DeMaurice Smith says COVID-19 allowed NFL to be ‘smarter’ in 2020, alludes to permanent offseason changes – CBS Sports

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Roger Goodell tackled a plethora of topics during the commissioner’s annual press conference on Thursday. Among the topics was COVID-19 and whether or not the NFL would continue to have a scaled-back offseason moving forward. The pandemic forced the league to cut back on its offseason schedule in 2020. Virtual meetings replaced OTAs and minicamps. There were also no preseason games.

While Goodell acknowledged that “virtual is going to be a part of our lives” moving forward, he did not discuss what the league’s offseason could look like in 2021 and beyond. But near the end of Goodell’s press conference, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith offered his thoughts on the topic. 

“I think that every one of these guys who have lived in a football world for a very long time saw their teams do a lot of things differently, but let’s just put differently to the side. It was smarter,” Smith said, via Pro Football Talk. “So the fact that you just didn’t have guys holed up in a facility for hours on end, just killing time. The fact that we are actually able to do things via teleconference and Skype and Zoom, it’s all about being smarter. 

“At the end of the day, what will happen is we have our annual rep meetings in March. We’ll continue to talk to the players about the things that they think were a better and smarter way of playing football and I think some of those things, most of things, don’t have anything to do with COVID.”

Browns center and NFLPA president J.C. Tretter recently championed a similar offseason then the one the NFL just conducted. 

“We did things differently this year,” Tretter said, via NFL Network. “I know myself and many of my teammates and players across the league that I talked to felt both physically better and mentally sharper at the end of the season. The amount of hours at the facility were down, the amount of reps were down. We’ve had this false reality that that’s necessary, a ton of reps are necessary, as we watch our bodies break down by the end of the year every year. And then we jump right back into an offseason program and grind our bodies down to jump right back into training camp, and it’s a never-ending grind.

“We saw that we can do things differently this year and the level of play didn’t go down. We still had maybe one of the most exciting seasons of all time heading into an amazing playoffs. We went through change this year, and change is always scary, but we’ve come out on the other side in a much better position. And now it’s the point of getting down with the league, talking with them about which of these changes we should move forward (with), because they are better for everybody involved. The game is growing and getting better and we are healthier and can play longer and the players can stay on the field. That is good for everybody involved.”

The league’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement calls for a shorter preseason when the regular season expands to 17 games. But there is nothing in the current CBA as it relates to getting rid of the preseason altogether. Based on Smith and Tretter’s recent quotes, along with the fact that a minimized offseason did not hinder the on-field product, it’s safe to say that the NFLPA will push to have less mandatory offseason requirements moving forward, despite the language in the current CBA. 

Smith and Tretter could use Goodell’s own quote against him if Goodell and the NFL’s owners push back against having a scaled-back offseason moving forward. 

“We’re playing at an extraordinary level,” Goodell said. “The highest-scoring season in our history. Incredible young players. Incredible veteran players, as we’re seeing in this Super Bowl. We’re seeing competitive games, even with high scoring that we’ve never seen before. Seventy percent of our games are within eight points. It’s not just that we’re playing, we’re playing an extraordinary game at an extraordinary level that we’ve never seen before.” 

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