The NFL and NFLPA tend to be at their most contentious during Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. The 2021 offseason offers a rare opportunity to go head-to-head over a major issue during a long-term period of labor ‘peace,’ under a 10-year CBA in effect.
Discussions took place between the two sides for many weeks over the structure and nature of the offseason program this year. This came a year after the limiting factor of the coronavirus curtailed everything in the offseason except for training camp.
Even dating back to last season, the players union through president J.C. Tretter has been arguing that the past offseason showed that players don’t need anywhere near the amount of team-organized offseason work in order to play at a high level. They have raised the stakes this offseason, informing their constituents (e.g. the players) that they should not participate in the offseason.
The NFL released a memo yesterday formally outlining their intentions for the offseason, which really doesn’t differ significantly from years past, and still includes OTAs as is typical. They are and have always been ‘voluntary,’ but the vast majority of players show up for it.
Tretter and Demaurice Smith issued a joint statement to the players yesterday in response to the memo, arguing that the league is not addressing their concerns and reiterating the advice that players not show up, with a number of teams already committing to that.
The NFL’s announcement does not address any of the concerns raised by the players. The slight medication only extended “Phase 1” activity and reduced “Phase 2” activity by two weeks.
As players are making informed decisions about exercising their rights to not participate in the voluntary offseason program, it is our recommendation that due to the injury data, continued threat of COVID-19 and the lack of a comprehensive plan to protect players, that the safest decision would be to not attend any in-person club organized activities at your club.
Should you choose to workout at the facility, we urge you to follow the strict protocols recommended by our medical committee: Testing before entering, wear PPE at all times and maintain physical distancing while in the facility.
There are pros and cons to this advice, but above all, the union argues that the single biggest factor in player employment into the season is offseason injuries. Of course, injuries can just as easily take place while players are training away from the club, which almost every player in the league does, and for which teams are not responsible if they do get injured.