John Harbaugh isn’t a fan of the offseason workout rules


The 2011 CBA greatly reduces the work hours and responsibilities of NFL players in the offseason.  Plenty of players would prefer to have greater access to their coaching staffs in the offseason.  Plenty of coaches would prefer it, too.

“The [NFL] management council and the [NFLPA] have got to get together and help us as organizations and coaches help our young players develop as people and players,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh recently said, via Jamison Hensley of  “I mean, come on.  You hold us responsible and want us to be a factor in their lives like the mentoring program and things like that.  Give us a chance.”

Harbaugh believes professional football players should be allowed to pursue their professions more than they’re currently permitted to do.

“This is not the NCAA,” Harbaugh said.  “This is not recruiting.  These are our guys.  We want what’s best for our players.  That’s what’s good for the league.  That’s what good for these young men.  And that’s what they want. . . .

“They want to go see their position coach.  They want to learn football.  It’s their craft. And we’re saying, ‘No, you can’t do it?’  Why?  Because of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that makes no sense?  Because somebody wanted to get their little win here vs. their little win over there?  Get together and do what’s best for these players, and it’s about time that somebody stepped to the plate and realized that and [took] the politics out of it.”

He’s right, but here’s the problem.  If the rules allowed greater time to be spent at the facility working with coaches, some coaches would abuse the situation and pressure players who maybe don’t want to spend quite as much time at work as the coach wants them to spend at work.  To guard against violations that possibly would be undetected and unenforced, the league and the NFLPA have created  bright-line rules that hurt everyone.

So why not allow players to spend more time in the offseason working with coaches, and create clear limits with clear penalties for those who squeeze players into doing too much?  Having structure helps keep plenty of players out of trouble.  Having organized learning sessions helps young players (especially quarterbacks) develop.

Put simply, players should be given the chance to behave as what they are — professionals.  And the league and the NFLPA should be ready and willing to hold accountable coaches who violate the boundaries of professionalism by putting too much pressure on players to choose to do more than they really want to do.

46 responses to “John Harbaugh isn’t a fan of the offseason workout rules

  1. The players can and often do work with coaches and trainers not associated with the team, which pretty much invalidates everything Harbaugh is saying.

  2. You can see it in the quality of the product since the new CBA was put into place. It may help the vets when it comes to rest, but overall tackling is worse, and technique overall is pretty sloppy league wide. It doesn’t always have to be full on contact practice or two a days, but as professionals they should be practicing more than they are currently.

  3. But there’s a long list of things that players want and other things that are good for the league and those things aren’t happening, so why is this issue so important and how does it rank in priority with respect to other things that can make the league better? And what is John doing to fight for those other things or speak up about them? I haven’t heard him being very vocal on very many issues at all.

  4. Seems to me that the NFLPA’s rules have had the impact of discouraging conditioning

    As a result we saw the 2013 season filled with injuries

    The NFLPA isn’t doing it’s members any favors… it needs to protect the players from themselves and help teams hold players feet to the fire so that they are well conditioned for the season

  5. The carrot that the owners dangled in order to get a CBA that favored them, blame both parties. I also agree with the point made by domeunit, the product on the field has declined since they signed this aggrement was it 2 years ago.

  6. Can someone tell me why the Hardblow Brothers always get butthurt at the drop of a hat? For Gods sake only one of them seems to know how to win in the crunch. Not to mention one of them almost got traded to the lost cause otherwise known as Cleveland, OH.

  7. “The players can and often do work with coaches and trainers not associated with the team, which pretty much invalidates everything Harbaugh is saying.”

    No, Hardaugh isn’t saying the players are seeking outside coaching, but that coaches are mandated to have a positive influence on players’ lives as well as on the field performance. The CBA doesn’t allow players and coaches contact for some of the off season and that situation makes teaching their system and keeping up with what’s going on in the players’ lives much more difficult; all the while they’re held to the same performance standards.

  8. -Working with coaches is not the same as working with “your” coaches.
    -And Jim is cooler than John if you like whiny bitches. Ask Jim how thanksgiving night a few years ago went? And how’d he do in that Super Bowl vs his bro? Ha

  9. If injuries continue to at last years rate this season i’d hope common sense would prevail.

    Oh never mind, pride and $ are involved.

  10. These coaches are mostly type A ladder climbers. It’s clear why the rules are there. Because most coaches and GMs are egotistical maniacs who will apply substantial pressure to have players “volunteer” to show up in the offseason. That’s why this is a hard line. The flexibility approach was a big failure. Anybody think Belicheat would put any pressure on players to show up?

  11. League could always give the players an optional week of time, at a time of the players choosing, that they can spend there if desired.

    Or they could allow non-physical time for studies.

  12. It’s too late. Politics too over the NFL like it does most things. Just do the usual, when politics take over nuke the entire thing and start anew.

