In the wake of the Ja’Wuan James situation, the NFLPA and the NFL aren’t in full agreement over the status of offseason workouts — and the tension is increasing.
The NFL is planning for voluntary in-person workouts this offseason.
However, the Players Association is recommending players exercise their CBA rights to opt-out of these workouts amid lingering COVID-19 pandemic concerns.
This stalemate has been present for weeks at this point, but in light of the recent situation involving Broncos offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James, the overall tension has grown.
On Tuesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported James suffered a torn Achilles. This injury could wipe out his $10 million 2021 salary because James suffered the injury while working out at a site that wasn’t the team’s facility.
Broncos' OT Ja'Wuan James suffered a season-ending torn Achilles working out today away from the team facility, per sources. James' $10 million salary for the upcoming season now is in jeopardy being that Denver no longer is obligated to pay him with him working out off site.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 4, 2021
James has every right to do this; players have been training individually or in small groups because of the pandemic.
The NFL subsequently sent a memo to all 32 teams Wednesday stating that if an injury occurs outside of a team facility, it’s deemed a “Non-Football Injury” and “clubs have no contractual obligation to provide salary continuation during the year in which the injury was sustained.”
NFL sent this memo to teams today regarding injuries sustained away from team facilities: pic.twitter.com/oj1WieNrnc
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 5, 2021
The Players Association fought back Thursday, writing to players: “the NFL doesn’t want to negotiate to address your concerns; they would rather dictate what you should be doing. Do not let them unsettle and divide you.”
The union ultimately believes the NFL’s response to the Ja’Wuan James situation is an attempt to persuade players to attend the voluntary in-person workouts this offseason. It additionally points out and argues that “Ja’Wuan was working out to stay in shape under a program recommended to him by his coach.”
NFLPA leadership emailed all players today, calling the NFL’s memo to clubs regarding Ju’Wuan James’ recent injury “gutless” and a “scare tactic to get you to come running back” as the union continues to urge a boycott of voluntary workouts at team facilities. pic.twitter.com/x3qmRyeaKl
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 6, 2021
If it’s an injury sustained outside of the facility, that’s understood. But the league and teams must realize this offseason is unlike any other. If a player wants to prepare at an outside location in order to remain safe during the pandemic, he should be allowed to do so and shouldn’t have his 2021 salary be in jeopardy if he sustains an injury.
Teams should honor the contracts and shouldn’t penalize their players just because they’re preparing for the 2021 season in the safest way possible, regardless of the location.
Players possess the right to opt-out of voluntary in-person workouts this offseason and many have done so already. Does the NFL not want them to work out and risk any sort of injury at all if they opt out? Would the league rather them not prepare for a 17-game season if they’re not going to attend the team facilities?
Right now, it doesn’t make too much sense on the league’s end. Changes must be made.