DeMaurice Smith: Players are saying no to coaches pressuring them to attend voluntary workouts

Super Bowl XLVIII NFLPA Press Conference
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NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith says that while offseason workouts at team facilities are officially voluntary, coaches are trying to pressure players to show up. And increasing numbers of players, Smith says, are telling their coaches no.

“What a lot of players have said that they’ve heard from their coaches is that they need to show up,” Smith said on ESPN. “We’ve known for years that this is a voluntary workout where a lot of coaches put their finger on the scale, and while they call it voluntary, they expect players to show up. I think that what you’re seeing now is for the first time, players exercising their voice, or one of the first time people exercising their voice to say no. And frankly it’s probably one of the few times that coaches have ever heard players say no. And for some players it’s probably the first time they’ve said no to their coach. But this is a negotiated, bargained for, voluntary offseason workout.”

Smith is right that the players negotiated for these workouts to be voluntary. It’s also well known in the NFL that if you’re one of the many players on the 90-man offseason roster who has a tough competition to make the 53-man regular season roster, skipping voluntary workouts is a great way to find yourself out of the league altogether.

It’s going to be interesting to see, then, how many of the players who go through with the NFLPA’s recommendation that they stay home are the types of star players who know their jobs are safe, and how many are the ones who know they have an uphill climb just to make the roster. The majority of star players may very well stay home, while the majority of non-starters will probably show up in an effort to make the roster.

For his part, Smith says last offseason showed that the players don’t need to be in team facilities during the offseason.

“There are four unassailable facts when it comes to our offseason,” Smith said. “Number one, it is entirely voluntary. Number two, last year we saw a 30 percent reduction in concussions and a 23 percent reduction in missed time. Last year also saw us not have an entire offseason at all. And we know that it resulted in entirely great football with us completing a full season.”

Smith did acknowledge that around 230 players in the NFL have workout bonuses in their contracts, and he said the union wouldn’t pressure those players not to participate in voluntary workouts.

“We’ve told those players this union is never going to stand in the way of money they’ve negotiated with teams,” he said. “Go on in. It’s voluntary, if you’ve negotiated that into your contract no one is asking you to give up money you’ve negotiated.”

But for the rest of the union membership, Smith is hoping they’ll stay home — and hoping they won’t find that it costs them their roster spots.

67 responses to “DeMaurice Smith: Players are saying no to coaches pressuring them to attend voluntary workouts

  1. Don’t be stupid guys just look what happened to the covid opt out guys. Do they have jobs? This job has a shelf life don’t throw any of it away the union won’t reward you with anything. Now going to practice will reward you with a better shot of more checks

  2. Well all work is voluntary for all of us , we don’t HAVE to go no one makes us …. but our bosses put their finger on the scale .

  3. Hmmm… a pro sports team with a shortage of players…

    Who will be the 2021 NFL’s version of Major League’s ‘Willie Mays Hayes’?

    Willie Mays Hayes: [runs in his pajamas along with the two players already being timed]
    Pepper Leach: Who the hell is that?
    [Hayes overtakes the other 2 players despite their head start. Leach shows his time on the stopwatch to Lou Brown]
    Lou Brown: Get him a uniform.

  4. The absolute HORRORS these players are facing when coaches want them all to get better as a team and start preparing for a season. This like most things happening today is all cosmic theater

  5. DeMaurice Smith is a horrible union head, in my opinion. He does more to divide his members than bring them together. I can’t for the life of me figure out why the players allow him to keep his job.
    As for the players not participating in “voluntary” workouts, I feel bad for the head coaches. They are trying to develop their teams the best way they know how and establish the all-important team chemistry. The job is hard enough when everyone is participating. If I had my way, the head coach wouldn’t remember who showed up and who didn’t, and when the opening kick off of the season happens, the players who didn’t bother to show up would be sitting on the bench and the guys who showed up would be playing.
    It will never happen, of course, but I’d love to see it. if I were an owner, I’d order him to do it and wouldn’t care if we lost the game 100 to 0. It’s my opinion that the players need an eye opening message sent to them, and that would be a great way to do it.

  6. Coaches should look up what the word voluntary means. It doesn’t mean what they think it means. Either call it mandatory or stop demanding players show up.

    Its hilarious how these coaches call it voluntary in the off-season but have no problem making practice in season optional for those that have veteran status or “injuries” you know when the games actually matter.

    Seriously if a player isn’t talented or smart enough to be ready for the season in training camp, you dont have the right players on your team. Heck I’ve been to many training camps of what I would consider Club Med.

  7. Practice is tedious..especially if you are a veteran..the season is long and being away from the facilities a bit longer is probably a mental boost for some was negotiated to be voluntary so ok ..just don’t blame it on the pandemic

  8. 1. Every player, coach and staff member needs to be vaccinated. Period.

