Playing amid a global pandemic, the 2020 NFL season wasn't easy for anyone involved. Players, coaches, and team personnel underwent daily COVID-19 testing from the beginning of training camp through the final game and were heavily restricted in what they were allowed to do and who they were allowed to see when away from the facility to avoid contracting the virus.
But for players such as B.J. Finney, the complications and consequences associated with partaking in such an unprecedented season started well before reporting for training camp. When the pandemic forced many states to enact stay-at-home orders last March, the NFL banned all travel, preventing free agents as well as draft prospects from visiting teams in person.
This development hindered teams from being able to execute in-person physicals on players, so as a result, clauses were added to contracts to protect teams if a player failed a physical arriving for training camp, allowing them to recoup signing bonuses. In Finney's case, he stood to lose $2 million of the $8 million on the two-year deal he signed with the Seahawks.
As reported by Jeremy Fowler and Brady Henderson of ESPN, Finney feared getting injured during offseason training and opted to scale back his workouts to ensure he would be able to pass his physical at the start of training camp and didn't suffer any training-related setbacks. Without the benefit of OTAs and mini camps to help him stay in top condition, he arrived in August well above his normal playing weight of 315 pounds.
From the outset, Finney disappointed in training camp, as Ethan Pocic grabbed hold of the starting center spot from day one and the former Kansas State standout never was able to make up ground in the competition or carve out a role as a swing guard. Though he stayed on the 53-man roster, he didn't play a single offensive snap in six games and eventually was dealt to the Bengals as part of a midseason trade for defensive end Carlos Dunlap.
In retrospect, it's easy to see why the cerebral Finney didn't impress in his brief time in Seattle. Never known for his athletic acumen to begin with, arriving out of shape set him up for failure. He didn't have a fighting chance to succeed under such circumstances, but it's easy to see why he did things the way he did during the offseason. Though it put his chances of earning his first starting job in jeopardy, he didn't want to blow his best shot to make significant money in the NFL.
Considering the team's perspective, who could blame Seattle or any other team from including such a clause in contracts? Not being able to conduct physicals put them on the hook to pay substantial money for players who may have had medical red flags identified during a normal offseason.
If there's a silver lining to an unfortunate situation for the player, Finney did earn more than $4 million while playing no offensive snaps and 31 special teams snaps in 2020. He was paid $3.03 million by the Seahawks and $1.47 million by the Bengals before being released on March 5.
Looking at Seattle's crop of free agent signings, Finney surely wasn't the only player who dealt with contract-related issues stemming from the inability to undergo a physical last spring. It begs the question how many other players didn't go all out preparing for the season out of fear of losing a signing bonus. When it comes to players like receiver Phillip Dorsett having a past foot injury slip through the cracks, the team also may have been left in the dark on the health of several players.
The good news? One year later, the NFL is permitting teams to hold free agent visits as well as physicals. So while there wasn't an NFL Scouting Combine and this offseason still remains far from normal in many ways, situations like the one Finney dealt with shouldn't be an issue this time around.