NFL Players Association boss says Tom Brady’s workouts hurt union’s negotiations during pandemic

Executive director DeMaurice Smith: Practices are not in the best interest of playing an entire season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski, left, is seen with wide receiver Chris Godwin, center, and quarterback Tom Brady during a private workout Tuesday at Berkeley Prep.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski, left, is seen with wide receiver Chris Godwin, center, and quarterback Tom Brady during a private workout Tuesday at Berkeley Prep. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published June 28, 2020|Updated June 28, 2020

Tom Brady and his Bucs teammates who continue to conduct offseason practices have another loud voice telling them to stop: NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith.

“Those practices are not in the best interests of player safety,” Smith told USA Today. “They’re not in the best interest of protecting our players heading into training camp. And I don’t think they are in the best interest of us getting through an entire season.”

NFLPA Dr. Thom Mayer told members June 20 that the risk of being stricken by the coronavirus is too great to be staging workouts. That message was delivered the same day two Bucs players tested positive for COVID-19, and only a couple days when a Tampa Bay assistant coach tested positive and two other assistants were quarantined.

But despite the stern warnings, Brady and about a dozen other Bucs players, including three of the four quarterbacks and at least three defensive backs, practiced for two hours last Tuesday and Thursday at Berkeley Preparatory School.

In fact, Brady posted photos of the workouts on Instagram and after Thursday’s practice quoted President Franklin D. Roosevelt saying, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Related: Today’s debate: Applaud Tom Brady’s devotion or respect pandemic’s reach

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson posted a video of him working with receiver D.K. Metcalf last week.

The past three weeks have set consecutive records for the number of new coronavirus infections in Florida. On Friday, after the state recorded 25,000 infections in five days, it suspended the consumption of alcohol at bars.

Smith said that while he understands how competitive players like Brady are, the practices could hurt the NFLPA’s ability to negotiate protections for players during the season in case they test positive for COVID-19.

“I certainly understand how competitive our players are and I get that,” Smith said. ‘‘But at the same time, we are in the process of trying to negotiate, we have to negotiate with the league about what happens to a player if they test positive during the season. Does that player go on injured reserve? Do they go on short term (injured reserve)? If you test positive for the virus after training camp, is that a work-related injury? Are you covered under worker’s (compensation). What benefits are available to you if you have downstream injuries from contacting COVID-19?

“All of the things that players may want to do during the offseason have a direct impact on how well we can negotiate protections for them once the season starts.”

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NFL teams are scheduled to begin training camp July 28 while specified players may begin a few days earlier than that. There’s been no indication that Brady or his Bucs teammates plan to stop working out together. Players, however, typically vacation over the week of the July 4 holiday.

Smith indicated players who have ignored the wishes of the NFLPA to cease workouts have been contacted.

“You know, we sent out the guidance because we felt that was in their best health and safety interest,” Smith said. “Let’s just say, you know, for some of the players who’ve practiced, we’ve made sure they’ve heard the message.”