The NFL announced a restructuring of its offseason program that delays on-field work until May 17 amid players from multiple teams opting out of voluntary workouts.
Tom Pelissero of NFL Network obtained the memo sent by the league Wednesday, which was not agreed to by the NFLPA. The union has been pushing for an all-virtual offseason, and the player from four teams—Broncos, Seahawks, Lions and Buccaneers—already announced they will be forgoing voluntary workouts.
The NFL's offseason program is considered "voluntary," but several teams have workout bonuses tied into player contracts.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported teams that have players with workout bonuses will not be pressured by the NFLPA to skip out on voluntary workouts. The Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars are among the teams that pay out workout bonuses to a high percentage of their players.
NFLPA president JC Tretter has said evidence from the 2020 season shows a virtual offseason wasn't detrimental to the league.
“The good news for our sport is that while the NFL season looked and felt noticeably different from previous years, we learned that the game of football did not suffer at the expense of protecting its players more than ever before,” Tretter wrote in a letter to union members this month. “Our process is to follow the science on what is safest for our guys, and many of the changes this past year—like no in-person offseason workouts/practices, the extended acclimation period before training camp and no preseason games—gave us a year of data that demonstrates maintaining some of these changes long-term is in the best interest of the game.”
The NFL is the only major professional sport in the United States that has these types of voluntary and mandatory offseason workouts. Other professional sports leagues use their preseason and training camps to ramp up their players for the regular season.
Players have become increasingly vocal in their displeasure with what they regard as a lack of concern from ownership about player safety. The recent expansion to a 17-game regular season has become a major sticking point, with many players expressing their displeasure with the move.