Matthew Stafford’s Day(s) Off

>> 6.18.2010

As many outlets have reported, the Lions have been docked two days’ worth of OTA practices for CBA violations.  Specifically, the Lions’ OTA practices exceeded allowed limits for tempo and contact.  This might sound familiar—indeed, the Lions lost two OTA days due to fiesty practices back in 2006, as well. Guessing which player had filed the NFLPA grievance turned into a favorite parlor game for Lions fans, bloggers, and newsmedia.

Ultimately, ProFootballTalk.com reported that Marcus Bell had blown the whistle on Rod Marinelli and the Lions coaches.*  At the time, most observers belonged to one of two camps:

  • “If there’s dissension in the ranks, Marinelli’s ‘Pound the Rock’ message is already falling on deaf ears.  ”
  • “GOOD!  Those lazy goldbrickers need to be whipped into shape!  Let ‘em whine, the wheat will be separated from the chaff.”

Of course, Marinelli was trying to make an impact.  He was touting himself as a hard worker, a motivator who demanded his player be motivated.  His mission was to cut out the deadwood and have 53 rowers all swinging their invisible pickaxes in harmony, or something.  That all 53 weren’t buying in right off the bat was troubling; wasn’t Rod supposed to be able to get a cat to want to run through a brick wall?  It seemed an ill omen for building a truly cohesive unit.

So, what are we to make of this?  Jim Schwartz, the Grandmaster?  The one whose intellectual approach and meticulous preparation made his name legend amongst the football dorks of the Internet?  How could he be so careless as to violate the rules, even as the Ravens, Raiders, and Jaguars had already been caught?  Indeed, Paula Pasche of the Oakland Press just finished blogging about how Schwartz is too smart, and too careful, to violate the OTA guidelines (and contradicting PFT’s fingering of Marcus Bell in the process).

Nick Cotsonika also just posted a piece explaining the creative lengths Schwartz and company are going to stay on the right side of the law.  Apparently, these lengths weren’t creative enough—or, possibly, were they too creative?  Did a player, or player, decide that flipping and catching a tire was the football equivalent of cruel and unusual punishment? 

More importantly, what does this mean for the Lions and their team chemistry?  This isn’t a lazy, underperforming group going into their first practices under a hardnosed taskmaster.  This is a talented young team, handpicked by Mayhew and Schwartz for their New Era Of Awesome Lions.  Who’s not buying in?  Who’s so disgruntled with Schwartz that they’d go to the NFLPA?  Could this be a sign of the upcoming CBA-pocalypse?  Is this whistleblowing the first shot in the upcoming labor war between Lions players and Lions management?

No.  You see, in the wake of years of tacit, wink-nod slides from non-contact, to kind of a little contact, to mostly-full-speed OTAs, the NFLPA is now reviewing tapes of OTAs.  Apparently, the tempo and contact crossed the line.  There was no whistleblowing.  There is no dissent.  The Grandmaster’s plan is still intact, ready to be executed . . . he’ll just have fewer days to tell the players how to do it.

*UPDATE: At the time of writing, I wasn’t aware that PFT’s report wasn’t the final word on the issue.  Corrected the language to reflect this.

9 comments:

Darth_Icarus,  June 18, 2010 at 1:49 PM  

It still blows my mind that the NFL tells teams how hard they can practice. I'm at a loss of words.

Joe Willy June 19, 2010 at 11:02 AM  

That awful ad for Newsmax is killing my desire to stick around long enough to comment. Anyway....

It WAS big news when there was a fight at OTAs. It wouldn't be surprising if the league looked into the tempo/contact issue due to the news stories since it's unlikely guys would fight without contact. I think it's like calling offsides- everyone does it but only a few will get caught. It's also more of an issue this year because of the labor agreement between NFL and NFLPA.

Clusterfox,  June 20, 2010 at 8:05 PM  

I Think Joe Willey was somewhat on track. But I think Ty nailed it. What ever occured that resulted in a fight breaking out between O and D. Paired with the fact that the NFLPA is looking for ever opportunity to stand its ground on "some" issue to fight the league. When you combine the two, I'm not very surprised that this happened. and FYI the league(or team doesn't really need or use all its days, so cut and dry its more political bs.(as if we don't have enough already).

Clusterfox

witless chum June 21, 2010 at 9:17 AM  

Ray Bentley was talking about this on the WBBL morning show. He attributes it all to the NFLPA kicking up its heels in advance of probable labor apocalypse.

Matt,  June 23, 2010 at 7:05 PM  

Darth, it's not the NFL that dictates this, it's the NFLPA. Whole different ball game.

witless, I don't necessarily agree that this is just about digging in heels. Goodell was being interviewed the other day about the possible conversion of 2 pre-season games to regular season games. He was basically all for it because, as he said (not a direct quote), "Our teams and players really don't need 4 pre-season games to get ready for the regular season." He went on to say, however, that the off-season programs would be something else that the league/PA would have to look at. So, it sounds to me like these off-season-work-out-issues are something that the league is already willing to "bend" on. Therefore, it doesn't make much sense for the PA to dig their heels in about them. I mean, I get the "you gotta' take a stand on SOMETHING" angle, but if the issue you're taking a hard stand on is something your opponent doesn't really care about. . .well, it doesn't do you much good and only makes you look bad. Honestly, I'm not too worried about "labor apocalypse." Everyone in the NFL system gains too much and has too much to lose by a work stoppage to not get a deal done. Then again, I'm no labor relations expert.

Ty June 24, 2010 at 3:21 PM  

Darth, Matt--

Right, exactly, the NFLPA and NFL have bargained out exactly how strenuous these practices can be. If the NFL really wanted full-speed offseason stuff, they'd have to concede something else in the upcoming CBA negotiations--likely, shorter tranining camps.

Peace
Ty

Ty June 24, 2010 at 3:27 PM  

Joe Willy--

Sorry, man. I don't get to individually approve these ads, and the majority are totally fine. Also, because there are so many and they're so random, I don't always see them . . . my ad partners are one of the biggest names in the biz, so if you're seeing them on my site, you'll likely see them across many other sports blogs and fantasy sites, too. They've been great to me, and a big reason why I'm able to keep writing.

"I think it's like calling offsides- everyone does it but only a few will get caught. It's also more of an issue this year because of the labor agreement between NFL and NFLPA."

Exactly. PFT has reported that in the past, the NFLPA has essentially looked the other way, because the more-intense OTAs have led to much less intense training camps . . . but with the CBA negotiations coming around, and violations more egregious than ever, the NFLPA is tightening up.

My point here, really, was that this wasn't a "mole" or a "whistleblower," but a spot-check by the NFLPA.

Peace
Ty

Ty June 24, 2010 at 3:29 PM  

Clusterfox--

I think the reason it's become relevant, and why the NFLPA is choosing to finally draw a line on this stuff, is the current negotiations over an 18-game season. If they're going full speed from late May to early March, that's a HUGE problem for players' health and recovery.

Peace
Ty

Ty June 24, 2010 at 3:42 PM  

Matt--

You nailed it. I think the NFLPA is mostly just getting picky about the OTAs right now, because the toll on their bodies is currently what they're using as a bargaining ploy against an 18-game schedule--or more correctly, what they're using as a bargaining ploy to soften the impact of an 18-game schedule.

Interestingly, the union can't say no to an 18-game schedule; they bargained that away in the last CBA. All they can do is "dig in their heels" about roster sizes and practice intensity and length . . . so that's what they're doing.

Peace
Ty

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