How voluntary is “voluntary”?

NFL: MAY 26 Kansas City Chiefs OTA Offseason Workouts
Getty Images

As a week of Organized Team Activities come to a conclusion, it’s important to understand what OTAs are, and aren’t.

They are voluntary. But they really aren’t. Players are expected to participate. Plenty of players have specific bonuses tied to participation in the offseason program. Even without a financial inducement to show up, it’s an important aspect of the preparation for the season to come.

Yes, it’s technically voluntary. And plenty of players who stay away have specific business reasons to do so. It’s a way to leverage a new contract now and/or to avoid suffering an injury that would undermine a player’s value.

For players who are going to work out anyway, there’s still a very good reason to participate in the official workout program. If a freak injury happens in the building, the player is protected. It’s basically free insurance against the worst-case scenario. If a player gets injured while working out on his own, he’s most likely out of luck.

Every player has to make his own decision as to whether to participate. For the vast majority, it makes sense to be there. For some, it makes sense to stay away.

For a small handful, the decision to stay away makes little sense. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers isn’t there, despite getting a massive new contract — and having every reason to work with a revamped receiving corps. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who presumably hopes to leverage great season into a massive contract, isn’t laying the foundation for that great season by skipping OTAs.

So, yes, it’s voluntary. And, yes, it’s newsworthy when a player doesn’t show up. And, yes, for most players the right call is to be there.

6 responses to “How voluntary is “voluntary”?

  1. Its voluntary for stars.
    if you are not a star it’s in your best interest to show up.

    If you are an average or below player then you do whatever you can to last one more year in the NFL.
    Its better to make $850,000 for one additional year than to make $35,000 working in the real world with probably not many skills.

  2. Just like the corporate events (charitable and otherwise) my company holds are voluntary. If you want them to know how invested you are in your job, really have to be there on your own time. With a smile of course. The reality is that if I’m important to the company no one really cares, but it doesn’t feel that way.

  3. Why should it be voluntary? They already work fewer days in a year than almost anyone else in society.

  4. I’m sure for a guy fighting for a roster/starting spot, it’s basically mandatory.

    I’d tend to agree that if Rodgers were fully committed to winning a championship, he’d want to take every opportunity to build chemistry with his new receivers given his age and limited opportunities to get back to the top of the mountain. But I think he already got what he wanted (a huge contract with truckloads of guaranteed money), and winning is secondary to him.

    I have no idea what’s going through Jackson’s head. My guess is he wants to play for another team and is trying to gradually force his way out of town, but I have no idea why. Maybe he wants to pick his city (for possibly non-football reasons?) and plans to pull a Kirk Cousins until he has full control over where he goes.

  5. Saying they work fewer days relies on the logical fallacy that equates effort with physical presence at a specific location. For these guys to stay employed in the league as it exists today, they have to be putting in work year-round. The difference is for most of the year they’re responsible for managing their own workload.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.