Last week, the issue of “live contact” during OTA sessions (why in the hell don’t they just call it practice?) landed back on the league’s radar screen, with the NFL and the union smacking the Seahawks for letting their players smack each other around too much during offseason drills.
With penalties possibly coming in New Orleans and evidence of possible violations surfacing in Philly and Dallas, it’s important to keep in mind that, as many teams now embark on their mandatory minicamps, the rules against contact apply there, too. (Indeed, it was during a mandatory minicamp last week that a fight among players prompted the league to reportedly look into whether the fracas was preceded by live contact.)
In response to last week’s violation in Seattle, Mike Sando of ESPN.com (who has the NFC West beat) reviewed video posted on team websites and found evidence that the Cowboys were indeed going too hard. Most teams, in Sando’s assessment, were engaged in something other than “live contact” based on the posted videos.
Absent a comprehensive program that entails actually looking at the films teams are required to keep of every practice, it will be impossible to know whether every team that has crossed the line will be caught and corrected. Though media accounts can fuel suspicions that can then spark investigations, the league and the union shouldn’t need prompting from the press. Someone should be reviewing all practice tapes — and the teams should know it’s happening — not only to ensure that the rules are being followed but also to prevent any unintentional violations.
Most importantly, teams need to know what is and isn’t allowed. “Live contact” is a broad term; without precise guidance, plenty of teams could be doing too much when players are contacting each other and/or when players are being contacted by brooms.