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NFL enlists Tom Brady to get across its anti-gambling message to players

Tom Brady took part in an NFL video designed to educate players about the league's anti-gambling rules. Brady's message: "It's just not worth it."Hakim Wright Sr./Associated Press

With sports gambling now legal in 21 states and the NFL eagerly embracing partnerships with betting companies, players are increasingly running afoul of the league’s anti-gambling policies.

But staying on the good side of the rules shouldn’t be difficult. The players just need to follow a simple maxim: Do what Tom Brady says.

Apparently, any lingering bitterness Brady may have had with the league office over Deflategate has long since dissipated. The retired quarterback joined forces with the NFL office this year to participate in the league’s anti-gambling educational video that is being shown to all 32 teams during organized team activities, as first reported by Denver’s 9News and confirmed by a source in the league office.


In the video, which is part of the league’s mandatory educational effort on the gambling policy, Brady delivers an impassioned plea to players to not succumb to the temptation of betting on NFL games or providing inside information.

“He says, ‘It’s just not worth it. You worked too hard to get to the league, only to have one bad decision ruin the opportunity,’ ” per the source. “He expresses how much he loves football, how the opportunity to play in the NFL was the privilege of a lifetime, and with this privilege comes great responsibility.

“And his point was by placing bets, by participating in bets on NFL games, it hurts the league, it hurts the players’ reputation and the reputation of the team.”

The NFL’s gambling policy isn’t complicated. Players can’t place any sort of bet on NFL competition — on single games, parlays, propositions, etc. They also can’t provide inside information, take bribes, or throw games.

NFL players can bet on other sports, but not within the confines of their team facilities. League and club employees are subject to stricter guidelines, as they are prohibited from placing bets on any sport.


Brady taped the video in April, and his appearance is unrelated to the spate of gambling suspensions to hit the league, per the source. But his message seems somewhat prescient.

Last year, then-Atlanta receiver Calvin Ridley was suspended for the 2022 season for betting on NFL games. This past April, two Detroit players and one Washington player were suspended for the 2023 season for betting on NFL games, and two additional Detroit players were suspended six games for placing bets on other sports inside their team facility.

Colts cornerback and UMass alum Isaiah Rodgers is the latest player to find himself in hot water over gambling.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Within the last week, Colts cornerback Isaiah Rodgers acknowledged that he is being investigated by the league for gambling on games, and The Athletic reported another Lions player is also under investigation.

Lions receiver Jameson Williams, one of the players who got a six-game suspension, said he wasn’t aware of the rule about placing bets inside the team facility. The Athletic recently polled a handful of players who also said they didn’t know all of the rules, particularly the one about betting inside team facilities.

Their confusion is a little understandable given the proliferation of gambling around them. Gambling ads have overtaken sports broadcasts and social media. Teams have official partnerships with sportsbooks, and owners such as Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones are investors in DraftKings. In March, NFL owners voted to allow in-stadium sportsbooks to operate on game days, with three already outfitted in Washington’s FedEx Field, New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, and Arizona’s State Farm Stadium.


Lions coach Dan Campbell expressed dismay that Williams claimed he didn’t know the rules.

“Look, he knows,” Campbell said. “He’s gotten it from everybody. So, look, it happened. It’s an emphasis of the league right now. It’s a big thing, our players know. We’ve tried to hammer it home.”

The Lions probably want to tweak their educational methods, considering they had four players suspended this offseason. But if players don’t know the rules, ultimately that’s on them.

All league personnel — players, coaches, staffers, and league office employees — take the same training every year. They watch a mandatory educational video, and this year’s was intro’d by Brady, but other players have done it in the past, including former safety Josh Shaw, who was suspended for the 2020 season for gambling.

Players get a fact sheet with the dos and don’ts of the policy. They sit through a presentation from a representative of the league office. They have to pass a 10-question quiz related to the material, and have to sign and attest that they understand the policy.

Players also have meetings with their coaches; Bill Belichick stressed the anti-gambling policy in a Patriots team meeting this past week. The standard player contract has anti-gambling language. The player manual given to each player in training camp has the gambling policy as well. Plus, the team’s player engagement staff, security directors, and the Players Association are available as resources and constantly providing guidance and warnings to players.


