Bears

Hub Arkush: It’s silly Bears lost OTA for ‘excessive contact’

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus, left, smiles as he talks with running back David Montgomery during the team's voluntary minicamp on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

LAKE FOREST – So what are we to make of the Bears and Matt Eberflus being docked one of their nine allowed offseason OTA sessions for excessive contact?

Is it a sign the rookie head coach is in over his head without a solid handle on the rules?

Could it be that Eberflus isn’t really mild mannered Clark Kent and more closely resembles Hulk Hogan or “Rowdy” Roddy Piper?

Are Eberlus’ young charges just running wild and out of control?

Or is this whole thing much ado about nothing?

My money is on the last.

Eberflus addressed the issue immediately after the team’s return to the field Wednesday.

“We respect the NFL and the NFLPA for getting together,” he said. “What they concluded on was that we had a few plays early on in the OTA process, very early on, and they took away an OTA on Tuesday.

“The league did not hand out fines to myself or to the organization for that particular violation.”

Asked if he thought the problem was his practice routines or overzealous players Eberflus replied, “I would say the latter.”

I asked newcomer Justin Jones, who now is playing for his third head coach after only four seasons, if the amount of contact in these offseason workouts is something players even think or care about.

“We’ve got a bunch of young guys on the team, and I know me coming in as a rookie and my second year also, you want to prove yourself any chance you get,” Jones said. “So I can’t really fault players for going too hard or being overly aggressive because this is your dream, this is what you came here for.

“You came here to play football, so once you get the opportunity, you want to show them that ‘Hey, I’m supposed to be here.’ ”

But, Justin, are you worried too much offseason contact can negatively impact your career?

“The biggest thing was some guys on the ground, I believe. And when you’re playing O-line, D-line, foot traffic happens,” Jones said. “Nobody got hurt. Everybody had a good time and just leave it at that.”

Eberflus said he was unaware of the issue until Monday evening. On Wednesday, tight end Cole Kmet, the Bears player rep for the NFLPA, said a fellow NFLPA rep who attended practice reported the issue.

It is more than stunning that as far and away the most popular and profitable sport in America, NFL players, on average, are the lowest paid of the four major sports, and the majority of their contracts are not guaranteed. With the average NFL career at 3 ½ seasons, teams restrict all of them from choosing their own teams for at least four seasons, and then in easily the most physically debilitating game, many are left to fend for themselves when it comes to healthcare once their careers are over.

Unable to make serious inroads in any of those areas in the two 10-year collective bargaining agreements the NFPLA has negotiated since executive director DeMaurice Smith took over – in fact the last two CBAs have lowered the players’ percentage share of revenue – it has instead negotiated limits on practice time and contact as an alleged benefit to the players while allowing the owners to add an extra regular-season game.

Player safety should and must be paramount, but is this the way to make that happen?

What the Bears have been punished for is really just an unnecessary distraction to allow the NFPLA to claim it is taking care of its membership while it continues to fail them where it really matters.

It really says nothing about Eberflus, his staff and his players other than they enjoy the game and every player on the field is doing all that he can to try and make the team.

Would you want it any other way?

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and ShawLocal.com.