The NFL has a history of: (1) driving a hard bargain with the NFL Players Association; and (2) taking full advantage of every right that the league has earned for itself via the process of collective bargaining. The players, frankly, don’t.
The most glaring example comes from the annual willingness of players to show up for work day after day, week after week, when they’re not required to show up for work. The presumption has become that the offseason program, which is entirely optional but for one three-day mandatory minicamp, isn’t truly optional. And while that dynamic has arisen in large part because football players: (1) enjoy working out with teammates; (2) would be working out anyway from April to June; and/or (3) realize the value individually and collectively of preparing for training camp and the football season that follows it, the fact remains that the players individually and collectively have the right not to attend the vast majority of the offseason program. But they attend anyway.
Last year, when players began to realize with power that they possess, speculation emerged that the voluntary offseason program would become the basis for players flexing their muscles by, for example, skipping out for a day or for a week of the offseason program or, possibly, for the whole thing.
From a labor relations standpoint, it’s a no-brainer; no players ever should show up for offseason workouts. If that would ever happen, the NFL would sprint back to the bargaining table, ready to give the players something/anything to end the de facto work stoppage arising from players doing that which they are already legally entitled to do.
Think about that for a second. Currently, the players have every right to band together and say, “What is it worth to you to get us to show up for offseason workouts?” They haven’t, and chances are they won’t. Which counts as a double win for the always-winning billionaires who own the teams.
First, the owners benefit from free work. Second, the lack of willingness of the players to stay away from offseason workouts that don’t result in the forfeiture of game checks makes it even less likely that players will ever hold firm during a lockout or a strike. (One of which may be less than four years away.)
The players can change that whenever they want. They can do it right now. The fact that they haven’t, and the strong likelihood that they never will, shows that the players will never match the will of the owners when it comes to getting the best possible deal that they can.