The Browns began their second offseason program under coach Kevin Stefanski on Monday, and it looked just like the first — completely virtual.
The NFL announced last week the first four weeks of the offseason program would consist of only virtual meetings. The Browns players, as well as those from several teams, released a statement saying they would exercise their right to skip the voluntary in-person workouts scheduled to start May 17.
Center JC Tretter, president of the NFL Players Association, logged on for the kickoff session Monday.
“We had virtual meetings today, just a summary of what this offseason’s going to look like, what the goals are,” Tretter said on an NFLPA call.
He said he’d talked with Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry, who saw the players’ statement and know they want the offseason program to be entirely virtual as it was last year. The players point to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We think that’s the safest, best way to do it,” Tretter said. “With the virus going on and just moving forward, we think we need to have conversations about the best way the offseason works for everybody involved that keeps people healthy and keeps people safe.”
He also, and again, pointed to injury data from a year ago that showed a 23 percent reduction in missed-time injuries.
“That is a big-time statistic for guys to look at and see what they’re risking by going back in person,” Tretter said. “The coaches and teams will put pressure on you to say that you may not make the team if you’re not here in the middle of April, but the quickest way off a team is to get hurt in the middle of the offseason. And when you see how many injuries we avoided by not being there, it may be actually one of the most dangerous places to be in the offseason as a player is to be on those practice fields for really unnecessary workouts and practices that get guys hurt. So that’s what we talked about as a team, and we’ve talked to our coaches about that and our leadership about that.”
The organization hasn’t responded publicly to the players’ statement, but Stefanski is scheduled to meet virtually with reporters Tuesday afternoon at 3.
The NFL’s plan is to hold mandatory minicamps in May or June, as allowed by the collective bargaining agreement. The union wants an amendment based on the circumstances.
“We believe that the science and everything we’ve talked about before strongly demonstrates that we would be better off not having even the mandatory minicamp,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said.