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Bill Belichick thinks fewer practices lead to more injuries: ‘I’ve got to think there’s some correlation there’

12.26.13 at 11:49 am ET
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Bill Belichick feels there's a reason so many Patriots have been injured this season. (AP)

Bill Belichick feels there’s a reason so many Patriots have been injured this season. (AP)

When Bill Belichick offers up an opinion, it’s usually for a reason.

In a conference call with Bills reporters this week, the Patriots coach made no mistake – he thinks fewer offseason practices as demanded by post-lockout NFL labor deal increases the number of player injuries.

“I’m in favor of total preparation for the players for the season,” Belichick said during a conference call. “And I think that’s been changed significantly and, I would say, not necessarily for the better when you look at the injury numbers.”

The Patriots have lost five starters to season-ending injuries, including Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Tommy Kelly, Sebastian Vollmer and Rob Gronkowski. Safety Adrian Wilson also had Achilles surgery and never played a down for the Patriots this season.

Belichick believes the shorter the time players have to prepare during the offseason the more likely they are to open themselves to injuries.

“Personally, I think that’s taking the wrong approach,” he said. “You have a gap between preparation and competition level. And I think that’s where you see a lot of injuries occurring. We get a lot of breakdowns. We get a lot of situations that players just aren’t as prepared as they were in previous years, in my experience anyway.

“When you see the number as high as they are, then I don’t think that’s a randomness that’s been two years in a row,” Belichick said. “I’ve got to think there’s some correlation there.”

In an effort to appease the NFL Players Association, teams were prevented from holding two-a-day practices during training camp. Belichick has often said “this isn’t 1975,” referring to his first year in the NFL when two-a-day training camp practices and full pad practices were common two or three times during a week.

Now, there are limits on how many times players practiced in pads throughout the year. In the spring, offseason team activity time was reduced from 14 to nine weeks, and 10 if the team changed head coaches.

NFL spokesman Michael Signora disputed Belichick’s claims that injuries are on the rise, likely due to the new policies.

“We carefully monitor player injuries,” Signora told the Associated Press. “There is no evidence that the new work rules have had an adverse effect on the injury rate or that injuries have in fact increased.”

The NFL declined to released its numbers to the Associated Press. But according to STATS Inc., the number of NFL players finishing a season on injured reserve has risen significantly over the past 14 seasons. From 2000-06, there was an average of 239 players on IR. That average has jumped to about 314 over the past seven years.

The low over that span was 192 in 2001, with the high being 353 in 2010, but that was before the new offseason rules came into effect.

As of Monday, there were 288 players on IR, the lowest total since 287 in 2008. Those figures, however, don’t include players who have been on injured reserve and released by their teams during the season. It has also been difficult to measure how many regulars have missed games due to injury.

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