NFLPA on the Falcons’ opting out of voluntary workouts

080420 Flowery Branch: Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Alex Mack (from left), Chris Lindstrom, James Carpenter, and Kaleb McGary run sprints during a team strength and conditioning workout on Tuesday, August 4, 2020 in Flowery Branch.    Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com
080420 Flowery Branch: Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Alex Mack (from left), Chris Lindstrom, James Carpenter, and Kaleb McGary run sprints during a team strength and conditioning workout on Tuesday, August 4, 2020 in Flowery Branch. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

NFLPA president J.C. Tretter, the center for the Cleveland Browns, came to the defense of the Falcons players who voted to opt out of the voluntary offseason program Friday.

The Falcons released a statement, which left the door open for some players to take part and try to get a jump start on impressing the new coaching staff.

“I think the quickest way to impress a coach is being good at football,” Tretter said Monday when asked by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the Falcons. “Usually, that happens when you play football and put pads on. I’m not sure that anyone is going to be proving how good they are at football right now.”

Falcons coach Arthur Smith has not commented about some of the players voting to opt out of the voluntary offseason program.

For years, NFL players have questioned the voluntary language in the collective bargaining agreement. Former NFL player Solomon Wilcots, now an analyst, said recently on SiriusXM NFL Radio, that the players would make jokes about the “voluntary-mandatary” offseason programs, which included offseason training and OTAs.

But because of the coronavirus pandemic, the decreased in concussions and 23% decrease in missed-time injuries last season, the NFLPA is notifying its membership that these programs are voluntary under Article 21-1 of the collective bargaining agreement, which reads:

“No player shall be required to attend or participate in any offseason workout program or classroom instruction of a Club other than as provided in Article 22. Any other Club offseason workout programs and classroom instruction sessions shall be strictly voluntary and shall take place in a manner and time period set forth in this Article.”

It was also noted that it’s an violation of the agreement for a team to make the programs mandatory under Article 21-5(a), which reads:

“No Club official may indicate to a player that the Club’s offseason workout program or classroom instruction is not voluntary (or that a player’s failure to participate in a workout program or classroom instruction will result in any other adverse consequences affecting his working conditions).”

The NFLPA’s position is that no jobs are won in April or May.

“They might look great in shorts and a T-shirts, but I’m not sure that’s going to be the distinction to get you on the roster,” Tretter said.

The NFLPA has advised players with workout bonuses to participate. Executive director DeMaurice Smith said that was 230 of 4,500 players.

The Falcons’ statement noted that their vote was not unanimous.

“For the statement, we are not telling guys want to say,” Tretter said. “We are not pushing guys to do a certain thing. All we are doing is informing guys what the data says. What the COVID-19 stats are. What the logistics will look like if you want to go into one of the buildings. Then guys can make their own decisions.”

The Falcons had a virtual meeting Tuesday before deciding to opt out.

“Each team has that conversation themselves as their team and talks about what guys are going to want to go in, or have to go in if they feel they have to do it for a workout bonus,” Tretter said. “They come up with kind of the way they want to frame it.”

Perhaps the Falcons didn’t make an definitive statement as to offend Arthur Smith and his new staff.

“They are not going against us by going in,” Tretter said. “It’s our job solely to inform them what’s going on and let them guys make their decisions. This is voluntary and guys (should do) what’s best for them, and the health and safety for them and their families.”

Dr. Thom Thayer, who advised the NFLPA, pointed out that the pandemic is ongoing and there are three different variants in the United States.

“This is certainly not a time to take your foot off the accelerator when it comes to understanding we are in the midst of a novel and emergent pandemic,” Thayer said. “We know more than we did, but the fact of the matter is that were 79,000 new cases two days ago with a rolling average of 70,000. A year ago, it was 30,000. So it’s more than doubled the new cases despite the advents of the vaccines, which we support people getting educated and making a reasonable decision.

“I know that we’re all tired and we want it to be over, but it is not over.”

Falcons coach Arthur Smith discussed having a contingency plan, which might include not seeing the team until training camp. He also referred to the lockout of 2011 and last season, when teams didn’t have offseason programs.

The Falcons currently are allowed 10 people in the weight room and only 20 players on the campus at one time.

“All offseason training activities are completely voluntary,” DeMaurice Smith said. “We talked to our membership about where we are with COVID-19. The decisions and how they were made last year about having an entirely virtual offseason.

“We had conversations with the league about an entirely virtual offseason. The league did not want to have a completely virtual offseason and we made the decision that while we will continue to talk to them, we want to make sure that all of our players were aware of their CBA right to make an inform individual decision about whether to attend OTAs.”

Five other NFL teams also voted not to attend voluntary offseason programs, while the NFL elected to push back and restructure the offseason programs, the 32 teams were informed via a memo from the league office Wednesday.

Falcons’ 2021 draft position: Here are the top 10 picks in D. Led’s Mock Draft 4.0:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)

2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, (QB, BYU)

3. San Francisco 49ers: Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)

4. Atlanta Falcons: Penei Sewell (OT, Oregon)

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU)

6. Miami Dolphins: Kyle Pitts (TE, Florida)

7. Detroit Lions: DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)

8. Carolina Panthers: Jaylen Waddle (WR, Alabama)

9. Denver Broncos: Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)

10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain (CB, Alabama)

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