Coaches Looking Ahead To 2020 CBA To Expand Offseason Practice Access To Players

The last time the league and the Players’ Association had to hammer out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, it proved to be deeply contentious and devolved into a lockout during the 2011 season, only being rectified late in the offseason process in time for the start of the regular season, which curtailed the majority of the offseason activities, including signing undrafted free agents.

But when all was said and done, the two sides worked out a new 10-year commitment that has generally been satisfactory, though with inevitably grumblings from either side on one issue or another on which they felt that they gave up too much.

One of the big sticking points for the players is that they felt the new CBA provided the league and the commissioner with too much power—yet the Pittsburgh Steelers were the only team not to approve it. On the other side of the coin, the coaches and teams are wondering why they have so little access to their players.

Under the new CBA, offseason activities were sharply cut in the name of player safety, an issue the Players’ Association bargained for. The program shrank from 14 weeks to nine, with four weeks consisting of four-hour days with minimal player-coach interaction. Two-a-day practices in training camp were eliminated, and the number of practices that could feature full pads was reduced.

This has been a concerning issue for coaches since the CBA passed, and many believe that the reduced practice opportunities has resulted in not only an overall decline in play around the league, but has also curtailed the development of young players simply because they don’t have enough reps to sufficiently improve to a point where the team can justify continuing to hone his skills.

While there isn’t anything that can be done about it right now—the CBA is not scheduled to be renewed until 2020, at which point negotiations to alter the arrangement will begin in earnest—there are a number of coaches who are working now to change the view on this aspect of the agreement in preparation for what’s to come.

Among those coaches speaking out are Marvin Lewis of the Bengals and John Harbaugh of the Ravens, a couple of AFC North rivals. But they are not alone, and many coaches have relayed stories to Monday Morning Quarterback of players asking them why they can’t work with them, and of having to put up their own expense to hire trainers in the offseason to get in the work that they need to be prepared to play and to develop the skills that were formerly honed on the team’s practice field.

I suspect that even many in the Players’ Association might agree that the curtailing of practices went too far last time, to the point at which it hurts younger players on the fringes of rosters, preventing them from being able to fairly compete because they are not given enough of an opportunity. I would expect practice access during the offseason to be expanded under the new CBA, even if it is still a ways away yet.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • RMSteeler

    With how fast the game changes, I’d think 5 yrs might be about right. Don’t know why it’s 10. Seems to favor owners.

  • Applebite

    Because it does favor the owners. They’re able to manipulate what happens after the initial learning curve.

  • WilliamSekinger

    The players union should compromise on this issue and ask that the practices that were eliminated be reinstated on a voluntary basis

  • falconsaftey43

    while it sounds good on paper, the “voluntary” stuff is really hard. Guy’s that don’t attend are heavily criticized in the media, and it seems, also by the coaching staffs. “voluntary” stuff often become mandatory in the eyes of the public and to team organizations. Perhaps a better method would be an expansion of the rookie minicamp idea. Have players with like 3 years or less accrued seasons have more practices, let the vets stay home. Another idea would to not have mandatory or voluntary practices with a team setting, but just give access to coaches for individual work only. Still run into the voluntary not really being voluntary though.

  • Steelers12

    why don’t the nfl make all 53 players on the roster available that rule has always been stupid to me

  • falconsaftey43

    The idea is that it makes it “fair” so if one team has some injuries and the other doesn’t it’s not 46 vs 53. The logic of that is questionable. I think they should open it up to all 53. Would make easier to sub guys to give rest or to rotate more.

  • Steelers12

    i agree and they claim to be worried about player safety so much so it would help their but thanks for explaining that

  • Matthew Marczi

    Most of it was already voluntary. The only thing mandatory prior to training camp is the mini-camp.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Agreed. I do think it’s a player safety issue too.

  • Brendon Glad

    It has to be a pension and salary issue. Because obviously (we’ve seen it on hard knocks over-and-over)…coaches would rather have more than less. At least to a certain point (they don’t want to try to coach 100-150 players, of course).
    We all know that if there is one thing about NFL owners we can count on…it will be that they’d much rather put a guy out on the street or on the practice squad for awhile and see if he fights through it (like, say, James Harrison)…than they would rather be beholden to another 6X32 guys who are eligible for minimum NFL wage and starting the clock on their pension plans. Right?

  • Steelers12

    i mean yeah i get your point and thanks for the extensive answer but having 53 active seems to be smart especially if the NFL really cares about a players health like they make like they do, do you agree?

  • dany

    Huh never thought of it that way! That kinda makes sense to me

  • Brendon Glad

    Oh, of course I agree.
    But the minimum NFL active roster salary is $465,000. The 6 guys on the practice squad make $6,900/wk. Paid by the week. $117,300 if they make it all 17 weeks. And probably NO pension time…(but I didn’t look it up to be sure).
    So the owners prefer the extra $347,700 X 6 =2,086,200$ (+ pension ramifications) vs. the good of the game. Does that surprise you?

  • Steelers12

    Greedy Billionaires never surprises me

  • Brendon Glad

    Yep, they are gradually losing me, for sure. They are lucky for fantasy football. If somehow that ever goes awry, then they might have a rude awakening.
    That’s relatively speaking, of course. Billionaire problems…kinda hard to relate to, for you and me, I imagine.

  • Steelers12

    Yeah i agree do you also draftking and fanduel?

  • Brendon Glad

    I was on Draftkings for awhile. Just playing the big one (used to be $1,000,000) But at some point they drastically cut the prize money, so I stopped. It just lost its allure.

    I play in 2 fantasy leagues. 1 really good 16 team PPR keeper league that is extremely competitive, with excellent rules, and for a modest amount of $. That one is really fun, and challenging.
    Double bonus that the Steelers have such explosive offensive talent. I’m already planning for trying to steal Martavis if it looks like he’s gotten it together. God, I hope he does. He doesn’t even know how great he can be. Have you ever SEEN a man that tall be that explosive with the ball in his hands?
    Sorry for the ramble. I can make a short answer long like no other. lol

  • Steelers12

    No problem. I honestly believe Bryant has potential to be top 10 wr in the league