    2. It is voluntary, but without otas, camps and preseason last year, it was actually a bad product as the sb ratings showed. It just wasn’t that good across the board.

    3. It is a horrible look by the union to not only sign off on that poor positioned cba again, when they had leverage called a pandemic, that if they just waited, they would have had the stuff they wanted, instead of this phony posturing as millions of frontline workers who need to showup to get paid, have been doing it the whole time.

    What would shows solidarity is proper leadership which is get the vaccine and come together as one to show that this is a unique situation and not be selfish using the back end of a pandemic as an excuse to go out to questionable places, possibly without a vaccine, during this time.

    I am usually pro union, but not here. This is a very bad look.

  9. If I were a coach, I’d set up a camp for local/regional talent to help hone my staffs coaching craft. If someone catches my eye, if may beat the expense of a veteran.

  10. When I was a young buck working at a Marketing agency, the owner asked employees to volunteer to help move the business down the street. Since it was voluntary, I didn’t show up. Turns out, it wasn’t really voluntary at all. Bring on the passive aggressive behavior from a p!ssed off boss. Moral of the story, “voluntary” is a an overused work in business. No such thing.

  11. Lol, always amusing to see the annual saber rattling from the leadership of the NFLPA, pretending like they actually have some power.

  12. So now what’s gonna happen is NFL teams emphasizing contractual workout bonuses and the NFLPA’s cute little irrelevant power play will be no more. Rather than work with the NFL and negotiate a mutually agreed resolution, the NFLPA is leading its players down a path that starts with a workout reprieve and ends in players working out or losing money.

  13. Vets want a longer offseason, rookies want to work for those roster spots. Let’s see how everything correlates in the playoffs.

  14. Being in shape is one thing. Being in football shape is a whole other thing. Coordinate it’s play calling and timing as a team is another whole other thing. Like it or not it’s better to be there with the team practicing than staying home.

  15. Neither side should be pressuring players either way, and quit using the media to further this non issue. Go or don’t go should solely be up to the individual and if it means they risk their job so be it that’s life the real world doesn’t care about your feelings.

  16. Isn’t any work that they do voluntary? I mean, the players aren’t slaves even though some owners and coaches would like it.

  17. More like…your union has lost their love for the game of football. Sad to see as a fan.

  18. I can see already that some teams are going to lose draft picks for breaking the rules

  19. Well all work is voluntary for all of us , we don’t HAVE to go no one makes us …. but our bosses put their finger on the scale .

    That comment misses the point. NFL players, as he said, most are not paid for these workouts. A regular guy “volunteering” is getting paid as he continues to show up. NFL players are not paid for this. The better analogy would be if your boss says you can work on the weekends, if you want, but you don’t show up.

  20. charliecharger says:
    April 17, 2021 at 1:02 pm
    I can see already that some teams are going to lose draft picks for breaking the rules

    2 2 Rate This


    You seem to have comprehension problems, I noticed. How does a team break a rule for voluntary, league wide organized workouts.

  21. NFl teams need to stop making them voluntary. You want to play you will be in shape.

    Can not feel sorry for a millionaire who has to work out for his job…wow so sad.

  22. The nfl coaches as a whole have far more clout than the players as a whole. Because players need money, and the coaches will reward those who work towards getting better. No players are telling coaches no, their agents might be relating messages but no one is being told no. My guess is the players that are the most vocal will be the ones cut late to where they don’t get decent offers or they simply wont get the Plato g time that the guys who work for it do.. Don’t bite the hand that defends you fellas.

  23. Since they are voluntary workouts, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened sooner.

  24. Some of us can’t wait for the time of year our hobbies like fishing, racing, golf and so on happen. We spend 10’s of thousand of dollars to do it.

    These shmucks get paid millions of dollars and they don’t even want to show up. I laughed at the minor league football leagues that came and went. At least those rosters wanted to play football.

  25. D Smith is leading these players down a path that they will regret. How many veterans will lose their job because they don’t show up? Plus, anyone choosing to work out on their own and gets hurt then the CBA doesn’t cover them for injury.

