The NFL has warned "several teams" that players are not to meet with coaches and receive playbooks during this time in the offseason, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported over the weekend. The league has sent the Dolphins no such warning.
But perhaps it should.
That's because Chad Henne, Miami's presumed starting quarterback, told The Miami Herald today he's been meeting with new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for the last month in preparation for player-organized workouts that would replace any offseason workouts or minicamps lost to a possible lockout or other circumstance related to the uncertain and unresolved collective bargaining contract.
Henne, apparently comfortable with the new playbook, would presumably run the offensive portion of the workouts. To be equiped for that task, Henne had to learn portions of the playbook, or at least significant portions of it. And to do that, he likely had to study the darn thing.
Regardless, even meeting with Daboll to discuss strategy and plays is apparently out of bounds, according to the Plain Dealer. And that definitely happened.
"I took some vacation time, maybe a week or two here or there, but once we signed Coach Brian Daboll, I tried to get into there as quick as I could to learn the offense," Henne told the Herald's David J. Neal. "I've been meeting with him for the last month now. I feel pretty comfortable with what he's teaching and what the offense is going to be about just in case -- who knows what's going to happen this Thursday? -- that I can pass it on to the guys and help the guys out."
Henne is quoted extensively in the story talking about the new offense and how it is quarterback friendly and a mix of the New England and New York Jets offense. The story does not make the conclusion that Henne violated any rules. It does not even consider the topic.
But I do.
According to the Plain Dealer, coaches and GMs at the NFL Scouting Combine were told by league officials that existing rules forbid meetings with coaches and the dispensing of playbooks until the official start of offseason conditioning programs on March 15. The league is saying the offseason rules were a concession to the wishes of the players union, which did not want coaches pressuring players to meet with coaches until the off-season programs kicked off, the Plain Dealer reported.
The Plain Dealer report specifically addressed meetings relative to strategy. Players and coaches are allowed to meet to discuss other matters, such as contract issues and to simply handle introductions and other business until March 3, it has been reported.
An NFL spokesman could not immediately be reached on this matter. A message left with a Dolphins spokesman has not yet been returned.
Update: A Dolphins spokesman declined comment and added he would not even confirm that Henne had indeed met with Daboll -- although the spokesman was present today when Henne said he met with Daboll. I find that amusing for some reason.
Update 2: Whatever advantage the Dolphins gained (if any) is done because the league year ends March 3rd anyway and everyone knows and understands there is to be no contact between players and their teams after March 3rd.
Update 3: Veteran St. Louis scribe and radio host Howard Balzer passed along the portion of the NFL's clarification of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that shows the contact between Henne and Daboll to be out of bounds.
The current collective bargaining agreement, which doesn’t expire until midnight March 3, has strict rules regarding what players can do before the beginning of offseason programs. The NFL has made this clear to clubs by way of written clarification. That clarification reads:
"Prior to the start of off-season programs, players are permitted to use the Club’s facilities on a voluntary basis subject to the following rules: (i) such players may not receive per diem payments or workout bonuses of any kind and may not be paid or reimbursed expenses for travel, board or lodging during this period; (ii) such players are not permitted to participate in organized workouts, practices or meetings of any kind; (iii) the Club’s strength and conditioning coaches may not direct such players’ individual workouts, but may supervise use of the weight room to prevent injury, correct misuse of equipment, etc.; and (iv) such players may not be directed or supervised by position coaches during this period."
Obviously, the quarterback meeting with the offensive coordinator is a meeting of some kind when the CBA clearly states meetings of any kind are out of bounds.
Balzer also tells me via e-mail that in St. Louis, quarterback Sam Bradford has not met with his new offensive coordinator for this reason.
Update 4: Henne didn't just meet with Brian Daboll. Quarterback coach Karl Dorrell was in the room also at Dolphins training camp. That is similarly a violation of the CBA. And this is not just speculation. This is straight from Henne's mouth.
Watch the video: