NFL Work Rules

The Baltimore Ravens work their players too hard according to the NFL Players’ Association. The Baltimore Sun reports today that the Ravens are not allowed to hold a mini-camp next week because the team “had broken the rules concerning the intensity and tempo of drills conducted at their offseason camps as well as the length of time spent by players at the team’s facility”.

The Oakland Raiders were penalized for this infraction of the CBA three years ago.

The penalty also means that the players are not allowed at the Ravens training facility on those days and that the missed mini-camp cannot be re-scheduled.

While the NFLPA and the NFL are policing scofflaws about practices, there is no word on progress toward a new CBA and the prospects of a strike/lockout in 2011. Despite appearances, Roger Goodell is sure that a new agreement will be reached.

UPDATE 6/9/10

The Sun reports today that 6 players complained about late meetings and 2 others “reported being held too long on the field after practice”. Coaches and players alike have stated that the sides are not mad at each other and Coach John Harbaugh has taken responsibility, saying he agrees with the penalty.

Apparently Ravens fans are not so forgiving. While the players who complained are unknown, it seems that some fans have taken to referring them to as “the Rat Pack” on fan blogs.

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Author: Dennis Coates

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labor, NFL

8 thoughts on “NFL Work Rules”

  1. rd,

    Thanks for the comment. You are right I was suggesting that the NFL has better things to do than policing practice times. The new twist that was not obvious to me yesterday is that player complaints are the basis of the problem.

    The positional good issue strikes me as more relevant to the teams in the league than a player-management issue. Surely if all the clubs expend extra effort on the field those efforts cannot improve the position of all teams. If every club is equally productive with its practices, and each takes that extra effort, then the league ranking will be unaffected and all that effort is wasted from the perspective of the clubs.

    I am not so sure it is wasted from the perspective of society. Fans want to see better played games with fewer mistakes, more athleticism and thrilling plays, harder hits. While all the efforts by the clubs might not change their position, the efforts may make the experience better for fans, raising fan utility. That may even raise willingness to pay, which means clubs can generate more revenues. In sum, it isn’t clear to me that this is an arms race with the associated waste usually associated with that term.

  2. Thanks for your reply – you’re correct that the extra training does yield social benefits and does not just affect positional outcomes. But it still surely is an arms race, since teams are fighting for relative and not absolute position, right? So I believe teams will generally ‘overtrain’ – since don’t account for negative positional externality on other teams and their fans – so regulation is justified .. no? There must be some theory paper with social or demand-side benefits to arms investments that sorts this out

  3. rd,

    That is not a literature I follow, so it is possible there is work which incorporates demand or social benefits in a positional competition model. It seems to me that in the event there is such a model that whether or not the competition is social welfare enhancing will be an empirical question concerning which is larger, the benefits to the non-competitors (in this case sports fans) or the costs of overtraining.

    Note however that the over training issue you focus on is one which would be in the interest of other clubs to police, as it lowers the profits of the competitors for the relative positions. In the case at hand, however, it wasn’t other teams that complained, but players. It is an odd circumstance in which the owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers, say, and the other clubs rely upon the Baltimore Ravens’ players to protect their interests.

    I think, in the end, the problem here is really a labor-management issue, with the NFL simply enforcing the terms of the CBA. Oddly, it is the same CBA that the owners chose to opt out of, though they are still bound by it in some respects for this season.

  4. The optimal level of training is likely an empirical issue .. but whether the market overtrains – to any extent – seems to me more of a theory issue. If there were no social benefits to training it is clear there would be ‘overtraining’ .. I wonder if it is theoretically possible for the market level of training to be optimal despite positional externalities .. maybe not .. in which case you’re right, the issue would be entirely empirical

    To play devil’s advocate a bit further, if the league was optimally regulating training, it could still make sense for the league to rely on player complaints – since the players may not have the same incentive to overtrain their team does, and they have private information on the degree of training.

    And if the league is simply enforcing the (exogenous, at the moment) CBA – I’m not sure how your (mild, I know) criticism of league enforcement of the rule would be justified.

    Players do die on occasion due to ‘over-training’ so this is a non-trivial issue. But I know you were not at all saying it is

  5. Dennis..I’ve never read more over-intellectualized stuff in my life. The Players Association established certain contractual demands so players could actually survive training camp. Many NFL coaches and their assistants (especially) run players into the ground. The idea that you presented of their being “social benefits” is ludicrous. Try reading actual player accounts of what a camp is like…or taking a look at what a an ex-NFL 40 year old has to do to get up and go to the bathroom in his retirement.

    The real problem is that Coaches like Harbaugh talk the talk but they don’t run efficient training sessions and go “over” because they think..simple mindedly..that more is always better. How can “fans” possibly benefit from an effect that is not measurable and has clearly demonstrated points of diminishing returns from an injury perspective??? We REALLY need to hear more from people who’ve actually played a sport.

    I coached elite youth soccer for a decade and NEVER trained players more than 2 hrs at a time…we won 27 Championships and were in 50 finals. More is NEVER better…it only makes some Coaches feel as if they are going the extra mile and alleviates their anxietiy that they really aren’t doing their job well.

  6. Greg,

    Did you read the comments? Did you read what the complaints were about? Staying in a meeting hardly puts one’s body at risk, even when the chairs are really uncomfortable. It is true that the NFL criticized the Ravens for the pace and intensity of some plays during the practice. Note, the criticism was not of the entire practices just of some plays, and which plays was not specified. It’s hard to adjust things with that sort of vague comment.

    Your idea that there are no social benefits is an empirical issue, not one that can be proven by calling the idea ludicrous. I have watched plenty of NFL games in which players line up wrong so the team uses a time out, where there are penalties for too many men on the field, where a team has too few players on the field, not enough on the line of scrimmage, and the list goes on. If players spending more time in meetings cuts down on these sorts of mental mistakes, then every fan of well-played football derives a benefit from watching a better contest. Whether that benefit in the aggregate is greater than the aggregate annoyance to the players of spending more time in a meeting is unknown, possibly unknowable, but is certainly a theoretically viable quantity.

    There is no evidence that any of the issues for which the Ravens were penalized by the NFL contributed in any way to injuries. In fact, at these OTA the players are not in pads so hitting is not a significant part of the issue. These practices are not training camp, a fact you seem to have missed. If these practices were training camp, with live drills and full contact, then injuries would absolutely be a relevant part of the discussion.

    What is ludicrous is the belief that you can prove a point by inserting all caps and ridiculing the ideas of the people you disagree with. Proof requires a demonstration of the fallacy of the argument by showing it is logically inconsistent or presenting evidence to the contrary. You have done neither.

    As for your assertion that more is never better, the only response is to ask why you practiced at all.

  7. Dennis, sorry to drag you into this – you’re very kind to dignify most of Greg’s comments with a careful response (I agree with just about everything you wrote) . Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to exchange ideas with me

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