View Full Version : Bigger, stronger, faster

01-22-2002, 01:09 PM
Here's the link (http://www.dallasnews.com/sports_day/football/cowboys/nfl/22nflsizelede.b3a33.html)

Tuesday | January 22, 2002
Huge difference
As players get ever larger, concerns grow over how much punishment they can take
By TERRY BLOUNT / The Dallas Morning News

Size matters, and they're getting bigger all the time.

That could be the mantra for the NFL, where players are bigger, faster, stronger and more dangerous at impact than anyone could have imagined a generation ago."I think we are starting to reach a point where this is as much as the human body can take," said Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Hugh Douglas. "Even when I came in the league five years ago, linemen were smaller than they are now. I hope we have peaked, but I don't know."

Some longtime NFL followers still believe the great teams of the past were better than the teams of the parity-driven, 21st century NFL. But a look back in time shows a shocking difference in the size of players since the mid-1960s.

The Green Bay Packers that Vince Lombardi coached to victories in the first two Super Bowls wouldn't be big enough to impress a good small-college team these days.

Bill Curry, the starting center in Super Bowl I 35 years ago, weighed 235 pounds. Hall of Fame offensive tackle Forrest Gregg tipped the scales at 250 pounds, and All-Pro guard Jerry Kramer weighed in at 245.

Now look at the offensive line of the Super Bowl XXXV champion Baltimore Ravens, which included 380-pound tackle Jonathan Ogden and 340-pound guard Edwin Mulitalo. All five starters were listed at 300 pounds or more.

"It's like comparing apples and oranges," said 305-pound Cowboys defensive tackle Brandon Noble. "It's a different game now. To say the 1966 Packers could play against the 2000 Ravens is ridiculous. It doesn't make any sense."

'Big' is relative

Some players of the past still would be outstanding players today, especially skill-position running backs like Jim Brown or Gale Sayers. And there were some huge players in the 1960s. Defensive tackle Ernie Ladd, who played for Kansas City and Houston, was 6-9, 290. Buck Buchanan, a defensive lineman for the Chiefs, was 6-7, 285.

But those players were exceptions. Now it's an exception to see a lineman who isn't more than 280 pounds.

And it isn't just linemen who are getting bigger. Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis is listed at 260 pounds, though his teammates will laugh and tell you that's a conservative estimate. Dallas running back Troy Hambrick is listed at 250 pounds.

When running backs that large are being tackled by linemen who weigh more than 300 pounds, something has to give.

"I see things happening out there now that didn't happen in the past," said Cowboys offensive lineman Aaron Gibson, one of the largest players in the NFL at 6-6, 380. "I've seen cracked helmets, broken facemasks, and broken shoulder pads. The equipment we have is good, but I don't know if it has kept up with the size and strength of the players."

The question Douglas and other players are asking is whether the size, strength, and speed of men in the NFL today are becoming more than the human body was meant to endure.

"The body can only take so much," said Dallas rookie linebacker Marcus Steele, who is 6-3, 240. "And the linemen aren't only bigger, but they are much faster now. That was the toughest adjustment for me because everybody is so quick and things happen so fast. An NFL game is so intense and destructive now that you are literally wearing your body out."

Remember when?

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the bulking up over the last 20 years is something he wouldn't believe had he not been a part of it.

He cites former Giants nose tackle Jim Burt, who played for New York from 1981-89 when Belichick was a defensive coach for the team.

"We had some great defenses in those years, and Jim was an outstanding nose tackle," Belichick said. "He weighed 260 pounds. Think about that. We don't have a single lineman anywhere close to that small now with the Patriots."

During Burt's era, the Chicago Bears had a defensive tackle, and occasional goal line fullback, named William "The Refrigerator" Perry. In 1988, Perry tipped the scales at 340 pounds, making him the heaviest NFL player in history up to that point.

But Perry had a belly that would make him an ideal candidate for a Santa Claus costume. Many players today carry more than 300 pounds with a chiseled physique.

"Now we go to the combine [for draft-eligible college players] in Indianapolis each year and you don't see linemen under 315," Belichick said. "It's incredible. It's 320 for a lot of these guys now, and we may see them be 340 for the average size. I don't know where it's going to end."

Dallas rookie offensive tackle Char-ron Dorsey, who is 6-6, 350, believes the size increases can't keep going up forever. "I don't think the body can get to 400 pounds and be in shape," he said. "I hope this is where we are going to top out."

Belichick isn't so sure. He said he thought the trend of increasing size would peak about 10 years ago, but now he isn't sure a top-off point exists.

"They just seem to get bigger and bigger every year," Belichick said. "We certainly aren't going in reverse. The guys aren't getting taller, but they are all getting thicker and bulkier."

Evolution doesn't work this fast. Could steroids be part of the story? Steroids are banned in the NFL, and no statistics exist on their use in the league, so hard evidence is hard to come by. .

At the high school level, however, a recent study found that steroids have become more prevalent. The National Institute on Drug Abuse concluded that steroid use among 10th-grade boys has increased 50 percent over the last 10 years.

Some male high school athletes have turned to over-the-counter supplements such as androstenedione, once used by baseball slugger Mark McGwire, and creatine. Both help the body produce more testosterone and enable a person to work out more vigorously.

Working harder

Dallas offensive lineman Matt Lehr (6-2, 290) believes the advances in workout equipment, along with the time players spend in the weight room, account for the size increases.

"You have to remember that 30 years ago teams didn't have offseason workout programs," Lehr said. "The sky's the limit now on how big and strong a player can be."

The result? Lehr predicts an increase in injuries. He said some linemen today can run as fast as many running backs did 30 years ago, but these linemen are more than 100 pounds heavier than the running backs were then.

"Regardless of how much you are in shape," he said, "injuries are going to happen with the size and speed of guys today."

01-22-2002, 01:15 PM
Comparing the starting offensive and defensive lines of the 1967 Green Bay Packers, the champions of Super Bowl I, and the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens:

T Forrest Gregg 6-4 250
G F. Thurston 6-1 245
C Bill Curry 6-2 235
G Jerry Kramer 6-3 245
T Bob Skoronski 6-3 245
Average 6-2 245

T J. Ogden 6-8 340
G Mike Flynn 6-3 300
C Jeff Mitchell 6-4 300
G Edwin Mulitola 6-3 340
T Harry Swayne 6-5 300
Average 6-4 316

E Willie Davis 6-3 245
T Henry Jordan 6-3 250
T Ron Kostelnik 6-4 260
E Lionel Aldridge 6-4 245
Average 6-3 250

E Rob Burnett 6-4 270
T Sam Adams 6-3 330
T Tony Siragusa 6-3 340
E Mike McCrary 6-4 270
Average 6-3 302