ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Monday is another day of reckoning for veteran NFL players.
To show up for the one-week Phase II ramp-up football period, or to not show?
Broncos players are conflicted. Have been all offseason.
“I won’t be there,’’ said Kareem Jackson, a starting safety and senior member of the team’s roster. “I’m not sure about next week but I won’t be there this week.”
“I’ll be there Monday,’’ said Josey Jewell, a Broncos’ starting inside linebacker.
9NEWS knows of at least one other prominent player who will show up for Phase II on Monday, and another who won’t. About 40 veteran Broncos didn’t participate in the Phase I conditioning program that lasted four weeks and concluded Thursday. However, about 20 or so veterans did attend the team-supervised conditioning workouts including Drew Lock, Von Miller, Graham Glasgow and Dalton Risner. Those four may have showed up because they have offseason bonus incentives, or they may have attended the team-supervised workouts, anyway.
The NFL players union has been urging players not to attend the voluntary offseason program at the team facilities. Initially the reason seemed to be fears about the lingering COVID 19 virus, but more recently the union has stated safety concerns regarding the physical demands of the offseason program. Especially with the regular season expanding from 16 to 17 games, the union appears to seeking a less strenuous offseason.
Skipping Phase I, which doesn’t allow for football drills or coaching, is one thing. Missing out on Phase II and especially Phase III, where there will be football and coaching, is another.
“I was just following the NFLPA and what other players had talked about,’’ Jewell said of working out the past month or so in Iowa, but returning to Colorado for the rest of the offseason program. “Just trying to stay in the regulations of everything and try not to make a silly decision one way or the other. I can’t really speak on other people’s behalf. I know people have different opinions and different viewpoints on it. I don’t know which one is right or wrong.”
It’s made for a confusing offseason with the players in the middle of the offseason squabble between the league and union.
“In my opinion this whole situation has just been all over the place,’’ Jackson said. “Obviously, we’re trying to come up with something that everybody is happy with as far as the players. We’re trying to put together some things. But we’ll see moving forward. It’s just all over the place.
“I know a lot of guys are communicating back and forth. I’m not really sure what’s going to happen. I think whoever shows up this week will be able to see what’s going on and be able to make a decision on what will be best for guys moving forward.”
After the upcoming week’s Phase II, which runs Monday through Friday, the more important Phase III, which includes 10 organized team activities (OTAs) and three mandatory minicamp sessions, will begin May 24 and run through June 18.
Complicating the players’ union boycott of the team’s offseason program were the season-ending injuries suffered by two prominent Broncos, Ja’Wuan James and DaeSean Hamilton. Both suffered their injuries while working out away from the team facility. The league’s position, as stated in its memo two weeks ago, says those players are not covered and therefore will lose their 2021 salaries – which is $10.58 million for James and $2.2 million for Hamilton. The Broncos have already terminated James with a non-football injury designation, which in turn voids his contract. The team has not yet made an official transaction with Hamilton.
“Obviously Ja’Wuan’s situation is unfortunate,’’ Jackson said. “At the end of the day guys want to have some type of protection because regardless of what team you’re on, wherever you’re at, you can get hurt. Is the team going to protect? You saw with Ja’Wuan, that’s obviously a terrible situation.’’
The Ja’Wuan James saga is one reason for veterans to start showing up at the team’s facilities where their contracts clearly state injury protection. Rookies are another. All 20 available Broncos’ rookies showed up for rookie minicamp this weekend and all are expected to attend the Phase II program Monday. By staying away, the vets in theory are allowing the rookies to gain on them.
“It’s a competition,’’ Jewell said. “With them being there I’m sure it will intrigue some guys and make them want to come in and do their work.
“And yeah, it’s unfortunate about Ja’Wuan and DaeSean. You never want that to happen, especially away from the facility. It’s a tough time. Everyone is in limbo still with their decision. It will be interesting who shows up and who doesn’t.’’
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