NFL Off-Season Rules Have Become Ridiculous

Jobs that require high performance from mind and body require extra effort to achieve individual and team success.

Yet, the NFL has become an enterprise that limits the amount of time a player and thus a team can devout to their craft. Striving for excellence was outlawed in the league’s labor agreement that was signed in 2011.

On Monday, the last batch of NFL teams will begin their nine-week off-season programs. That group includes the Chiefs, who will gather at the team’s facility in the Truman Sports Complex for the first time since the loss in the first round of the playoffs back in early January. Teams with new head coaches got a jump on their start date, opening two weeks ago. All of the clubs are limited in the amount of organized team activities (workouts, meetings and no-pads practices) they can hold.

Other than these nine weeks, players are not allowed to meet with their team’s coaching staff. They are not allowed to go into the team’s facility and run through a physical workout under the direction of team trainers or strength coaches. They can get treatment for injuries and ailments that they carried out of the 2013 season, but that’s the only active involvement allowed under the rules between players and the team.

Think about that for a minute in another context – a bright young cello player works with one of the top orchestras in the country. But his practice time is limited by rules developed by the cello players union. He must go months at a time without playing his cello or listening to recordings of his performances. Does that make better music? Does that make any sense, for the musician or his employer?

Would other professions or business put up with similar rules limiting the search for achievement?

Yet, the owners and players agreed to the restrictive rules that were brought to the negotiating table by the union. Ownership had no problem accepting the rules for two reasons: 1.) It did not cost them any money and 2.) “Football” people were not involved in the negotiations, i.e. coaches and general managers. The union interest was driven by the desire for less organized exertion for its members in an attempt to limit injuries. Both sides did not express any thought that the rules could affect the quality of play, and if that happened, so be it.

Last week a situation became public that was a possible violation of the rules. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning visited with University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa. On the same day, Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase was also at the headquarters of the Crimson Tide, meeting with Saban.

If they met with the Alabama coaches together, then Manning and Gase violated the NFL off-season rules on contact between players and coaches. That would subject the Broncos to league discipline, costing them a fine, a lost draft choice or both. Saban has come out and said the visitors did not arrive together, or talk with him in a single meeting, but the league will investigate anyway.

But what if Manning and Gase arrived together? What if they quarterback and coordinator spent a day, a week or a month in Tuscaloosa, sharing a room at the Red Roof Inn as they spent hours picking Saban’s brains? What if they dined together at The Original Dreamland Bar-B-Que Restaurant over a slab of ribs and a pitcher of Budweiser? Is this something that should be anybody’s business but the Broncos and the men involved?

Throughout his career, Manning has been driven by the desire to improve, not settling for less than a step above his best past performances. He’s one of those athletes that always seem to do more than anybody else in preparation. That’s also why he achieves more than anybody else in production. Manning works on his body, his mind and his knowledge like few others have done in the game’s history.

Article 21, section 1 of the current labor agreement reads:

“No player shall be required to attend or participate in any offseason workout program or classroom instruction of a Club other than as provided in Article 22. Any other Club offseason workout programs and classroom instruction sessions shall be strictly voluntary and shall take place in the manner and time period set forth in this Article.”

If a player does not want to participate, he faces no discipline. What else is needed? To keep up with more dedicated and hard working peers, a player learns quickly that he must participate in off-season work to have a chance of staying in the league. How is that a bad thing?

NFL players and coaches in search of knowledge and better performance should not have to be hamstrung by silly N.C.A.A.-like regulations about whether they can meet and talk beyond hello, how are you. This is professional football, and pros turn over every stone to improve. At least, the very best ones do. They do it physically. They do it mentally.

There should be no restrictions in the quest for greatness.

11 Responses to “NFL Off-Season Rules Have Become Ridiculous”

  • April 21, 2014  - Tenand6 says:


  • April 21, 2014  - John Lovelace says:

    These players have unlimited opportunity to hone their craft. It doesn’t need to be at the team facility. If players/coaches were allowed to stay year round at the facility, working together, media would scrutinize those who were not there “improving the team.” The contract simply mandates that they get a “Vacation” of sorts not only from football but from media. I do however disagree with the limited practice time in pads/full contact and such during football operations. I understand it, but disagree with it.

  • April 21, 2014  - el cid says:

    Feel like the NFL is like the lady riding on the back of a tiger. She has a smile but is thinking how do I get off without being eaten and the smile is on the tiger.

