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NFL and NFLPA are at odds over in-person OTAs

Updated: Apr 16, 2021

(Photo by Tim Clayton Corbis via Getty Images)

The NFL sent out a memo yesterday informing clubs it will restructure offseason programs, with Phase 1 extended to four weeks starting Monday, no on-field work until Phase 2 begins May 17 and a normal Phase 3 with four weeks of practice May 24-June 18, culminating with the mandatory minicamp, according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network.

The NFLPA has been pushing for an all-virtual offseason and urging players to boycott who didn’t agree to the new plan, per Pelissero. But the NFL has the right to unilaterally implement rules as permitted under the CBA. Everything is voluntary prior to the mandatory minicamp.

The NFLPA leaders sent a letter to the players last night stating that the NFL's modified offseason plan "does not address any of the concerns raised by the players" and continued to recommend that "the safest decision" is not to attend any in-person activities at club facilities.

The Broncos, Seahawks, Buccaneers and Lions players have announced through the NFLPA they’ll boycott, while Patriots players said “many” will stay away. Under the plan the NFL sent to clubs today, most in-person activities -- including on-field work -- won’t begin until May 17.

Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward, who is the team's union representative, this past Friday night posted a series of tweets in response to discussions between the NFL and NFLPA on in-person OTAs this spring.

Heyward started his thread by saying, "Can we all agree we love football?"

Heyward would elaborate with the following on why OTAs should be held like last year, which was all virtual. Heyward tagged both the NFL and NFLPA accounts in his thread.

“More meetings go by but still no definite answers behind the @NFL stance to make players come in for off-season workouts. I get training which we all did last year virtually but why the rush to jump to in-person meetings and workouts when 1. Less injuries occurred across the league 2. No plan to mitigate or control while WE are still in a pandemic. Work should continue to work virtually & craft as we still do not have all answers. If ALL teams can’t have the same safe guidelines why would you argue against it.

“Trust me everyone we will still get your games but why risk it??? Don’t you want your star players ready for week 1? If he can throw in the backyard he will throw on sundays too. For the ROOKIES and FREE AGENTS find your vets tell them to get you up to speed. Trust me y’all ain’t missing anything you will still get your chance to show your talent in camp when it really matters. It’s all VOLUNTARY but fellas don’t let them FEAR you in to showing up.

“All I’m saying is OUR SAFETY and HEALTH should be at the top of the line.”

Pelissero also noted that the NFL sent another memo to teams that would be a primary incentive for players to show up to voluntary workouts: Get hurt at the team facility, you have injury protection. Get hurt elsewhere, you don’t and “a club will not be responsible for the player’s compensation or other benefits.”

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