After all pre-training camp workouts were held virtually last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL Players Association is seeking an all-virtual offseason moving forward. Meanwhile, teams are hoping to get players back in their facilities for OTAs, which are scheduled to start next week.
Tuesday morning, Denver Broncos players issued a statement through the NFLPA, saying they would not attend in-person workouts this year. That was followed by similar statements from players from the Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Detroit Lions. Wednesday afternoon, the Patriots’ players became the fifth group to address the OTA issue, although their statement differs slightly from the other four.
While the first for teams announced a blanket non-participation approach to OTAs, the Patriots statement says “many of us will be exercising or right to not attend voluntary workouts this offseason.” That seems to leave the window open for at least some attendance, although how many players will end up reporting for the first session on April 19 is a mystery.
The full statement from the Patriots’ players reads:
“In solidarity with other players across the NFL and in the interest of our health and safety, many of us will be exercising or 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 workout 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.”
Voluntary workouts are just that, voluntary. In the past, it hasn’t been uncommon for veteran players to skip some or all of the OTA sessions. The only consequence a player may face by not attending is missing out on any workout bonus money contained in his contract.
Despite holding no in-person workouts last season, the NFLPA says there was no drop in the quality of play league wide. That, combined with the ongoing issues of the pandemic, has led to the push for a fully virtual offseason program leading up to training camp.
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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.