The Miami Dolphins players on Friday joined players from other teams over the last few days to release a statement through the NFL Players Association about the 2021 offseason’s voluntary workouts. The NFLPA has been pushing for a completely virtual offseason, similar to last years coronavirus-impacted offseason, as a way to continue protocols against the virus. When the NFL released a part-virtual, part-live offseason schedule, it appears the NFLPA and the players took things into their own hands to keep the offseason as virtual as possible.
Half the teams in the league have now seen their players release a statement about the offseason plans. While many of the statements indicated the players from that team would be skipping voluntary workouts as a complete unit, Miami’s players stopped short of that wording.
Our team came together to discuss the current situation regarding COVID-19 and the lack of clear and timely protocols put into place by the NFL. The most significant fact from that discussion was the health and safety benefits of a fully virtual offseason. Last year, league-wide injury data showed players experienced a 23% reduction in missed time.
For these reasons, the Miami Dolphins stand in solidarity with players across the league who are making informed decisions to exercise their rights to not attend voluntary in-person workouts this offseason. We will hold each other accountable in making sure every player is getting their work in. Fins Up!
The key point of all of this, whether looking at the Dolphins or any other team in the league, is that this all about the voluntary workouts. While teams try to make them expected workouts, the NFL-NFLPA collectively bargained agreements makes them voluntary, with no allowable punishments if players do not attend. Nothing says the players are planning to skip mandatory minicamp, just the voluntary workouts.
And, nothing from the Dolphins players’ statement says they are all going to stay away from the workouts as a team. Compare it to the Los Angeles Rams players’ statement:
A statement from the Los Angeles Rams players: pic.twitter.com/5fhqk0H1eV— NFLPA (@NFLPA) April 17, 2021
Where the Rams players stressed that “as a team we will not be attending in-person voluntary team activities,” the Dolphins players only said they stand in solidarity with the other teams and that they will hold each other accountable for preparing for the season. Does that mean some Dolphins players will attend the workouts? Do workout bonuses factor into that decision?
The NFL’s offseason program this year will consist of a four-week Phase 1, which will run from April 19 to May 14. This phase will consist of virtual meetings with players able to use the team facility and weight room, but now on-field work or drills. There can only be 20 players in the facility at any given time and only 10 in the team weight room.
Phase 2 will run from May 17 to May 21, with virtual meetings and on-field drills at a teaching pace. No contact is allowed and there are no more than two hours of activity allowed per day.
Phase 3 is from May 24 through June 18, with 10 days of organized team activities at full speed without contact. Team meetings may be virtual or in-person. There can only be six hours of activities per day, with two of those being on the field. All coaches are allowed on the field and teams can hold 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills during this period. During this time, there will be one mandatory minicamp.
Rookie minicamps will be held either in either the first or second week following the 2021 NFL Draft. Rookie development programs will be allowed during Phase 2 of the offseason program.
After the NFL announced the new offseason plan earlier this week, the NFLPA released a statement, describing their recommendation for players to opt-out of the voluntary workouts:
The NFL’s announcement does not address any of the concerns raised by the players. The slight modification only extended “Phase 1” activity and reduced “Phase 2” activity by two weeks.
As players are making informed decisions about exercising their rights to not participate in the voluntary offseason program, it is our recommendation that due to the injury data, continued threat of COVID-19 and the lack of a comprehensive plan to protect players, that the safest decision would be to not attend any in-person club organized activities at your club.
We will see what happens as the offseason training program begins next week. Will all of these recommendations for skipping workouts from the NFLPA lead to increased tension with the NFL? Will players stay away when they have workout bonuses to earn? Will the NFL adjust anything to try to get the players back in the building? Will the 23 percent decreased in missed time due to injury continue into 2021 if players skip voluntary workouts this year?