Things That Need to be Changed in the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement
by Greg Gabriel, Buffalo Sports Page NFL Expert
Last week, the Bills had their bye week and with that being the case, it had me thinking about the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL Players Association and the NFL Owners.
When the current agreement came about it was supposed to favor veteran players and keep them in the game longer. It also drastically changed practice rules both in preseason and the regular season. Twice-a-day practices, which were a part of football since its beginning, are no longer allowed. Rules for practice during the regular season have also been changed ….and not for the good of the game!
No Practice Makes No Perfect Playing
I have no problem with the dropping of two-a-days. The original reason for them was because the game at the professional level was not a year-around game and players needed to get in shape for the season. Now with the off season programs and OTA’s, double sessions are no longer necessary. That isn’t the case with regular season practices and the bye week.
Under current rules, each team is only allowed 14 fully padded practices during the entire regular season. With the season being 17 weeks long (including the bye week), that is less than one padded practice per week. And we wonder why the game isn’t as good as it used to be!
Up until the new CBA was signed, clubs would practice during the bye week. It was never a full week of practice but there were practices. Many coaches used that period as a mini training camp to work on skills and develop the young players. Now it’s a mid-season vacation and it doesn’t help the young players at all. The players are getting paid for that week, why not have them practice for two days?
Line Up and Do Nothing
As we all know, football is a violent contact game, and to play the game correctly, practices are needed. The people who are hurt by the new CBA rules are the offensive and defensive linemen, basically the players who need contact work the most.
Most colleges play a spread formation, quick-paced offense. Seldom do we see college offensive linemen in a 3-point stance and their blocking techniques are way different than what the NFL uses. The best way to perfect blocking technique and footwork is though “live” contact between offensive and defensive linemen. This helps the linemen on both sides of the ball.
With the defensive line play, hand use is one of, if not the most, important trait a player needs to know. Not being able to work on hand use “live” hurts the development. Working with bags can help, but nothing is better than working against a live body that is both moving and resisting.
Live From the Practice Field…
Other changes: there has to be “some” live contact at least twice a week, every week, not just for 14 weeks. I don’t mean a full two hours of practice that is live, but at least a couple of 10 minute periods where the linemen can work on their techniques. The change from college to pro techniques is drastic. It takes time for these young players to learn and develop. Twenty minutes of live work, twice a week, between the offensive and defensive lineman is not going to increase injuries. It will improve the game and even perhaps lessen the amount of injuries because players are using proper technique.
The people who made these rules were not players or coaches but rather lawyers and executives. Most of them never played the game. I understand what they were trying to accomplish, but what they have done is hurt the game and actually hurt the players. Most if not all coaches would agree that some contact is needed in almost every practice. No, we don’t need 11 on 11 live contact work but individual work. The result will make a better game and actually prolong careers. Isn’t that what the Players Association was trying to do in the first place?
For more educated opinions from a 30-year NFL scouting veteran, visit Greg’s authors page at Buffalo Sports Page.