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NFLPA poll votes Ravens strength staff as the NFL’s worst

Ravens were one of only four teams to receive less than ‘A-’ for their strength staff.

Getty Images / Brian Dennell

The NFLPA released a survey which polled over 1,300 current NFL players asking them to rank eight key elements. Those elements.

  • Treatment of families
  • Nutrition
  • Weight room
  • Strength staff
  • Training room
  • Training staff
  • Locker room
  • Travel

Here is a statement on the mission behind the survey.

One of our core jobs as a union is to improve the overall working conditions for our players, which includes the daily experience of players at the team facilities away from the lights and cameras.

1,300 of our players provided information to share with one another about their current club, to not only help them make important career decisions, but also help raise standards across the league.

Our goals were to highlight positive clubs, identify areas that could use improvement, and highlight best practices and standards. To learn more about the background of this initiative, read a note from President JC Tretter here.

Arguably the biggest outlier among the eight categories ranked for all 32 teams was how poorly the Baltimore Ravens strength staff was graded. Out of the 32 team’s strength staffs, 28 received an ‘A-’ or higher. The Baltimore Ravens received the only ‘F-’ of the entire survey. No other team received a graded ‘F’ in that category.

The Ravens strength staff had been led by former strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders since 2016. Two Ravens in particular, outside linebacker Matthew Judon and defensive lineman Derek Wolfe have publicly criticized Saunders and the Ravens strength and conditioning staff.

“I think [why they’re injured so much] has a lot to do with who is running the weight room,” Wolfe said in a radio interview on 104.3 The Drive. “And that was my beef. I’ve never had beef with a strength coach ever in my life. Those are usually my favorite guys. [Saunders] was ultimately the reason why I couldn’t play football anymore.”

The report is particularly alarming, especially considering Wolfe’s comments. Saunders clearly created mistrust between the players and coaches. All teams should aim to create an environment that leaves players feeling invigorated and excited to participate in team activities, particularly their strength and conditioning program. By having that level of mistrust, players are surely discouraged from being in the Ravens’ facility and being around the team as a whole.

The Ravens parted ways with Saunders on February 23, promoting second-year assistant strength and conditioning coach Scott Elliott to replace Saunders. The linked categories— nutrition, weight room, training staff and training room all received a ‘C’ or higher. With such a pimple, the related grades could certainly be negatively impacted because of player’s opinion of the S&C staff.

The bright side is that 100% of Ravens polled felt that the Ravens would make the necessary changes to better accommodate their players. From the report.

At the core of these issues is the team’s former head strength coach, Steve Saunders (recently parted ways with); assessment of him by player respondents was markedly negative. Only 38% of player respondents felt that they receive an individualized plan for their strength training, and many complained that the training room is understaffed.

The players do believe in Ravens owner Steve Biscotti’s commitment to high quality, as 100% of them believe he is willing to invest in upgrades to the facility.

Baltimore must make changes that emphasize pliability, stability, prevention, mobility and modern takes on necessary strength programs. For a team that has suffered mightily in the injury department over the last three years, they can’t afford to strike out on their next effort. The Ravens have a blemish on their permanent record as things stand. For an organization that touts itself so highly, this is an embarrassment. With free agency and the NFL Draft looming, Baltimore finds itself under the magnifying glass to get their S&C program up to speed. The organization has cake on their face until proven otherwise.