From the moment the clocks in Jacksonville were set five minutes early, the NFL Players Association knew that the ticking had begun toward confrontations with new Jaguars executive V.P. of football operations Tom Coughlin.
Already, two have occurred. First came the mandate that players return in March for physicals, a requirement that has sparked an argument that the Jaguars have violated the terms of the labor deal. Per multiple sources, players actually did show up for the physicals — and those who came from out of town weren’t happy about it.
Next came the attempt to launch the offseason program earlier than allowed. The Jaguars claim that the hiring of a new coach (Doug Marrone) permits them to begin before April 17. The statement issued by the team reiterates this belief, glossing over the fact that (per a source with knowledge of the situation) the NFLPA filed on Monday a grievance challenging the proposed starting date and, by Tuesday night, the issue had been resolved with the Jaguars delaying the opening of the program until April 17, the earliest starting date for teams with returning coaches.
It’s not the first time the union has been keeping close tabs on Coughlin. When he became Giants coach in 2004, the late Gene Upshaw (who served for years as NFLPA executive director) put Coughlin “on notice” regarding the voluntary nature of the offseason program.
“We don’t care if they get a new coach,” Upshaw said in May 2004. “He has rules, we have rules. If he doesn’t want to live within our rules, we will get him.”
Current leadership of the NFLPA already has gotten him twice, and the offseason program hasn’t opened yet. If there’s any potential noncompliance by the Jaguars once players report for optional workouts on April 17, it’s safe to assume that there will be more grievances.