So, things got a little heated on the MHR Radio Podcast for Ian St. Clair and me as we discussed the Denver Broncos players opting out of voluntary workouts. I suggest you have a listen, but also keep in mind, initial reactions can cool over time.
Here, I would say that time has tempered my mood, but not necessarily my disappointment. When you are a fan of a 5-11 team that blames a bad season on the lack of practice, it’s a hard pill to swallow when that team says they don’t want to practice.
A statement on behalf of the Denver Broncos players: pic.twitter.com/b7ZQZ1Z7PY— NFLPA (@NFLPA) April 13, 2021
And let’s be clear, this appears to be an NFLPA move, and the Broncos are not the only team doing this as the Seahawks and Bucs issued similar statements. However, what a bad look for a team that has been bad for half a decade to lead the charge on this. That is what caused a lot of frustration for me, and many other fans.
But this decision by the NFLPA shouldn’t surprise anyone. If there is one thing the players have been trying to accomplish, it is a reduction in practice. While the initial reaction may have been a fiery one, I don’t think it was incorrect. The message was all wrong.
It felt disingenuous. At a time when millions of people across the country are faced with difficult decisions because of a global pandemic, the NFLPA, with the Broncos as the tip of the spear, launched into an effort to eliminate the voluntary workout portion of the offseason. The reason? COVID-19 safety protocols.
I am the first to tell you we have to take this pandemic seriously. And I’m well aware that the safety of the players is of utmost importance. But I am also fully aware of what the NFLPA is trying to accomplish here.
This is about reducing time at the facility, and a response to a 17th game. I’m fine with that. If you want to call something voluntary, then it should be exactly that. However, every former athlete who ever played organized sports knows that there are big quotation marks around the word “voluntary” when it comes to these things.
I don’t care if players show up for workouts that aren’t required. If the league wants to call them voluntary, and the players don’t volunteer, that is totally fine.
What makes me angry is the attempt to use the pandemic as the reasoning behind it all. It minimizes the hardships that people have experienced over the course of at least the last year. It blows past all the true suffering this pandemic has caused, and becomes an excuse for a union to get out of something they’ve been trying to get out of for years.
And let’s not ignore the fact that there are already players volunteering to be at team facilities across the league. The Broncos have had the second-most players in the facility this offseason. Concerns about COVID?
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
Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the NHL have all been training and playing throughout this pandemic. They have made the necessary adjustments. The New York Yankees were almost all vaccinated on the same day. Have there been hiccups? Of course. Has each league had to deal with this pandemic in the best way they could? Absolutely.
So I am fully aware of the safety concerns. Most Americans have been dealing with this pandemic, and know how serious 600,000 people dying is. I believe the players in the NFL agree for the most part that this should not be taken lightly. What angered me on the show, and what still bothers me, is the feeling that the NFLPA is simply capitalizing on a bad situation.
Maybe I am overreacting. I usually find myself on the side of labor in these disputes, but from a PR standpoint, what a nightmare.