Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward took to Twitter on Friday to call out the NFL over its pursuit of an in-person offseason program.
In a lengthy thread, Heyward accused the NFL of withholding definite answer for its position, and laid out the reasons why the players would prefer to remain virtual for as long as possible.
“More meetings go by but still no definite answers behind the NFL’s stance to make players come in for off-season workouts,” Heyward tweeted.
More meetings go by but still no definite answers behind the @NFL stance to make players come in for off-season workouts. I get training which we all did last year virtually but why the rush to jump to in-person meetings and workouts when— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) April 9, 2021
For Heyward, the push for a virtual offseason is all about mitigating risk associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Specifically, Heyward pointed to the reduced injuries league-wide last season, and accused the NFL of not having proper plans in place to protect players from the pandemic.
“1. Less injuries occurred across the league,” Heyward wrote. “2. No plan to mitigate or control while WE are still in a pandemic. Work should continue to work virtually & craft as we still do not have all answers. If ALL teams can’t have the same safe guidelines why would you argue against it.”
Heyward also appeared to indicate that a boycott of potential in-person workouts is on the table and a significant possibility. A boycott of any in-person offseason program was reportedly proposed by NFLPA President and Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter on a call with players Friday.
Heyward’s thread seems to corroborate that reporting, as he encouraged rookies and free agents to reach out to veteran players instead of jumping the picket line and showing up to in-person workouts.
“Don’t let them FEAR you into showing up,” he said.
It’s all VOLUNTARY but fellas don’t let them FEAR you in to showing up.— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) April 9, 2021
Heyward closed the thread by reiterating that players health and safety should be the league’s top priority.
The first phase of offseason workouts is reportedly set to begin on April 19, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, meaning the league and union have just nine days to work out a compromise.
The NFL informed clubs today they can begin Phase 1 of OTAs on April 19, per source. Players are still allowed to work out at the facility in small groups, as many have been. The NFL and NFLPA continue to discuss virtual vs. in-person meetings and on-field work soon thereafter.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 30, 2021