Coaches, Players Discuss National Football League Gambling Policy

July 30, 2023
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As National Football League teams began reporting to training camps last week to prepare for the upcoming season, the rash of gambling-related suspensions issued by the league during the offseason was a frequent topic of discussion, including criticism from one of the league’s most prominent coaches.

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As National Football League (NFL) teams began reporting to training camps last week to prepare for the upcoming season, the rash of gambling-related suspensions issued by the league during the offseason was a frequent topic of discussion, including criticism from one of the league’s most prominent coaches.

The NFL suspended ten players during the offseason for placing bets in violation of the league’s gambling policy, with seven of those players receiving an indefinite suspension of at least one year for placing bets on NFL games while on a team roster.

The other three players received six-game bans for placing bets on other sports while in a team facility.

The most recent action was an indefinite suspension for Denver Broncos defensive end Eyioma Uwazurike, who was entering his second season with the Broncos.

The suspension prompted a strong response from his head coach, Sean Payton, who slammed the league’s educational efforts regarding the policy in an interview last week with USA Today.

“When you have a bunch of players getting D’s, you have to start looking at the message,” Payton said. “And we’ve had a lot of D’s in our league this year with this policy.”

“Shame on us,” Payton said of the ten players suspended as a result of the policy. “And we’re going to send them home for a year, where they can’t be around. The idea that you just go away, shame on us.”

Payton is familiar with the consequences of league discipline, having served a one-year suspension in 2012 for his role in a program where players on his former team, the New Orleans Saints, where he coached for 15 seasons and won a Super Bowl in 2009, were awarded bonuses for injuring players.

Payton also took aim at perceived hypocrisy in the league’s gambling policy.

“I know this: There’s a handful of owners that are owning these ‘problems’,” Payton said. “A player can’t have a share of DraftKings or FanDuel. It’s shameful. Embarrassing.”

Other coaches took a lighter approach when asked about the policy. Tennessee Titans' offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere received a six-game suspension from the league, and his head coach, Mike Vrabel, said the responsibility to make sure the policy is followed properly is a shared one.

“I think we're all conscious of continuing to make the education and the decisions that we make. We're all responsible, myself, the team, Nick, the Players Association, everybody,” Vrabel said. “We're all responsible for continuing to educate our players on the gambling policy [and] the personal conduct policy."

“We're held to a high standard being in this league and being a part of it, so we'll continue to do those things and you have to make great decisions,” Vrabel continued.

Petit-Frere also took additional responsibility for his suspension when asked by reporters at practice about the situation, and said that the league’s efforts to educate players on the policy have been “better.”

“At the end of the day, it’s my responsibility to understand the policies, go through the entire handbook, every single line, and just make sure I know what I need to do so I can be out here with my teammates,” he said.

“The confusion was just that I need to understand the policy better,” he added. “It’s just on me and it’s something that I take full responsibility for and that’s kind of just as much as I can say on that.”

Despite the rash of suspensions, the league has held true to its existing policy, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier this year that consistently applying the policy was crucial.

“We’ve always said the integrity of the game is number one, two and three for us and so we focus on that every single day,” Goodell said in May following the announcement of the first series of suspensions in 2023.

“I think the fact we have people who have violated [the policy], obviously we know that education isn’t foolproof,” he continued. “We all have to be vigilant on that and so we’ll continue to do that.”

“If we see someone who has violated, you’re going to know about it,” Goodell added. “I think that’s the most important thing is to enforce it consistently and make sure people understand that is ongoing.”

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