Life in the NFL can be fleeting. You’re a superstar one day, signing autographs at a local mall the next.
The average NFL player’s career lasts just 2.5 years, meaning that you had better take advantage of opportunities whenever they come, but at the same time, players are getting louder when talking back to coaches and front offices.
This year with the league trying to get back to ‘normal’ after a roller coaster 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of players are declaring they won’t show up for organized team activities (OTAs). Many players say they want to stay away and work out on their own.
Today, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith spoke out on a conference call and clearly stuck by the players as they made the decision to skip the OTAs the organization is running.
This doesn’t mean that coaches are not firing back. Smith said Monday that coaches are pressuring players to show up, even if they have already said they won’t.
“What a lot of players have said that they’ve heard from their coaches is that they need to show up,” Smith said on ESPN Monday.
“We’ve known for years that this is a voluntary workout where a lot of coaches put their finger on the scale, and while they call it ‘voluntary,’ they expect players to show up.
“I think that what you’re seeing now is for the first time, players exercising their voice, or one of the first time people exercising their voice to say no. And frankly it’s probably one of the few times that coaches have ever heard players say no.”
The entire point of OTAs is to be optional, so one would think that a player shouldn’t be pressured into them, but Smith pointed out Monday that has not been the case thus far in 2021.
“For some players it’s probably the first time they’ve said no to their coach. But this is a negotiated, bargained for, voluntary offseason workout,” Smith said.
When push comes to shove, will teams start to look to make examples of players who don’t show up for OTAs? Would they go so far as releasing them?
One would think that if that takes place, Smith and the NFLPA would take swift action and file lawsuits to save the roster spots of players who refuse to participate in OTAs.
For now, Smith and the NFLPA are playing nice, but you could sense from Smith’s words Monday that could quickly change.
It’s “not a boycott. It’s not a strike. It’s not a labor action. Players have the right to make their own decisions,” Smith said Monday.
“We’ve told those players this union is never going to stand in the way of money they’ve negotiated with teams,” he said.
“Go on in. It’s voluntary, if you’ve negotiated that into your contract, no one is asking you to give up money you’ve negotiated.”