The NFL and NFLPA have a signed Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which was signed by both parties prior to the 2020 season. This is an important fact to get out of the way before going any further.
However, the NFLPA is not happy with the NFL’s decision to have offseason workouts, as they were constructed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting things down. The players’ union believes the situation with COVID-19 is not at a level which is conducive to teams being present for the voluntary portions of the offseason workouts.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have now joined a long list of teams who have made a public statement regarding them skipping these voluntary workouts. This per the NFLPA’s official Twitter account:
A statement from the Pittsburgh Steelers players: pic.twitter.com/aVHvka6j8C— NFLPA (@NFLPA) April 16, 2021
It should be clear the NFLPA is telling players to avoid voluntary workouts, but since the league is holding strong on these offseason workouts players could be disciplined if they don’t attend mandatory minicamp.
There are a lot of caveats here to unwrap in this tug of war going on between the league and the players. First, and as illustrated by Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, there is the issue of injury. If a player is injured at one of these workouts, they are covered. If they are working out on their own, there is no coverage from the organization.
Another NFL memo to clubs tonight noted 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.” pic.twitter.com/oS46ZkzpAB— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 15, 2021
On top of injury issues, the NFLPA is not answering the fact some players have workout incentives in their contracts. Also, what about those second-year players who were deprived of these workouts, and an opportunity to not just learn, but show the coaching staff what they can do as they learn the new system. Of course, rookies will want to get their feet wet at quick as possible.
If you look at last year as an example, when workouts were supposed to be virtual, Tom Brady orchestrated several in-person workouts. Likewise, when the Tennessee Titans were told to stay away from the facility, they were caught working out at a local high school to prepare for the rest of their season.
Meanwhile, the NFLPA is citing the pandemic, and shoddy precautions, as a reason to remain virtual in 2021. Whatever the reason, this seems to be the beginning of a standoff between the two sides. The vast majority of the teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, have yet to make a stand on these offseason workouts, so stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for these workouts and the upcoming NFL Draft.