NFLPA president, Browns center JC Tretter explains why players are avoiding OTAs


CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Phase II of the NFL’s offseason program began Monday, but many veterans are staying home.

NFLPA president and Browns center JC Tretter has encouraged a boycott of any in-person voluntary training this offseason.

Monday morning Tretter explained beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, which is starting to see health advisories and restrictions be relaxed across the country, why in his monthly newsletter published on the player’s association website.

“The intensity of OTAs has continued to be ratcheted up,” Tretter wrote. “What used to be seen as a time for teaching has turned into full-speed, non-padded practices that are injuring players unnecessarily. There is no reason a player should get injured, beat up or have a concussion during the offseason. The offseason should be a time of recovery and individual preparation so that players can show up for training camp physically and mentally eager to get to work with their teammates.”

Tretter noted that “Less than half of all NFL players showed up for ‘Phase 1’ and players on more than half the teams in the league have negotiated new rules for the remaining voluntary workout periods” since he began the push to keep players away from team facilities.

Some of the negotiations with coaching staffs resulted in a shorter offseason program, fewer practices, more walk-throughs to decrease practice intensity and eliminating 11-on-11 periods.

Tretter also questioned the “voluntary” aspect of the program – be it bonuses tied to attendance or peer pressure.

“Most players have never felt like they truly had the freedom to decide for themselves whether to attend or not,” Tretter wrote. “Coaches, front office staff and owners put pressure on players to show up each spring for these optional team activities, which then makes other players who would have opted out feel pressure to show up. For the small number of players who choose not to volunteer their time, the media write articles questioning whether they are a team player or some kind of locker room problem. It’s easy to see why many players feel like they have no choice but to attend.”

Browns players have gathered in Florida and here in Cleveland already this offseason to work out together.

Not only are NFL contracts not fully guaranteed, but players are also not protected should they suffer an injury in the offseason outside the team’s facility.

The Denver Broncos cut Ja’Wuan James after he suffered a torn Achilles, costing him $15 million in guaranteed money, while working out away from the team’s facility at the encouragement of Tretter and the NFLPA.

Tretter explained that players train year around, mostly on their own, and they don’t need to be at a team facility to do it.

“Many people suggest that players should participate in their team’s offseason program to avoid any risk of Non-Football Injury (NFI),” Tretter wrote. “But if players were to truly eliminate ALL risk of NFI during the offseason, it would mean only training for those nine weeks when we have protection at the facility. As players competing at the sport’s highest level, the reality is that we must train year-round, meaning we assume an inherent level of risk during the majority of the offseason while preparing on our own away from the facility.”

Tretter believes his efforts to change the offseason workouts have been effective.

“Players are now viewing the offseason the way our union intended,” Tretter wrote. “Each individual player has the right to decide: ‘Is my team’s program a valuable enough experience to me that it’s worth volunteering my off time to participate?’ Considering the CBA-defined offseason, the majority of players answered that question with a resounding ‘no.’ The onus then shifts to each individual team to create a new offseason program that will cause a player to answer that question with a ‘yes.’ The league office has shown zero leadership on the subject, so there is no uniformity across the NFL, putting GMs and coaches in a tough spot.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Matt Starkey-Cleveland Browns