As Phase Two of offseason program begins, how many players will show up?

Chargers rookies work out
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The offseason of discontent continues for NFL players, with many of them skipping all of Phase One of the voluntary workout program. Phase Two, including the first opportunity for on-field coaching, begins on Monday. How many players will show up?

On Friday, the NFL Players Association informed PFT that only 38 percent of all players had participated in Phase One. It’s unclear whether this number includes the rookies who participated in this weekend’s minicamps at 29 teams. Most if not all rookies were planning to be present. (We’ve requested clarification from the union on the 38-percent number; we’ll provide it when it arrives.)

The offseason program increases in intensity and, in turn, significance on Monday. It’s not simply working out, which players can do on their own (but, as former Broncos tackle Ja'Wuan James learned the eight-figure hard way, at their risk). Absences will grate more on coaches who, though they can’t say it, want all players present.

Phase Two lasts only one week. The offseason program culminates in Phase Three. Otherwise known as Organized Team Activities (an annoying eight-syllable alternative to “practice”), this is when plenty of offensive and defensive playbook installation happens, allowing the process of preparing for Week One to accelerate once training camp opens.

The NFL Players Association has expressed concerns about COVID-19 protocols in support of the recommendation that players avoid voluntary workouts. Other members of NFLPA leadership simply want to get rid of the offseason program entirely, or at a minimum to restrict it, regardless of the pandemic. Some in NFLPA leadership remain miffed that the league forced a 17-game schedule upon them, with every intent to lock out the players in 2021 if the players didn’t accept a new labor deal that expanded the slate of games that count.

In a recent conference call available to all players (it’s unknown how many participated), the union encouraged players to negotiate the counters of the offseason workouts directly with their coaches. That prompted one agent to wonder aloud, but off the record given that the NFLPA regulates all agents, “They want the players to individually negotiate practice intensity with their coaches? Isn’t that the union’s job?”

The union continues to be in a very difficult spot, given the unique nature of the workforce it represents. For each team, the 90-man roster will be slashed to 53. On each team, the prospects of many players actually having a job and playing football in September hinges on proving  themselves now.

Throw in the James dynamic, which puts any player who suffers serious injury away from work in jeopardy of not being paid, and it becomes a very difficult decision for a player to stay away and to undermine his own financial interests by working out at Planet Fitness and/or the local high-school field.

This definitely isn’t about carrying water for the league; PFT has consistently argued aggressively for player rights, and he repeatedly wondered why fans fall so quickly in line behind the American oligarchs who own the franchises. This is about navigating a system that reflects the product of many rounds of collective bargaining. From 2011 to March 2020 to July 2020, the union has had opportunities to secure collective and uniform changes to the offseason program. The owners, during those bargaining sessions, have shown an inclination to chop away at practice time and intensity, given that it costs them not a penny to do so.

Currently, there’s no natural leverage for the union. No quid pro quo, like adding a regular-season game or introducing Tuesday Night Football. No way to exert any real pressure on the owners — who simply don’t care if players skip offseason programs — to eliminate workdays or restrict workplace exertion.

I’m told there’s an endgame to all of this. I hope to find out what it is, and to explain it properly so that anyone who cares to read stories about union unrest in the second offseason of an 11-year CBA will understand why the players are attempting to exercise their rights to skip voluntary workouts when, in reality, being there helps many of them in the quest to be employed in September and to avoid a Ja’Wuan James-style outcome if they suffer serious injury while exercising on their own time and in a place other than the team facility.

34 responses to “As Phase Two of offseason program begins, how many players will show up?

  1. PFT has consistently argued aggressively for player rights, and he repeatedly wondered why fans fall so quickly in line behind the American oligarchs who own the franchises.


    And at the same time, display hatred & disdain for millionaires & billionaires. American football fans are profoundly confused.

  2. It’s a dumb issue for the NFLPA to fight over.
    If I’m a newer player I am showing up.
    As a veteran, if I get extra training, and am protected in case of injury, then why not show up? That extra training at the pro-level can make a difference here and there and help me keep my job.

