NFL Teams, Union Blaming Players For Offseason Contact

Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reports that that the New York Giants could be in hot water after a Wednesday incident during which center Shaun O’Hara put rookie defensive tackle Jay Alford on the ground “during a blocking drill that had grown increasingly rugged.” Cole says that, to most players, it was part of the grind of practice. But it was something that coach Tom Coughlin claims he doesn’t want to see. “That’s an example of when it gets a little out of control and we talked to [O’Hara] about it,” Coughlin told Cole. “You don’t want players getting hurt. That’s the last thing we want.”
In other words, it’s the players’ fault that contact is so prevalent in offseason practices that are supposed to be completely free of any contact at all. “In our situation, we have a new offensive coordinator and a new defensive coordinator and they’re installing new things to our system,” Giants tackle Kareem McKenzie said. “As players, we’re trying to be sharp and execute to the best of our ability.

When you’re trying to do that, your tempo is going to be faster, more intense and that’s where you start to get what you’re talking about. “It’s not what any of us want at this time of the year. But this is football. It’s a physical sport. This is what we’re trained to do.”

McKenzie just doesn’t get it (which explains why he is not the Giants team rep). First of all, it’s the responsibility of the teams and the coaches to protect the players, even if it means protecting them from themselves, during offseason workouts. And it’s the responsibility of the union, if the teams and the coaches aren’t protecting the players from themselves, to intervene. It is absolutely true that the union must investigate any player complaints.

But the union is otherwise empowered or better yet obligated to investigate whenever it sees fit. And it it’s not like the evidence isn’t there. Operating under the premise that, according to the CBA (collective bargaining agreement), there should be no contact of any kind, the NFLPA and its overly paid suits could – and should – investigate situations such as these: Giants fullback Jim Finn out for the season, tearing a labrum because he delivered a block during “non-contact” drills; 49ers cornerback B.J. Tucker out for the year, tearing a pectoral muscle during “non-contact” drills; Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas stating that the hitting during the “non-contact, helmets only” was more severe than during “full-pads” in-season practice during his stay at Wisconsin; even the Seahawkshave been conducting “bump-and-run” drills, which are expressly prohibited.
So it appears that if the union gave a crap about the health and welfare of its players, they would at the very least do their due diligence by investigating these and any future claims. Unfortunately they haven’t and not a word is being said. I’m quite aware that plenty of readers will see this and say something to the effect of, “These fellas are highly paid players, so why should anyone feel bad about the fact that they are hitting each other in the offseason?”
It’s like this: As anyone who is familiar with the union and the CBA knows, the union has bargained for a rule against contact during the offseason; it is one of the reasons for its existence. Probably even more importantly, at a time when we’re hearing so much about the long-term effects on retired players of football contact, it is curiously odd that today’s players are exposed to far more year-round contact than their predecessors and yet no one is “connecting the dots” between the increased contact and and the potential long-term well being of today’s players. Hey NFLPA – is it asking too much to ask you to “man up” and simply do the jobs that you are overly paid to do?

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