DeMaurice Smith: NFL Players Would Be 'Better Off' Without Mandatory Minicamps

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2021

Executive director of the NFL Players Association DeMaurice Smith speaks during a press conference ahead of Super Bowl 55, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (Perry Knotts/NFL via AP)
Perry Knotts/Associated Press

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith isn't looking to go back to the old way of doing things after the league made a number of adjustments in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We believe that the science and everything we've talked about before, would strongly demonstrate that we'd be better off not having even the mandatory minicamp," Smith said on a conference call. "With respect to the conversations we're having with our players right now, it's all about the voluntary OTAs. If there was going to be a change to the mandatory minicamps, that would have to be collectively bargained."

The NFLPA is looking to eliminate the minicamps that are scheduled to take place at some point between May 24-June 18 during Phase 3 of the league's offseason.

Players did not arrive until training camp in late July or August last year amid the pandemic, and Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot noted the NFLPA said there was a 23 percent decrease in missed time because of injuries and 30 percent decrease in concussions because of fewer workouts and no preseason games.

On April 9, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported Browns center JC Tretter, who is the NFLPA president, told his fellow players that the union was striving for a virtual offseason once again.

That sentiment was nothing new, as Tretter called for the same thing in December 2020, per Jake Trotter of ESPN.

"I believe the changes implemented this season have demonstrated that we can put an entertaining product out on the field while further reducing wear and tear on our players' bodies," the Browns center wrote in a newsletter at the time. "There is no reason for us to ever return to the previous offseason program."

Players on a number of teams have already announced they plan on skipping in-person voluntary workouts this year.

The NFLPA is releasing statements on behalf of players when a team elects to go down that path with the latest one for the Minnesota Vikings on Monday. Rob Demovsky of ESPN reported the Green Bay Packers told players they plan on holding the first month of team activities virtually and then reconsidering.

As for the Browns, Cabot noted Tretter has already talked with head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry about players skipping voluntary in-person workouts.