“There are numerous educational opportunities that are given to players,” said the league source. “And again, they have to sign and acknowledge that they understand what the policy is.”

Of course, getting a bunch of 24-year-olds to listen to rules isn’t always an easy task. And given the ease and proliferation of sports gambling, more violations are bound to happen.

All the NFL can do is provide the education, and hope that if the players don’t listen to their coaches or league staffers, they at least will listen to Tom Brady.


Tagovailoa tries helmet innovations

Tua Tagovailoa is trying anything and everything when it comes to helmet technology this offseason.Jim Rassol/Associated Press

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who suffered at least two, and potentially three, concussions last year, is experimenting with his headgear this spring. During offseason practices, Tagovailoa is testing the new quarterback-specific helmet, similar to the position-specific helmets worn by offensive and defensive linemen in the last couple of years.

The NFL and NFLPA approved the QB-specific helmet by Vicis in April.

“I heard it’s supposedly better than the helmet I was wearing last year,” Tagovailoa said. “If it could be that much more safe, then why not give it a shot?”

The other experiment is on top of his helmet, with a GoPro camera. Tagovailoa has been wearing it during practices so coaches can see what he is seeing during film review. The camera also has a microphone, giving the coaches a better understanding of the dynamics inside the huddle and how plays are communicated.

Tagovailoa joked that he doesn’t like his loss of privacy.

“Like, man, do I really want the coaches to hear what I’m saying to the guys?” he said. “Because sometimes you might not like a play and you go into it and you tell the guys how you feel, but you basically tell the guy, ‘Hey, I’m skipping this progression to come to you, so you better be there.’


“Well, it has its good, and it has its bad. That was one of the things that we felt wasn’t as good.”


The Rodgers effect already being felt

The Jets haven’t been relevant in nearly a decade, but they are loving their moment in the spotlight with Aaron Rodgers. This past week, pass rusher Carl Lawson called it a “no-brainer” to take a $6 million pay cut to stay with the Jets. And defensive tackle Solomon Thomas said the entire organization is feeding off Rodgers’s presence.

“The room is buzzing right now — the building is buzzing — and it’s buzzing for a reason,” Thomas said, via ESPN. “His leadership, his knowledge, the way he plays the game — you know he’s going to put up points and you know he’s going to play smart football. It brings a whole new youthfulness around this team, even for the vets.”


Second-rounders see contract progress

The 2011 collective bargaining agreement instituted a slotted rookie contract system and basically did away with rookie holdouts. As of Thursday, 77 percent (199 of 259) of this year’s draft picks had signed their contracts.

But every year has a group of players that is slow to sign, and this year it’s second-rounders. Only nine of the 32 picks in the second round had signed as of Thursday, with the issue centering on guaranteed payments in the third and fourth years of their contracts.

Here is how last year’s second-round picks fared:

Picks 1-3: Three years fully guaranteed, partial guarantee in Year 4.

Picks 4-5: Three years fully guaranteed.

Picks 6-15: Two years fully guaranteed, partial guarantee in Year 3.

Picks 16-32. Two years fully guaranteed.

This year, pick Nos. 26-32 have all signed, and each got the same deals as the players last year. But this past week, pick No. 6 (Seahawks linebacker Derick Hall) and No. 7 (Falcons guard Matthew Bergeron) made progress for the players. They both got three years fully guaranteed, plus a partial guarantee in Year 4.

Special teams have been losing ground

Researching a story about the decreasing impact of special teams led to some interesting findings, such as how leaguewide special teams yardage has been nearly cut in half since 2010, with kickoff returns down by 53 percent and punt returns by 22 percent.

Football coaches call special teams the “third phase,” but how much of the game does it actually represent in today’s NFL?

From 1970 through 2010 — the final year before the NFL made significant changes to the kickoff — special teams represented between 20 percent (1993) and 28 percent (1974) of a game’s total yardage, with an average of 24 percent. So for five decades, special teams truly represented about a quarter of the game, and maybe even one-third of the game when factoring in plays that don’t include yardage (field goals, touchbacks, and fair catches).

