Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, the team’s union representative for the NFL Players’ Association, went on record Friday night on Twitter as being against the idea of in-person workouts this offseason. According to multiple reports on Friday, the players union is pushing hard for an all-virtual offseason much like the league went through in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic kept team facilities closed until training camp.
“Can we all agree we love football?” Heyward first tweeted Friday night. “More meetings go by but still no definite answers behind the @NFL stance to make players come in for off-season workouts. I get training which we all did last year virtually but why the rush to jump to in-person meetings and workouts when 1. Less injuries occurred across the league 2. No plan to mitigate or control while WE are still in a pandemic. Work should continue to work virtually & craft as we still do not have all answers. If ALL teams can’t have the same safe guidelines why would you argue against it.
“Trust me everyone we will still get your games but why risk it??? Don’t you want your star players ready for week 1? If he can throw in the backyard he will throw on Sundays too. For the ROOKIES and FREE AGENTS find your vets tell them to get you up to speed. Trust me y’all ain’t missing anything you will still get your chance to show your talent in camp when it really matters. It’s all VOLUNTARY but fellas don’t let them FEAR you in to showing up.
“All I’m saying is OUR SAFETY and HEALTH should be at the top of the line.”
Heyward made sure to tag both the @NFL and @NFLPA accounts in his tweets Friday night.
Heyward’s Friday night Twitter statement came on the heels of Cleveland Browns center J.C. Tretter, the current NFLPA president, pushing hard in an essay last week to have all offseason activities that are voluntary be done virtually like they were in 2020.
“Time and time again, when we as a union push for a safer work environment, members of the of NFL community will incorrectly warn that any change will negatively impact the product,” Tretter wrote. “The positive thing about [last] year was that we proved we can prioritize player health and safety while still putting out a top-notch product for our fans.”
As part of Tretter’s essay, he included statistics that showed a 23% decrease in time missed in 2020 due to injuries, a 30% reduction in concussions, and a 45% decrease in heat-related illnesses. Tretter also addressed the naysayers who were against cancelling spring workouts, adding that scoring was up in 2020, penalties were down, and missed tackles were down despite teams not having in-person mini-camps or OTAs.
According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network on Friday, Tretter told players on a call that the union is pushing hard for an all-virtual offseason. He reportedly urged players to boycott if teams conduct in-person OTAs this spring.
“We’ve been telling them, it’s voluntary and we’re not gonna go,” Tretter reportedly said.
Heyward’s Twitter statements are probably the result of Tretter’s recent urging, because the timing of them is uncanny.
It will now be interesting to see where things go from here between the NFL and NFLPA as the first phase of OTAs isn’t too far off now. It will also be interesting to see if rookie minicamps are held a few weeks after the draft takes place. It’s obvious that the NFLPA will push hard for everything to be done virtually again this offseason, and for players to not have to hit the practice fields until training camps get underway.