A virtual offseason for Arizona Cardinals risks player safety
J.C. Tretter, the NFLPA president is telling players to boycott and force teams, including the Arizona Cardinals, into doing all-virtual OTA’s. This even includes the one mandatory June minicamp, which was part of the CBA signed last year. With vaccines becoming more available by the day, there shouldn’t be too much movement to resist on this one. If an individual wants to sit out the season, then that’s totally understandable given how the current state of the world is.
Instead of a league-wide “notice” from Tretter, the players themselves need to decide whether they want to partake in these voluntary OTA’s. Many young players and rookies have had their career growth stunted by the pandemic. On top of all of this, if the players are getting vaccinated (which has really yet to become public knowledge) then they shouldn’t have too much concern about catching COVID as long as they are around other fully vaccinated players and staff (click here for the CDC guidelines on being fully vaccinated)
Now Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer said in an interview with Judy Bautista that the league “will not make the vaccine necessary” and Sills hopes “everyone gets the vaccine”. I am not here to discuss the politics on that or anything in that realm.
What I’m getting at is that there were so many teams that could’ve used that work to come together. You can’t play this sport alone, like golf can for example. With so much time missed in the last year, players should be more than excited to get back to work. Would Arizona not have had so many penalties last year and made the playoffs? Insert every team that didn’t win the Super Bowl last season for the “what-ifs” category.
J.C. Tretter needs to be careful on this one, as players who sat out last year can be on the trade market (just ask C.J. Mosley), and also miss out on prime acclimatization heading into training camp in August. Also, there is a great tweet by Gerry DeFilippo (a well-known member of the strength and conditioning field) about getting back into shape:
As a member of the strength and conditioning field and during my time working with athletes from high school to Division I athletics, I fully agree with DeFilippo. Gradual return to play will always reign king. This would be great for all players, especially those who are returning from sitting the season out last year. Any offseason results in hoping or praying that your athletes will stay true to the workout plan you wrote for them.
Some will work out at the team facility where the team’s strength coach may or may not be able to actively coach them. On the other hand, you never know who will put in the work when they go home or possibly to train with someone else. Sometimes the day athletes report back to camp can be an eye-opener in many ways.
There will always be some athletes who try to outsmart this and not always do the work (Rob Gronkowski is the poster child for this.) In fact, it can be said that the virtual offseason last year was actually the catalyst for the highest injury rate in any season the NFL has ever had since 2010.
"Many analysts projected that injuries might spike in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the lack of organized team activities (OTAs) or minicamps before the season and no preseason games, it was thought that players could not prepare themselves properly. Instead of gradually working their way up to full intensity like in a normal season, they would jump right in for Week 1 without letting their bodies adapt. As a result, many thought that the start of the season would see a rash of injuries."
2020 also had four of the top ten worst injury rates per week since 2010, and turf surfaces may have had a hand in all of that as well. So, J.C. Tretter- (and Cameron Heyward while we’re at it) while everyone’s health and actually surviving the pandemic is undoubtedly paramount and top priority in the league, we saw the worst of what last year’s lack of an offseason and OTA’s did to players around the NFL. Let’s work together to find a way to keep everyone safe, but let in-person work continue.