Dear NFL players and coaches:
This is a note to remind you NFL owners don’t care what you think when it comes to their business interests, primary of which is making money.
Those nice men (and some women) who greet you breathlessly in your postgame locker room after a win, and fund your paychecks, and remember your name and shake your hand on the playing field, don’t give a rip what you think when it comes to league matters.
That should be evident now.
Because those owners the last three days heard your pleas and fully understood your stances on multiple league matters. They know there was almost a consensus among players and coaches on these matters.
And knowing how rare it is to get players and coaches across 32 teams to agree on anything, the owners voted against you. All of you.
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They instead voted for their interests.
The league on Monday voted to flex certain late-season games from Sunday to back to Thursday this season. And on Tuesday owners voted to change the kickoff rule so as to basically water down the play by inserting fair catches behind the 25-yard line — both in and out of the end zone — would place the ball at the 25.
Players and coaches in large majorities dislike both measures. They’ve argued against both measures. They have, in some instances, told ownership of their distaste for the ideas to their faces.
And owners voted them in any way.
Start with the flex scheduling now factoring on Thursday nights, potentially moving a December game from Sunday back to Thursday as long as everyone gets 28 days notice.
It’s not popular mostly because Thursday night games are not popular among coaches and players.
“It’s a hard week for the coaches that would start to a degree on Friday morning the week before” former Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia told Mass Live. “So you’re playing a game Sunday, and you’re working on the next team in earnest on Friday., Saturday morning, Sunday morning before the game. So it just gets loaded up.
“I think the players rock along with it pretty easily. But from a mental standpoint and a work standpoint, it’s hard on the coaches. But the players are the ones that have to go out there and play on Thursday night.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft voted for the flex schedule on Thursday. Sorry, Dante.
Players generally love the days off that come after a Thursday night game. And even though they’re practicing the following week, the Thursday game gives them 10 days between game speed contact as opposed to the usual six days.
But players generally are not fans of how the Thursday game gives them little time to recover from their previous game only four days prior.
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So understand what owners are doing here: They’re going against the will of most coaches, against the will of a majority of players, against the will of fans that bought tickets to Sunday games and now have to make it to a Thursday night one.
“We’re also trying to balance how we make sure, on the other side, that we’re getting the right games into the right windows,” said Hans Schroeder, EVP and COO of NFL Media.
Owners are doing this because they want Amazon, their $11 billion streaming service partner, happy with its late-season matchups. So this was done on Monday.
Then on Tuesday the NFL changed its fair catch rules on kickoffs to include the fact any player making a fair catch either in the end zone or behind the 25 yard line would result in the ball being placed on the 25-yard line.
NFL special teams coaches almost unanimously hate the rule because it has the potential to rob them of kickoff returns and take some of the foot out of football.
Players, particularly core special teamers, don’t like the rule because it can diminish their roles and eventually lead to their unemployment.
It’s a potentially slippery slope for both coaches and players.
Head coaches, including Dan Campbell, John Harbaugh, Bill Belichick and Sean Payton also let it be known they did not want the kickoff rule change.
Denver voted for the measure anyway. Sorry, Sean.
The NFL says on its resolution the reason for the one-year change is “player safety.”
That’s a joke, dear players and coaches. The same league alleging concern over player safety voted in March to increase the number of games a team can play on Thursday night from one to two.
Players, such as Patrick Mahomes, believe that to be nutty.
Then, on Tuesday, owners voted to potentially play five of those Thursday night games, with their body recovery gap in full effect, after originally scheduling the teams to play on a Sunday.
The owners, not your friends, changed a kickoff rule for player safety because it doesn’t hurt them financially. Indeed, the kickoff rules change gives them a talking point against future legal action or collective bargaining tactics.
The flex schedule rule they changed also impacts player safety although in a potentially negative way. But that was worth changing because, again, Amazon is paying roughly $11 billion over 11 seasons.
NFL owners will counter those statistics show there as fewer injuries on Thursday night games. But because they’re not actually exposing their bodies, they don’t recognize players generally feel physically under-prepared or not fully recovered for those games.
Owners also made the point that the number of injuries on kickoffs had increased last year. Coaches actually studied those stats and concluded only one of the 19 concussions suffered on those kickoffs in 2022 happened to the returner.
So the rule isn’t likely to have a great impact on the player most at risk.
Finally, commissioner Roger Goodell admitted Tuesday that the league will study how the Jacksonville Jaguars handle playing back-to-back games in London this year.
Eventually the league wants to increase that number and even have teams there fulltime. And fulltime is one thing but my guess is most players and coaches based in the USA won’t love the idea of two or three consecutive in Europe — away from home or on multiple overseas flights.
“The focus is to try to do two,” Goodell said, “and see what the impact is there first.”
Sorry, coaches and players. You will lose again.