But the numbers began dropping precipitously in 2011, when the NFL first made significant changes to kickoff rules. The first year saw special teams yardage drop from 24 to 19 percent, and for the last five seasons, it has steadily been 13-14 percent. That makes special teams more like one-seventh of today’s NFL, or maybe one-sixth.

It is of course still important to have quality special teams units. Just not at the expense of building an offense.

Kickers’ accuracy works against them

Kickoff returns might become a rarity with this season's rule changes.Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

One reason the NFL passed the new fair catch rule on kickoffs is that kickers have become proficient at kicking high and short of the end zone, leading to more returns and, ergo, more concussions.

“The ball is being hung inside the 5-yard line,” said Rich McKay, chairman of the league’s competition committee. “This past year, we had the highest return rate we’ve had in the last nine years. That’s because balls were being hung in the field of play because kickers have gotten better and they’ve decided that’s a good strategy.”

NFL special teams coordinators are vehemently opposed to the new rule, incensed that the NFL wants to further minimize their contribution to the game. They also might be upset that they wasted a lot of time on the pre-draft circuit.

Here is how new Patriots kicker Chad Ryland described his pro day to local media at the University of Maryland in March:

They asked me to show that today — kick it between the goal line and the 5 as high as you can so we can almost force a return. That’s something they wanted to see out of me, because all year I just boomed touchbacks.”

That might not be a skill he’ll use much anymore.

Schedule squeezes fans of preseason

Patriots training camp is, frankly, the best deal in the NFL. It’s free and open to the public, and a terrific way for fans to connect with the team and players. But because of the preseason schedule, and recommendations from the league office, this year’s Patriots camp may be a bit of a dud for fans.

The recommendation is that teams don’t host joint practices until the final two weeks of the preseason. NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent said in March that the league views joint practices as a great way for players and referees to prepare for the season, but the practices are too intense for early in training camp.

To help players stay healthy and pace themselves, the NFL begins training camp in late July with padless, no-contact practices, and proceeds through the first three weeks with a gradual ramp-up to full activity.

The preseason now has just three games; the Patriots play their first at home against the Texans, then games at Green Bay and Tennessee. That means both joint practices will likely be on the road, and the Patriots will be gone for the final two weeks of training camp.

That would leave just the first 2½-3 weeks for local fans to watch the Patriots practice at Gillette Stadium, and many of those practices will be no contact or light contact. It’s unfortunate, but there’s not much the Patriots can do about it.

Extra points

The Bears bought the old Arlington Park horse track potentially to build a domed stadium, but that project may be on the rocks after Cook County assessed its property taxes at a level deemed too high by the franchise. “We will continue the ongoing demolition activity and work toward a path forward in Arlington Heights, but it is no longer our singular focus,” the Bears said in a statement. Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson met with the Bears and hopes to find a way to keep the team at Soldier Field. Team representatives also met with officials from the suburb of Naperville … The Bills broke ground on their new venue, set to open in 2026, and general manager Brandon Beane said the new Highmark Stadium will have a grass field; the Bills have played on artificial turf since 1973. “That was one of the big things we pushed for,” Beane said. “It’s going to be grass like Lambeau has, have all that coil underneath to keep the field warm. So, very excited about that.” … The Jaguars released renderings of a renovated stadium in Jacksonville that would include a translucent roof similar to the one at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. Per the Florida Times-Union, the renovations would cost $1.4 billion, and the city would be responsible for about $1 billion in public funds, which seems a lot for a city the size of Jacksonville. This is starting to smell like the situation in St. Louis, where Rams officials went through the motions of trying to land a local stadium deal, but had their eye on Los Angeles the whole time. Once Jacksonville can’t/won’t come up with $1 billion, the Jaguars could have their cover to move to London … It’s always good to be Rams owner Stan Kroenke, but especially so these days. His Rams won the Super Bowl in February 2022, his Avalanche won the Stanley Cup last June, and now his Nuggets are on the verge of an NBA championship.

Ben Volin can be reached at