Those people who treat an increased lack of contact in football with utter disdain got some more ammo on Friday with the news that NFL preseason concussions were up 73 percent in 2017 from the year before.
That's because, according to Kevin Seifert of ESPN, the league is pinning the problem on 11-on-11 practice drills in training camp.
Per Seifert, the total number of concussions jumped from 26 in 2016 last year to 45 in 2017, and "most of them occurred during full-team drills during the opening weeks of camp, before preseason games began."
Although several teams have been fined and/or otherwise punished over the past few years for violating practice rules, this is not simply a case of a team like the Ravens or Seahawks going rogue and causing a bump in concussions.
"It's not a matter of having five or six recidivistic clubs that we have to discipline into line," Dr. Allen Sills, the league's chief medical officer, said. "This is a league-wide issue where everyone has to understand it's on all of us to work on. It might sound trite to say, but any concussion we save is important to us. We want to put the awareness out there ... and make sure we're making it as safe as we can."
Additionally worth noting, it sounds like the majority of the concussions happened in "the opening weeks of training camp," although the presence of the early concussions doesn't mean players get more acclimated to the drills as training camp wears on. Sills pointed out to Seifert the brain is not a hamstring -- you don't have to stretch it out to make it more receptive to exercise. Instead, it's more about total "exposure."
Per Seifert, the league "stopped short of banning full-squad drills" but "warned teams" about the drills causing a large portion of the preseason concussions.
These are padded practices, full 11-on-11 matchups that serve as one of the best possible practice options for coaches to get players ready for both the preseason and the actual regular season. Banning these practices in training camp would likely cause a serious outcry among coaches who do not care for the reduced contact imposed on the NFL since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement came about in 2011.
A viable argument can be made the league is seeing the quality of football drop as a result of reduced practice time, but no amount of arguing is going to cause the NFL to continue and allow teams to engage in activities that cause concussions to dramatically increase. If the league finds another bump in 11-on-11 drills across the board in 2018, don't be surprised to see the scope of what's allowed in practice to be reduced.