With the NFL’s offseason workout programs scheduled to kick off next week, a growing number of players, representing several teams, have issued statements through the union that they will be skipping the sessions.
Patriots players joined in Wednesday, with the NFL Players Association tweeting that “many” of them “will be exercising our right to not attend voluntary workouts” because of health concerns associated with COVID-19.
The entire nine-week program is voluntary, with the exception of a three-day mandatory minicamp.
The NFLPA statement on behalf of the Patriots players read:
“In solidarity with other players across the NFL and in the interest of our health and safety, many of us at the New England Patriots will be exercising our right to not attend voluntary workouts this offseason. The NFL has yet to agree to the full details of a plan for players despite the fact we are a few short days away from the start of voluntary workouts.
“The threat of COVID-19 is still serious in our community and across the country, and we think it is safer for everyone if we choose to work out on our own. While we understand that some players will need to go for various reasons and some safety measures have been put in place, we also know that NFL players have a choice which our union bargained for.
“We saw the health and safety benefits that a fully virtual offseason had on our fellow players last year. As experienced professionals who love the game, we know how to prepare our minds and bodies for an NFL season and look forward to working hard in pursuit of a Super Bowl this upcoming season.”
Similar statements from the Broncos, Seahawks, Buccaneers, and Lions were made public, also via social media, on Tuesday.
The pandemic prompted all of the 2020 offseason work — including rookie camp, organized team activities, and mandatory minicamp — to be conducted virtually.
This year, the approach will be more of a hybrid model, similar to how schools across the country have handled the pandemic.
Details of how the three-phase offseason program will work were unveiled by the NFL Wednesday, though the league and the NFLPA are still negotiating some points, and tweaks likely will be made.
Players can receive credit for participating virtually for the first five weeks of the program. They must participate in person to receive credit for the final four weeks.
Phase 1 will run from April 19-May 14 and will include virtual meetings. There will be no on-field drills or work with coaches, and facility and weight-room groups will be limited. Clubs will try to have vaccines available to players, staff, and families during this initial phase.
Phase 2 will be May 17-21, and will include rookie minicamp, virtual meetings, and on-field drills with coaches per CBA rules. These will be teaching sessions with no contact allowed.
Phase 3 will run from May 24-June 18 and will include 10 days of traditional OTAs (including full-speed practices without contact), in-person or virtual meetings, and mandatory minicamp.
In addition, COVID-19 protocols will be in place, including daily testing (even for vaccinated players and staff), masks, and social distancing.
Despite the NFLPA statement on behalf of the Patriots players, there likely will be some who choose to attend in person. Players fighting for roster spots, newly signed free agents who want to get a feel for the program, and those with financial incentives are likely candidates to be in Foxborough.
According to overthecap.com, Cam Newton, Matthew Slater, and Brandon King have $100,000 bonuses for attending offseason workouts.
Players either get $275 per day for every session they participate in or need to participate in 27 of the 32 workouts to collect their bonuses.