With the Denver Broncos in the midst of their authorized off-season field workouts, it takes the memory of long time observers back to how it used to be.
It is completely different now in the NFL, and much for the better.
Decades ago the players did not have the intense off-season training programs that exist today.
As a result, players came into training camp in July in various stages of physical fitness, some of which are not very attractive to recall today.
The off-season was for hanging out and slipping out of shape, and then many guys worked their way into shape during camp, especially the savvy veterans who knew their jobs were secure. Some guys worked out regularly, and some not at all, sad to say.
No more. Now the running and lifting start in early April, so the players are in tip-top shape when camp begins.
They have to be. The competition for jobs is too great year-round for the situation to be any other way.
The other thing that is a large part of the current NFL off-season is the field work, coupled with classroom study.
All teams are able to head into July training camp with squads that are in exceptional physical condition, know their roles and assignments, and are able to compete for positions from day one.
Training camp itself then has become shorter, but also crisper, with less breakdown of the body by a steady diet of hitting.
So as a player becomes older, he is happier because his body is not beaten down during camp as much as his counterpart 30 years ago.
The rookies also are a lot happier, although they do not have any previous experience to compare with, because they have been integrated into the team concept during the post draft period and can pick things up a little faster.
The result when training camp begins is one of the greatest meritocracies in the country–the National Football League of today.
The best players play.
Regardless of draft position, salary or pre-conceived notion, the players are placed in a position on the field and in the classroom to show themselves to the best of their abilities, and the cream rises.
The resulting play is hence sharper, and that benefits coaches, franchises and the fans who watch.