For the third time in the 11-season tenure of head coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens have been stripped of organized team activity sessions for violating offseason workout rules.
The NFL announced Baltimore would forfeit its final two OTA sessions scheduled for Thursday and Friday and the organization and Harbaugh would be fined. Details of the violation weren’t specified in the league’s statement, but it apparently stemmed from contact in pass coverage situations, which is not permitted during spring workouts.
“We take very seriously reading, understanding, abiding by and playing by the rules,” Harbaugh said in a statement released by the team. “Our coaches, staff and players have worked extremely hard to run the offseason program according to all the collective bargaining agreement rules. Our team has been singled out for pass coverage contact during the early part of OTAs. We have heavily emphasized these CBA pass coverage rules in meetings, and coached them diligently on the practice field. It has also been our priority to include our veteran players, along with new Ravens who have practiced and played for other teams, in the process and use their input and ideas. Even with consistent and repeated teaching, these rules pose considerable adjustments for the young players.
“We have tried very hard to eliminate contact in pass coverage during OTAs, even so far as to pull players out of practice who struggle with these adjustments. I am confident we have done everything within our power and ability to practice within the rules, and we will continue to focus on preparing, teaching and practicing the right way.”
The team will still conduct its three-day mandatory minicamp next week.
In 2016, the Ravens forfeited three days of OTA sessions and were fined after players illegally dressed in pads during rookie minicamp. In 2010, the final week of the offseason program was canceled for rules violations involving the intensity and tempo of drills as well as the length of practices.
Two years ago, Harbaugh took full accountability for the violation. General manager Ozzie Newsome said the league’s action was “appropriate” in 2010 and that the organization wouldn’t let it happen again.
Based on the organization’s reaction to Wednesday’s announcement, there could be more gray area with the latest violation, but previous transgressions have undoubtedly left the Ravens under the league’s microscope. Either way, it’s a bad look for an organization with plenty of experience in leadership positions and no excuse to not be able to follow a CBA that’s been in place since 2011.
“We are vigilant about practicing within the collective bargaining rules. I am. John and his assistants are,” Newsome stated. “I attend every practice and then watch the practices again on video. I see how the coaching staff teaches, corrects and addresses issues immediately on the field. In meetings, I have watched John’s presentation to his players and assistants regarding how to properly practice and the pace of these sessions. We have players competing, including rookies and those fighting to make our team. Sometimes breaking old practice habits of these players, especially rookies, takes more repetitions. We’ll continue to be vigilant about this.”
According to NFL Network, Harbaugh will be fined $50,000 while owner Steve Bisciotti receives a $100,000 fine.