If Al Davis were alive, he’d tell Kyle Shanahan, “You can’t win games in May, but you sure as hell can lose them,” and, “If you get players hurt during OTAs, you’re a dumbs—.”
Those were two of Davis’ favorite football axioms. He especially loved the phrase “dumbs—.”
Shanahan is no dumbs—. But he has violated both axioms this offseason through the structure of his OTAs, and the unrealistic demands he has placed on players three months before the season even starts.
On the second day of OTAs, the 49ers’ first-round pick, Nick Bosa, suffered a Grade 1 hamstring strain during a competitive, full-speed, one-on-one pass-rushing drill. He will miss the next few weeks. And on the fourth day of OTAs, the 49ers’ starting free safety, Jimmie Ward, broke his clavicle diving for a ball without wearing pads. He will miss the next eight to 12 weeks.
Bosa and Ward are two of 20 injured players on the 49ers’ 90-man roster. This is a staggering amount of injuries. The 49ers ought to have a helicopter on call to take players from practice straight to the hospital.
But these injuries won’t derail the 49ers’ season. They don’t need players to practice through injury right now. And most should be ready for training camp.
But while these 20 players sit out, the remaining 70 will work extra hard, take extra reps and run extra miles during practice. Meaning they’ll have extra risk of suffering their own injuries. Not good.
OTAs shouldn’t be strenuous. The purpose of OTAs is to teach players assignments, alignments and techniques. Players don’t have to run and hit to learn. They can do walkthroughs and accomplish their offseason goals while protecting themselves from injury.
Football players are not in peak football shape in May. They haven’t used their muscles in competitive football settings since December. They’re still developing their bodies through aggressive weight training, still building toward the regular season. They’re not ready to compete.
Shanahan’s OTAs are too aggressive and competitive. He’s laying the groundwork in May to lose games in September by getting key players hurt.
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