  3. anyone who is on a winning team will show up. the usual suspects will stay home on the couch. also @mackcarrington – spot on.

  4. It’s amazing how inept the player’s union is, and how absurd it is that the players keep the same leadership that fails them time after time.

  5. Why do they have to complicate everything? They should just do away with any volunteer work. All work should be mandatory. If it’s not important enough to be mandatory, don’t have it. And contracts should be guaranteed against injury. If a guy hurts himself working out for football, that should be guaranteed. I don’t really know what’s going on with the Player’s Union. You’d think a group of multi-millionaires would have better representation. It’s like the owners got together and appointed DeMaurice Smith, just like Trump wanted Nancy Pelosi to be the leader of his opposition party.

  6. “…repeatedly wondered why fans fall so quickly in line behind the American oligarchs who own the franchises.”

    We root for the team…aka the Jersey…we want the team to succeed and be great…its got nothing to do with the billionaire who owns the team…players change…coaches change…playbooks change…

    THe more players practice…the better chance they’ll succeed…the less they practice… the less chance they’ll succeed…again…we’re not rooting for the billionaire…we’re rooting for the team they own…to WIN!!!

    Have you got it…? Do you understand now…? Is it clear…? Ok then…stop saying we’re rooting for the owners…sheesh!!!

  7. The clubs assume responsibility if there are injuries in team facilities. It’s the smart thing for players to work out at team facilities. Not to mention they get fed, massages, treatments, etc, as part of their compensation. The NFLPA gave their constituents bad Advice as a negotiating tactic.

  8. Why is this a season of discontent? All the players realistically need to do is get their COVID shots and show up for workouts – and until the workouts are mandatory, they don’t even have to do that. Further, if they choose to work out on their own, they are taking a known risk.

    There is nothing new here – the voluntary workouts and the mandatory ones have been around for a few years and are spelled out in the CBA. The risks players take are known to them all now, but those risks have also been around for a while. COVID is new, but COVID shots now have been around for a while as well.

    Given all the above, I seriously fail to understand how any of the players (or the NFLPA) can say they have any legitimate beef at all.

  9. Get a vaccine. Masks are not required for those fully vaccinated. So, what argument does the NFLPA have now about COVID-19?

  10. I’m guessing Ja’Waun James doesn’t show up. Brady wants No players showing up unlike last year….. anything to cheat an edge. Cowboys 21 Bucs 20, Micha Parsons retires gramps pretty quickly.

  11. My guess, just the smart ones show up…. So probably not nearly as many as there should be…

  12. Grown men pretending to live in fear of a corona virus they have a 99.6 % chance of having no complications from just so they can have more days off, and it is costing some of them millions of dollars. Too much is at stake for them and their families. Get in there, and take your precautions, but be covered by insurance and by your teams insurance against injury. Some of these guys won’t make it if they aren’t in there practicing. Just do it. I know I would.

  13. The NFLPA is only out to protect the big money vets.

    It’s no wonder why their actions do jack and squat for everyone else.

  14. The players, in general, are spoiled 5 year olds. The NFLPA is the enabling mother and the NFL is the father who is the bad guy for trying to get everyone to be responsible.

    In 2012 the NFLPA fought like hell to avoid allowing the NFL to mandate hip, thigh, and knee pads. The NFL’s argument : safety. The NFLPA’s argument : We don’t wanna.

    The NFLPA, at the same time, wanted the NFL to pay more for longer for injuries.

    Divert money today for life after football benefits. NFL : longterm medical and retirement benefits. NFLPA : We want every cent owed to us, today! Later is your problem.

  15. cowboyzcali says:

    Cowboys 21 Bucs 20, Micha Parsons retires gramps pretty quickly.


    This is cowboyzcali’s fifth or so post since the schedules have been announced, talking about Parsons “retiring” Brady. Is Parsons a cousin of yours, perhaps?

  16. Are they bring paid? No? Then they won’t show. Yes? Then they will.

    Just like everyone else on planet earth.

