On the heels of the NFL's announcement offseason programs could begin starting on April 19, through the NFLPA, Seahawks players released a statement indicating they will not report for voluntary offseason workouts.
Per the statement, "for the protection of everyone's safety, we the Seahawks are deciding to exercise our CBA right to not participate in voluntary in-person workouts." The statement also reads that players remain hopeful the situation will improve enough to safely allow players to eventually report for mandatory workouts.
The NFL has remained open to the idea of on-field work taking place this spring in some capacity. However, the NFL Players Association has pushed back, arguing that the current state of affairs in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic isn't any better than it was this time a year ago. They also believe the quality of play exhibited during an unprecedented 2020 season proved teams and players can excel with a completely virtual offseason.
While he doesn't think they can necessarily replace invaluable on-field sessions, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters back in January that he felt Zoom meetings actually had a positive impact on his players, particularly when it comes to engagement.
“There’s something about the communication with the Zoom format that has allowed us a really in-depth communication that we would not have thought would exist,” Carroll said.” There’s been a really good relationship with players developed through that, almost the intimacy that you have because it’s almost like it’s one-on-one. And one of the observations is that the players, when they have the opportunity to respond, it seems like they’re more comfortable responding when we’re in these situations.
Carroll hinted that the Seahawks would continue to utilize virtual meetings as part of their offseason plan moving forward. With players not being keen on the idea of partaking in OTAs or mini camps at this time, the offseason program as a whole may once again be built around video conferencing.
“I think it’s something that we should always use to some extent. There’s something to it. I’m making no excuse at all for having to go this way. I think our guys jumped at it, tried to innovate the way they communicate, the way to find the right tools and the right system of utilizing the interaction, the back and forth and all that has given us. I think it gave us a little edge this season. I thought we came into camp, really better than we had otherwise at times and that’s still surprising to me.”
Like any other NFL head coach, Carroll would prefer to be able to conduct OTA practices and minicamps to help develop younger players once it is safe to do so. With a new offensive coordinator in Shane Waldron set to install a new scheme, such sessions would be especially important this offseason.
Nonetheless, many cities are dealing with a new surge in coronavirus cases and Carroll has taken the threat seriously from day one. If the Seahawks can't get together on the field until training camp opens in July due to these circumstances, he remains confident they will be able to adapt just as they did last spring to maximize preparations for the upcoming season.
“It’s not nearly the interaction and the fun that it is when you’re together in person and all that,” Carroll said. “There’s a richness to that that you can’t capture any other way. But we’re gonna have a lot of information here, you know, at the end of this year about what this has been all about and I’ll love to see what the science shows and, you know, the research and all.”