The unexpected fight between the NFL and the NFL Players Association over offseason workouts has little to do with COVID-19, the front-line reason given by the NFLPA for not wanting to attend. Despite the trumped-up basis for the boycott, there are still issues that need to be resolved between management and labor regarding the offseason program.
Although the lingering pandemic has become the stated excuse for drawing a line in the sand, multiple sources have made it clear to PFT over the past several days that COVID concerns aren’t the driving force behind this fight. Last year’s virtual offseason program caused many players to realize that they simply don’t need to be in the facility for the early portions of the two-month session.
Plenty of veterans believe that their own offseason strength and conditioning routines are superior to the programs offered by their teams. For years, players like Odell Beckham Jr. and Ndakumong Suh have done their own thing in the early stages of the program, showing up (if at all) for the on-field OTA sessions. Last year’s experience allowed more players to realize that they can get and stay in the right shape through their own strength, conditioning, and agility drills — on their own time and in their own cities, without having to return to the places where they play football.
It’s not that players don’t want to work. They want to work their own way, and they’re willing to assume the risk of injury arising from exercising on their own.
When it comes to the on-field work, most players are willing to show up for Organized Team Activities, still the clunkiest term ever invented for “football practice.”