• April 19, 2024

Months Before Season, N.F.L. and Players Clash Over Pandemic Workouts

Five months before the start of the regular season, the NFL and its players are about to meet for the first time over the pandemic. Almost half of the teams promise to skip off-season volunteer training sessions.

Players on 14 of the league’s 32 teams, including the Giants, Jets and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said in statements from the NFL Players Association that they would not participate in the workouts due to begin Monday due to concerns Be unsure to collect.

Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady was among the players who spoke to the news media and social media.

“We have a very strong sense of the game, the short- and long-term health of the players, and there is no game without strong, healthy players,” Brady said on a conference call with the New York Times and union leaders. “People in the league might be like, ‘Oh, let’s just get back to business, let’s go back to what we normally did.’ But I think it’s really smart for people and players to think, “Is this the best possible way of doing things?” Not, “Is it tolerable, but is it the best way to deal with the situation?”

The NFL declined to comment.

The union has called for a virtual off-season – essentially players training solo outside of team complexes – similar to what it did in 2020. Though nationwide Vaccination campaign is ongoing, the union argues that the risk is still high.

Last season, the NFL switched its off-season programming to a virtual format. The only personal work was in training camps in August. This spring, the union asked the league to use a similar format and allow a mandatory mini camp in June. The league refused, citing protocols that would safely make the training possible.

This prompted the players to mobilize. JC Tretter, a center for the Cleveland Browns and president of the union, wrote an open letter to members with DeMaurice Smith, the union’s executive director, encouraging players not to participate.

The league and union signed a new collective agreement in 2020 that made off-season training sessions voluntary, which was highlighted in the letter from Smith and Tretter. The players then organized calls and team meetings to discuss their points of view. Some decided to publish statements together.

The nine-week off-season program that the league released on Wednesday consists of three phases that gradually increase the level of physical interaction. The first phase will be virtual and give players the opportunity to train in the team’s weight rooms. In the next phase, it is possible to work gradually on site before the traditional, organized team activities at full speed and the mini camp conclude the program.

Last seasonDespite virus outbreaks in team facilities and a host of schedule changes, the NFL played all 256 regular season games and a full playoff list that culminated with the climax Super bowl in Tampa, Fla.

Updated

April 16, 2021, 9:16 p.m. ET

The NFL, which had introduced protocols like regular testing, wearing masks, and social distancing in team facilities, reported that 262 players and 463 team members tested positive for the coronavirus, giving a positive rate of 0.08 percent. Similar protocols would apply this off-season.

But Smith said these procedures did not apply to the current situation. More players will be in team building if they compete for a place on the active roster, which increases the chance of broadcasting. Others may not live in the town the team is stationed in during the spring and summer – Tretter said he was one of about six players who walked into Browns’ facility this off-season – and travel creates opportunities for notoriety.

Players shouldn’t have to put their health at risk for optional workouts, unlike during the regular season when they would have to be in attendance on a daily basis, Smith said.

“It’s the balance between necessary and unnecessary risk,” said Smith. “Our boys have to be there from week to week to be at the level our fans want them to compete on Sunday. We know that off-season workouts are not required for a successful season. “

Data compiled by the Players’ Association shows 172 concussions were reported in 2020, a 30 percent decrease from the average of 247 concussions per year over the past five seasons. Missed injuries, defined as injuries affecting a player’s availability during the season, decreased to 2,716, a 23 percent decrease from the five-year average of 3,524.

Tretter argued that these statistics show that it is in the NFL’s best interests to continue last season’s submission, which Brady agreed.

“If we want to improve the game, we have to make better decisions as individuals, as teams and as a league all year round.” Said Brady.

Tretter said the workouts “completely lost the definition of voluntary” and that some players may feel compelled to walk.

“The expectation is that you will just show up and put up with whatever the NFL asks you to do,” Tretter said. “Guys now remember that they have a choice to attend.”

Still, some see the off-season programs as beneficial. According to OvertheCap.com, more than 200 players could receive financial rewards for participating in off-season training sessions, a benefit that is included in their contracts. It is at the teams’ discretion to qualify what qualifies as training, including whether a player should participate physically or virtually.

The face-to-face interaction can lead to camaraderie among new players and provides those on the fringes of the roster with an opportunity to impress coaches early on.

Leigh Steinberg, a longtime agent who represents Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, said he was on the union’s side but would advise each client to make the best individual decision.

“If you ask for advice, it’s a personal choice,” Steinberg said. “It depends on your position in the team, how safe you feel in your position and how much work you really need.”

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