NFLPA holding an open call for all player on Friday at 4:00 p.m. ET

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The NFL and the NFL Players Association continue to be at odds regarding player participation in the voluntary portion of the offseason program. The potential stakes of the fight became clear earlier this week, when Broncos tackle Ja’Wuan James tore an Achilles tendon while working out away from the team’s facility — and when the NFL used the James injury as what the union called a “gutless . . . scare tactic” to get players to show up for workouts.

Players may have questions about the situation. If they want answers, they’ll get them from the union at 4:00 p.m. ET on Friday. That’s when an “open call” will be held “to update players on the offseason and OTAs.”

The open call follows Thursday’s email in which the union took sharp issue with the NFL’s memo to all teams in the wake of the James injury. And the union had good reason to do so, because it was obvious that the league seized on the James situation to give a middle finger to the union for telling players to stay away from offseason workouts.

Embedded in the email to all players is the hint of an argument that James possibly will suffer no financial consequences, given that he was following a training regimen recommended by the team despite working out away from the facility. One team source called this argument “garbage,” explaining that off-site injury simply protection doesn’t exist.

The lone exception came in 2020, when teams allowed players to do their workouts away from team facilities with full protection, because the pandemic closed all buildings to players until training camp. The league’s memo regarding James is rooted in the reality that players have protection only if they get injured while in the building.

There have been multiple incidents over the years of players claiming that they were injured away from work while workout out and teams refusing to pay the players — regardless of whether the players were engaging in training regimens provided by the team. The one potentially unresolved question, as the source noted, is whether a given team’s established custom and practice regarding players injured away from the facility becomes a precedent that can’t be ignored.

In theory, teams have full discretion to determine whether to pay a player who has suffered a non-football injury or illness. The Ravens, for example, paid Terrell Suggs after he popped an Achilles tendon while playing basketball. The Patriots paid Tedy Bruschi after a stroke and a heart procedure wiped out a season of football for him. The one argument that could save James and other players who get injured away from the facility flows from the notion that, if teams have covered injuries under similar circumstances in the past, they shouldn’t be permitted to change course now — especially if (as it appears) denial of coverage would be the result of retaliation against players who chose not to work out at the team facility, at the recommendation of the union.

There’s also a potential collusion argument floating around in this fact pattern, with the argument being that the league has put out word to the 32 independent businesses that belong to it should exercise their discretion in a way that denies players pay and other available benefits.

The memo from Wednesday could be circumstantial evidence of collusion, but the smoking gun when it comes to a Kaepernick-style collusion argument (i.e., the league told its member teams what to do) would be much harder to find. Also, it would be difficult to prove that teams actually followed this directive unless enough of them (it takes six or more to prove collusion) have players who suffer serious injuries away from the facility.

Regardless, there’s a cold war currently raging between the NFL and the NFLPA due to this question of offseason workouts. The next shots could be fired during Friday’s open call for union members.

7 responses to “NFLPA holding an open call for all player on Friday at 4:00 p.m. ET

  1. Greedy owners? Greedy players? Some, not all. Either way, WE pay.

    Team/League discretion: A guaranteed salary is best served by owning a camper and living in the parking lot. Not For Long, anyway.

    Or, getting IN shape AT the facility during NON voluntary hours. Like the old days.

    Whatever the small print says, follow it. Stop signing bogus long TERM contracts or fixing them for the salary cap.

    So many ways to fight back. Everyone out of shape day 1 at Camp, would be the best way. We did it (no water btw), we watched it, we still loved it.

  2. Dear Union members, We encourage you to work and workout away from the facility without pay and forfeit your workout bonuses. We encourage you to not agree to voluntary workouts, in other words they are not voluntary as we are pressuring you to not attend. But this is different then the teams pressuring you to attend with the hope of making the team, securing a starting Position, paying workout bonuses and the full payment of salary and medical if an injury occurs. Although this sounds bad for individual players, trust us it is good for the Union. We have seen the enemy…in the mirror.

  3. Its obvious to anyone who knows contracts, that they dont have a solid contract that spells it out in finality. Either the NFL has a solid worded contract that says if your practice outside the faciilty and get hurt you ‘WILL NOT’ get paid. My take I bet it says MAY NOT get paid and thats a ball of worms. The union wins if thats the case.

  4. Maybe if the guy had ever shown an ounce of dedication to playing for the Broncos they would have covered him. The guy never wanted to play. He just wanted to get paid. In his first season he was legit injured, but then never came back, even after he was cleared by the doctors. Even Fangio was publicly stating that he didn’t know why James wasn’t playing. $17 million for 66 snaps – I wouldn’t pay the guy either. Oh yah, not to mention the fact that it’s in his contract to work out at the facility.

  5. Let’s see, they reduced padded practices in training camp by 43% under the new CBA and now the Veteran’s NFLPA wants a redo to wipe out OTAs altogether. Both serve veteran players over rookie and younger players, who only get better with live practice.

    This a year after some of the worst defensive football we’ve ever seen collectively between college and pro, due to COVID practice limitations. The big guys did not get in football condition.

    Money is up and their % take is up, yet they’re still complaining. If they wanted a different deal they shouldn’t have signed off on the one they’re bound by.

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