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NFL NOTEBOOK

by The Associated Press on December 27, 2013 10:55 AM

Patriots coach Bill Belichick is blaming recently instituted NFL rules shortening offseason practice time for what he claims to be an increasing number of player injuries.

“I’m in favor of total preparation for the players for the season,” Belichick said during a conference call with Buffalo reporters this week in leading up to New England’s home game against the Bills on Sunday. “And I think that’s been changed significantly and, I would say, not necessarily for the better when you look at the injury numbers.”

Belichick said players are more vulnerable to being hurt because they’re less prepared, and described the limits placed on offseason workouts — including training camp — as being counterproductive.

“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.”

Belichick was specifically challenging several new rules negotiated into the NFL labor deal that ended an offseason-long lockout in 2011.

Teams were prevented from holding two-a-day practices during training camp. Limits were also placed 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 (10 if the team changed head coaches).

 

COWBOYS: Kyle Orton will make his first start at quarterback in his two seasons with the Cowboys on Sunday night, unless Tony Romo can recover from a herniated disc. Dallas will be playing a winner-take-all game against Philadelphia for the NFC East title and a playoff berth.

 

BRONCOS: The Denver Broncos got their three “W’s” back at practice on Christmas Day — Wes Welker, Derek Wolfe and Kayvon Webster. It’s unlikely that Welker and Wolfe will play against Oakland in the regular-season finale Sunday, but both were cleared to practice after prolonged absences.

Welker’s practice was his first since suffering a second concussion on Dec. 8.

 

PACKERS: Packers linebacker Clay Matthews will miss Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears for the NFC North title after aggravating a right thumb injury.

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