    The NFL is the gorilla of American sports. How do they stay that way, currently they seem to believe by tinkering here and there. They already sold their souls with the CBA to silence complains from the union. So they tinker and hope they do not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

  • April 21, 2014  - R W says:

    It wasn’t all that long ago when NFL players had real jobs in the off-season. In retrospect, maybe it was light years ago. Anyway, what level of conditioning was done then as opposed to now?

    The product in the 60s/70s was better than now even with limited or NO off-season workouts by the players. Why? The game was bereft of all today’s PC rules which include concussion protocols, limited hitting areas, no blows to the head and the list goes on.

    If a player wants to accept the risks of playing a violent sport, have them sign a legal release absolving the league of any responsibility for injuries suffered. But, we’re living in a far different America in 2014 as opposed to 1966 so I look for the product on the field to continue to be watered down to please the PC police and lawyers.

  • April 21, 2014  - TimR says:

    Only two observations…

    1. These new rules only make it more obvious that players are personally responsible for the shape they’re in. The ones that take their profession more seriously than others, will be obvious. Hopefully, data is being kept on injury rates, etc. before and after these rules.

    2. Everybody is operating under the same rules, so the individual player’s efforts to improve themselves physically is even more apparent. It will be obvious which ones want it, and which ones don’t…

  • April 21, 2014  - johnfromfairfax says:

    I too think that players should voluntarily be able to meet and work on their skills and craft more during the offseason.

    However, as I recall, some of these guidelines were developed as a result of some teams having contact practices during the off season and players complaining they were being pressured to participate. That’s as wrong as forbidding other activities and more harmful to the players.

    I don’t agree with the premise that the game was better in the 60′s and 70′s. Players are bigger, faster and stronger today than they were then. When you ‘re at a pro game and hear the collisions that occur it’s incredibly violent. The level of performance is typically very high as well.

    Listen to what the players in the league and medical folks who study and treat the effects of playing the game say. While the term “PC” is thrown around to demean any change we don’t agree with to the game and unions are blamed by some for every negative aspect of some individuals’ perspective of the workplace we aren’t living in the Roman Empire. Safety changes are necessary to protect players health and lives. Players still suffer life altering injuries and die prematurely all the time as a result of the damage inflicted on their bodies playing the game.

  • April 21, 2014  - jimmydee says:

    Does a player HAVE to, be mandated to, belong to the union? If so….WHY??? Belonging to, or not belonging to, ANY union should be a matter of personal choice, not penalty ridden affects if you don’t. Yet….we all know how that works.

    Classically, many Right to Work States. EVERYBODY has the RIGHT to work….how they choose to go about that process should not be mandated by having to belong to any union. Its a RIGHT to work…not a “you have to be a member of our Union” to Work. Unless, of course you’re a die hard Democrat/Progressive and this is the only reason you can come up with to be a Democrat/Progressive.

    Talk about it………….

  • April 21, 2014  - el cid says:

    jimmydee, MO is union worker state, KS is not (think I am right). It would be easier for the NFL to deal with one union than 32 different ones with different state rules, etc. Picture Jet vs. Broncos, Sat nite Broncos go on strike because an assist. coach had them go to bed before 9 PM, Jets players have to decide to cross picket line or not show up and forfeit the game, on and on it COULD go.

    As for politics, I am a Libertarian, leave me alone and I will live you alone. The federal govt. can have all the foreign policy and military it can handle and a touch of my money for taxes. That is about as political as I can stand at my time of life. Not very PC but…. life is hard, it is harder if you are stupid.

  • April 21, 2014  - Johnfromwichita says:

    jimmydee, I think somewhere on the internet you took a wrong right turn. You see this a football site; not so much politics.

    You must be looking for There you will find many blithering idiots just foaming at the mouth to “talk about it”.

    Tell them I sent you.

  • April 21, 2014  - Dale Iwataki says:

    As others above have posted, the rules place all the burden of keeping in shape during the off-season on the individuals. The result is that those who are committed to their craft engage personal trainers and exclusive gym memberships. But only those with hefty contracts can afford such special treatment out of their own pocketbooks. The rules at issue seem to benefit the vets in the game, not the new guys who have just entered the “union” and may be more in need of training.

  • April 21, 2014  - johnfromfairfax says:

    Amen JFW…amen, hopefully we’ll have some football to talk about soon and the “silly season” will be behind us.

  • April 22, 2014  - cychief24 says:

    With a lawyer as head of the NFLPA common sense has left the building.

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