NFL players call for virtual offseason, shun in-person work


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks players announced Tuesday they are shunning in-person voluntary offseason workouts because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Players on other teams were expected to follow suit.

NFL teams can start holding offseason programs next week. But NFL Players Association president J.C. Tretter has been advocating for a repeat of last year’s offseason when the global COVID-19 outbreak forced teams to do everything online until training camps opened in August.

Except for one minicamp, the offseason programs are voluntary, although most players participate in them and many players have contractual incentives to do so.

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, tweeted on Tuesday, “We find ourselves still in the midst of a pandemic with no comprehensive plan to keep players as safe as possible, yet teams are pressuring players to attend voluntary workouts.

“The union has advised players that given the continued risk of exposure and the goal of a full 2021 NFL season, that they should not attend these voluntary workouts,” Smith added. “It is every player’s decision, but our advice is to continue to use an abundance of caution given the current environment.”

The NFL played its full schedule last season despite having to do some juggling of the schedule because of COVID-19 outbreaks. Players were tested daily, were under a mask mandate and for the last half of the season only met virtually outside of practice.

A statement posted Tuesday on the NFLPA Twitter account on behalf of the Broncos, said Denver players had decided not to participate in in-person workouts this spring in part because of inadequate “protocols in place in order for us players to return safely.”

“COVID-19 remains a serious threat to our families and to our communities and it makes no sense for us as players to put ourselves at risk during this dead period,” the statement from Broncos players said. “Positivity rates in our city are higher than they were at this time last year and we know players have been infected at club facilities in recent weeks.”

The Seahawks players’ statement posted on the union’s Twitter account said the union has provided teams with research highlighting the safety and health benefits of last year’s virtual offseason.

“After considering all the facts, we as a team have decided to make a decision that is uncomfortable but necessary,” Seattle’s players said. “For the protection of everyone’s safety,” they are exercising their rights under the collective bargaining agreement to shun voluntary in-person workouts.

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