NFL

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

NFL coaches no longer leaving locker-rooms just to the players

  • Print

Sean Payton walks through the locker-room to leave motivational props for players. Jim Harbaugh barges into the bathroom to rush players to meetings. Ron Rivera practically lives in there.

Gone are the days when NFL locker-rooms were a players-only domain. More coaches are making their presence felt in a place they weren't always welcomed.

"That locker-room is our locker-room," Rivera said. "I have a vested interest in the locker-room."

Some coaches only pass through the locker-room occasionally — Giants coach Tom Coughlin and Tampa Bay's Lovie Smith — while some are regular visitors, stopping to chat with players and socialize with them on their turf.

Rivera used to follow the old-school philosophy because he played for Mike Ditka in Chicago. Iron Mike stayed out of the Bears' locker-room, leaving his players to rule there.

But Rivera crossed that imaginary "Do Not Enter" line last year and became a fixture in the room. His approach worked. The Panthers won the NFC South and Rivera was the NFL Coach of the Year.

"The biggest mistake I made my first two years was not being around," Rivera said. "I still have guys that when they see me, they say: 'Whoop. The man is in here.' And, they shut up. I don't care. It's our locker-room."

When a bullying scandal erupted with the Miami Dolphins last year, coach Joe Philbin said he didn't know about it. In part, that was because Philbin didn't visit the locker-room. He let the players police themselves.

Lesson learned.

"I think I have a better rapport, chemistry, with the players," Philbin said recently. "I've spent more time communicating with them in a one-on-one manner and in team meetings. I've been doing the bed check every single night at the hotel and just knocking on their doors and making sure that they're OK, busting their chops a little bit if they're awake."

The events in Miami were the focal point of a meeting between the NFL Players Association and league officials in the off-season. The NFL wants more supervision in the locker-room to ensure players respect each other.

"The locker-room is part of the workplace," Robert Gulliver, the league's executive vice-president for human resources, said during a panel discussion at the NFL's career development symposium this summer. "Football is special and iconic, but we have to treat it as a place of work."

That means coaches have to make sure they're aware of the culture in their locker-rooms. If the see any problems, they have to address them immediately.

"There should be no closed doors in terms of how you do it," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "We're just continuing to emphasize what we emphasized a year ago. We don't have any rookie shows, never have done that stuff. We're trying to get a bunch of guys who are good people."

Kelly encourages his assistants to visit with players in the locker-room. He stresses togetherness and has no tolerance for players who don't put the team first.

"The more people get along and share the same vision and aspirations, the more you're going to get to where you want to get to," Kelly said.

Many coaches say they build camaraderie with players in the locker-room.

"You rip a guy's ass out there (in practice) and then you go in (and say): 'It's just football. It's nothing personal, we're just talking about your football stinks. You're a pretty good guy,'" Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "You want to make sure that they know that. You ask them to do a lot of things and you get a lot of feedback when you go through there and talk to them."

Chiefs coach Andy Reid learned the open-door policy from Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh. Reid also connects with his players through a leadership council that includes a representative from each position group.

"They can come to our office, we can go in the locker-room," Reid said. "There are no walls, everything is free, coaches go in and mingle. Players, I think, appreciate that. I go in there and don't feel any walls there, no sneaking around, and they feel free coming up and talking to us."

Some coaches are more comfortable in the locker-room than others.

"I'll go in every day just to see the guys," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "I mean, they get intimidated because I'll be in shorts and that's about it because we have our sauna and whirlpool and I'll get in there. These are my guys. I'm comfortable wherever I am in that building. They're used to seeing me in there and in the hot tubs and the cold tubs and whatever."

Payton occasionally pops into the Saints' locker-room to leave props such as a porcelain doll at a locker-of a player he wants to exhibit more toughness. Sometimes Payton leaves a laminated card with an inspirational passage from a speech or text. Sometimes he drops off baseball bats with the inscription "bring the wood" before games against physical teams.

Former players like Rivera and San Francisco's Harbaugh blend in nicely.

"You have to get to know their environment, get to know what's going on in their world with Twitter, with music, socially," Rivera said. "There's so many things that go on with these players that we didn't have."

___

AP sports writers Brett Martel, Janie McCauley, Dave Skretta, Steve Reed, Dennis Waszak, Tom Canavan, Robert Baum and Steven Wine contributed to this report.

___

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

___

Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP_RobMaaddi

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Sneak peek: The galleries of CMHR

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 060711 Chris Pedersen breeds Monarch butterflies in his back yard in East Selkirk watching as it transforms from the Larva or caterpillar through the Chrysalis stage to an adult Monarch. Here an adult Monarch within an hour of it emerging from the Chrysalis which can be seen underneath it.
  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local- A large osprey lands in it's nest in a hydro pole on Hyw 59  near the Hillside Beach turnoff turn off. Osprey a large narrow winged hawk which can have a wingspan of over 54 inches are making a incredible recovery since pesticide use of the 1950's and  1960's- For the last two decades these fish hawks have been reappearing in the Lake Winnipeg area- Aug 03, 2005

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Which Jets prospect has the best chance of making NHL team this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google