  13. They could amend the rules to allow players with 4 or less accrued seasons to participate in an expanded offseason program.

  14. Boo hoo. Pete Carroll and the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks have no trouble developing players. Maybe Johnbaugh should take a look in the mirror first.

  15. What a coincidence, many of his players don’t seem to be fans of the rule of law.

  16. He is 100% right. It’s not a Ravens thing, because of this rule professional players are not allowed to properly work and improve in the off season. It hurts development of young players. I agree with @samlecure they should at least allow it for under 4 year players

  17. “Seems to me that the NFLPA’s rules…”

    “The NFLPA isn’t doing it’s members any favors…”

    Takes two to tango, friend. As I recall it was a lockout, not a strike.

  18. As much as I agree with Harbaugh on this, it’s never going to happen.

    Players aren’t going to come to work if they aren’t getting paid. And since their salaries are paid out in the form of 17 game checks during the season, if you get hurt, you could get cut and get no paychecks.

    The flip side is that teams aren’t going to risk their stars getting hurt and having large chunks of cap space on the sidelines for the sake of a practice in March. And if the stars aren’t out there, what good does it do for the rest of the team, since the whole idea is to build continuity and see how players perform in comparison to others.

    Both sides have too much to lose financially for this to ever happen.

  19. Just allow the players to spend as much time or as little time as they want. If a young players wants to spend 10 hrs everyday getting better than there is nothing wrong with that.

  20. Am I crazy to think that if overworking players wasn’t a problem then it wouldn’t have been bargained into the new CBA? I mean, do they just randomly bargain things in or do players state their issues? I’m sure the latter…but who knows Im not a player I just crush a lot!

  21. Think about this. We as fans of the game can hardly get enough. If you could make a living carrying a clipboard, most of us would live and breathe football. Some do anyway.

  22. I like the Harbaughs….they’re a football family and take it seriously with the old school tenacity! Much better than having a coach who is there only to fill the minority demands of todays pc nfl.

  23. I understand why the vets wanted this because it lessens the rookie and second year players chance of taking their jobs sooner. I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the game, but that’s why it happened.

  24. Every team has a player rep who can easily act as a monitor. I doubt they would just sit there silently. The other option is to schedule all work sessions and file the schedule with the league and post it for all to see, so the bright line is still bright – just not limiting.

  25. I agree cant believe there is such strict rules in place to stop a man getting better at his craft but then you hear the other side of the argument. We know coaches almost work 24 /7 and maybe some would expect their players to do the same. There is probably a better way to strike a balance here you would think. A lot of players get together and have their own clinics away from the team probably with independent specialist coaches i dont know if they have film room type learning as well somebody like Farve teaching defence reading etc as well as the mechanics / timeing etc. I think if players really do want to improve there are ways to do it and it would probably help with team bonding getting away on their own.

  26. They should have different ‘offseason hour limits’ depending on yrs of service.

    Any veteran over 4 years should be kept to the same stringent ‘limited contact’ as per CBA.

    But players entering 2-4 yrs should be permitted to have more contact hours.

  27. The NCAA has a 20 hour a week limit placed on the time football coaches can spend with players, however if a player goes to his position coach and request to watch film or for some extra work, that does not count against the 20 hours. If Harbs was a smarter, not throwing his players under the bus coach after a loss that was clearly his fault, maybe some players would come by just to scheme. His $120 million dollar QB doesn’t even answer Harbs phone calls in the off season? Go figure.

  28. The reduction in offseason workouts and activities is a significant factor in why there have been so many more injuries in the last couple seasons. To get those extra days off a lot of players and the teams are paying big time in injuries.

  29. The problem with the product on the field is not due to lack of offseason practice time. The problem is coaches that do not have the ability to correct technique. The vast majority of NFL coaches have not played the game at a high level and are merely “X” & “O” guys hired by their buddies. All theory and no application. More practice will not correct the problem.

    As stated in the article, some over zealous coach is going to stretch the rules and hold illegal workouts or punish any players that do no attend these “voluntary” workouts/study sessions and likely cost those players their jobs. These coaches, much like the NCAA universities & coaches, are looking out for their interests only. When the players are of no more use to you, get another. Someone has to protect the players interests. Who do you think was against all of the offseason and in season contact to begin with? The players!!!

  30. Allowing player initiated study sessions or padless practice sessions with position coaches during the offseason, and allowing coach initiated mentoring programs that are strictly non football related would be good for the sport.

    Player initiated 1 on 1 practices would allow players that wanted to improve their game to spend some time doing so. It would also show coaches who wants to get better during the offseason and who is alright with where they are.

    Allowing coaches to mentor in the offseason, so long as it isn’t practice or X and O type stuff, would help keep young, troubled players out of trouble. Getting together a group to go do charity or take life skill classes, like money management, or even to have veteran players speak to the younger guys and advise them would likely limit the number of offseason arrests and substance abuse violations.

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