On Tuesday, the Las Vegas Raiders will assemble for their mandatory minicamp like several other NFL teams this week.
The OTA sessions are over and these three days of practice will be the last time the team assembles together prior to July 27, when they report to training camp.
Yet, the leaders of the NFLPA may have to do some soul searching this summer after its attempted league-wide OTA boycott failed for the most part.
The NFLPA urged players to stay away from the voluntary OTA program (which started in April and ended last week) for the second straight year. The union cited concerns about the coronavirus pandemic as the reason why. The league canceled the OTA sessions last year because of COVID-19.
However, it appeared to many that the planned boycott wasn’t about the coronavirus but rather an effort to win a battle against the league after it pretty much railroaded the union by adding a 17th game. That’s fair. As Sports Illustrated reported back in April when the boycott was announced, “players are now using their collective leverage to get the media to put pressure on owners to give them what they want after they voted to accept the 17th game because other issues were more important (money) in the most recent collective bargaining agreement.”
The union has a right to try to help its players’ cause, but the problem is, the vast majority of union members ignored the boycott and attended OTAs anyway.
The Raiders were one of several teams who announced that most players would stay away from the offseason program. Yet in the end, more than 70 of the 90-man roster attended key OTA sessions in Las Vegas. The entire roster — including Yannick Ngakoue and Josh Jacobs who did not attend the voluntary sessions — will be at the minicamp.
Las Vegas veteran guard Richie Incognito recently said that the Raiders’ players decided to show up as a large group because it could have been a competitive disadvantage if they did not.
Incognito is right. Players from around the NFL showed up for the OTAs and if the Raiders didn’t it could have shown during the season.
Of course, a big reason why so many players went to OTAs is they saw what happened in Denver. Broncos offensive Ja’Wuan James was injured while staying away from the offseason program and the Broncos cut him and are not obligated to pay him because he was hurt away from the team. James, who is now with the Baltimore Ravens, has filed a grievance against the Broncos and there has been speculation he may go after the NFLPA as well.
This is a tough time for the union leaders. Most members have ignored them and it is clear the NFL will always have OTAs. Players will show up.
The union will survive because the players need it and the NFPA holds a very important role, but player president J.C. Tretter of the Cleveland Browns and executive director DeMaurice Smith can’t be happy about what has happened this offseason.