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. 


Greg Gabriel

Gabriel has spent most of his adult life as an evaluator for various NFL clubs. He started his career in 1991 working for the Buffalo Bills as a part time scout under dormer Bills Director of Player Personnel Norm Pollom. He left the Bills in June 1984 to become the Great Lakes area scout for National Football Scouting. Following the 1984 season, Gabriel joined the New York Giants as their Midwest area scout and was promoted to Director of Player Development in 1996. The Giants went to three Super Bowls and won two during Gabriel’s time with the club.

Following the Giants appearance versus the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV, Greg became Director of College Scouting for the Chicago Bears under General Manager Jerry Angelo. He held that position until June of 2010. During his time with Chicago, the Bears won three Division titles and the 2006 NFC Championship. In his nine Drafts with the Bears, the team drafted 12 future Pro Bowl performers such perennial Pro Bowler Matt Forte, Tommie Harris, Devin Hester, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman.

In the 2012 – 2013 season, Gabriel was a consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles Scouting Department and has since done some small scouting roles for various NFL clubs.

Since leaving the NFL Gabriel has been a contributor for the National Football Post, the Bleacher Report and more recently Pro Football Weekly. He also is both a writer and contributor for WSCR (670the Score) in Chicago. The last three years he has authored the Pro Football Weekly Draft Guide.
Gabriel grew up in Amherst and is a 1974 graduate of Canisius College where he was a member of the football team. He and his wife Robin currently resides in the Chicago area.

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