Harbaugh critical of how NFL practice, offseason rules affect young players' development

The Baltimore Sun

One week after New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was sharply critical of the NFL labor deal and alleged that it played a role in increasing the amount of injuries, Ravens coach John Harbaugh joined him in ripping the collective bargaining agreement for curtailing younger players' development.

Under the new labor deal that ended the lockout in 2011, two-a-day practices during training camp were abolished, padded practices during the regular season were cut down and offseason activity practices were reduced from 14 weeks to nine weeks. All those changes were pushed for by the NFL Players Association in negotiations in the interest of player safety.

"How do you develop the young guys?" Harbaugh said during his season-ending press conference Tuesday. "Well, the young guys better be doing a lot on their own in the offseason. It used to be that you could work with your young guys in the offseason. Now, you’re not allowed to work with your young guys. You’re not allowed to develop your young players in the offseason. It’s un-American, OK? Somebody explain to me why that is right and fair and good. When I get that explanation, I’ll understand it.

"I’m talking to the players' union on that, OK? That doesn’t make any sense. Those young guys are in the union, OK? Where’s their voice? That’s something I think Bill Belichick has talked about, and I think when they wise up, that will get corrected someday. But, in the meantime, it’s our job to figure out how to develop those young players somehow, someway, to give them a chance to have a career in the National Football League, to give them an opportunity to compete. And we’ve got to find a way to do that.”

Harbaugh said the Ravens will examine how they construct their practice schedule and allocate their time during the offseason and season going forward.

"I talked to the team about that," Harbaugh said. "We will, like we have in the past, especially two years ago when we had almost a full offseason, we are going to look at everything we do. Every practice schedule, every drill, every opportunity we have to develop our players, we’re going to look at it and do everything we can to maximize that time to be as good as we can be. And some of that may be, ‘Hey, veteran players don’t need as much work as young guys.'"



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