If teams weren't clear about how serious the NFL takes offseason rules, there is no longer any gray area after how the league punished the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday.
The Ravens were forced to cancel a week of organized team activities and received a collective fine of $480,280 ($343,057 for the team and $137,223 for coach John Harbaugh). This is for what one Ravens source said amounted to five minutes of players wearing pads at a recent rookie minicamp.
Compare that to the Seattle Seahawks, who were fined less than the Ravens (a total of $300,000 for the Seahawks) and had one fewer offseason day forfeited despite a more egregious violation. The NFL punished the Seahawks for "excessive levels of on-field contact," which sounds harsher than wearing pads for a punt protection drill.
The league is certainly making an example of the Ravens, and Baltimore is now paying a hefty price for its mistake. The Ravens and Harbaugh were penalized $96,056 for every minute players were in pads.
Let's be clear, there is no defending Harbaugh or the Ravens. Baltimore should know the rules, especially since general manager Ozzie Newsome is on the competition committee. And the Ravens should already be erring on the side of caution after being disciplined by the NFL in 2010 for an offseason rules violation.
The biggest question in all of this is what the Ravens were looking to accomplish. The risk of putting players in pads far outweighed any reward.
"There are things that you look at and you say, 'I think we have an opportunity to gain some ground with our rookies,'" Harbaugh said. "It wasn't the case. It was wrong. I read it the wrong way. The bottom line: It's on me."
The Ravens say they thought rookie minicamp didn't fall under the same rules as other OTAs, and based on the severity of the punishment, the NFL didn't believe them.