Broncos, Seahawks players say they won't show up to voluntary workouts without COVID protocols

With the NFL and the players' union having failed to agree on protocols with less than a week before the start of the offseason program, Denver Broncos players have become the first ones to say they will not show up to voluntary, in-person workouts.

They're believed to be the first NFL teams to take such a drastic step, but they might not be the last. With the NFLPA issuing a statement in support of the Broncos players' stance, other teams soon could follow.

A statement on behalf of the Denver Broncos players:

— NFLPA (@NFLPA) April 13, 2021

Shortly after the Broncos announcement, Seattle Seahawks players also announced they won't be participating in their team's offseason program as well.

A statement on behalf of the Seattle Seahawks players:

— NFLPA (@NFLPA) April 13, 2021

According to an Athletic story, Broncos players — led by Brandon McManus, Denver’s NFLPA rep, and star safety Justin Simmons — gathered on a call Monday evening to help craft the wording of the message.

There is still concern from the players' perspective about how the NFL is treating COVID-19 procedures amid an ongoing pandemic, which has led to this latest pushback. 

Cleveland Browns center and union president J.C. Tretter wrote a letter in December that called for last year’s offseason program changes to become permanent.

“The NFL doesn’t get to decide when the pandemic is over, or when we get to stop caring about COVID,” Tretter said in March on a call with reporters. “Our guys can still get (COVID-19). They don’t want to make themselves vulnerable to that during unnecessary practices in the springtime.”

NFL offseason schedule

The NFL has indicated that its expectation is that players will be back no the field with in-person activity similar to a relatively normal, pre-pandemic cycle, and it's expected to begin next Monday, April 19.

Typically, NFL teams have voluntary and mandatory spring and summer workouts. There are voluntary workouts in April (before the draft) and May (after the draft), followed by mandatory work in June. That's how the NFL detailed its offseason program in 2019 prior to the pandemic forcing the cancellation of all in-person work prior to 2020 training camp.

The league did announce Tuesday that it has told all 32 teams that their Tier 1 and 2 employees (not counting players) should expect "to be vaccinated unless they have a bona fide medical or religious ground for not doing so.” 

According to an NFL memo, any employee who refuses a COVID-19 vaccination without an exemption won't be granted access to restricted areas of teams' facilities and cannot work directly with players.

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