  17. cowboyzcali says:
    May 16, 2021 at 6:55 pm
    I’m guessing Ja’Waun James doesn’t show up. Brady wants No players showing up unlike last year….. anything to cheat an edge. Cowboys 21 Bucs 20, Micha Parsons retires gramps pretty quickly.


    This Micha Parsons stuff is getting pretty funny! Thanks for the laugh

  18. xofdallas, You have issues with me supporting and reporting on my team YET you have absolutely zero issues with 99.9 percent of fans bashing them and attacking them all of the time? Facts Brady is an old statute with a bum leg….. Parsons is a freak and runs a 4.3 and is an attacking specialist…. Yes I see Brady on his arse and sipping through a straw at the hospital before game ends. How do you like that! Lavar Arrington helped end Aikmans career, think it isn’t possible?

  19. I doubt most of these players have been self isolating because of covid19. Don’t show up because it’s not required. No need to make an excuse when none is required.

  20. Florio, listen up.
    You are in your twenties. You are making millions of dollars per year, doing something you have loved doing your whole life to this point. The money will set you up for the rest of your life if you invest it correctly…..Do your workouts at the team facility. Even if it means for the duration of your NFL career, you live no where but close to the facility.. Be thankful for what you have, and go out of your way to be a guy the team loves having around and will keep around if they can. It’s basic survival ABC’s!!!

  21. Dogman52 is right. Suck it up and live in the city that your team is located in. Plenty of things to do in Cleveland, green bay, and Buffalo.

  22. So when players show up to workout at a team event

    1. The coaches and training staff have control over the types of workouts they are doing. (Rather than doing risky workouts that could lead to injury)
    2. It helps to ensure that the players are staying in shape during the offseason.
    3. The players are fed and have access to trainers, massage therapists, equipment, etc.
    4. It helps players to develop teamwork and relationships with their teammates.
    5. Like many jobs, face time with the boss is never a bad thing. Probably 25% of the team has no fears for job security – maintaining starting roles. Other players are at risk for losing playing time or losing their position.

    Yeah, I can see why players should boycott this training. Just because you have a “right” to do something, doesn’t mean using that “right” is always the smartest move.

  23. A lot more than were going to BEFORE jswuan james blew out his achilles…

    p.s. it’d be awesome if we could see De Smith’s salary relative to the salary he’s “worth” .

    It would probably look something like $2-10,000,000 vs -$10,000,000

  24. It’s weird how the NFLPA is upset about adding a 17th game. They did take away one preseason game, so the teams still play 20 games. Also, this added revenue will increase the cap, meaning players will make bigger salaries. The NFLPA is giving players bum advice. And the players need to open their eyes and realize this.

  25. Anyone else remember back in 2009 when Brandon Marshall claimed he slipped and fell through a TV requiring stitches in his arm? Turned out he was wrestling with family members.

    Teams have no control over the environment outside of the facility and there’s very little they can do to keep players safe outside.

    Players are like trust fund kids. They want to live a consequence free life until something goes wrong, then they call Daddy because he will make everything go away.

  26. Here’s something I’m confused about – surely players work out on their own all the time. During the offseason they can’t afford to get out of shape, and many don’t live in their team city year-round.

    So why is James’ situation suddenly being treated like it’s unusual? I haven’t been able to find anywhere what he was doing when he got hurt. If a guy is, say, exercising in a gym, doing a team-sanctioned workout, what’s the problem?

    Well, I mean, obviously the NFL is interfering in this situation to send a message, which really is heavy-handed and unnecessary, as far as I’m concerned.

    I guess what I’m saying is that James was let go because of his injury history, more than anything. If he was hurt doing something stupid we definitely would’ve heard about it by now. If he’d played the last two years the Broncos probably would’ve been OK with paying his salary this year.

  27. A few years ago Chad Pennington tore his ACL playing basketball during the offseason, I’m sure the team was not liable for his injury.

  28. If I was a rookie I would be giving the nlpa the middle one and go get the knowledge and info I may need. This is just a power struggle to prove to the NFL that the players listen to the union not the owners.

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