As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on throughout the world, members of the Bears roster have come to make a conscientious decision. On Thursday afternoon, Chicago players announced they will remain virtual for voluntary workouts set to begin next Monday, in a statement released through the NFL Player’s Association. They join the Broncos, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Patriots, and Lions in making the move.
Beyond the risk of COVID-19 in itself, the main reason Bears leaders have elected to opt out of these voluntary in-person practices is due to a lack of cohesion. Citing rules “remaining inconsistent” and “players being unclear about the protocols and protections,” they’ve decided to take initiative and matters into their own hands. If communication with a safety issue isn’t clear, they simply won’t be present in-person. A few weeks ago, the NFL and NFLPA did come to a compromise that would’ve included both in-person and virtual attendance. Without any further comprehensive outlines to players, the Bears and every other team to opt out of these activities will not be honoring such an agreement for now.
In the past, spring workouts have normally only been “voluntary” in the loosest of terms. Most rostered players were expected to participate, barring health. A great deal of contracts were structured as such to push and incentivize attendance. COVID-19 still very much being a threat obviously changes those oft-unspoken parameters. When a majority of a roster decides to sit out, the idea of the word “voluntary” being loose is thrown out the window. Time will only tell whether the league and the Bears decide to offer more necessary clarity to make players comfortable.
Akiem Hicks is the Bears’ lead NFLPA player representative. Pat O’Donnell is the alternate.