Player report cards of NFL facilities reveal jaw-dropping details about some teams — including Commanders
INDIANAPOLIS – The goal, NFLPA president J.C. Tretter says, was to point out deficiencies rather than evoke shame.
But in arguably the most comprehensive look at how NFL players view the quality of their own teams, the NFL Players Association released a set of eyebrow-raising “team report cards” Wednesday, laying bare some of the best and worst aspects of the league’s franchises.
The players' union celebrated the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings clubs, as staff and facility overhaul generated significant improvement for players in the first year of each team’s new coaching regime.
The club report cards also highlight clear concerns at facilities across the NFL, from three teams failing to provide dinner for players in season to two teams failing to offer vitamins for athletes whose jobs depend heavily on health and fitness metrics.
The Cincinnati Bengals, in both categories, are the lone team across the league not to provide players with supplements.
Add the Bengals' “showers and toilets consistently not working,” a closure of the Bengals' cafeteria on days players are encouraged to voluntarily report to the facility and players’ wives nursing on the floors of public restrooms at games due to a lack of team-provided family rooms, and it’s perhaps unsurprising that fewer than half of players believe team owner Mike Brown is willing to spend to improve facilities.
The Bengals nonetheless ranked above five teams in composite league rankings. The Vikings, Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders, in order, topped the report card results, while the Los Angeles Chargers, Arizona Cardinals and Washington Commanders, in order, steadied the descent to the bottom.
The results stem from a poll sampling more than 1,300 responders — nearly 60% of the league’s active players — in an effort to offer wide-ranging opinion data ahead of free agency.
Tretter, who played for the Cleveland Browns through the 2021 season, said the goal of the report cards was to help players and agents understand more about the franchises they were weighing in free agency. Simultaneously, a new means of public accountability puts franchises on notice to improve inequities. Tretter believes the first annual results are telling, but how teams use this information to better support their players, which the union expects next year’s survey to emphasize, will arguably be even more telling.
The report cards scored teams on eight categories: treatment of families, nutrition, weight room, strength staff, training room, training staff, locker room and travel. Each area was graded by players on a scale of A+ (considered exemplary) to F- (essentially zero effort by the team), with thumbnail descriptions that detail why the grades landed where they did. Each team was graded based on all the categories, funneling into an aggregate report card for all of the teams.
Composite grades did not clearly correlate with on-field success, as the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs ranked a surprising 29th — fourth-worst in the league — and were hurt by older facilities and discontent with head trainer Rick Burkholder, whom they believe “does not treat players fairly and consistently.” No training staff ranked worse in the league than Kansas City, whose players reported they “feel discouraged from reporting their injuries” and “fear retribution for speaking up for better care.”
The Super Bowl runner-up Philadelphia Eagles landed 14th overall. Their coaching staff was lauded, while their family care (a family room at the stadium is accessible to coaches and football operations staff members’ families but not those of players) ranked poorly.
The New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals joined the Bengals in drawing recognition for failing to provide players dinner; the Cardinals are allegedly willing to box dinner in season, though they’re the only team to “charge you via payroll deduction” for that service. Arizona also charges players for offseason meals.
Health and safety concerns
Cardinals players similarly reported concerns about the safety of their weight room, with uneven floors and “peeling” floorboards.
Carolina Panthers players requested an upgrade to their “unsafe” pool room, amid “complaints of a slippery surface with players falling regularly.” Of Carolina respondents, 92% believed team owner David Tepper was willing to invest to fix that.
The Jacksonville Jaguars drew one of the most grisly concerns, stemming from a rat infestation.
“When asked what the number one thing they want changed at their facility, the answer was unanimous — get rid of the rats!” Jacksonville’s report card reads. “Players reported that for 3-4 weeks this season, there was a rat infestation in the locker room and laundry hampers.”
Chargers players described “gross” and often broken hot and cold tubs, with only 50% feeling confident that team owner Dean Spanos would invest to change that.
Training concerns, including one team that needs it
Commanders players, in line with public reports in recent years, directly said they do not want to rehabilitate from injuries at their facility.
Green Bay Packers players often outsource physical therapy to supplement an understaffed team department.
And in Arizona, only 48% of players believe the team has enough physical therapists — the second-worst confidence level from any team. With franchise quarterback Kyler Murray set to return midseason, could that hinder his progress toward a speedy return?
While six teams don’t have a sauna and four don’t have a steam room, two — the Houston Texans and Los Angeles Chargers — don’t have either.
Some teams, including the Baltimore Ravens and Chargers, have replaced their training staff since the survey period, which the league believes reflects responsive management.
Responsiveness, on personnel and facilities, is the union’s goal.
For the work-harder-not-smarter crew..
"Longer hours are not correlated to winning, as 7 of the top 8 coaches rated as being most efficient with their players' time in the 2022 survey made the playoffs this year," PA survey found.
Josh McDaniels kept players long. Raiders 6-11.
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) March 1, 2023
The survey authors made that clear in broad assertions — seven of the eight coaches viewed as most respecting players’ time made the playoffs — and specific ones.
“Every respondent believes that [Giants head coach Brian] Daboll is respectful of the players’ time,” the Giants’ report card reads, “and they also feel he is willing to listen and collaborate with them. In many players’ opinions, his tenure is a stark change from former head coach Joe Judge’s tenure and an example of how quickly things can improve if the club prioritizes the well-being of players."
The overall aggregate rankings of franchises from best to worst were as follows:
1. Minnesota Vikings
2. Miami Dolphins
3. Las Vegas Raiders
4. Houston Texans
5. Dallas Cowboys
6. Green Bay Packers
7. San Francisco 49ers
8. New York Giants
9. Buffalo Bills
10. New Orleans Saints
11. Seattle Seahawks
12. Carolina Panthers
13. Chicago Bears
14. Philadelphia Eagles
15. Detroit Lions
16. Indianapolis Colts
17. Baltimore Ravens
18. Tennessee Titans
19. New York Jets
20. Denver Broncos
21. Cleveland Browns
22. Pittsburgh Steelers
23. Atlanta Falcons
24. New England Patriots
25. Los Angeles Rams
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
27. Cincinnati Bengals
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
29. Kansas City Chiefs
30. Los Angeles Chargers
31. Arizona Cardinals
32. Washington Commanders