Teams across the NFL have, by and large, had a typical OTA experience this offseason after missing out on the opportunity a year ago due to the pandemic. The events this year were under threat over a labor dispute. That spurred conversations between players and teams that led to compromises, and probably an average rate of attendance of about 75 percent or more around the league.
That even included the Cleveland Browns, whose starting center, J.C. Tretter, is the union president and has been a vocal proponent of players working on their own rather than participating in voluntary activities with their clubs. Reported yesterday is that many key offensive players will be working on their own this week, rather than with the Browns.
Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes that many Browns offensive players have actually stayed away from OTAs, though the defensive side of the ball (which frankly needs a lot more work) has been well-represented. She writes that quarterback Baker Mayfield will host some of his teammates for practice sessions in Texas.
This is not the first such session, nor will it be the last. She also notes that they did the same thing in April and plan to do it again in July, both in Florida. It is unclear what sort of contact or guidance they might be operating under from the coaching staff.
It is unknown exactly who has or hasn’t been around for the Pittsburgh Steelers in great detail. We do know that some players have filtered in. Some players, for example, were not present for the first week of OTAs, but were there for the second, in line with what defensive captain and union representative Cameron Heyward said early on.
He also talked about how we live in an era of the game in which it has become common and comfortable for players to train on their own. Even college athletes do it, especially as they declare for the draft and begin training for the Combine.
The vast bulk of learning takes place during training camp, which has frankly always been the case since the beginning of training camps. Many players argue that you’re not missing much if you don’t show up—and after all, their voluntary nature implies as much.
Nevertheless, it is always a discussion when a player or players are known not to be present, as is now the case for many prominent Browns offensive players. It is, though, important to note, as we do here, that they are putting in work, left to their own devices, which Tretter believes is how it should be at this time of the year.