BOULDER —Colorado opened a fall camp that will have a different feel this month. Oh, Tuesday's first day was no different. It was more than 100 players in shorts and helmets showing off their new fitness from summer workouts.
But once the pads go on Saturday, the feel will be lighter than normal this month. It always has been first-year coach Mike Mac Intyre's philosophy. Now it is the Pac-12's.
The conference became the only league besides the Ivy to restrict contact this season.
"These guidelines have been shaped by input from our coaches who support our progressive agenda and have helped author it," commissioner Larry Scott said in his state-of-the-conference address on media day last month. "Our conversations with the student-athletes and coaches reinforced the need to design a rule that struck a fine balance between staying healthy and staying sharp."
According to the new guidelines, if a Pac-12 team has full contact in the first practice of two-a-days, the second practice must be in only helmets and shoulder pads. If a morning practice of a two-a-day is full contact, the preceding one-a-day practice can be no more than 50 percent full contact.
During the season, Pac-12 teams are limited to two full-contact days per week. The NCAA allows four.
Most coaches don't hit more than two days a week during the season, and many limit hitting in August to avoid injury. However, some hit more than others.
"I think it's good, because it'll reduce injury and keep us more healthy," sophomore tailback Christian Powell said Tuesday. "More toward the middle (of last year's camp), we were doing hitting drills every day."
The Pac-12 has done extensive head trauma research through a head trauma task force. In 2014, the Pac-12 will appoint a blue-ribbon panel of doctors and researchers who will share research and joint initiatives. The league will commit $3.5 million in research grants for projects to improve safety at conference schools.
The league is having some teams experiment with special chips in their helmets and shoulder pads to monitor safety.
"All of our coaches in our conference — and we all talked long and hard about this — do a good job of taking care of their kids," MacIntyre said. "They understand you have to work them but can't hit too much. It's not too much different from what I did in the past."
MacIntyre said in lieu of full contact, the Buffaloes will "thud" — which is making contact without taking a player to the ground.
"We're trying to make sure we stay ahead of the curve and do what we're supposed to and show we're protecting the kids," MacIntyre said. "And that we, as coaches, know what we're doing."
Not all players, however, are for lighter practices. Then again, linebackers hit something when they wake up in the morning.
"Less hitting?" senior linebacker Derrick Webb said. "I guess it'll be good for our bodies, but we like to go out and be physical and really push each other out there. As a linebacker, I like the extra contact. We'll see how it goes."
Webb and Powell have been lucky — so far. Powell suffered a concussion last year against Washington. Webb never has.
"I pray a lot out here," Webb said. "I pray before every practice. I don't really worry about health issues. I leave it up to God."