Its just a practice game?

A recent ESPN documentary “Outside the Lines” has explored accusations that the Houston Texans American Football team required players to participate in one-on-one contact blocking drill in May 2008, in violation of NFL rules which ban the practice in the offseason.

According to several players, even after a complaint to head coach Gary Kubiak, the drills continued and subsequently led to season-ending injuries to three offensive linesmen (Chukky Okobi, Jordan Black & Dan Stevenson). All three players required surgical intervention. While Okobi couldn’t be reached for comment. Black and Stevenson said that although they accept football’s injury risks, they are distressed that their seasons ended in a drill they say should not have taken place.

ESPN also reports that Fred Weary (Former Texans guard) supports their story: “In the Texans’ defense they did tell us what was going on. They did give us parameters, like going half-speed during the drills. But when guys are trying to make the team, those parameters go out the window.”

Stevenson and Black have labor grievances pending against the team, and Stevenson plans to sue the Texans. Asked about the players’ charges, team counsel Suzie Thomas wrote in an e-mail: “I am unable to comment, other than to say that information set forth … is inaccurate.”

The collective bargaining agreement between the player’s union and the league specifies that if proved, a team will lose a week of organised team activities for a first violation, and the head coach can be fined. If a second violation is discovered within a calendar year, the team could lose the fourth-round pick.

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About Kris

Associate Professor in Sports Law, Staffordshire University; British Gymnastics Senior Coach

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