Given that there is still a pandemic going on, there are still many things that we don’t quite know for sure about how the next year will play out for the NFL—not to mention, you know, many other things around the country, and the world.
When it comes to whether or not there will be fully in-person Spring workouts this year, however, that is as much a labor matter as anything else. Chris Mortensen and ESPN have previously reported that the league and union are in the midst of negotiations over what shape the offseason will take.
The union through president J.C. Tretter, the Cleveland Browns’ starting center, have argued that in-person Spring workouts are unnecessary and that they should not take place. It should be noted, however, that this is far from a universally-held opinion among players, and you can count Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Robert Spillane on the opposite side of the argument.
“Right now, I’m pretty sure that the NFLPA and NFL are still trying to come to terms on the offseason program as a whole, but for me, I’m expecting that it will go on as normal”, he told reporters yesterday during a Zoom interview. “I’m expecting to be back in Pittsburgh with the guys at the end of April, and that’s what I’m hoping for, because I love getting around those guys, working with them, but we’ll see. It’s not up to me, so I’ll find out when you guys find out”.
The dichotomy between Tretter and Spillane is a good example of the biggest hurdle the NFLPA, and really most unions, face, which is actually fostering unity. That is difficult to do within a large and disparate assemblage of individuals.
Tretter is an established, decorated veteran who was a fourth-round pick, with seven seasons and 74 starts under his belt, amassing more than 5000 offensive snaps over the course of his career. Spillane is a former undrafted free agent who has been previously released and spent time on practice squads. He had seven career starts, all due to injury, and is preparing to potentially enter the starting lineup in 2021.
It would stand to reason that these two players, given the respective points of their careers in which they find themselves, might have very different opinions about Spring workouts. A player like Spillane would naturally get much more out of the experience.
With that said, Tretter is also in a different sort of position as a representative of the entire playing body, and his primary interest is health and safety. Less time spent on practice fields means fewer opportunities for injury, so at a certain level, he’s just doing his job.