The NFLPA and the NFL have been playing a game of tug-of-war over the amount of acceptable offseason activities that the players should be participating in. On one end of the spectrum is the NFLPA basically encouraging its membership to not attend any of the normal offseason activities like OTAs and minicamps. On the other end of the spectrum, the NFL is basically saying that thing should return to pre-pandemic conditions where there were three phases of offseason training that included OTAs and minicamps.
As a result of this standoff, players on various teams around the league have held meetings to discuss their own participation in the offseason activities. Many of those teams put out statements saying they agreed with the NFLPA and that they would boycott OTAs/minicamps. The in-practice reality of that boycott has been a mixed bag of attendance/non-attendance combined with compromises from the teams including slashing some of the planned activities. In other words, the whole thing is in a state of flux with individual teams and players going their own way.
As we’ve previously discussed here, the Cowboys as a team, along with the majority of players, have decided that they are returning, almost fully, to the old, pre-pandemic level of offseason preparation. And they think they are doing that for good reason.
The Cowboys are all in on the voluntary workouts, with high attendance at The Star.
“Yeah, I mean, I think it’s going to be huge. It’s going to pay off,” [Dak] Prescott said. “Obviously the mental aspect, knowing the scheme whether it’s the defense learning a new scheme or whether it’s offense being on the same page and communicating better, I think it’s going to pay off huge when we get to training camp to have maybe that step that these other teams may not take during the offseason for us to get that and then to build off of that in training camp and just continue to grow as we get into the season.”
It’s not going unnoticed by Prescott and the team that doing everything they can now may give them a competitive advantage heading into the 2021 season. While injuries are always a risk in OTAs and minicamps, the players for the Cowboys obviously think the benefits of doing these activities outweighs the negatives.
There has been some compromise at the Star.
The Cowboys will hold eight of the 10 allowable OTA practices with veteran players can leave on the last day of the mandatory three-day veteran minicamp June 10. The rookies will remain another week.
“The conversations have been ongoing,” tight end Dalton Schultz, the Cowboys’ player representative, said. “Even still we’ve got a lot of teams that are not participating. I think as a team, we came together, and we realize we need this kind of work in the offseason. We support everything the NFLPA is doing and we support our guys who aren’t showing up. and it’s very personal decision for a lot of people. But I think we’re a very young team and we can benefit very highly from this work that we’re dong now.”
The Cowboys players have made a calculation here that they would rather get ready for the 2021 season than boycott the situation as has been advocated by the NFLPA. This is a battle that is not going to be settled in one offseason, but it does appear that there will be on-going discussions about just what an NFL offseason will look like in the future.
For this year, though, the Cowboys are full-speed ahead. They must have really disliked the feel of the 2020 season.