In the push-and-pull that punctuates collective bargaining, the NFL Players Association has become inspired by certain aspects of pro football in a pandemic.
In a Tuesday conference call with reporters, representatives from the NFL Players Association identified a couple of 2020 changes that they’d like to see made permanent.
“There’s absolutely no reason for us to go back to full-scale [Organized Team Activities], none,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said, via Ben Fischer of Sports Business Daily.
Although the vast majority of the offseason program is voluntary, players routinely volunteer to participate, especially when they have bonuses, incentives, and salary de-escalators tied to showing up. NFLPA president JC Tretter, who also plays center for the Browns, said that he has seen no decline in performance once offseason workouts became virtual meetings.
That said, the absence of offseason workouts made it much harder for younger players to establish themselves, ensuring employment for older and more expensive players who don’t need multiple weeks of offseason workouts to prove themselves.
The union also wants the league to allow players to stay at home during training camp.
“You don’t see accountants move into hotels during tax season because they need to pay attention more,” Tretter said. “It doesn’t have any real proof of benefitting anything.”
Some coaches would say that keeping players in a hotel or college dormitories has a critical link to team building. In today’s NFL, that thinking may be outdated.
Regardless, any changes to the status quo between management and labor require bargaining. If the union wants fewer OTAs and/or stay-at-home training camps, the union will need to be prepared to give something to the league.
Possibly, the union has mentioned these two items as a hint at the potential exchange for a mandatory postseason bubble, which the NFL seems to want — but which the NFL doesn’t seem to want to ask for.