NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith believes it is in his union members' best interest to sit out voluntary workouts this offseason - and the Houston Texans players voted in agreement on that.
But according to NFL reporter Aaron Wilson, multiple Texans players began participation in the team’s voluntary workouts on Monday. It is the stated position of the NFL teams that have commented that players' choices, in whatever direction, will be supported.
Of course, even before Monday's start of Phase One, some Texans were working inside the team QB.
“We’ve had a multitude of players that have been in here,” GM Nick Caserio said recently. “They come in the building, they test, they go in the weight room, they work out, they go through their process. So, again, whatever players are here that choose to participate, like that’s their choice and we are going to create as good of a working environment for the players as possible.''
Smith, via ESPN: "I think what a lot of players have said that they've heard from their coaches is that they need to show up. We've known for years that this is a voluntary workout where a lot of coaches put their finger on the scale and, while they call it voluntary, they expect players to show up.
"I think that what you're seeing now is for the first-time players exercising their voice ... to say 'no.'
About half of the league's 32 teams announced they would "say no'' to participating in voluntary workouts. Wilson was first to report those details as they relate to the Texans.
There are financial ramifications for players who make this choice. As Wilson notes, an assortment of Texans have salary de-escalator clauses based on workout attendance, including Laremy Tunsil ($350,000), Zach Cunningham, Bradley Roby, Whitney Mercilus, Randall Cobb ($250,000 apiece), Eric Murray, Ka’imi Fairbairn and defensive tackle Brandon Dunn ($200,000 apiece). Additionally, five Texans players have workout bonuses in their contracts: offensive tackles Marcus Cannon and Roderick Johnson ($50,000 apiece), wide receiver Donte Moncrief ($25,000), cornerback Tremon Smith and running back Dontrell Hilliard ($20,000 apiece).
Many of the teams voting "no'' cited concerns over a lack of "adequate protocols" to return safely amid the ongoing COVID pandemic.
"Frankly,'' Smith said, "it's probably one of the few times that coaches have ever heard players say 'no.' And for some players, it's probably the first time they've said 'no' to their coach."
But in Houston, some players are saying "yes.''