(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, who is the team's union representative, in April posted a series of tweets opposed to in-person OTAs this spring. A few days later, the Steelers players released a statement that exercised their right to not participate in voluntary in-person activities for health and safety reasons.
The Steelers' players were not the only team in the league to release a statement against in-person OTAs, as numerous other teams' players did, as well.
Fast forward to May 25, a lot has changed and the CDC has loosened its guidelines on mask-wearing and stated that masks are not required in certain situations if someone is fully vaccinated.
Coupled with that, the Steelers' players worked some things out with upper management and they had a good attendance at their first OTAs practice today, and Heyward was present.
"When we first came out with the statement, if we had stayed under the old rules, not having that cooperation with both the organization and the players, we couldn't have gotten it done," Heyward said via Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. "A month later we were able to iron out some things. We were able to work through stuff. I appreciate everybody for working with us.
"We had our leadership council talk to our higher ups, Coach (Mike) Tomlin, Mr. (Art) Rooney, Kevin Colbert and we just talked about safety. We understood things have changed. Now we are playing a 17th game. Our main thing was let's not beat our bodies up. Let's approach this the right way where we have a ramp up period where guys are learning, guys are taking advantage of this time. I wanted to make sure we never ostracize the guys that went in. We had a lot of guys who love being in. We had to show a front that we didn't want to jeopardize that. I think we did a great job of being open and honest with everybody and making sure we didn't have a lot of contact. Right now, contact is not a big thing. Minicamp is a different thing.
"OTAs is a big time for learning. A lot of young guys, it's about getting those guys up to speed. Teaching these guys. Coach T's main thing was I want to see guys, how well they're conditioned. We are able to run, coach, listen and learn. When you have those ingredients, it will benefit us."
Heyward spoke with the media following today's first OTAs practice and said he was pleased with the number of players that showed up.
"I am happy with the participation," Heyward said. "I am happy with whoever shows up. It doesn't matter who shows up. If we are going to be here, we are going to take advantage of this time. It's going to change constantly. We learned from last year that you have to be able to adapt to different situations. We'll keep going. Guys are going to come in and out. It's a voluntary period.
"When we get to minicamp, I think we will have full, 100 percent participation."