Is Greg Schiano Becoming the NFL's Biggest Outlaw?

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Is Greg Schiano Becoming the NFL's Biggest Outlaw?
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Greg Schiano hasn't been a head coach in the NFL for very long, but he's already developed a reputation for doing things "his way."

Schiano had better be careful, however, or "his way" is going get him in hot water with the league and/or the players union.

Schiano's latest maverick move may be taking place in OTAs for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune told 98.7 FM in Tampa (via Pro Football Talk) that the Buccaneers have been trading some paint during practices.

It’s football practice, without pads. I’ll tell you what, Greg Schiano is right on the border of getting investigated and possibly — I don’t know if they would fine him, I don’t know what the penalty is — but these guys are out there, they’re hitting. . . .  There’s no pads on, but I’m telling you, the linemen, these guys are hitting.  People are going down on the ground.  And it’s interesting.  I mean, most of this was second- and third-team guys, it wasn’t the front-line guys.  So there’s a little bit of what Jon Gruden used to call "practice etiquette" that I think has to be learned here, but they’re going at it pretty good.

Contact during OTAs is explicitly prohibited by the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement. Last year, the NFL stripped the Seattle Seahawks of two practices and a scheduled workout after learning that there was similar contact during the Seahawks' OTAs.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello released a statement on Wednesday regarding the allegations, according to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com.

We have no comment on this particular report. There is a system in place with the NFLPA to monitor the rules for offseason work. It includes spot checking video, in-person spot checks by representatives of our office or the union, reviewing media reports and responding to requests from the NFLPA for a review of a potential violation.

It's worth pointing out that no one is accusing Schiano of ordering the hitting in practices. In fact, Cummings went so far as to say, “I can’t imagine it’s being ordered, I think it’s just guys being a little overzealous, trying to earn a spot."

However, it's also worth noting that this sort of thing isn't going to happen without at least the tacit approval of the head coach. If Schiano wanted to put a stop to it, he would have.

The "I didn't tell them to hit" defense isn't going to carry much weight with the NFL if these allegations are true. He didn't tell them not to hit, either, and even if he did, it appears that order may have been given with a wink and a nudge.

Schiano is walking a fine line here. On one hand, he's continuing to try to make his mark and instill his hard-nosed philosophy on a Tampa Bay team that faded badly down the stretch last year, losing five of its last six games. As Cummings put it, "that’s part of what this part of the season is about.”

Except it isn't, at least the contact part, which has been prohibited since no-pads practices began several years ago. The penalties for violating this rule were increased in the new CBA and now include the potential for lost practice time and fines for head coaches.

Now, it may well be that Schiano has decided that the penalty is worth the "crime"—that he'd rather forfeit a couple of practices and a few bucks if it means mixing it up a little in OTAs.

After all, it wouldn't be the first time that Schiano thumbed his nose at the NFL establishment. At the end of a September loss to the New York Giants the Buccaneers rushed New York's "victory formation"—an act that drew the ire of old-school head coach Tom Coughlin.

Schiano was unapologetic at the time, according to Jane McManus of ESPN.

I don't know if that's not something that's not done in the National Football League, but what I do with our football team is we fight until they tell us game over. There's nothing dirty about it and there's nothing illegal about it. We crowd the ball -- it's like a sneak defense and you try to knock it loose. Watch Rutgers, they would know if they watched us that's what we did at the end of the game.

Schiano has already commented about Cummings' report as well, telling Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times that "99.9 percent of our practice plays are permissible."

To say with 22 people on the field, they try to get out of the way when they tag off, do they sometimes run into each other? Yeah, it happens. But clearly in watching the training videos, I feel confident that we're doing it the right way. I'm very big on (how) I expect them to do things on and off the field and it's no different for me. There are rules set by the NFL and I'm expected to follow them and I do everything I can to.

Translated from coach speak that reads a lot like, "Of course we're not breaking the rules. We are, however, going to bend those suckers into a pretzel if we can get away with it."

In that respect, Schiano really isn't any different from Pete Carroll, who got sent to the principal's office for the same offense a year ago.

They're going to push the envelope wherever they can, and they're both seemingly much more concerned with winning football games than making friends or adhering to "unspoken rules" like not plowing through the victory formation or (allegedly) running up the score.

That's fine. Given that it's been over a decade since the Buccaneers won a playoff game, fans may actually prefer it.

However, Schiano would be well-served to pick when he pushes carefully. Getting labeled an outlaw in today's NFL can be troublesome.

Because Sheriff Goodell can be a real pain in the posterior.

 

 

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