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NFLPA player survey: Dolphins, Vikings, Packers voted top 3 in overall grades, Commanders worst

INDIANAPOLIS – For the second consecutive year, the NFL Players Association on Wednesday released its team-by-team report cards, which assess players’ working conditions and environments throughout their seasons and offseasons.

The Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars rounded out the top five in terms of overall grades.

Meanwhile, for a second straight season, the Washington Commanders received the lowest grades in the league while the repeat Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs ranked 31st overall. The Los Angeles Chargers (30th), New England Patriots (29th) and Pittsburgh Steelers (28th) round out the bottom five.

Team grade categories included their training room, training staff, weight room, strength coaches, team travel, head coach and ownership. Owners were graded on players’ beliefs their ownership groups operate with a willingness to invest in team facilities.

The survey data was gathered from August to November of the 2023 season. A total of 1,750 players (up from the roughly 1,300 participants in 2022) took part in the survey. NFLPA leaders said they were encouraged by the increase in participation this year. Roughly 77 percent of all NFL players took part in the survey. Players were instructed to grade their teams and from there, the grades were tallied and ranked.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers received an F on team travel largely because players with four seasons or less and non-starters have to have roommates on road trips and are charged $1,750 per player if they desire their own room.

The Chiefs received low grades as a result of frustrations by players after ownership had promised to upgrade the out-of-date locker room.

However, for a second consecutive year, Clark Hunt and Kansas City didn’t make upgrades to the locker room besides replacing the stools players were given to sit on in front of their lockers with chairs with backs on them. Chiefs players were told there was no time to adequately upgrade the team facilities because their season extended into February due to their Super Bowl run in 2022.

Kansas City tied for first with the Detroit Lions and Vikings in terms of head-coaching grades. Andy Reid, Dan Campbell and Kevin O’Connell each received A-plus grades. The coach to receive the lowest grade was Josh McDaniels, whom the Las Vegas Raiders fired during the season.

“I would say things have improved and we’re glad that they are,” NFL Players Association president J.C. Tretter, a retired offensive lineman, said. “Our whole goal of this … (involves) highlighting the good teams, highlighting the team that could improve and a drive for change to make things get better for players, both immediately and long term.”

NFLPA leaders hope the report cards serve as a tool to ensure accountability and prompt team owners and leadership teams to provide their players with improved facilities, adequate nutrition, medical care, accommodations for families and more.

Lloyd Howell, the NFLPA’s new executive director, spent much of last season traveling to meet with owners of all 32 teams and discuss working conditions. Some of those conversations centered on the findings of last year’s results. Howell said many owners are receptive to improving conditions.

“This is not a shaming exercise,” Howell said. “This is really an opportunity to recognize those teams and environments that are doing well — that are doing all the right things. This is players talking about their working conditions and what they like and what they’d like to see improved.”

The findings of the survey, which was conducted by a third-party survey service, are fascinating, but interestingly enough, the union found no correlation between winning and losing and the quality of the grades teams received.

This year, the union added several categories, which included ownership, head coach, nutritionists and dietitians.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross received the highest ownership grade, while Hunt received the lowest.

A year after ranking among the worst teams in the league, the Jaguars opened a new team headquarters. The rat infestation that prompted complaints and low grades in 2023 is no longer an issue. The Cincinnati Bengals ranked among the worst in terms of cafeteria grades in 2023 because meals weren’t provided throughout the day. A year later, the team began offering three meals a day on Wednesdays but still has a ways to go before players feel adequately cared for.

The Commanders ranked among the worst overall under Daniel Snyder last season and now have a new owner in Josh Harris. The ownership grade increased, but the facilities grades improved only slightly, which is understandable given the fact Harris, who bought the team in late July, has had limited time to execute upgrades.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys dropped from fifth to 12th, with frustrations over limited resources and understaffed training staff causing the drop in player satisfaction.

One of the greatest areas of concern for players is adequate resources and staffing of the training rooms. Many teams are short-staffed in this department, and the NFLPA has been engaged in conversations with the NFL about the need for a threshold for the number of trainers employed by a team to ensure an adequate trainer-to-player ratio that would ensure players receive adequate care for injuries.

The NFL released a statement saying the league and the teams “encourage and solicit player feedback to help improve all facets of their NFL experience. We look forward to getting the opportunity to review the union’s questionnaire, and the data supporting it.”

The league added that it invited the union to join it “in a rigorous and third-party scientific-based survey as we have previously done.”

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(Photo: Michael Reaves / Getty Images)