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ACC, Boston College Talk Player Safety

Hot topic remains front and center at conference meetings in Orlando

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

ACC coaches went from teachers to students this week.

The Orlando Sentinel reported yesterday that coaches were put through a battery of lectures and educational settings with the hope of improving awareness and practice towards concussions and player safety.  An always emotional topic, Boston College's Steve Addazio was front and center when talking about the meetings with doctors.

Concussions and mental health concerns were some of the key issues among many of the coaches in attendance, with doctors and health experts armed with the latest data making the rounds this week.

"I'm learning a lot here over the last couple of days and it's all centered around player welfare," Boston College coach Steve Addazio said after Wednesday's meetings.  "There's a lot there and I'm taking it all in."

Armed with new scientific data and the latest concussion studies, the ACC coaches left open the possibility of limiting the number of full-padded practices during the season.  The NCAA is not talking a rule change, but the ACC is taking it to the individual conference level.  On both sides of the table were coaches for and against, but once again Addazio gave a Zen-like talk about how his thoughts:

Addazio said his thought process on the issue has evolved over the years and coaches have to learn to be flexible.  His team didn't tackle this spring because of a limited roster adding, "It was the functionality of what we had to do."

Everyone knows Addazio as a tough, fire-breathing coach who reflects a coach willing to go to the weekly battle with his guys.  He's a guy who deeply cares about the good aspects of competition, and his practices at BC last season reflected an honest approach to remaining humble by rebuilding a tradition long lost.  Underneath that, we're now seeing a guy who is being very thoughtful about his approach to player safety, and we're getting a glimpse into a guy that is putting his players' safety first through well-thought research.

One thing about player safety is that it's tough to discuss.  On the one hand, you're seeing more and more injuries diagnosed and recovered from in lightning quick amounts of time.  Where an ACL tear used to be a career death sentence, it's not like that anymore and guys are returning to form more quickly.  But at the same time, we're seeing a greater prevalence and wider spectrum of injuries.  While this can be linked to better focus and research, football coaches no longer can ignore injuries with a simple, "Suck it up" and instead now have to become amateur medical researchers in order to fully understand what their players can and cannot do.

In the report, two things struck me as very interesting.  First, David Cutcliffe from Duke, the chair of the coaches committee, talked about how practicing in full pads doesn't necessarily mean full contact.  I agree with this statement because it gets players used to the feeling of playing with pads in certain situations.  Just because you're wearing pads doesn't mean you have to go out and crush a guy with tackles.  Although maybe I'm naive in that regard.

And two - Dave Clawson from Wake Forest put forth that there's a misconception about scrimmaging.  He said that once the season starts, he doesn't scrimmage at all.  This is something that I feel most people know but rarely say.  Football is so classroom and science based at times that it's almost like it's own study.  Instead of training to hit the guy, it's a combination of physics and human engineering.  You have to figure out the right angle to cut off on a run, how to stop a receiver from going over the middle without just lighting him up, and how to use your skill set to offset another team's.  It's like alchemy at this point.

Either way, the studies and science coming out will forever alter the sport, but it's still an interesting discussion.  We're getting saturated with the fact that football and concussions can cause long term damage, but at the same time, we're never really going to be saturated while there's still lawsuits, unionization, and concerns about safety.  It's always in the league's best interest to dispel false reports and bring in trained medical experts.  I'm sure this will remain a topic into the future, and it's always worth having a discussion about it.