The image created by the ESPN report that Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins “walked out of camp” is jarring on the surface, inviting the visualization of Hopkins making a one-handed catch in the end zone, spiking the ball, and heading out the tunnel, Bo Jackson-style.
The truth, per a source with knowledge of the situation, is that Hopkins did not report for camp. While the result is the same (he’s not there), the procedures are much different.
For a player under contract who does not report, he is subject to fines in the amount of $40,000 per day and possible signing bonus forfeiture. For a player who shows up and then leaves, things can quickly escalate into the ultimate lose-lose outcome.
When a player reports for camp and then later leaves, the team has the ability to send a letter warning him that, in five days, the club has the right to place him on the reserve/left squad list. The standard “five-day letter” explains to the player that, if they do place him in that category, he can’t play again this season. After sending the letter and the expiration of the five-day period, the club does not have to place the player on the reserve/left squad list, but it may.
With a player like Hopkins, the idea that the Texans would shut him down for the full season is a little ridiculous. Still, if Hopkins didn’t report the “five-day letter” can’t be sent, giving the Texans significantly less leverage in the looming standoff.