Just about the least surprising ever occurred yesterday. 29 of the NFL’s 32 teams began their rookie minicamp yesterday, and they had virtually perfect attendance all across the board, outside of extenuating circumstances. The same was true of the three teams who held their rookie minicamp last weekend.
Why is this suddenly significant? Because the NFLPA encouraged rookies and first-year players who would be attending these minicamps not to show up to the voluntary practice and orientation sessions as the players union pushes ahead in its attempts to reduce the in-person offseason workload of its players.
Beginning last season, the NFLPA began to sow the seeds for what would become their mission statement of sorts this offseason. They believe that last season proved they do not need an extended in-person offseason training regimen in order to prepare themselves for the regular season, and that it should be scaled back, starting with the removal of all ‘voluntary’ workouts, which consist of everything prior to training camp short of a three-day minicamp.
But while they may have gotten statements from the veteran players of more than half of all NFL teams committing to not showing up for OTAs later this month, it is dumbfoundingly predictable that the union’s message fell on deaf ears to the newcomers—those who stand to benefit the most from actually showing up.
“From the value of getting comfortable at a new workplace to getting to know coworkers to making the new boss happy to having free room and board through the middle of June, reasons abound for showing up”, Mike Florio wrote for Pro Football Talk.
Players’ agents have been a major driving force in making sure that their clients show up, understanding that it has a positive effect in improving their chances of making the team. This would especially be true for college free agent signees and, quite obviously, tryout players.
Getting noticed when nobody knows you is much easier among similarly inexperienced and unknown players in rookie minicamp than when you’re competing for attention with a full 90-man roster in OTAs, after all. And that leads to more attention down the road.
While it’s wholly unsurprising that rookies showed up for work, it does remain to be seen how things will play out during OTAs. How many veterans will show up to participate? If they have sizeable breaks in their ranks, this could quite easily backfire against the union pretty hard.
The Ja’Wuan James situation doesn’t help them any, either. James suffered a season-ending injury recently while working out with an unaffiliated trainer who was given team approval for their workout regimen. Nevertheless, the Denver Broncos placed him on the Non-Football Injury List before releasing him yesterday, and they do not intend to pay what he would have otherwise been owed. The union will fight this, but they will likely lose the battle, at least for now.