For the second-straight year, NFL teams might be forced to hold their voluntary offseason workouts virtually.
The NFLPA sent a memo out to its members encouraging players to skip voluntary offseason workouts because of the pandemic, per Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and president JC Tretter just sent this letter to all players, reiterating the union’s recommendation that players should not attend voluntary workouts amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. pic.twitter.com/1VotazhRyr— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 13, 2021
NFLPA president JC Tretter said the hope was that organizations would hold OTAs and minicamp virtually before players report for training camp. The league countered with the idea that the first two weeks of offseason workouts be held online before teams can conduct in-person activities.
But, Tretter and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith responded that the NFL’s proposal isn’t enough.
“It is the recommendation of the NFLPA based on our medical experts’ advice that if the voluntary offseason program is in person, players should not attend,” Smith and Tretter said in their letter to players. “Therefore, as teams host calls to discuss these issues we urge that all players consider their own health and safety, make a personal decision about attending voluntary workouts and take into consideration the unanimous recommendation of the NFLPA COVID committee that we have an entirely virtual offseason.”
Offseason workout programs are scheduled to begin on Monday, but players from two teams have already said they intend on skipping the in-person training sessions.
Here is the statement from the Denver Broncos.
#Broncos players become the first team to announce they'll boycott in-person voluntary workouts. The union urged players on a call Friday to take this step, as it continues to push for an all-virtual offseason. https://t.co/gvwK87aiPf— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 13, 2021
The Seahawks harped on safety in their statement.
“While many states in this country are still seeing rising COVID-19 numbers, we believe that a virtual offseason is best for everyone’s protection,” the Seahawks’ statement says. “Our hope is that we will see a positive shift in the COVID-19 data that will allow for a safe return for players when mandatory workouts are set to begin.”
The league issued a memo to all 32 teams encouraging all players and personnel to get the COVID-19 vaccine when eligible. While the NFL says the vaccine isn’t mandatory, it will restrict access to players for any team employee who can’t get the vaccine due to medical or religious reasons. ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted out the statement and says the league believes vaccinations will bring back a sense of normalcy to team facilities. Schefter adds that the league is hopeful that players won’t be subjected to on-site testing, mask-wearing and tracking devices.
Commissioner Roger Goodell is hopeful NFL stadiums will be full next season. Although cases have plateaued across the country, the death and hospitalization rates continue to decline. As of now, roughly 37 percent of residents across the United States have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
The San Francisco 49ers hold the No. 3 overall pick and will almost certainly choose a quarterback. A lack of in-person offseason workouts could be detrimental to the prospect’s development. General manager John Lynch spoke about how the lack of in-person activities affects younger players during his most recent media availability.
“A lot of players suffered last year, a lot of young players, not just rookies,” Lynch said. “It’s hard to improve in this league when you don’t have an offseason. That’s an integral part of improvement is opportunity, is reps. For some of the older players, maybe not as important, but for young players, offseasons are critical.”