporter Jim Thomas
Phone: 314-340-8197

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