The Ringer’s Kevin Clark has a good piece on what NFL rosters getting younger means for the league, and it includes an anecdote about the time that Ravens head coach John Harbaugh accosted NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith at a goddamn funeral:
On March 18, 23-year-old Ravens cornerback Tray Walker died from injuries suffered in a motorbike accident in Miami one day prior. Eight days later, at the funeral in a Baptist church in south Florida, Harbaugh approached the head of the NFL Players Association, DeMaurice Smith. “I said the rules have to be adjusted for first-, second-, third-year guys,” Harbaugh said, referring to rules that limit offseason contact between players and coaches. “The rules are built for guys who have families and need time off.”
Perhaps the strangest thing here is that this isn’t an anonymously sourced story, but something Harbaugh actively admitted to. He’s also, essentially, trying to find a loophole in the CBA that allows him to hire babysitters for Ravens players:
Harbaugh is concerned about what a younger NFL means for the on-field product, but also for the sport’s ability to deal with players off the field. He thinks the influx of youth has created an atmosphere in which there’s a greater need to keep players in the building in the offseason in an effort to make sure they’re behaving smartly. He said he’s currently “vetting the CBA” to figure out if he can send team employees to work out with players at their homes.
“I think about it all the time,” Harbaugh said of Walker’s death. “Maybe one of our guys goes into the garage, maybe we see the motorbike. We say ‘What’s this all about? Is this really safe?’”
The NFL actively encourages a system in which college football develops players without paying them—causing them to jump to the league younger and rawer—and fought for a CBA that pays rookies less money—causing teams to stock up on young players who are underpaid and play them before they’re “ready”—and Harbaugh believes the solution to all this is for coaches to have even more control over players’ lives. Got it.