NFL Players Association President JC Tretter is calling for the significant reductions in offseason work forced by the pandemic to continue in future years.
The Cleveland Browns center posted his thoughts on the union's website Thursday. He cited changes in the collective bargaining agreement reached early in 2020, and the subsequent COVID-19 alterations.
“The COVID CBA forced significant changes, and it has shown us another way players and teams can successfully prepare for and play in the NFL,” Tretter wrote. "This year has brought less time at practice than ever before. We had no offseason practices, fewer training camp practices and no preseason games. While some feared that those changes would lead to a sloppy 2020 NFL season, our collective level of play across the league has actually never been higher.
“I believe the changes implemented this season have demonstrated that we can put an entertaining product out on the field while further reducing wear and tear on our players’ bodies.”
Tretter emphasized the need to reduce all offseason programs, which typically begin in early spring and last through mid-June, including organized team activities and mandatory minicamps.
“We are the only major sports league with an offseason program,” he added. “The most physically demanding sport is the only league that brings their players back for extra practices outside of the season. The argument in favor of these offseason practices is based on the assumption that players need reps during OTAs to develop and learn while teams need the practices to (jell). Yet, the lack of OTAs this year demonstrated that those theories aren’t substantiated. New and first-year head coaches had success. Newly assembled teams had success. Rookies stepped in and played at a high level all across the league.”
Tretter reasons that NFL players are professionals and know how to remain in shape and cognizant of the playbook throughout the offseason: “We do not need to be brought in during April-June to practice against each other - it’s simply unnecessary.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said that some of the procedures adapted in 2020 would make sense to carry into the future. He specifically mentioned remote learnings during the pandemic.
“Our experience with the offseason training and doing that virtually, I think our clubs got comfortable with a lot of that,” Goodell said. “And I think you’ll see more of that, which I think will be productive.”