  26. For those of you who are complaining about these work outs being “voluntary”, I’d like to remind you that I’ve heard plenty of players criticizing other players who didn’t show up for “voluntary” workouts.
    Here’s the thing I think most people miss. The goal for all players, coaches, and owners is SUPPOSED to be to do everything you can to make your team as strong as it can be to win a Super Bowl. No matter what anyone thinks about the owners, the fact is they pay NFL players a lot of money. Even the #54 guy on every roster makes more money than 90% of the average NFL fan. The last time I checked, the minimum salary for all active players was $610,000. That’s more than a half a million dollars, folks.
    So — we all know that teams have run these “voluntary” practices forever and have wanted all their players to attend. It’s valuable time so that coaches can prepare their teams better and are able to evaluate where they all are as well. It’s a necessary evil and my opinion is you would think the players who are making the most money would always be willing to attend to set the example for everyone else.
    If the word “voluntary” bothers anyone, then change it to mandatory and be done with it. But I have a real problem with the players having a problem with showing up for them because no matter what anyone says, it’s impossible for any player and anyone coach to prepare as well on their own as opposed to working with the team.
    I know this much. If I were making $610,000 and I was considered the 54th player on the roster, I’d be worried about losing my job, so I’d damn sure show up!

  27. The union is really pushing this “voluntary” aspect. They are looking to use this as leverage. They are trying to force the owners to make it mandatory. Thus either paying the players even more or giving the players some other benefit in order to show up.

  28. Are players using Covid-19 as an excuse to skip workouts? Why they would never do such a thing.

  29. If it’s voluntary, they should be able to choose without being pressured. However, if your spot on the roster is not a 100% lock, it would be wise to show up and get the extra work. The players that show up are going to be a step ahead and better prepared than those that stay home. This is more of a business decision than a safety issue really.

  30. What have this players union negotiated lately that the players want?

    17 game season? Most NFL players hate the idea.

    Marijuana testing? The NFL still does it.

    Franchise tag? A team in theory can tag a player 3 straight times.

    Fully guaranteed contracts? Nope. A team can cut a guy and skip out on remaining years with only a cap hit.

    Sounds like the players need to listen to someone else.

  31. poophead says:
    If it’s voluntary, they should be able to choose without being pressured.

    Agreed, provided that works both ways.
    Coaches and managers shouldn’t pressure players that don’t want to show up for “voluntary” workouts. Conversely, veterans that don’t want to work shouldn’t use their influence with the union to try and pressure entire teams into boycotting, just because they’re afraid some hungry young guy might make their jobs a little less secure.
    Since everyone loves to point out how this is all “voluntary,” let’s make it truly voluntary for all. Those that don’t feel like working when they’re not paid can stay home, while those with workout bonuses, or want or need the extra work are free to volunteer to go to work without being pressured, by union leaders and veterans.
    Right now is seems as though all of this is really only “voluntary” for one group of players.

  32. I don’t care what anyone says, a coach can push you and get more out of you than you can get out of yourself alone.

    A coach standing back, looking at your form, footwork,progressions, effort, etc, is going to see things you can’t possibly see, then give you immediate, corrective, value content feedback regarding your performance.

    And when you think you just can’t get that one last rep, too often a coach will coax that last bit of extra effort that you couldn’t have gotten by yourself. That’s the difference between being really, really good and being a champion.

    Rocky Marciano said…”Being champion requires total commitment of mind and body”.

    A simple statement but only the very best few truly live it: Michael Jordan, Tom Brady,….and…maybe a very few others but none come immediately to mind.

    Hell, Tom Brady never, ever skipped voluntary workouts until he was 5-deep in SB rings and Giselle started shutting him off so he’d spend more time with her and the fam.

  33. I think encouraging to stay away show how unions are a wedge between its members and their employer.

  34. The whole covid situation isn’t going to be any different come mandatory training camp.

  35. Still not getting this. Dont all the players have to get the vaccine? Then what is the issue here? didnt they go through this last year?

  36. The more I read of this crap, the more likely I’ll just walk my dog this fall.

    Sick of it.

  37. And this is why support for players is eroding. Hard to have any sympathy for a millionaire who says they don’t want to show up to work and put in the effort to get batter.
    Call me crazy but this new athlete and the “me first” attitude is pushing me away big time.

  38. The union negotiated this strictly for the established players because thats what unions favor- seniority. If Im a young player, I know this and show up to all workouts because I come out in better football shape and get more exposure to management.

  39. No practice and reduced preseason means we get to watch teams struggle to get on the same page for the first half of the season. The fans always win with this league.

  40. There are always some players who skip the voluntary part of the offseason. It’s written about here every year. This year the union decided to get involved but I don’t see it playing out any differently. Guys with secure roster spots and no money tied to participating in the voluntary stuff might stay away. The guys with no guaranteed money who are looking to keep or get a roster spot will very likely show up. The world will turn and the same thing will happen next year.

  41. I don’t care what statistics he quotes, ASSUMING they are results of the lack of a preseason.

    The fact is that the early season play last year obviously demonstrated that the lack of preparation hurt the product.

  42. DeMo wrong in that product clearly suffered last year, but all things considered it was pretty good. He should be far more worried that people did not watch the product.

  43. If the players want to go through the motions and skip workouts, the coaches should go thru the motions, the gm ought to go thru the motions when negotiating with them, and we as fans ought to go thru the motions spending any money on them. Covid is just an excuse, they are lazy.

