You may have noticed in recent weeks that there is a new tug-of-war going on between the NFL and the NFLPA. The union is pushing to encourage players to skip voluntary offseason workouts, with the intention being to ultimately eliminate them as in-person practices altogether.
After Denver Broncos tackle Ja’Wuan James suffered a season-ending injury working out on his own, however, the NFL purposefully sent out a memo essentially reminding everybody that the team had no obligations to pay James for this season because his injury was sustained outside of their premises.
It’s becoming a very thorny issue that will probably have to require some mediation in time. Even outside of OTAs, it is expected of NFL players that they are working out throughout the NFL calendar. So if that is the expectation, then the argument will follow that the league must give them some assurances of compensation in the event of injury.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Ramon Foster entered the fracas yesterday in pointing out what he saw as some hypocrisy from the NFL. The league’s Twitter account was promoting Seattle Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf participating in a 100-meter dash and showing off his speed — but would they compensate him if he were injured doing this?
“Hold up @NFL y’all celebrate DK for “off-site” competition/training but sent out a memo about @JawuanJames70 injury for being offsite and stating he’s not protected to paid…must be 2 sides”, he wrote. “@NFLPA things what make you got hmm. So can they train offsite or not?”.
Hold up @NFL y’all celebrate DK for “off-site” competition/training but sent out a memo about @JawuanJames70 injury for being offsite and stating he’s not protected to paid…must be 2 sides. @NFLPA things what make you got hmm 🤔🤭. So can they train offsite or not? https://t.co/pXOljFZtRB
— Ramon Foster (@RamonFoster) May 9, 2021
There has to be some middle ground here, somewhere. It has become routine over the course of the past decade for NFL players to work out in the offseason with trainers and coaches, and this has pretty much become an unspoken expectation since then.
In its informal status as an obligation, is it then reasonable for the players to expect some assurances that they have some protection against injury while undergoing work that is essentially part of their job? But how exactly would a policy take shape?
After all, this can get quite thorny very quickly. On the one hand, teams have little to no control over what players do with outside trainers, and can’t be assured that they were working out in a safe manner, as they can with team trainers on-hand.
Conversely, this ‘voluntary’ training is in a way a circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement limiting practice and training time, which NFL teams have frankly come to depend upon. And it has also become a virtual job requirement, because those who don’t do this offseason training risk falling behind and losing their jobs — which is the same argument regarding ‘voluntary’ OTAs. The deeper you dig, the more precarious this question becomes.