Updated: May 25
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
In a statement released on behalf of the Steelers players today, the players expressed they'll exercise their right to not participate in voluntary in-person activities for health and safety reasons.
Their statement read the following: “We should not be made to compromise our health and safety. With the current pandemic still affecting our communities and country, and the lack of clear protocols and protections regarding returning to work at full capacity, the players of the Pittsburgh Steelers have decided to exercise our right to not participate in voluntary in-person activities.
“A virtual offseason helped keep us safe to not only start, but finish the regular season as safely as possible and it makes no sense for us to risk infection or injury in the spring if we don’t have to.”
Along with Steelers players, a slew of other organizations' players have decided they won’t go to OTAs. Opting for it to be virtual like last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing.
Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward, who is the team's union representative, last 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.”
The NFL sent out a memo on Tuesday 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.
According to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic, not one player on the Steelers roster has a contract that has a workout bonus. Financially, nobody will forfeit money by not showing up to offseason workouts.