The Kinder-Gentler Era of the NFL Begins

It’s not much of a secret that the NFL and its Commander in Chief, Roger Goodell, are trying not only to make the NFL safer for its players, but also improve the NFL’s sometimes violent image.

Much of the negotiation around last year’s collective bargain agreement tried to balance the inherent viciousness of the game with the demands from both players (especially past ones) and fans for as humane an environment as possible.  Obviously, with 250 pound men made of rock hurling themselves at one another, the NFL might never get the balance right but at least they are trying.

The players get back to work on Monday– after about a month longer vacation than they received in past years.  This extra respite was not due to kind heartedness of the average NFL owner.  It is just one part of the new collective bargain agreement aiming to allow players a little more time for their bodies to recover.  Specifically, offseason programs have been reduced from fourteen weeks to nine per team. The number of organized team activities has been cut from fourteen to ten.

“The new rules are focused on player health and safety,” said George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director of external affairs, “The changes are important to ensure that players have a true offseason to rest and recover from a physically demanding profession.”

Rams new head coach Jeff Fisher

Some coaches are already grumbling the new rules might hurt the quality of the game.  For example, Jeff Fisher, the new St. Louis Rams head coach, has expressed doubt that the new rules will allow young quarterbacks to develop as quickly as they need to for the fast, complex NFL defenses. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Fisher said he thinks a quarterback should be allowed to go to a team’s facility in February and March, if he wants, to watch tape and review the playbook with a coach.

These types of concerns and proposals, which do not involve any sort of physical stress on a player, will likely be carefully considered by the NFL.

Mr. Goodell has already gone on record as saying the league plans to study carefully the effects of the new rules.  “I think we are going to have to go through this offseason cycle and try to see what the negotiated offseason cycle is like, the impact it has on the game, the impact it has on the individual players,” he said recently at the NFL’s annual league meeting.

Obviously, these new rules will evolve over time and will continue to balance the legitimate interest of a quality football game and the safety of the player both now and in the future.  It is a conversation that has been going on for years but is finally making headlines.  And that is very good thing for the long-term success of the NFL and the players.


By Jeff Quick

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