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Coaches forced to tweak training-camp plans as lockout lingers

As consummate planners, NFL coaches already have moved past the notion of preparing for offseason workouts that are all but officially wiped out and have begun focusing on plans for training camp, which at least still offers hope of being held.

Pat Kirwan: Offenses hit harder by lockout

As the lockout lingers it has a ripple effect. Coaches like John Harbaugh told me weeks ago they were already considering a reduction in their offensive and defensive packages. With June nearly here, coaches will once again be rewriting their installation schedules and are frustrated by time lost.

I did hear from one coach who told me, "You can't throw away half of your package because of the lost time. Quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will chew up a reduced package."

Another coach said, "So we install during the season, we do that anyway with pressure calls and sub packages. It may mean more veterans make teams instead of sixth- and seventh-round picks."

New Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton said he's not to the point where he thinks the young guys can't be ready even if there's a prolonged lockout. He still feels there's plenty of time to get his scheme installed.

It appears a number of defensive coaches feel the same way. I'm not sure the offensive coordinators are as comfortable.

Recent comments from Bill Belichick and Norv Turner make it clear that their respective teams -- the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers -- are proceeding along those lines. But they're hardly alone. Similar thoughts have been shared by other coaches and club executives around the league, although some prefer those thoughts remain private.

The bottom line is that, as all teams begin a very different process of planning for training camp, we could actually see a little more being accomplished in less time. And that could result in players being better dialed in to what they're doing on the field.

The biggest difference in the process is that coaches will take into account two factors they didn't previously need to address as much: Players' physical conditioning and the very real chance that camp will be abbreviated.

Normally, all teams have had a chance to monitor what sort of shape most of their players are in and expose them to a fair amount of specific on-field work to help get acclimated to what they'll be doing during training camp. With a lockout, that isn't happening. So, as Turner pointed out to the *San Diego Union-Tribune*, the early part of camp would likely see greater emphasis on conditioning work. The pace of practice would be handled accordingly.

Nor are coaches able to get into specifics of the playbook, a larger problem for teams with new coaches and schemes but an issue for everyone because of the constant tweaking and adjusting that all clubs do.

As a result, most training-camp practice plans are expected to be streamlined, so that players have significantly less new material to cover. At least theoretically, that gives them a better chance to absorb it. This approach also takes into account the labor dispute causing camps to start later than usual and compressing their length and that of the preseason.

Turner could have been speaking for all NFL coaches when he said it was imperative for the Chargers' staff "to be a lot more specific, a lot more detailed" in running camp drills because there will be no time to waste. Installation of the playbook could be cut back "maybe drastically," Belichick said.

All of which makes perfect sense and could very well lead to crisper workouts, during which players' attention is kept longer. That, in turn, might help avoid the poor quality of play that some are predicting once the season arrives.

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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