Selective enforcement has become the rule rather than the exception in certain facets of the NFL, and it really needs to stop. The latest example of this practice came to light when the Baltimore Ravens, one of the most respected organizations in the league, lost the right to hold their final four OTA spring practices as a result of both overzealous practices and having their players spend more time at the facility than NFL teams are allowed under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Just about every team in the NFL, with rare exceptions, practices at a tempo during these minicamps that exceeds what is supposed to be allowed. Offseason practices without pads are supposed to be conducted at a level that is "conducive to learning and not result in a situation in which two players are physically competing with one another."
Some may argue that because news came down Thursday that the Oakland Raiders will lose two OTA practices as a result of too much contact at their practices means the NFL and NFLPA aren't selectively enforcing anything. I disagree.
All of the blame shouldn't necessarily rest on the teams themselves. A lot of times the players are told to practice at a good tempo but to protect each other and be smart. That sounds simple enough until the players look up and see that most of the periods are being filmed. Film means evaluation, which necessarily leads to every player doing just a little more than the man across from them so that they look better when the coaches and scouts sit down to evaluate the tape.
That leads to more and more contact and sometimes fights, which brings up another point. The Jacksonville Jaguars had some fights break out in one of their recent OTAs. That doesn't just happen; something prompts that type of behavior. And that something is contact, yet the Jaguars remain unscathed, to this point, in the NFL and NFLPA's selective enforcement process.
Maybe the Jags aren't getting busted because none of their own players turned them in, as is often the case in these situations. So maybe it isn't selective enforcement at all but rather a matter of which teams have players who are willing to let it be known that their team is not operating within the parameters of the CBA. And if a team has players who are blowing the whistle on some of their practices, that could bring up an entirely different set of issues.
Many of you asked for clarification regarding the situations in Indy and New England, and I think that is fair. The biggest difference is there is a report out that Brady and his camp are not happy with the situation and lack of negotiations to this point. To date, we have not heard that from anyone in Manning's camp. Couple that with Brady's public comments that were far from the "there is nothing to worry about, everything is great, and I am going to sign a long-term deal with the Patriots very shortly," and it seems to me that things are not all good. I just don't understand the Pats strategy on this one.
We had an awesome debate about this very topic recently on Sirius NFL Radio. Chicken and the egg may be a good way to phrase it but Brady has always been successful, and I believe he would be successful elsewhere. On the other hand, Belichick has yet to prove he can get to the playoffs and win without Brady. I guess what it comes down to is if you told me in 2000, knowing what I know now, that I could either have Brady or Belichick for the next 10 years, I'd take Brady. I'd pick the Hall of Fame quarterback over the Hall of Fame coach any day of the week.
So now you want me to play video games to appreciate soccer more? No thanks. Most of the e-mails I got about my soccer remark in last week's mailbag column had two main arguments.
The first is that soccer is continuous action whereas American football has too many breaks and stoppages. I can see that argument but my problem is that when I watch soccer, I don't see a whole lot of what I would call action, even if the players are jogging around continuously.
The other argument focused on how popular the game is worldwide. There is certainly some merit to that but I don't think a lot of those people have been properly exposed to American football or really understand it. If they had been involved with it since they were younger and American football was a big deal in their culture, they'd embrace it. Maybe more so than soccer.
There are some 300-pound defensive linemen in the NFL who are the best athletes I have ever seen in my life, being able to do what they do at that size.