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 9 weeks (10 if the team changed head coaches).
What's in question is whether injuries are, in fact, on the rise in the NFL, as Belichick suggested.
Though he didn't cite specific numbers, Belichick said he was citing "a matter of record not opinion," in saying injuries leaguewide have been on the rise over the past 3 years.
League spokesman Michael Signora disputed Belichick's assertions.
"We carefully monitor player injuries," Signora said. "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. But according to STATS, the number of NFL players finishing a season on injured reserve has risen significantly over the past 14 seasons.
The Patriots (11-4) have been beset by a rash of injuries to key contributors this season. They have six starters on IR, including tight end Rob Gronkowski (right knee), offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, linebacker Jerod Mayo, defensive lineman Vince Wilford (Achilles' tendon) and safety Adrian Wilson.
"When you see the number as high as they are, then I don't think that's a randomness that's been 2 years in a row," Belichick said. "I've got to think there's some correlation there."
* Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews will miss Sunday's game against Chicago for the NFC North title after aggravating a right thumb injury. The Packers are expected to announce if quarterback Aaron Rodgers is ready to return from a left collarbone injury.
* The Denver Broncos got their three W's back at practice - slot receiver Wes Welker (concussion), defensive end Derek Wolfe (seizure-like episode) and cornerback Kayvon Webster (broken thumb).
* Detroit placed tight end Brandon Pettigrew on injured reserve with an ankle injury.
* New Orleans signed safety Terrence Frederick off Cleveland's practice squad and placed safety Kenny Vaccaro on injured reserve with a broken ankle.