NFLPA player survey: Vikings, Dolphins voted best working conditions, Commanders worst

INDIANAPOLIS – For potential NFL free agents looking for the best working conditions, the Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders may be some of the hottest destinations. But players might want to stay away from the Arizona Cardinals, LA Chargers and Washington Commanders.

This decision was made following a league-wide player survey conducted by the NFL Players Association in hopes of learning better how teams treat players and their families. After compiling the results of the study, the players’ union is now distributing certificates to the 32 NFL franchises.

NFLPA President JC Tretter and the union presented the results of the survey, which collected information from players on eight specific categories: treatment of families, nutrition, weight room status, strength coaches, training rooms, training staff, locker rooms and team travel.

The Vikings, Dolphins, and Raiders consistently ranked in the top three in these eight categories, while the Commanders (latest dead), Cardinals (second worst), and Chargers (third worst) lagged significantly. Washington’s players also gave low votes of confidence to owner Daniel Snyder when asked if they think he would improve conditions after the poll was released.

“The health and safety of players is our top priority and we continue to invest in our facilities, including a new practice field, new turf in the practice bubble and more space in the meeting rooms,” the commanders said in a statement to the survey. “We know there is still more work to be done and we regularly speak to our players about how they can improve their work environment and the experience for their families.”

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According to the NFLPA, 1,300 of the 2,200 NFL players took part in the confidential survey. Tretter, who retired last year after eight NFL seasons, explained that the survey was conducted anonymously because he didn’t want teams to penalize players for their honest assessments. He also explained that the union has two aims with the survey: 1. Encourage poorly ranked teams to improve working conditions and basic services for players and their families, and 2. Educate players about the state of teams during their preparation decisions in to make free decisions.

“There were a lot of positive results and a lot of examples of teams doing great things for players,” Tretter said Wednesday at a small meeting with national reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine. “That’s in stark contrast to the results of teams that aren’t.”

Tretter added that the driving force behind the survey was to provide players with answers to the question: “When it comes to quality of life, what decisions does your team make?”

In some cases, the survey found that teams go to great lengths to provide great support to players while providing quality attitudes to their family members during game days. Others, however, fell short on basic needs, including failure to fix drainage problems in teams’ showers, failure to offer dinner to players despite holding mandatory evening briefings (three teams don’t), failure to provide family rooms for nursing mothers offering matchdays where some players’ life partners have to feed their babies while sitting on the floor in public toilets at stadiums. Some teams offered nursing rooms to coaches’ wives but not to their players.

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A few teams provided first-class seats for players during the flight, while six provided first-class seats for coaches but not players. Seven teams force teammates to share hotel rooms along the way, while the other 25 give players individual rooms.

The Cincinnati Bengals are the only team in the league not to offer their players any supplements.

The quality of working conditions does not always translate to success on the pitch, the survey found. The Kansas City Chiefs finished 29th overall in the standings, while a team that traditionally has a losing record, the Carolina Panthers, finished 12th overall.

The survey also showed that long working days, characterized by extensive and demanding exercises and meetings, do not lead to top results even on the field. The teams with the most time-efficient workdays often achieved the best results in the win column.

Tretter said that in some cases, the poor working conditions are due to the ignorance of some owners who rarely spend time in their team facilities, while other teams’ poor facility is due to owners intentionally withholding amenities to save money.

However, the former offensive lineman said he hopes the survey results will encourage teams to improve on their problem areas.

“We don’t expect teams to demolish facilities and rebuild them in three months,” Tretter said. “But you can change the way you treat players.”

Tretter predicted that next year’s survey results (the NFLPA plans to make this an annual tradition) will prove meaningful to owners’ desire to provide quality working conditions for players.

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“I think there will be some (teams) who read about it, take it personally or (think) ‘I didn’t know about it. That’s not fair, that’s not right,'” said Tretter. “But there are some really fundamental things where things shouldn’t have happened.”

However, Tretter emphasized that he hopes above all that the survey will help players make better decisions when choosing the best working environments for free choice.

The NFL later issued a statement in response to the poll:

“We welcome player feedback and look forward to reviewing the data from the NFLPA survey. On Monday, at joint NFL and NFLPA meetings in Indianapolis, we discussed the process by which we would conduct the next comprehensive player survey to continue working together to improve the player experience at NFL clubs. The NFL and NFLPA have jointly hired an expert in the past to conduct a scientifically rigorous survey of all NFL players on a variety of topics important to the gaming experience, as set out in our collective bargaining agreement.”

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(Photo: Stephen Lew / USA Today)

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