Vikings players released a statement Monday saying “many of us” will skip in-person voluntary workouts this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Vikings became the 20th NFL team in the past week to have players release a statement through the NFL Players Association saying that either all players on the team or the bulk of them will not participate.
The Vikings began offseason drills Monday with virtual work, so there was no immediate call for players to report. The Vikings and other NFL teams are not scheduled to do on-field work until May 17.
“We have come together as a team and many of us have decided to exercise our right to not attend in-person voluntary workouts,” the statement read. “Given the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and the inadequate safety procedures recommended by the NFL, this is the safest path forward for us and our families. The decision was also informed by the dramatic drop in injuries we saw during the 2020 season.
“We are committed as team to holding each other accountable to ensure everyone is working out and participating in the virtual offseason. We understand that some players will go into the facility for different reasons, but feel strongly, as a unit, about putting our overall health and safety first.”
Vikings players did not discuss the issue until some time after last Wednesday morning, when nose tackle Michael Pierce said on a Zoom call with the media that it had not been talked about. However, defensive end Stephen Weatherly, a former Vikings union representative, offered a hint of what might be coming in an interview last Tuesday with the Pioneer Press.
“There’s a problem in the sense that there’s only so much isolation, separation you can do between workout groups before eventually people need to do football, which means lining up somewhat, and that’s the contact we’re trying to avoid as a group,” Weatherly said last week of plans to hold in-person drills. “There’s no reason of increasing your chances of potential exposure when you don’t have to.”
Weatherly was the Vikings’ second alternate player rep before he left the team as a free agent in March 2020 to sign with Carolina. He re-signed with the Vikings last month. The Vikings’ current player rep is linebacker Eric Kendricks, who has not returned messages in the past week seeking comment. The first alternate has been center Brett Jones, an unsigned free agent, the second alternate guard Dakota Dozier and third alternate tackle Brian O’Neill.
The NFL announced last Wednesday three phases for offseason work. That includes phase one from April 19-May 14 with virtual meetings, phase two from May 17-21 with virtual meetings and on-field drills with coaches, and phase three from May 24-June 18 with on-field work including organized team activities and a minicamp. All the participation was called voluntary with the exception of the minicamp.
The NFL’s announcement also included the right for teams to have a rookie minicamp following the April 29-May 1 draft.
Due to the pandemic, all offseason work in 2020 was conducted on a virtual basis. In most previous years, all healthy players on the Vikings’ roster took part in voluntary organized team activities.
Ten Vikings players have workout bonuses in their contracts related to participation in spring drills. Kendricks, defensive end Danielle Hunter, safety Harrison Smith, linebacker Anthony Barr, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, wide receiver Adam Thielen, running back Dalvin Cook and fullback C.J. Ham have bonuses for $100,000; linebacker Nick Vigil has one for $50,000, and offensive lineman Mason Cole has one for $31,250. Earning such a bonus in the past required a player to report to the team facility in the spring, but all such bonuses were paid last year.