  44. curtis20 says:
    April 17, 2021 at 3:44 pm
    Still not getting this. Dont all the players have to get the vaccine? Then what is the issue here? didnt they go through this last year?

    NO THEY DON’T, because we do not live in a communist country, even though we are trying hard to get there. The people not getting the vaccine are the smart ones. .002 or whatever the heck it is will not be enough for most people to go get a vaccine that was established in less than 8 months.

  45. What I would like to know next year are how many of these guys who do not show up for workouts this year are now out of football? We are already told that the shelf life of a players is 3+ years average so why would a player take the chance to be replaced?

  46. Yeah, my boss pressures me to come to work too. Unfortunately I always have to go. Wish I had a job where I made millions and didn’t have to show up 6 months of the year.

  47. It should be none of the unions business how often a player wants to go to the teams facilities.

  48. “last year we saw a 30 percent reduction in concussions and a 23 percent reduction in missed time.” So, is he arguing that not having in-person workouts reduced the number of concussion? That is completely false. The rule changes have reduced concussions, and since there was a reduction of concussion by 30%, there should have been at least a 30% loss of time due to injury, but there was only a 23% loss of time, so, that means there was an increase of other type of injuries(pulled muscles and torn ligaments) which would be releated to lack of off-season training. He is trying to manipulate that stats to prove his point. Lack of off-season training will definitely lead to more soft-tissue injuries.

  49. The difference between making the team and not making it is a million dollars. If you show that you can contribute over multiple years, the difference is muli-millions of dollars, more than most humans will earn in their lifetime. Players should do anything they can to demonstrate that they can contribute in the ultra-competitive environment of the NFL, because it won’t last long and the payoff is so great if they succeed. Nobody who does the minimum will make it. That’s the reality. Everything else is just politics.

  50. Rookie, first and second year players better learn this lesson quick: the NFLPA serves VETERAN players.

    If you youngsters miss the time you could be using to learn your new job or refining your skillset, you’re less likely to beat out a veteran at your position. For some, this would make it your second straight year to miss these important teaching days. Average NFL CAREER is ~3 years.

    Screw this attempt to pressure the young guys to stay at home. If you want a roster spot in September, you’d best be taking advantage of EVERY opportunity you have to show up and FIGHT for it.

  51. That’s fine… many Bucs players will still show up to Tom Brady’s private voluntary workouts.

  52. The key word is voluntarily. The coach or team cannot do jack, unless it is written in a contract. It should not be a big deal. If a fringe player is refusing…..well, it is on him if he gets cut. Positives and negatives.

  53. touchback6 says:
    April 17, 2021 at 12:09 pm
    1. Every player, coach and staff member needs to be vaccinated. Period.

  54. It seems to me the union is pressuring their own members but I bet all the Too qbs will show up because they are leaders

  55. NFL needs to be careful, or they’ll end up like the NBA…where players run the league. Any NBA fan old enough to remember how that league used to be, can tell you it’s gone downhill with players running the show. Now players take days off whenever. Or just no show for a month like Kyrie. Then you have players saying forget competition, let’s just all team up for an easy ring. Hopefully the owners maintain some power and prevent that.

  56. The coaches are there willing to put in their time and they make a lot less than the players.

    Coaches/GMs are human. To think they won’t take note of who doesn’t show up is ridiculous.

  57. The way some of these teams played last year Practice should have started the day after the season ended!

  58. I get that the coaches want players to be at the facility as much as possible. However, I truly understand the players on this.

    At my non-union job, there is an event that occurs every year that management strongly encourages all employees to attend. However, it clearly states in the employee handbook that attendance at this event is voluntary. Management has even gone so far in the past as to charge employees personal time for missing it.

    So is this event voluntary or not? In writing, it clearly says it is. In practice, it kind of isn’t.

    Clarity on things like this just make it easier on all sides. Make them clearly mandatory, clearly optional (with zero expectation of attendance), or drop them altogether. Having them be voluntary (but you better be there) causes problems for everyone.

  59. Smith is not the one is danger of losing his job and if you think he really cares about the players think again

  60. The guys that end up losing their jobs to younger hungry and CHEAPER players will regret following a failed union leader.

  61. If I were a coach I would LOVE voluntary workout. Then you know who really has that desire. Football is a game. It’s fun to play.

  62. This move is made to hurt the teams but it doesn’t help the players. Hard to respect that motivation

  63. With all those teams/players refusing to go do voluntary workouts, I find myself wondering how many of these players are really vested in their team’s success. At the end of the season I would not want to listen to those who opted out say anything about losing.
    Yeah it seems like such a little thing, but every bit of time that a player can get only helps the player/team, in the long run.

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