NFLPA will oppose NFL’s effort to exercise control over joint practices

The NFL “absolutely” will explore taking control of player discipline during joint practices. The NFL Players Association definitely will oppose it.

Per a league source with knowledge of the situation, the NFLPA will fight against the league’s effort to impose the same penalties for on-field, in-game misconduct to joint practices. As the source put it, the opposition is rooted in the union’s disdain for joint practices generally.

During the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, the NFLPA pushed hard to eliminate joint practices. Ultimately, the two sides agreed to specific rules. For example, they can’t occur more than two days in any week of the preseason, and they can’t happen the day before a preseason game. Also, with three preseason games, there can be no more than four joint practices per team.

The union prefers to have none. As Cam Heyward (who spoke out against joint practice during the 2020 negotiations as Pittsburgh’s player representative) has argued, it’s a wrestling match, a free-for-all. And while it’s less of a free-for-all if the NFL can impose discipline for conduct happening during joint practices, if the NFL’s alternatives are not being able to discipline players who, for example, swing helmets during joint practices and getting rid of joint practices entirely, maybe the best move would be to get rid of joint practices entirely.

Currently, only teams can impose discipline for player misconduct during joint practice. The union believes that there are clear limits on what teams can do, even if they are inclined to do anything. As the NFLPA sees it, the teams are responsible to ensure things don’t get out of hand, and the teams responsible if they do.

Regardless of how it plays out, the NFL won’t be able to assume responsibility for joint practices without the union’s agreement. Currently, the union doesn’t seem to be inclined to agree — mainly because the union would like to get rid of joint practices.