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Bucs among NFL players that will boycott voluntary workouts

The players put out a statement on NFLPA letterhead saying they will skip workouts due to COVID-19.
Bucs center Ryan Jensen, far left, safety Mike Edwards, second from left, quarterback Tom Brady, center in orange, cornerback Jamel Dean, second from right, and quarterback Blaine Gabbert, right, are pictured during a private workout in June at Berkeley Preparatory School.
Bucs center Ryan Jensen, far left, safety Mike Edwards, second from left, quarterback Tom Brady, center in orange, cornerback Jamel Dean, second from right, and quarterback Blaine Gabbert, right, are pictured during a private workout in June at Berkeley Preparatory School. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Apr. 14
Updated Apr. 14

TAMPA — Tom Brady and the Super Bowl 55 champions may be headed back to Berkeley Preparatory School this spring.

Bucs players announced Tuesday they will not participate in the NFL’s voluntary offseason workout program that’s set to begin Monday.

The NFL Players Association had urged its members to boycott the workouts unless they are virtual, the way they were conducted a year ago at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bucs players released a statement on NFLPA letterhead saying that while they remain committed to bringing another championship to Tampa Bay, they were “choosing to take a stand with other players across the league and exercise our right to not participate in the voluntary offseason program.”

The letter goes on to say they were able to win a world championship with a fully virtual offseason a year ago.

Members of the Broncos and Seahawks also said Tuesday they play to boycott voluntary workouts, according to the Associated Press.

Shortly after Brady signed as a free agent with the Bucs, he organized private workouts at Berkeley Prep for receivers and, eventually, defensive backs. They continued even at the height of the pandemic after the NFLPA asked players to stop.

Brady posted a quote from President Franklin D. Roosevelt on social media saying, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Earlier Tuesday, the NFL issued a memo, set forth by commissioner Roger Goodell and others, pushing for mass vaccinations against COVID-19.

The league said all employees ― which includes players ― would need a “bona fide medical or religious ground” for refusing to be vaccinated. If they fail to do so, the league said they would not be permitted to enter team facilities or areas such as the locker room.

“The overwhelming consensus among medical and public health experts is that the most effective way for someone to avoid the risk contracting COVID-19 — and the risk of infecting others — is to be vaccinated,” the memo said.

Teams were advised to have a vaccination day for all employees in place by Monday. With a high level of participation, teams would be allowed to loosen some of the protocols, such as close contact tracing and testing.

Bucs coach Bruce Arians said a couple weeks ago the lack of an offseason program again in 2021 would continue to prevent the development of young players, particularly the rookie class. He offered a solution.

“Have nothing mandatory,” Arians said. “No mandatory minicamp. The rest of it is voluntary, so to me, if a vet doesn’t want to come, he doesn’t have to come. There’s no punishment involved. But let the young players develop for the future of the league. But to say that no one can come in the building, no one can practice, to me, that’s just veterans trying to save their jobs.”

The Bucs return all 22 starters from their Super Bowl team, re-signing top-tier free agents such as Lavonte David, Leonard Fournette, Ndamukong Suh and Rob Gronkowski and placing the franchise tag on receiver Chris Godwin.

Arians credited the closeness of the players for the Bucs’ ability to keep the team together. Now, that togetherness will be tested.

“You obviously have a team that should be in the hunt again,” Arians said. “But I think the camaraderie of that football team, what they went through together with the pandemic and everything else, there’s a bond that starts and it’s hard to break that bond. And I think they all want to play for each other.”

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