NFL

NFL offseason programs, OTAs begin with mixed player involvement

Apr 19, 2021, 3:32 PM
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) stands during the performance of "Lift Every Vo...
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) stands during the performance of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" prior to the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (Ben Liebenberg via AP)
(Ben Liebenberg via AP)

With groups of players from 20 NFL teams saying they will skip in-person attendance, voluntary offseason programs began Monday across the league.

Through the NFL Players Association, players from the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, 49ers, Rams, Seahawks, Dolphins, Jets, Patriots, Chargers, Raiders, Broncos, Falcons, Saints, Steelers, Browns, Ravens, Giants, Eagles, Vikings, Bears and Lions posted statements that they would not be on hand at team facilities for voluntary work.

However, no statements have been made on behalf of any Arizona Cardinals players.

Those statements did not cover every player from those clubs, as Monday saw some players report to the Cowboys, Patriots, Raiders and Panthers facilities.

“We’d like to hope that we create a great environment for them,” said Cowboys executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones. “But at the end of the day, this is not a mandatory time of the year for our players. And historically, it’s never been mandatory and historically, though, we still have a large number of players who chose to work out here.

“We have a lot of guys down here, looks like to me. I’m overlooking the field and a lot of guys are out here working out. Just want to provide them a great opportunity here to get better. Every player, every team’s different.

“It’s interesting because we all know OTAs are voluntary. That’s strictly up to the players. They certainly have the right to make those decisions. I’m sure our players have talked at length about it.”

Meanwhile, the league and players’ union continue talks about adjustments to the offseason.

“Obviously it’s virtual right now, so we have a little time to think about it and figure out the best plan as a team,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “We’re in talks with the NFLPA and figuring out what’s best not just for us but the whole league.”

Last week, the NFL sent a memo to all 32 teams saying the first four weeks of the voluntary program will be virtual. The plan is to then transition to in-person work at team facilities — something Browns center JC Tretter, the union president, has said is unnecessary.

Last year, the offseason programs were all done virtually and training camp was pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, organized team activities can begin May 24 for 10 sessions, and minicamps, which are mandatory, can be held until June 18.

Whether players show for any of those workouts is uncertain. Tretter, who spoke with Browns management about the players’ viewpoint, has been adamant that the 2020 approach should be continued.

“The good news for our sport is that while the NFL season looked and felt noticeably different from previous years,” he wrote last month on the NFLPA website, “we learned that the game of football did not suffer at the expense of protecting its players more than ever before.

“Our process is to follow the science on what is safest for our guys, and many of the changes this past year — like no in-person offseason workouts/practices, the extended acclimation period before training camp and no preseason games — gave us a year of data that demonstrates maintaining some of these changes long term is in the best interest of the game.”

Noting that on-field experience is the most valuable teaching too, Chiefs coach Andy Reid expressed faith in his players doing their part in preparing for next season.

“I trust they’re going to be on the calls for right now, which I think is important,” Reid said. “We can go over scheme evaluation — we spend endless hours on that thing trying to make it right. I think that’s important and that’s the crawl before you walk when hopefully you’re able to get the guys in one of the other phases. But for right now this ends up being the most important thing as we move forward.”

Gil Brandt — a longtime NFL executive, Pro Football Hall of Fame member and current league draft analyst — is a “great believer” in the in-person offseason sessions.

“It’s where players improve,” Brandt said Monday during a SiriusXM conference call. “And you know, we had a bunch of players on our team that were changing positions; Pat Donovan is an example. Four-time Pro Bowler, small school (Fort Valley State). Herbert Scott, small school (Virginia Union). And I think if it weren’t for the offseason program, I don’t think they would have achieved the stardom that they did and helping win football games like they did if it wasn’t for that tune-up.

“But I think that the new president of the players association, Tretter, with his Cornell background, I think he’s a thinker, and he’s always thinking of ways to make it easier for the players yet not hurt their overall performance.”

___

AP Pro Football Writers Schuyler Dixon, Josh Dubow, Arnie Stapleton and Barry Wilner, and Sports Writers Steve Reed, Dave Skretta and Tom Withers contributed.

Life Changer Loans

Comments

Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

NFL

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith, left, talks with Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson...
Associated Press

Seahawks stun Broncos in Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle

The Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos 17-16 on Monday Night Football in Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle.
13 days ago
Matt Araiza #19 of the Buffalo Bills punts during Bills training camp at Saint John Fisher Universi...
Associated Press

Matt Araiza released by Buffalo Bills after gang rape allegation

The Buffalo Bills announced on Saturday that the team released punter Matt Araiza following gang rape allegations of a 17-year-old girl.
29 days ago
Deshaun Watson #4 of the Cleveland Browns takes off his helmet as he warms up during the Cleveland ...
Associated Press

Deshaun Watson suspension appeal ‘right thing to do,’ says Roger Goodell

Commissioner Roger Goodell said he feels the NFL needed to keep pushing for a year-long suspension for Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson.
2 months ago
...
Nikash Nath

Jets, Bengals and Eagles drop new alternate helmets

The Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Jets revealed new alternate helmets Friday ahead of the 2022 season.
2 months ago
FILE - Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson kneels on the field during an NFL football pract...
Associated Press

30 women settle claims with Texans related to QB Deshaun Watson

30 women who had accused the Texans of turning a blind eye to allegations against QB Deshaun Watson have settled claims against the team.
2 months ago
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) warms up prior to an NFL football game against the ...
Associated Press

Cleveland Browns trade quarterback Baker Mayfield to Panthers

Baker Mayfield's rocky run with Cleveland officially ended Wednesday when the Browns traded the QB to the Panthers for a future draft pick.
3 months ago
NFL offseason programs, OTAs begin with mixed player involvement