As the official NFL offseason conditioning work is getting ready to launch next week, the Denver Broncos players issued a statement via the NFLPA that they would not be participating due to ongoing concerns over COVID-19.
The statement highlights that COVID-19 remains a threat in Colorado and that “it makes no sense for us as players to put ourselves at risk during this dead period.”
The statement also reveals that players have been infected at club facilities in recent weeks.
Interestingly, the statement ends by referencing that “despite having a completely virtual offseason last year, the quality of play across the NFL was better than ever by almost every measure.”
"Despite having a completely virtual offseason last year, the quality of play across the NFL was better than ever, by almost every measure."— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) April 13, 2021
Drew Lock would have a word, sir........ https://t.co/uXBYNFazvU
Despite the COVID-19 vaccine being widely available across the country right now and set to be available to every adult in the United States just a few days from now, Broncos’ NFLPA rep Brandon McManus issued concerns about lackluster testing protocols, especially when players are going away on weekends or on vacation and coming back to the building, possibly spreading COVID-19.
McManus: “We work out (MON-THU) players leave on the weekend. How do you test to come back in the building? People take vacations out of the country and come back in and test positive and they’re amongst us. There’s been nothing agreed upon." (more) #9sports— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) April 13, 2021
The NFL today informed teams that any employee who refuses a COVID-19 vaccination without “bona fide medical or religious ground” will be barred access within the team facilities and won’t work directly with players.
“In light of expanded vaccine eligibility, it is appropriate now to take further steps to educate about and promote vaccine availability and acceptance within the NFL,” the league said in a statement.
There has been no directive for NFL players.
The NFL previously has said that vaccinations will not be mandated for players but will be encouraged and incentivized. An NFLPA source said at the time that was consistent with the conversations between the two sides to that point. https://t.co/oxcns820bd— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) April 13, 2021
Alexander Johnson has been vocal on social media with his own anti-vaccine opinions - along with other NFL players - so the league is likely avoiding a showdown by the athletes who ensure ticket sales.
Hell nah!! I’m not with the COVID-19 excuses... Plan Pandemic!! https://t.co/DkAY476Zuy— Alexander J Johnson (@Alexander_CB45) April 13, 2021
Although these workouts are always voluntary and a lot of players do their own workouts in the offseason, it would seem that a 5-11 team would be interested in implementing all the ways Americans learned to stop the spread of COVID-19 with masks, regular testing and now the vaccine.
The #Broncos have had 22 players work out at the facility this offseason, second only to the #Cowboys with 25, per source. A dozen teams have had 15 or more. So, while the NFLPA and players emphasize safety issues of returning to facilities, many are already there.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 13, 2021
George Stoia pointed out comments from several players earlier this year about the benefit of getting more live reps this offseason through OTAs and training camp.
Here is what Drew Lock (top left), Bradley Chubb (top right), Justin Simmons (bottom left) and Tim Patrick (bottom right) had to say about the off-season workouts earlier this year: "...more reps in OTAs, more reps in training camp, and then go into a game super confident." pic.twitter.com/AF5c6pefO4— George Stoia III (@GeorgeStoia) April 13, 2021
And Ryan O’Halloran noted that there have been no reported COVID-19 cases at the facility so far this offseason.
Per league source, the #Broncos have not had a COVID case traced to their building this offseason with more than 20 players opting to use their facility.— Ryan O'Halloran (@ryanohalloran) April 13, 2021
Teams keep log of players who are in and out of facility for health-and-safety purposes.