NFL players from several teams are boycotting voluntary offseason workouts.
The NFL Players Association has released statements citing COVID-19 protocols for the boycotts.
One source says this will ultimately cost the NFLPA leverage in future negotiations.
NFL players from several teams announced they will boycott voluntary offseason workouts over COVID-19 concerns.
The NFL Players Association released statements on behalf of players from the Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Each statement cites the desire to protect players and their families from the risk of contracting COVID-19.
The boycotts are the latest move in a series of negotiations between the NFL and NFLPA regarding how to conduct this year's offseason program. The NFLPA reportedly wanted the league to adopt an all-virtual format for offseason activities this year as it did last offseason when the pandemic started.
The NFL countered by proposing that the first two weeks of offseason programs be virtual before starting in-person sessions, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and president JC Tretter then issued a letter to all NFL players on Tuesday encouraging them not to attend voluntary workouts in hopes that they could push the league to adopt an all-virtual format for offseason activity.
"It is the recommendation of the NFLPA based on our medical experts' advice that if the voluntary offseason program is in person, players should not attend," Smith and Tretter said in their letter to players, released by Pelissero. "Therefore, as teams host calls to discuss these issues we urge that all players consider their own health and safety, make a personal decision about attending voluntary workouts and take into consideration the unanimous recommendation of the NFLPA COVID committee that we have an entirely virtual offseason."
The Buccaneers, the defending Super Bowl champions, went a step further in their statement. They stated their intention to conduct their own entirely virtual offseason just as they did last year, even though the league has not folded on a decision to allow it.
"We had a fully virtual offseason last year and we held each other accountable to do the work it took to win," the Buccaneers' statement said, "and we plan to do it again."
Interestingly, the league reportedly sees these boycotts as a potential advantage, according to Mike Florio of NBC Sports. Florio reported on Tuesday that league sources have said that players have already asked teams whether they will be allowed to participate in the offseason program, even if their teammates boycott.
This would ultimately cost the NFLPA leverage in future negotiations. Similarly, the last time the NFLPA attempted to stand together against the league came in 1987, when the players went on strike. The league hired replacements, and players eventually rejoined their teams, and the strike collapsed.
This offseason's boycotts could be undermined by younger, unproven practice-squad players already on the teams' 90-man rosters or unsigned free agents. If those players are willing to put their health at risk for a chance to earn playing time in the upcoming season with veteran players choosing to boycott, it could be trouble for NFLPA's aspirations now and in the future.
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