It appears that Tom Coughlin is confused about the meaning of the word voluntary. The Executive Vice President of football operations (EVP) for the Jacksonville Jaguars spoke to the media on Thursday and voiced displeasure that two players weren’t in attendance at voluntary workouts. Coughlin has a reputation for being a strict disciplinarian. But the statements he made to the media may break league rules. Players are not required to attend voluntary workouts in the offseason and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) is aware of Coughlin’s statement.
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) April 18, 2019
Tom Coughlin Unclear About What Voluntary Means
Hard Nosed Coughlin
Coughlin has built a reputation over the course of his career. He’s a disciplinarian. That can be good, but there are drawbacks. Coughlin is famous for wanting players to arrive at meetings no later than five minutes early. Discipline is a good thing. It takes discipline for individuals to be able to come together and form a team. Granted, Coughlin has three Super Bowl titles in his career. But we are still in the offseason.
The Jaguars started their voluntary workout program this Monday. Both Jalen Ramsey and Telvin Smith did not show up. Of course, they have that right, as this portion of the offseason isn’t mandatory. But it seems Coughlin either doesn’t understand that fact or simply doesn’t care.
According to ESPN staff writer Michael DiRocco, Coughlin said “We’re very close to 100 percent attendance, and quite frankly, our players should be here building the concept of team, working hard side by side, constructing our bond of togetherness, formulating our collective priorities and goals,” Coughlin said. “Success in the NFL demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish and insensitive to the real values of the team. The hard work that many try to avoid is the major building block for the development of an outstanding football team.”
Coughlin’s Statement Could be Viewed as Coercion
Ramsey and Smith were the only two Jaguars not in attendance and Coughlin made his displeasure clear. He mentioned that some people try to avoid hard work. While that’s true in general, some could see his statement as an attempt to pressure Ramsey and Smith to participate in voluntary workouts.
The NFLPA was not happy with Coughlin’s statement as you can see in the above tweet. It’s President Eric Winston mentioned the collective bargaining agreement and the fact that players shouldn’t be threatened into participating in a voluntary event. It’s unclear at this time whether the team will face any consequences for Coughlin’s remarks, but they are on the NFLPA’s radar.
Smith and Ramsey
Regardless of your opinion of whether Smith and Ramsey should be at the voluntary workouts, no one can deny that they work hard. Ramsey has gone to the Pro Bowl in two consecutive seasons and is considered one of the better cornerbacks in the league. Smith went to the 2017 Pro Bowl and was a team captain in 2018.
This is Smith’s first year not attending voluntary workouts, but for Ramsey, this shouldn’t even be a story. Ramsey did not attend 2018’s voluntary program. He opted to train with his dad instead. To doubt that Ramsey works hard is to not pay attention. He played through an injured knee last season. He was a game-day decision against the Indianapolis Colts but still played a great game.
Perhaps Coughlin should be careful. Ramsey is entering the fourth year of his five year contract. It would be unwise of Coughlin to alienate his best player when he should be worried about extending him.
The Last Word on Tom Coughlin
Coughlin is all about discipline. While that can be a good thing, he would do well to choose his words more carefully. Voluntary workouts are just that, voluntary. You can bet that the NFLPA is watching closely. Smith is a leader on the team and Ramsey is one of the top defensive backs. It’s not smart to alienate players like that.
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