ENGLEWOOD, Colo — After players on several teams, including those with the Broncos, announced Tuesday they will not participate in the team-organized offseason workout program, the NFL responded Wednesday by releasing a modified, three-phase plan to their offseason schedule.
Meanwhile, a source told 9NEWS the Broncos notified their players Wednesday morning the team has scheduled a two-shot Pfizer vaccination for all employees -- including players, coaches, their families and personnel -- with the first series of shots scheduled for next Wednesday and second on May 13. Team executive Brittany Bowlen had been working on the estimated 400-dose team vaccination for weeks and it had ready for rollout in time for the Broncos' offseason program.
The vaccinations are voluntary for players; mandatory for Tier 1 and Tier 2 staff.
>>Video above: Mike Klis explains the Broncos' team decision to skip offseason workouts at team facility
The adjustments figure to be enough for Broncos’ players to reverse their position and attend the team’s offseason program that begins Monday and runs through June 18.
“Our team voted (to skip the offseason program) based on the information we had at that time,’’ Brandon McManus, the Broncos’ kicker and union representative, told former Bronco receiver Brandon Stokley on The FAN (104.3 FM) radio Wednesday. “I’m sure everyone would love to reconvene, I’m sure we will. Obviously we need to digest it. There’s a lot of underwriting to these things.
“It would be unjust for us to not speak to our guys and now that we have more information we’ll reconvene about what we think is best moving forward. If some players still believe that we shouldn’t go, then we’ll handle that in-house. And if people want to go … it is voluntary but what we wanted to do with our original statement was make it from a team standpoint. I don’t think it’s something that can’t be reversed. I’d say we got a reaction from the NFL because now we have a statement. Would you say it’s a successful thing or now?”
One of the biggest changes is the league extended its Phase I portion of conditioning and weight work from two weeks to four. It will now run from Monday until May 14. There will also be no in-person meetings. All meetings will be held virtually. No customary on-field work will be permitted during this phase, which means no footballs can be used and no coaches can be on the field.
With Phase 1 extended two weeks, Phase 2 has been shortened two weeks from three weeks to one, and will be held from May 17-21. Coaches can be on the field and the team can hold 90-minute, on-field, non-contact practices.
Phase 3 will last the usual four weeks, from May 24-June 18. It will have 10 organized team activity (OTA) practices and a three-day mandatory minicamp. On-field practice can last two hours.
The league announced its revised schedule and rules a day after Broncos players put out a statement Tuesday through the NFL Players Association saying they would not attend offseason workouts largely because the league not enough COVID-19 safeguards were in place. Players from Seattle, Tampa Bay and Detroit followed the Broncos’ lead with similar statements of plans to not attend their offseason programs, and New England Patriot players stated “many of us” would skip the offseason program.
“We possibly see value in virtual meetings but in-person at this time, especially with Colorado’s fourth wave coming through here, the positivity rate now is three times higher now than what it was when we cancelled the offseason program last year,’’ McManus told 9NEWS on Tuesday. “So why I are we getting forced into that – just because we made it through last season?’’
Offseason workout programs are voluntary for players, although it’s rare – and noteworthy -- when a player misses the bulk of summer practices, and it’s usually for contract-related reasons. But because of the ongoing COVID threat, the players union has taken the official position of encouraging players to not participate in the offseason program.
While it’s possible the Broncos may not have 100 percent attendance each day this offseason, it appears the league’s modifications may be enough to call off the players’ “boycott.”
The Broncos are coming off a 5-11 season which was somewhat blamed by the pandemic shutdown preventing young quarterback Drew Lock from having offseason workouts last year with new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
Shurmur attended the second Pro Day throwing session Wednesday of Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and is expected to also witness the second Pro Day throwing session Monday of North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.
Lock could use an offseason jump on a possible rookie QB and now it appears he will get it.
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