Hold-ins are not as clear-cut as holdouts. When a player is holding out, he’s just not there. But hold-ins encompass a variety of participation levels. Diontae Johnson, for example, was a more active participant during his hold-in for the Pittsburgh Steelers this training camp than was T.J. Watt during his a year ago.
Watt’s also went pretty much down to the wire, only finishing up his new contract very late in the process on September 9. Johnson reached a deal for a two-year contract extension with the Steelers on August 4, well before the first preseason game. But he was prepared to go the distance.
Asked if he would have continued to hold in barring a new deal being done up to the start of the regular season, he said, “No doubt. No doubt”, via the team’s website. Not that he wasn’t relieved, for multiple reasons, to get it done. “It was kind of boring”, he admitted, “just sitting watching everybody practice every day. But like I said, I was just trying to protect myself, making sure I got the right number I was looking for”.
The fourth-year veteran wide receiver did participate in most of the team’s individual drills, and in fact began getting in more and more work over the course of the first seven or eight practices or so before getting back in on a full-time basis yesterday.
As is always the case, the media and fans made a much bigger deal over the whole situation than did anybody on the field. Everything that was done was done intentionally and with the cooperation of the team. Probably why we have plenty of photos of Johnson laughing it up on the sidelines with head coach Mike Tomlin.
“I’ve talked about it before I got to camp”, he said when asked if there was communication with the team about the plan beforehand. “It’s just what you’re comfortable with, what you want to do, how you want to go about it. I was out there with my teammates. I wanted to be about them. I wasn’t gonna just not show good energy on a day-to-day basis, because that’s not something I want to bring to the room”.
With the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement making it much more penalizing, not to mention compulsorily so, to skip training camp altogether (colloquially referred to as holding out), the hold-in has instead become commonplace, a fact every team knows and is growing to accept.
Said new Steelers general manager Omar Khan earlier this week on the increasing prevalence of hold-ins, “obviously, that’s something that’s happened league-wide. It’s happened more this year than last year, and realistically, it’s probably gonna continue to happen league-wide”.
It will, of course, because it’s business, and everyone is entitled to do what is best for themselves from a business perspective. Hold-ins are still involved with the team in every way except for whatever on-field drills they opt to sit out of, and even then, as mentioned, the level of participation varies based on the individual. Johnson was already doing more than most, but now everybody is relieved to have it all behind them.