Hoffman: Bill Callahan partially to blame for offensive line injuries

Chris Lingebach
January 09, 2019 - 2:58 pm
Hoffman: Bill Callahan partially to blame for offensive line injuries

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Redskins were the most injured team in the NFL in 2018, and a number of those injuries were along the offensive line. Part of the reason for that, Craig Hoffman suggests, is Bill Callahan overworking his offensive line.

Hoffman has been formulating this posture all season, and while it's no small accusation, it is rooted in personal expertise. Outside of reporting on the Redskins, Hoffman is also a physical trainer. He laid out his position in greater detail to Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier.

"You said that you think Bill Callahan, based on how hard he coaches his offensive linemen, is partially responsible for the injuries on the offensive line. To be honest with you, I think that's a really big claim," Paulsen said. "Explain what you mean by that. Is it true that you think that Callahan is part of the reason why they can’t keep offensive linemen healthy?"

"Yes," said Hoffman. "Unequivocally, yes."

"And you admit that that's a pretty big claim to make," said Paulsen.

"I mean, yes, in impact, but it's not like I'm pulling it out of left field," Hoffman replied. "There's very solid reasoning that anybody who studies the human body, has any background in any kind of sports science, any kind of physical fitness, any kind of biomechanics, would agree with."

The Redskins finished the season with 24 players on Injured Reserve. Seven of those players were offensive linemen.

According to Football Database, of the 389 players across the league's 32 teams on IR, 6.1 percent of those are Redskins players. The Redskins had twice the amount of players on IR as the league average (12 players). 

"It comes down to this very simple concept of load management," Hoffman explained. "With basketball players, when you train them, one of the things you don't train is jump-training. Because they jump in practice all the time, they jump in games all of the time. You don't want that number of ground contacts on a basketball player's legs because all they do is go up and down, and eventually there's only so many jumps in their knees, or their ankles or the ligaments in those places, and they're gonna give out."

"Well, for Callahan, there's only so many collisions these guys can take," he said. "And when you train every single day before and after practice – from OTAs to training camp, all the way through the season – and you're keeping your guys out there 30 minutes before, 30 minutes after. They're going through the entirety of practice, in special teams periods, where they're not necessarily part of a certain thing. Like if it's punt return happening, they're out there; or punt block, whatever. They're out there doing extra reps at all times.

"The human body, and especially bodies that are creating that much force at that much weight, they're gonna give out. And, it's not like, 'Oh, that drill directly led to Brandon Scherff tearing his pec.' But Brandon Scherff's pec had way more usage than a right guard in Seattle, or a right guard in Oakland, or a right guard in Kansas City, because Callahan's putting them through so many extra reps."

"It's pretty simple and straightforward," he continued. "There's only so many reps and a certain amount of time – the volume, if you will – how many reps and sets and things within a certain amount of time that these muscles have. And when they're generating that much force... like, there's a reason athletes tear their ACLs more than regular people. They generate more force, and the body's only built to handle so much, and there's only certain limitations and things that ligaments, and bones and joints can take."

"And so, when you're pushing those limits at all times," he added, "and you're pushing them repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly with maximum effort – which is what he demands – they're going to give out. It's science."

John Keim offered his assessment of the notion that Callahan may be overworking his linemen last week on The Sports Junkies.

"I think that that group works as hard or more than anybody, and that group has been hit hard by injuries," Keim reasoned. "Now, some of those guys who have been getting hurt are guys who came on late in the year, so it's hard to say that a Zac Kerin or someone like that, or Jonathan Cooper, who got hurt – was it really because they were banging hard since training camp?

"Well, he wasn't here since then, so it's hard to say that. But you know that Morgan Moses, Trent Williams always have a lot of things they're dealing with. Shawn Lauvao was, I mean that was the easiest prediction of all that he would get hurt. Right? So I would say you hear rumbles about that, yes. And I think you have to look at that."

Keim continued: "And it's funny, because a lot of the complaints I hear about Gruden is like, 'Oh, they've got to have harder practices!' Well, the group that works and practices the hardest has been the most ravaged by injuries. Is that a coincidence? But like I said, I think you look at each case and there were guys who were coming off the street, who were not here all year, who were getting hurt as well.

"But again, there are guys like, do you need Trent Williams and Morgan Moses to be... and I don't know, like, that they're pounding each other every practice. You can only do so much. But they do work harder, and after practice they're always the last group in by a good 20 minutes or so. Does that take a toll? You can certainly wonder that."

Hoffman went on to say the correlation between Callahan overworking his linemen and the amount of injuries along the line is on the radar of people inside Redskins Park. 

"There are people within the building that have wondered this, too," he said. "They're certainly aware of it." 

This was Callahan's fourth season coaching the Redskins offensive line, his second with the additional title as assistant head coach.

"There has been a belief since the end of the season that offensive line coach Bill Callahan could move on," The Washington Post reported Wednesday. "But the person said that hasn't taken place yet. Callahan is expected to draw interest from teams that could offer a promotion for the former Raiders head coach."

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