The meeting between former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning and current Alabama coach Nick Saban will raise plenty of eyebrows among Volunteers fans who voluntarily wear on Saturdays in the fall an objectively unattractive shade of orange.
The session also should raise some eyebrows at 345 Park Avenue, for entirely different reasons.
As Saban explained it, Manning was accompanied by offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Saban also said that Manning and Gase were “making some visits.”
“To be honest with you, [Manning] was just trying to learn so he could be a better player,” Saban said. “I think a lot of people would say, ‘Wow, the guy is one of the best, if not the best, and certainly from a career standpoint probably about as good as anybody’s been in the history of the league. After all the experience and knowledge that he has, he’s going out and trying to seek more knowledge and understanding of the game of football so he can play better.”
That’s admirable. It’s also a potential CBA violation.
The new labor deal, struck in 2011, places clear limits on offseason activities. Under Article 21, Section 2(a)(ii), players “are not permitted to participate in . . . group or individual meetings with coaches” prior to the start of the team’s official offseason workout program.
The Broncos have yet to start their official offseason program. Gase and Manning aren’t allowed to meet. Either Saban is lying (because “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach“), it looks like they met.
Per a league source, Saban’s characterization of Manning and Gase making arm-in-arm visits to college coaches could be incorrect. The Manning-Gase-Saban meeting at Alabama may have happened by chance, with Manning coming in to meet Saban and Gase, who once worked for Saban, happening to be in the area at the same time.
Regardless, it appears there was a meeting between player and coach before the start of Denver’s offseason program.
The Broncos declined comment on the issue. The NFL has not yet responded to an email message seeking confirmation that the rules prohibit meetings between players and coaches prior to the start of the team’s offseason program.
Then again, confirmation likely isn’t necessary. The rule is clear. In the three years since the rule was created, it’s the first time evidence has arisen of a potential violation.
UPDATE 11:27 a.m. ET: NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy tells PFT that the league is looking into the situation.