Seahawks players say they will not attend in-person, voluntary offseason workouts due to COVID-19 concerns

©The Seattle Times

SEATTLE — Seattle Seahawks players said in a statement released through the NFL Players Association Tuesday they will not attend voluntary in-person workouts due to continuing concerns about COVID-19. The offseason program is scheduled to begin Monday.

“For the protection of everyone’s safety, we the Seattle Seahawks are deciding to exercise our CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) right to not participate in voluntary in-person workouts,’’ the statement read. “While many states in this country are still seeing rising COVID-19 numbers, we believe that a virtual offseason is best for everyone’s protection. Our hope is that we will see a positive shift in the COVID-19 data that will allow for a safe return for players when mandatory workouts are set to begin.’’

NFL teams are set to begin Phase One of the three-phase offseason program on Monday. Phase One consists of strength and conditioning and meetings. Phases Two and Three can include some on-field work, building up to a mandatory minicamp in June, which includes three on-field practices.

The NFL had not yet set the exact schedule for this year’s offseason program other than to say that Phase One would begin Monday, with teams able to welcome players to their facilities. Players, in fact, have already been allowed into team facilities during the offseason.

But a report from the NFL Network Tuesday said the latest proposal from the league was to start with two weeks of virtual work and then go in-person. The NFLPA has consistently said it wants everything done virtually.

The Seahawks joined the Denver Broncos in releasing statements saying they do not want to take part in any in-person work during the voluntary portion of the offseason program and instead want to conduct it virtually.

All of the offseason program was done last year virtually. But the league recently said it feels that team facilities are among the safest places players can be.

The Seahawks’ statement came shortly after the NFLPA had released a statement of its own recommending all players throughout the league to not attend voluntary workouts. The NFLPA statement noted that the offseason program was held virtually last year and that it believes doing so again will give the league the best chance of completing a full 2021 season.

The Seahawks were the only team in the NFL in 2020 to not have a player test positive for COVID-19 during the season.

The statement of the players alluded to players having had to make “very tough’’ decisions whether to play last season.

“With very little time, many NFL players chose to put our families and health at risk by participating in the NFL season while others respectfully opted out,’’ the statement read. “Although we made it though the entire NFL season, we are also left with the uncomfortable experiences it took for each of us to make it through.

“Therefore, as voluntary in-person offseason workouts stumble upon us, we are left with yet another decision. The NFLPA has provided us with thorough research and information regarding our safety as players as we enter voluntary workouts this year, especially the benefits on our health and safety from a virtual offseason last year. After considering all the facts, we as a team have decided to make a decision that is uncomfortable but necessary.’’

Among Seahawks players who said they considered opting out last season was receiver Tyler Lockett, who is the team’s representative to the Players Association.

The NFL on Tuesday also released a memo to all teams that “any team employee who refuses a COVID-19 vaccination without “bona fide medical or religious ground” will be barred from Tier 1 or Tier 2 status, and thus have restricted access within the team facility and not work directly with players, according to a report from Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network.