Seemingly every NFL team has issues on its offensive line, and that is not a surprise to former longtime 49ers player Derrick Deese.
Deese started 116 games during his career with the 49ers through the 2003 season. He was a highly versatile offensive lineman under legendary coach Bobb McKittrick. Deese played every position on the offensive line, starting at right guard in Super Bowl XXIX before playing the majority of his career at left tackle. He said the changes after the NFL's collective bargaining agreement in 2011 have made it more difficult on offensive linemen to prepare for their jobs.
While some have pointed to the proliferation of spread offenses in college that do not properly train offensive linemen for the next level, Deese pointed to the hours of padded practices lost on the practice field as the biggest reason for the struggling play of offensive lines around the NFL.
“I think when you come down to practice, offensive line needs more practice time than a defensive lineman does because there’s so much stuff to learn – so many more variables we have to understand,” Deese said on “The 49ers Insider Podcast.”
“For one defense, sometimes there might be three different ways to block that play. So when you start cutting down practice schedules and say you only have this amount of time per week, and this amount of time per day, it’s hard to get all of that in. It’s hard to get all the reps you actually need to be successful. When they cut that down, something’s going to suffer and you see what suffers.”
After the newest CBA was ratified in 2011, teams are no longer allowed to hold two padded practices per day in training camp. The NFL also placed limits on the number of full-contact padded practices during the regular season. Teams are permitted only 14 padded practices for the season with a maximum of one per week.
Deese, 47, understands why the NFL has taken steps to reduce contact – and risk of injury – in practices. Deese said he has undergone 17 football-related surgeries and is putting off three more surgeries – two on his shoulders and one on his elbow.
“I deal with that. I understand that,” Deese said. “It was a decision I made to play the game. If you asked a lot of guys who played the game if they would do it again, I’m willing to say, probably, 95 percent of them say ‘I’d do it again.’”
As a parent, he said he has not allowed his children to play tackle football until the eighth grade, but he has not dissuaded his children from playing in high school and beyond. His eldest son, Derrick, is a wide receiver at Golden West Community College in Huntington Beach.
“I’ve talked to people that have kids and they tell their kids, ‘I don’t want you to play football.’ I know guys who have kids in high school who will not let their kids play football at all,” Deese said.
“To me, as a parent, especially one who was successful in the game, you don’t (prevent) your son an opportunity to play the game. Right now, with what they’ve done with football, I think it’s the safest time to allow kids to play the game. They’re teaching the game a whole different way. They’ve made the game a lot safer.”