Shortly after the 2020 Super Bowl, the National Football League and the NFL Players Association announced a new collective bargaining agreement. Terms would last through 2030 and push aside future disputes for nearly a decade.
So it seemed, right?
A year later, the two sides are engaged in a disagreement over offseason workout programs, and as of Friday, players from the Raiders, Broncos, Patriots, Buccaneers, Giants, Browns, Lions, Bears and Seahawks had released statements indicating they planned to skip in-person, voluntary offseason workouts. They cite COVID-19 safety concerns as their reasoning.
More teams are expected to follow. As of Friday, a statement from the Chiefs is not imminent, sources told The Star, though those same sources also emphasized the fluidity of the situation.
“Ask me again in an hour,” one source replied.
The NFL has told teams they can start offseason programs virtually on April 19. Known as Phase I, this runs through May 14, and players completing strength and conditioning work can still do so at the team facility.
Virtual meetings continue in Phase II, but the phase adds in voluntary on-field position drills with coaches from May 17-21. The league’s rookie minicamp will also occur during this phase.
And Phase III, scheduled from May 24-June 18, can include 10 days of organized team activities (OTAs) — voluntary on-field practices — before a mandatory three-day minicamp. The minicamp is the only mandatory portion of the offseason workout program.
The NFLPA has sent letters to players expressing its stance that they should skip all voluntary in-person workouts. NFLPA president J.C. Tretter reiterated that the union wants the entire offseason to be conducted virtually, just as it was in 2020 when teams adjusted for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our decision-making was rooted in science, expert medical advice and the data available to us at the time,” Tretter wrote in a blog post on the NFLPA website. “As we learned more, we adjusted accordingly. The same iterative process got us through the regular season. And as the season went on, we continued to adapt our protocols not based on what was best for the game of football, but what was best for the people of football.
“This same logic must be applied to the 2021 season — and beyond — with the data and science informing how we protect the players long-term. The pandemic is not over.”
As aforementioned, many players have followed that advice, their collective statements citing COVID-19 concerns and other factors for their reasoning to skip the voluntary workouts. In his post, Tretter said the players also “felt healthier both physically and mentally” last season, and he pointed to the reductions in injuries and concussions as evidence.
But there is a factor that could prompt the Chiefs to have better attendance than most.
Money. According to Over The Cap, the Chiefs have 25 players who have workout bonuses in their contracts. Workout bonuses can vary, but they often require a percentage of the offseason programs to be attended.
“A player with a workout bonus in the NFL player contract must satisfy the terms of his individual NFL player contract, including the ‘reasonable workout requirements’ as established by his club in order to be eligible for such a bonus,” the NFL replied to the NFLPA this week, according to the NFL Network, as the two sides continue to publicize their stances through national media.
Chris Jones and Frank Clark have workout bonuses of $500,000 each, the most on the team. The bonuses for Tyreek Hill ($325,000), Tyrann Mathieu ($250,000), Travis Kelce ($250,000), Mike Remmers ($250,000), Anthony Hitchens ($200,000), Joe Thuney ($110,000) and Patrick Mahomes ($100,000) are also in six figures, according to Over The Cap.