Spotty offseason attendance fueled Desmond Harrison’s release from the Browns

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When it comes to players skipping voluntary offseason workouts, coaches know to tiptoe around saying anything that would indicate that the voluntary offseason workouts actually aren’t voluntary.

The situation becomes a bit more complicated when a player intends to participate in offseason workouts, but misses one or more of them.

The abrupt decision of the Browns to release tackle Desmond Harrison during the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp came with a vague explanation as to the reasons for the move. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media said that Harrison “start[ed] missing or being late to responsibilities.” Since the release came after only one day of mandatory practice (and after weeks of voluntary practices) it appeared that, while the last straw came when Harrison missed the first day of mandatory minicamp, the frustration grew during the voluntary phase of the offseason program.

An article regarding Harrison in the Arizona Republic seems to support this conclusion.

“He missed a series of practices during organized team activities and according to reports, routinely showed up late for team meetings,” Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic writes. While it’s possible that the latter happened during the 2018 season, the former clearly occurred during 2019 voluntary offseason workouts.

And that raises an interesting point: Can players who plan to participate in voluntary workouts but who miss them for whatever reason have those absences counted against them? For Harrison in Cleveland, it added to the perception that Harrison can’t be relied upon, and it made the team more inclined to cut him loose when he missed the flight for the only three mandatory workdays of the offseason.

The workouts are still voluntary. But it’s abundantly clear that what players do during those workouts, and whether they show up for all of them and on time, will be a major factor in the competition that ultimately whittles the roster from 90 players to 53. Clearly, offseason habits influence the endless roster churning that has guys routinely come and go during OTAs, with players undoubtedly being cut due to perceived inadequacies in their overall performance during voluntary workouts.

So, yes, the workouts are “voluntary.” But that’s a luxury that can be exercised only by the players whose September roster spots are safe. For players No. 30 (or so) through No. 90 on the roster, not choosing to attend, failing to show up consistently while attending, and/or not performing well enough during the workouts can, and often will, get you fired.

21 responses to “Spotty offseason attendance fueled Desmond Harrison’s release from the Browns

  1. Let me put my shocked face on .
    Billion dollar businesses who want a committment out of their players.
    They want players who want to be there.
    If there are plenty of players who have the same skill set as you, but they demonstrate that they want to be there and you don’t. They will be there and you won’t.

  2. Saying you’ll show up and then not is an issue as is showing up late. They’re voluntary sure but if you say you’ll go then don’t or go late, you’re sending signals that you aren’t that interested. Coaches wouldn’t rather know you aren’t coming than put in time and effort planning for you to be there only to discover you’re only half there. I think it’s reasonable to hold them accountable during voluntary workouts if they treat them like the Browns say this guy did.

  3. The next CBA should require the players to work year-round like everyone else does. They can confine the hitting to limited windows, but have the players come to work, get treatment, watch film, get in sync with each other and do walk-throughs.
    The quality of the games would improve and the players would have more structure, which would help keep some of them out of trouble.
    It isn’t 1940 anymore. Football isn’t something you do for three months, then drive a truck or sell men’s clothing the rest of the year.
    Then we wouldn’t have to have the fiction of voluntary OTAs and workouts.

  4. He went from starter to bencher when the team changed coaches midseason last year, and the guy who replaced him didn’t perform as well as he did. With no prospects of things changing, me thinkst this is more a case of the player dogging it to get his release and a fresh start elsewhere ~ a ploy stars and journeyman alike seem to use often in the NFL to escape situations when they’re unhappy. He was unemployed for exactly one day and the Cards and him seem very happy together. May they all live happily ever after.

  5. Put it in this perspective. I tell my buddies I need help with whatever and I’ll supply the pizza and beer. You show up at the end of the day, work for a half hour and then indulge along side all of my other buds who worked their ass off all day. This occurs three or four times. Its all voluntary but … .

  6. Stop me if you’ve heard this before- massive talent, poor work ethic. This was his rep in college. He will get picked up by another to see if they can turn him around but it is ultimately up to him. These guys are around at every level- he just has enough talent to get him to the NFL.

  7. If you were a GM and you had 2 players with similar abilities and one showed up and worked hard through the voluntary program, the other did not, who would you give the roster spot to?

    Voluntary they may be, but the guys who want their teams to win show up and work. There are only rare exceptions where the GM isn’t going to take that into consideration and those are usually the biggest stars.

  8. Could this be the outcome Howard wanted? Linemen are always hard to find, he was likely to get picked up. Maybe this is what he wanted to happen. I don’t know, just wondering out loud.

  9. If you say you will be at voluntary mini camp, you in essence make that now a mandatory camp. I get it if you dont go to voluntary camp and state it before hand but at some point, you still have to earn your teammates trust and respect. Either come for all or don’t come for any or state you can’t be at all of the voluntary camp instead of coming and going.

  10. In life you are not obligated to be an upstanding hard-working man of your word.


    It says something if you choose to be.

    It says something else if you choose not to be.

    The rest of us are not obligated to make their decisions as if the facts don’t matter. Certainly his coach and team mates are not.

  11. Let’s dump this “voluntary” nonsense. Because the contract, and your commitment to the team, isn’t voluntary. You’ve made a commitment to the team, and your brothers on it. And everything you do counts. There’s no gimmes here.

  12. Why should this surprise anyone? It’s no different than at an everyday job if there’s overtime and your boss says it’s voluntary but they’d like everyone there but you never do overtime but the others do. When a promotion comes if it comes down to you and someone with similar performance but they stay for overtime then their going to get the job.

  13. When a player has outplayed his contract and wants to renegotiate, these same commenters shout “He should honor his contract!!” — but when it’s time for a team to honor their own legal commitments — y’all understand what “voluntary” means, right? — then the shouting becomes “The player should participate anyway!!”

    It’s OK to be partisan, but it’s not OK to be partisan to the same side of two opposite debates.

  14. He missed the first day of “Mandatory” Channelin my inner What do mandatory mean?

  15. For some players who are earning their spots on rosters or who are barley hanging on, they can’t afford to miss any team time. Desmond Harrison say guys like Beckham and Le’Veon skip and thought he could do the same. Problem is, he isn’t either one of those guys.

  16. I think this will become a CBA issue. Regardless of what we think there is language in the contract prohibiting making voluntary mandatory

  17. @computojon Well 1st I’m ok with players asking to renegotiate, 2nd Your not portraying this situation accurately. Yes the workouts were voluntary but the team never forced him to show up so where did they not honor their commitment? Just because something is voluntary doesn’t mean it isn’t take in to the final equation of a decison. If you go above and beyond what’s required it’s taken into account and if you do the bare minimum it’s taken into account. Every decision and the overall effort you make is taken into a decision, these situations don’t happen in a bubble.

  18. footballpat – Its not going to be a cba issue because they cut him after he missed a mandatory 1 not a voluntary. Yes, him missing voluntary likely factored in but there is no way to prove that and by him missing a mandatory he gave the team an easy excuse to cut him.

  19. How many people have I known personally that had all kinds of talent in all kinds of things but simply couldn’t get their act together. Many. I would put myself in that category for much of my early life. Here’s to hoping he figures it out before it’s too late for the football career. It’s far too competitive an environment to tolerate people who can’t manage a basic schedule.

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