NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith says the union is siding with players who are opting to skip voluntary workouts this offseason.
Players from nearly half of the league’s teams have announced they won’t attend voluntary offseason workouts, a right the union has fought for, which Smith pointed out in an interview on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” on Saturday.
“We’ve known for years that this is a voluntary workout where a lot of coaches put their finger on the scale and, while they call it voluntary, they expect players to show up,” said Smith.
“I think that what you’re seeing now is, for the first time, players exercising their voice … to say ‘no.’ And frankly it’s probably one of the few times that coaches have ever heard players say ‘no.’ And for some players, it’s probably the first time they’ve said ‘no’ to their coach.”
The league released its official, universal plan for teams with the offseason beginning officially on Monday with Phase I, which lasts four weeks and prohibits on-field work with coaches.
Players from several teams, including the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, issued statements in the past two days detailing their plans to skip voluntary workouts.
One point of contention for players is likely to be on-field organized team activities (OTAs), which remain in the offseason plan despite opposition from the NFLPA.
Smith points to last year’s fully virtual program as evidence that skipping voluntary workouts makes sense.
“This is a negotiated, bargained for, voluntary offseason workout where if someone came to you or me and said, ‘I have a way of cutting concussions by 30 percent and I know a way to decrease missed time to injuries by 23 percent,’ I would think that almost everyone would wholeheartedly embrace that whether it was voluntary or not.”
He also noted that the union has no objection to players who do show up.
“I think it’s important for players to make their own decisions, not only as professionals, not only as a way of taking ownership of their own healthcare, but making their own decision as a man,” said Smith.
Training camps are expected to begin the last week of July.