The National Football League (NFL) has fined the New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick $50,000 and also docked the team two days of organised team activities after it was discovered that they had breached off-season rules. The Patriots had a scheduled OTA for Thursday 25 May, but the team announced earlier on Wednesday 24 May that it had been cancelled. Belichick is understood to have been fined for violating Article 21, Section 5(b) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which limits players’ access to facilities to four hours per day and prohibits teams from holding meetings during compulsory rest periods. ESPN reports that the NFL Players Association filed a complaint against New England on 4 May, alleging the team violated the article on three occasions, holding workshops that were not listed on the official player schedule, which specified the four-hour limit.
Pro Football Talk says that the violation was technically in regard to a special teams meeting lasting 15 minutes, which took place during scheduled voluntary meetings but was improperly made visible on the internal schedule, making it seem like a mandatory meeting. The NFL Players Association objected, because under Collective Bargaining Agreement, voluntary meetings and instruction cannot be made mandatory. The team was also found to be exceeding the four-hour time limit for player attendance.
The Patriots have been famously punished for more serious infractions, such as Deflategate and Spygate, but this violation doesn’t rise to that level of fever. Last year, the Cowboys, Bears, Commanders and Texans were all penalised for similar violations of off-season rules, while the Cowboys (again), and 49ers and Jaguars were penalised in 2017. The New England team was in the third phase of its offseason programme, which allows for up to 10 OTA days with no pads or contact permitted. There are three days of mandatory minicamp to come in June.