Players from the Chicago Bears announced Thursday the "majority of our locker room" will not participate in in-person voluntary workouts.
"Players remain unclear about the protocols and protections, and rules remain inconsistent despite the last-minute communication by the NFL yesterday," Bears players said in a statement released through the NFL Players Association.
The Denver Broncos were the first team to announce they'd sit out voluntary workouts. The Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit Lions and New England Patriots have followed suit.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and president JC Tretter called for the NFL to utilize an all-virtual offseason program like the one in place last year:
While the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine continues across the United States, the number of vaccinations hasn't reached the point where life can return to what it was before the pandemic.
During the 2020 offseason, the NFL laid out restrictions that basically eliminated in-person contact in an official capacity before training camp. The league has yet to put similar guidelines in place this year.
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero shared a portion of a memo Thursday from the league that cited the benefits of physically showing up for workouts:
Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero
Another NFL memo to clubs tonight noted a primary incentive for players to show up to voluntary workouts: Get hurt at the team facility, you have injury protection. Get hurt elsewhere, you don’t and “a club will not be responsible for the player’s compensation or other benefits.” pic.twitter.com/oS46ZkzpAB
The Athletic's Lindsay Jones reported the NFL laid out an offseason schedule that melded virtual meetings with in-person workouts. Voluntary on-field drills can begin as early as May 17 for Phase 2, and teams can start voluntary practices May 24 for Phase 3.
Phase 3 includes a mandatory three-day minicamp.