Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and the Denver Broncos organization may have just gotten themselves in a bit of trouble.
The NFL will have questions for the Denver Broncos about how offensive coordinator Adam Gase and quarterback Peyton Manning came to cross paths at the University of Alabama earlier this month, the league confirmed Friday, even though the two did not travel together and Gase was in Tuscaloosa for two days before Manning started his visit.
A coach and a player taking a campus visit together before their team starts its offseason program would be a violation of the league's collective bargaining agreement. The Broncos start their offseason program Monday.
Whether it is a punishable violation, the league said, is to be determined.
Saban was astonished by the prospect of an investigation by the NFL, telling Mike Klis and Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post just what what he and Manning were up to:
I'm like shocked that anybody would think someone did anything wrong on their part... I never met with Adam. When I talked with him I talked about his family. Peyton, we talked an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. Adam had been talking to our assistant coaches. I never talked with Adam about football.
Saban also told reporters, via Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com, that the intentions of the meeting were in the best interest of both sides:
Since they're a no-huddle team, we had a lot of questions for them, in terms of what gives them problems and what defensive teams do that gives them problems. That was kind of a mutual, hopefully beneficial.
A meeting between Saban, Manning and Gase would technically be considered an offensive workout because a coach was present. That would, of course, be deemed illegal in the eyes of the CBA and would potentially constitute some sort of penalty. That said, there's no need for an investigation from the NFL.
Should the Broncos be punished by the NFL?
Manning and Gase did not travel together to Alabama's facilities, to start. Legwold points out that Gase's wife has family near New Orleans, so he simply stopped at the facilities for a few days as part of the trip. Saban and Gase also have history, as they were on staff together at LSU. On-campus visits to say hello to old friends is nothing to be concerned about.
Another reason the NFL should not be concerned is that if what Saban is saying about Gase is true, then this "visit" is simply something that didn't even have to occur in person. If Gase was there with Manning and Saban, then it's definitely a meeting that should concern NFL brass.
But if Gase were not on site at the same time as Manning (or, at least, on location with Saban), then this is all something that could have occurred over the phone. Would a phone call between Saban and Manning constitute some sort of issue? Doubtful.
An investigation would likely be an overreaction from the NFL because of the big names involved in the matter. Manning and Saban are two of the biggest names in football—both NFL and college—so to see the two together would certainly raise some eyebrows.
Cleanest guy in NFL, Peyton Manning, spends 1day in Tuscaloosa w/ Coach Saban & NFL rules committee investigating improprieties. The irony.— Rob Pate (@robpate) April 19, 2014
I'm not the least concerned about the meeting, and the NFL shouldn't be either.
Their efforts are best left to refining the "no dunking over the goal post" policy. Then again, I hope you noted the sarcasm in that.