Are NFL contact rules being broken?


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Jan 22, 2006
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Are NFL contact rules being broken?
By Jonah Bronstein
Greater Niagara Newspapers

ORCHARD PARK\— A few renegade NFL teams may have committed “NCAA” violations this spring.
The transgressions have nothing to do with college athletics. We’ve bastardized the NCAA acronym to mean “No contact allowed anytime.”

That’s what language in the league’s collective bargaining agreement effectively says regarding offseason practices. But some teams have chosen to break — or at least bend — those rules.

Last month, the Detroit Lions lost two days of Organized Team Activities (voluntary offseason workouts and meetings) after a lineman filed a grievance with the players association alleging that the team held contact drills at an April minicamp.

But that didn’t stop other teams from pushing the envelope. Mike Florio, editor of the Web site, speculated in his Web log on May 28 that hitting was occurring at OTAs. He cited anonymous tips and a comment Miami linebacker Zach Thomas made that suggested the team was holding him out of contact drills.

Two days later, Florio reported that the Kansas City Chiefs were allegedly holding contact drills, based on video posted to the team’s Web site. Online video of Washington Redskins linemen engaging in one-on-one contact drills cost the team OTA days last season.

The Chiefs removed their video less than two hours after Florio’s report.

Since, readers have contributed photo evidence indicating that Chicago, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Indianapolis and Seattle may have also violated Article XXXV, Section 5 of the CBA.

Both head coach Dick Jauron and safety Troy Vincent, who is president of the NFLPA, said the Bills have not had contact drills this offseason. Reporters didn’t witness any at last week’s minicamp or the previous week’s OTAs, aside from some pass rushing and pass blocking during 11-on-11 drills that wasn’t very aggressive.

“I think the rules are good rules and there in place for good reason,” Jauron said Wednesday. “It’s a long season once it gets started and you certainly don’t want to hurt players here (at minicamps).”
It’s the players’ job to enforce the rules, Vincent said, either by talking to coaches who might be pushing the envelope or filing a grievance with the players association if necessary.

“I think we’re all prideful men with a lot of bottled up energy and we want to show the coaches what we can do,” Vincent said. “But you don’t win games in T-shirts and shorts and helmets. And if players don’t enforce the rules, nobody will.”

But the entire players association doesn’t share Vincent’s assessment. Publicly, the Lions have supported the organization more than the player who blew the whistle in April.
“We want to get to the point where we’re taking it to the edge,” Detroit fullback Cory Schlesinger told the Detroit News last month. “Sometimes you go over. Sometimes you get penalized for it. If we take it over the edge, hey, that’s good for us.”

Vincent said that, for the most part, teams have not ran contact drills this offseason.

While some feel that contact in the offseason is a benign issue, there are two significant reasons why Florio and others think the rule should be followed to the letter.
Since players don’t wear pads at OTAs and minicamps, they are not suited to take the punishment that goes along with contact drills.

“Just because we don’t have pads on doesn’t mean much,” Oakland safety Jarrod Cooper told the Oakland Tribune this week. “People are still getting bruised and bumped. The only thing you’re not doing is hitting each other in the head.”
The other issue is that, in a league where players are fined for wearing the wrong colored socks, rules are expected to be enforced.

As Florio wrote on June 1: “We’re not sprouting gray hairs over million-dollar athletes who are banging bodies without padding. But when there are rules against such banging that are selectively enforced, the integrity of the entire system is undermined.”
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