INDIANAPOLIS – How soon before the trickle becomes a deluge?
With offseason workout programs set to begin across the NFL landscape next week – including at the Indianapolis Colts’ Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center – players with a few teams already have just said ‘No’ to the voluntary phase of the league’s offseason.
Through the NFL Players Association, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks announced Tuesday they are steering clear of the initial phase of the league’s offseason work.
“With offseason programs starting in less than a week and without adequate protocols in place in order for us players to return safely, we will be exercising our right to not participate in voluntary offseason workouts,’’ Broncos players said through an NFLPA tweet.
Added the Seahawks: “For the protection of everyone’s safety, we the Seattle Seahawks are deciding to exercise our CBA right to not participate in voluntary in-person workouts.’’
Each team seemingly is following the lead of NFLPA president J.C. Tretter. Last week the Cleveland Browns center urged the membership to skip all voluntary workouts until the safety of players can be ensured. The COVID-19 pandemic reduced last year’s offseason work to a virtual format. There were no organized on-field practices until training camp and the entire preseason schedule was canceled.
“The NFL doesn’t get to decide when the pandemic is over, or when we get to stop caring about COVID,’’ Tretter said last month on a conference call with the media. “Our guys can still get (COVID-19). They don’t want to make themselves vulnerable to that during unnecessary practices in the springtime.’’
On a post on the NFLPA website, Tretter added, “Many of the changes this past year – like no in-person offseason workouts/practices, the extended acclimation period before training camp and no preseason games – gave us a year of data that demonstrates maintaining some of these changes long-term is in the best interest of the game.’’
The only mandatory event in the offseason is a veteran minicamp in June.
Everything else is voluntary.
The Colts, like so many teams prior to the pandemic, generally have near 100% participation in their offseason program. It’s a time the coaching staff takes a hands-on approach with the personnel, which can be especially valuable to free-agent acquisitions and draft picks.
The Colts’ main offseason addition has been quarterback Carson Wentz. He’s had throwing sessions with some of his new teammates, but the offensive staff undoubtedly wants to have extended access to him and those teammates in the coming weeks.
The NFL and NFLPA still are trying to find common ground on how to handle the upcoming offseason programs, but it’s clear players are adamant everything once again should be done on a virtual format.
Colts players have yet to announce their plans.
One issue that can’t be ignored is several players have workout bonuses in their contracts.
That’s not the case with the Colts. No player has a workout bonus in his contract. However, the Green Bay Packers have players with a league-high $5.1 million tied up in a workout bonus, according to Overthecap.com. That includes quarterback Aaron Rodgers ($500,000), wideout Davante Adams ($500,000) and linebacker Za’Darius Smith ($700,000). Three other teams have more than $3 million in workout bonuses: Jacksonville ($3.7 million), Buffalo ($3.2 million) and Kansas City ($3.1 million).
Players with workout bonuses probably will show up at team facilities to earn their bonus.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.