When the Palm Beach Post initially posted their story about Chad Henne and his meetings with new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to discuss their new offense, I was actually impressed with Henne's willingness to work and improve even when he doesn't necessarily have to this time of the year - especially with the CBA set to expire in a few days.
First, the good. At a charity golf event on Monday, Chad Henne spoke with the media for a few minutes. During his talk, he shared that he has met with Daboll several times to learn the new offense:
"Once we signed coach Daboll I tried to get in there as quick as I could so I learned the offense. And I've been meeting with him for the last month now, so I feel pretty comfortable with what he's teaching and what the offense is going to be about."
"I'm more concentrated on this new offense and learning this new offense to master it, and be the guy that can teach the other guys out there more."
Henne said the players are planning on organizing their own practices beginning March 28, which is when the team's offseason training program typically begins. With no CBA likely to be in place by then, it will be up to the players to assemble, train, and practice on their own. And Henne said he and his teammates have even found a field they will be able to practice on.
"That's when I'll try to help install the offense and get the guys on the right page, because who knows how long this could last?" added Henne. "Hopefully a lot of guys will come back and we can work out and build some bonding and camaraderie there."
Though I'm thrilled to see Henne taking more of a leadership role - and I'm pumped to hear Henne refer to this new offense as a "New England offense with a little Jets in it" and describe it as "quarterback friendly" - there's a downside to this meeting. And Armando Salguero wasted no time in pointing it out.
Meeting between Henne and Daboll violates rule from current CBA?
Considering Henne openly divulged this information that he has been meeting with Daboll "for the last month now," there's no way to deny these meetings have been going on. That's not in question. What is in question is an interpretation of one of the rules put in place under the current CBA - which is expiring in just a matter of days.
Courtesy of the Herald, by way of the St. Louis writer and radio host Howard Balzer, we know the NFL recently sent written clarification of what the rule is:
"Prior to the start of off-season programs, players are permitted to use the Club’s facilities on a voluntary basis subject to the following rules: (i) such players may not receive per diem payments or workout bonuses of any kind and may not be paid or reimbursed expenses for travel, board or lodging during this period; (ii) such players are not permitted to participate in organized workouts, practices or meetings of any kind; (iii) the Club’s strength and conditioning coaches may not direct such players’ individual workouts, but may supervise use of the weight room to prevent injury, correct misuse of equipment, etc.; and (iv) such players may not be directed or supervised by position coaches during this period."
I've put in bold the key elements of the NFL's clarification on the rule.
You may be wondering why a St. Louis writer has this. Well, it seems as though this very rule has prevented Rams QB Sam Bradford from meeting with their new offensive coordinator out in St. Louis. Peter King confirms this in his latest column over at SI.com:
The league told the Rams they couldn't do anything they wouldn't do under normal circumstances, and ruled that normal circumstances would have coaches and players not meeting 'til at least March. So McDaniels will have to keep his tweaks to himself until there's a new CBA.
Open to interpretation
This is now what the league has to decide - did the Dolphins violate any rule? And if so, what should the punishment be?
It's hard to figure how the NFL will view this. But let's quickly touch on how vague these rules are.
Rule IV: "Such players may not be directed or supervised by position coaches during this period."
I would take this to mean players can take part in drills or practices that are being run by a member of the organization. If that's the case, no rule here was broken.
Rule II: "Such players are not permitted to participate in organized workouts, practices or meetings of any kind."
Well these were definitely meetings. But the gray area comes in around the term "organized." Was this an "organized meeting?" What exactly makes up an "organized meeting?"
If by "organized," it's meant that the team set up and initiated the meeting, then the Dolphins may be fine. Henne seems to make clear that it was him who actually initiated the meetings, saying that "once we signed Coach Brian Daboll, I tried to get into there as quick as I could to learn the offense."
Dolphins spokesman Harvey Greene also stressed that these meetings between Henne ad Daboll were voluntary. But will that fact matter once the NFL reviews this situation? I have no idea.