This time last year, the NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to an all-virtual offseason schedule due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ongoing and future coronavirus vaccine rollouts have owners and executives pushing for a return to in-person offseason activities this spring, but the players aren't yet backing down.
Per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, Cleveland Browns center and NFLPA president JC Tretter said during a Friday call with players that union members should threaten to boycott in-person work organized by teams:
NFLPA President JC Tretter told players on a call today the union is pushing for an all-virtual offseason — and would urge players to boycott if teams conduct in-person OTAs this spring, per sources.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 9, 2021
Said Tretter: “We’ve been telling them, it’s voluntary and we’re not gonna go.”
Only about 300 of 2,500 players have workout bonuses they’d lose if they skip OTAs. Under the CBA, the lone mandatory work prior to training camp is a June minicamp, which the union also wants to be virtual this year amidst the ongoing COVID pandemic. Talks with owners continue.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 9, 2021
NFL media's Ian Rapoport previously tweeted:
While negotiations are ongoing between the NFL & NFLPA regarding this offseason, the expectation is that there will be some on-field work – passing camps and OTAs – this spring, sources say. Health and safety protocols will be paramount, but the plan is for some in-person work.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 7, 2021
As Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk noted, phase one of the offseason program allows players to train in small groups at team facilities and is set to open on April 19.
"The pandemic is not over, and despite increasing vaccination rates, the number of infections are on the rise," Tretter wrote for the NFLPA website late last month. "Even the most aggressive estimates put herd immunity in the U.S. at some time in early August." He also touched upon what the players consider to be improvements directly linked with last year's offseason program.
Around the same time that Tretter's piece went public, reports emerged that the NFL and NFLPA are expected to agree on relaxed health and safety protocols for teams that hit a certain percentage of vaccinated individuals within their traveling parties. Thus far, the NFL is not mandating that any players or other employees receive vaccine shots to participate in the 2021 season.