New England Patriots Super Bowl Champs

Coaches and players not-so-secretly breaking the dictatorial lockout rules.

Coach Brees guiding his followers through tough times.

In the first days of Catholicism, when it was illegal to practice the new religion within the Roman Empire, devoted followers would meet in secret, hoping violent dictators wouldn’t hear about their transgressions.

That’s kind of what’s happening in the NFL these days. The players (the devoted followers) are communicating with their leaders (coaches) to follow the orders of their savior (Drew Brees) hoping not to get caught by the violent, greedy, scum of the earth dictators (NFL owners).

The players and coaches have reportedly broken two lockout rules. One, as reported by, Mike Freeman of CBSSports, detailed their secret meetings. He wrote:

The workout ended and a small group of players from one NFL team left a practice field, drove to a nearby house of a teammate and went inside. Once there, one of the players put his phone, near the kitchen, on speaker.

A few rings and then a familiar voice answered. It was one of the offensive assistant coaches. “How did practice go?” the assistant asked and a relaxed, 20-minute conversation between coach and players ensued.

This conversation suggests a couple of things. One that this team is clearly scripting practices with coaches, doing them, and then reporting back. It’s as close to business as usual as it can get. Two, other teams have to be doing this. Most are probably taking the same approach, breaking up into their position groups and working with their position coaches.

Another article, by Eric Edholm, of Pro Football Weekly, said coaches and general managers contacted undrafted free agents, a clear violation of the lockout rules. He wrote:

Of the six agents that PFW spoke to, three said that representatives of NFL clubs even used personal cell phones to contact the agents following the conclusion of last weekend’s draft, as opposed to calling from team-issued lines where evidence of tampering might be easier to trace via phone records in any official NFL audit. Two more agents said that teams called players directly in a few cases.

“It was almost like a normal year in terms of contact, a little less (phone contact) than normal maybe, only without the signed contracts at the end,” one of the agents said.

I’m not sure I believe that last part, about it being almost like a normal year because an agent has an interest in making the teams look bad. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if it were true.

There are a couple of things that make this issue incredibly interesting.

First, there is no way owners don’t know their coaches are doing this. They have so many sources in their organizations that word would inevitably leak. If a lot of teams are breaking this rule, that means either the owners aren’t as unified as they should be–they’re actually betraying each other by not cracking down on this–or that they’re not that serious about this lockout.

I’m going with the latter, that they aren’t that serious about this lockout, for a very simple reason: they don’t need to be. This lockout is about greed more than anything. They just want MORE. They don’t need more they just want it. That means there will be a season this year because if there isn’t, it would interfere with them getting more–this year and in the future. So, they have no reason to disrupt these lockout violating workouts, because that would conflict with their interests since practices will only make their product better.

Same goes for the contact between teams and undrafted free agents. You know Bill Belichick was the first one on the phone to call some of the guys he wants–we all know Bill isn’t always the most obedient of coaches. If Kraft heard about this do you think he’d force Bill to stop? First, how could he stop Bill? You know Bill wears the pants in that relationship. And second, why would he want to stop him? There are definitely players Bill contacted that will help the Patriots win next season, and that’s in Kraft’s best interest.

Second, this makes the players and coaches look really, really good. If I were them, I’d be playing this up BIG time. All they have to say is, look, the owners don’t want us to play this year unless they get more money. They won’t even let us into their facilities to practice, stay in shape or get treatment for injuries we sustained working for them. Despite having to put up with all of this crap we are still as dedicated to improving as ever. Even when we aren’t getting paid. We want to improve so badly we’ll even break rules intended to prevent us from doing so.

How does that not make the players look good? All most fans want is to know the players they root for actually give a damn about winning. This proves they do.

The hilarious thing is, somewhere out there, there’s a team whose coach isn’t breaking the rules, and whose players aren’t working out together under a veil of secrecy.

But when that team goes 3-13 next year, who will pay the price? The coach.


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