The fifth-round rookie offensive lineman has spent his time this offseason blocking Ndamukong Suh. Even in non-contact* practices, it hasn’t been easy.
“He’s Suh for a reason,” Asiata said Monday, via Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald. “He has that credential of being one of the best for a reason, and I respect him for that. Every time I go against [him], I know I’m going against the best and that’s only going to make me better.”
So what is Asiata learning in a non-contact* practice?
“It’s really, really fast-paced,” Asiata said. “It’s kind of like when you go from high school to college, and you’ve got to get adjusted to college speed. Now, everybody’s fast, everybody is aggressive with what they do, so it’s tempo. Going out in Week Three, just learning, trying more to dissect the playbook, trying to learn my assignment so that I don’t have to think, it becomes second nature and I can just go out there and play football.”
The experience surely will help Asiata prepare to compete for a roster spot and playing time during training camp and the preseason, but the explanation regarding the pace and intensity of offseason practices does nothing to clarify the line between permissible contact and impermissible contact during these sessions. It’s an important issue, especially with teams like the Seahawks and Falcons losing a week of OTAs this year due to excessive contact in 2016.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement creates a bright line that would seem to prohibit “really, really fast-paced” practice where “everybody is aggressive.” The labor deal says that the “intensity and tempo of drills should be at a level conducive to learning, with player safety as the highest priority, and not at a level where one player is in a physical contest with another player,” and that there shall be “no live contact drills between offensive and defensive linemen.”
When recently asked for clarity regarding the line between permissible contact and impermissible contact, a league spokesman referred PFT to the CBA. But that’s the problem; the CBA as written indicates that these anecdotal examples, which pop up throughout the offseason program, constitute violations.
So when does a violation happen or not happen? Perhaps the teams are getting clarity privately. No one, unfortunately, is willing to spell it out publicly.