The Rams are the latest float in the anti-OTA parade.
“Players on our team, like others across the NFL, use the offseason to rest, recover and then rebuild for another run the following year,” the Rams players said in a statement issued by the NFL Players Association. “We have had a unique and challenging experience in the last year, with the pandemic hitting members of our team and our city hard. While we all feel optimism that the pandemic can be beaten, we are still in the fight and believe it is unnecessary at this time for players to be volunteering to put themselves at risk for in-person workouts, with our players currently around the country working to safely improve their game on their own.
“Our union negotiated an all virtual offseason last year which proved to not only be effective in protecting us from the pandemic, but also had other health and safety benefits such as drastically reduced injuries across the NFL. We believe our preparation mitigates the risks of the current pandemic, while also allowing us to put a great product on the field. Therefore, we have decided as a team we will not be attending in-person voluntary team activities and will instead continue to strive to improve ourselves and each other where we are!”
That last remark brings directly into focus the risk that players will be taking if they choose to work out away from team facilities. Any injury that would linger into the regular season would qualify the player for placement on the non-football injury list, costing him game checks. Any injury that happens at work is covered.
Moreover, it’s hard to believe that the reason for this attempt is the pandemic. That continues to seem pretextual, especially as to any player who hasn’t gotten vaccinated and doesn’t intend to do so.
Even for those who won’t get the vaccine, it’s not clear why they suddenly don’t like the protocols that were negotiated between league and union in 2020. Not once last season did a single player say publicly that he didn’t feel safe in the workplace. Although three teams (Titans, Ravens, Browns) had incidents that became outbreaks, no players ever complained that the day-in, day-out protocols made them feel less safe than they were outside the facility.
Thus, it continues to seem that these efforts are less about COVID-19 and more about acting out in opposition to last year’s CBA and/or protecting the employment of veteran players. Whatever the reason, it ultimately won’t work.
Here’s the main reason why it won’t work — the owners don’t care. This costs them nothing. They’ll still have a season. They’ll still get their money. If players aren’t ready when training camp rolls around, it will be for the coaching staffs to get them ready and/or to keep on the 53-man roster those who are.
Besides, if this gesture allows the players to get some frustration out of their systems before the first 17-game season commences, it’s better that they do it by boycotting offseason workouts now than by launching a wildcat strike later.